The Arizona Fall League is halfway through its 2018 schedule, with three weeks down and three more to go. That means it’s time for the annual All-Star competition, known as the Fall Stars Game, which will be held on Saturday. Each team sends one or two prospects to the exhibition.
The Oakland A’s lone representative will be outfielder Luis Barrera. The 22-year-old initially looks like an odd pick, considering he’s got the worst offensive stats of the three A’s position players in the league, but on the bright side he’s impressing some scouts with his physical tools. Over at FanGraphs last week, prospect chief Eric Longenhagen rated Barrera’s arm as a 70 (on the 20-to-80 scale), and his speed as a 70 or maybe even an 80. It takes more than that to pan out in MLB, but those are elite grades, not merely good ones.
On top of those raw tools, Longenhagen also noted that Barrera is “playing really hard.” Add it all up, and the picture he’s painting is of a dynamic athlete who knows how to hustle. It’s no wonder that he pegs Barrera as the only member of Oakland’s AFL contingent with a likely chance to make his upcoming A’s prospect list.
Our own ”bernie_till_i_die” (Josh Iverson) got a look at Barrera last week, and he reported a similar opinion: “Barrera’s speed is electric, and he looks very smooth in the outfield. He also put good swings on a couple of hard outs on Monday and was rung up in one at-bat on what looked like ball four.” Click that link above to see Josh’s full post, including some video of Barrera at the plate.
He’s not racking up hits just yet, but Barrera is showing a lot of quality traits that don’t necessarily immediately appear in small-sample box scores. Tack on his young age and his resounding success last summer in a brief intro to Double-A, and there’s a case to be made that he’s the most talented A’s prospect in the 2018 AFL. With all that in mind, it’s easier to understand why he was the Fall Stars pick despite a low OPS.
Full stats (in 40ish plate appearances each):
Bolt, OF: .250/.357/.556, 2 HR, 5 XBH, 6 BB, 13 Ks, 2 SB
White, IF: .351/.432/.432, 2 XBH, 3 BB, 11 Ks, 3 SB
Barrera, OF: .229/.308/.314, 1 HR, 4 BB, 7 Ks, 5 SB
As for the other hitters, Skye Bolt ranks sixth in the league in slugging, but he’s still waiting to come through with even one meaningful clutch hit. He’s 2-for-14 (w/ 4 BB) with runners in scoring position, and he’s stranded 14 such RISP (and 26 runners total). All five of his RBI came on two garbage-time homers in the late innings of long-decided blowouts.
Meanwhile, Eli White has a huge batting average but not much to back it up. He’s striking out in a quarter of his plate appearances, he’s not hitting for any extra-base power, and his whole line is fueled by a .500 BABIP. His OBP looks great, but it’s mostly made up of singles and HBPs — empty calories, essentially.
Granted, those downsides don’t have to mean anything in these tiny samples. Bolt’s lack of clutch is irrelevant in 42 PAs, and White’s big BABIP is at least better than making a bunch of actual outs. However, these bits of context might help explain why Bolt’s .556 slugging and White’s .351 average didn’t earn them nods for the Fall Stars Game. Don’t get too excited about the big stats nor too concerned about the caveats I’ve mentioned, but do take a moment to appreciate that these two hitters are at least putting up some production one way or other.
Quick pitching update:
Bray: 6⅔ ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits
Coker: 7⅓ ip, 1 ER, 8 Ks, 4 BB, 3 hits
Duno: 4⅔ ip, 5 runs, 4 Ks, 4 BB, 6 hits
Sheehan: 7⅔ ip, 4 runs, 7 Ks, 11 BB, 1 hit
Nothing much new to report here. Jake Bray finally gave up a couple hits, leading to his first run. He did so while protecting a two-run lead in the 9th, though, so he still sealed the save in that game and therefore technically did his job. Josh/bernie was not impressed with Bray’s stuff, though, mentioning an 89-91 mph average with a high of 93.
After a disastrous first outing, Angel Duno is settling down, with one small-ball run in his last four innings. Calvin Coker is also plugging right along, just a few months after being drafted out of college.
Finally, there’s Sam Sheehan, who continues to walk the world. On top of his 11 walks, he’s also drilled three hitters, meaning he’s allowed a free pass to around 40% of his total batters faced. On the bright side, he’s at least not allowing any hits, so perhaps the term “effectively wild” could apply here. Still, though, it would be nice to see him ditch the wild part entirely and harness the massive strikeout rates he’s shown throughout the lower minors.