While most baseball fans are focused on the drama of postseason play in the fall, it’s also an important time for some of the minor leagues’ top prospects. And starting on Tuesday, some of the A’s most promising young prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League. I took a look at the A’s AFL contingent this week on my Athletics Farm site and thought I’d share that here on Athletics Nation as well.
2018 marks the 27th season of the Arizona Fall League. Each year, the league schedule runs for five and a half weeks from early October through mid-November. There are six teams in the AFL, with each team comprised of prospects from five different organizations. A’s prospects will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox again this year, where they’ll be joined by players from the Angels, Tigers, Cubs and Red Sox.
Attendance at AFL games typically hovers in the 200s, with the crowds comprised largely of scouts, agents and various professional baseball personnel. Most organizations use the AFL as an opportunity to get some of their top prospects a little more live game action and hopefully help advance their development.
Some of the A’s top young Double-A hitting prospects will be seeing action in Arizona this year, including infielder Eli White and outfielders Skye Bolt and Luis Barrera, while the A’s AFL pitching contingent will be comprised of promising right-handers Jake Bray, Angel Duno, Sam Sheehan and Calvin Coker. RHP Grant Holmes was originally scheduled to participate, but continuing shoulder problems have sidelined him, and he will be replaced on the squad by Coker.
--A’s Prospects in the AFL in 2018--
Second Baseman / Shortstop
Midland RockHounds (AA)
578 PA / 9 HR / 62 BB / 116 K / .306 AVG / .388 OBP / .450 SLG / .838 OPS
White was simply one of the best hitters in the A’s minor league system this year. The 24-year-old led all A’s minor leaguers in hits and runs, while also tying for the second-most walks, notching 30 doubles, swiping 18 bases and boasting the best batting average and on-base percentage of any player with at least 300 at-bats in the system. White was a dynamic force in the leadoff spot for the RockHounds while mainly splitting time between second base and shortstop for Midland. But wherever he played this year, White did nothing but hit. He should continue getting the chance to demonstrate his defensive versatility in the AFL, and a strong performance there could help assure that he’ll find himself right in the middle of the infield mix at Triple-A next season.
Midland RockHounds (AA) / Stockton Ports (A+)
524 PA / 19 HR / 58 BB / 122 K / .260 AVG / .347 OBP / .474 SLG / .821 OPS
Bolt managed to quietly put together one of the best seasons among all position players in the A’s minor league system this year. After getting off to a dreadful start with Double-A Midland, he was shipped back to Stockton before the end of April, where he immediately began hitting up a storm for the Ports. The 24-year-old eventually earned his way back to Midland and got off to a good enough start his second time around with the RockHounds. But Bolt finished the season on a tear, posting an impressive 1.125 OPS in August. His 19 home runs were the second most in the A’s system behind Nashville’s Anthony Garcia. And he combines speed with power, having swiped 19 bases this season as well. Bolt will look to continue refining his game and raising his stock in the AFL this year.
Stockton Ports (A+) / Midland RockHounds (AA)
495 PA / 3 HR / 41 BB / 81 K / .297 AVG / .361 OBP / .426 SLG / .787 OPS
Barrera took a big leap forward this season. The toolsy 22-year-old improved his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate while tallying a career-high 26 doubles, 11 triples and 23 stolen bases. The Dominican outfielder spent the first three and a half months of the season patrolling center and right for the Ports before spending the final month and a half of the season as Midland’s main man in center. After serving as a highly productive part of the Ports’ lineup, Barrera proved to be an even better batter for Midland, hitting .328 while putting up a .378 on-base percentage and swiping 13 bases in just 36 games for the RockHounds. And the talented young outfielder will have the opportunity to show what he can do in the AFL this year.
Stockton Ports (A+) / AZL A’s (Rk)
50.2 IP / 50 H / 26 ER / 21 BB / 46 K / 4.62 ERA / 1.40 WHIP
Bray was acquired from the Orioles last offseason as the player to be named later in the Jaycob Brugman deal. The 25-year-old worked almost exclusively as a reliever throughout his minor league career, but the A’s converted him into a starter and put him in the Ports rotation this season. Unfortunately, he landed on the disabled list on June 1 and remained sidelined for more than two months before returning to action in August. Bray has a reputation as a strikeout artist, and his 82 strikeouts in just 51 innings of work in 2017 were one of the things that really caught the A’s attention. The righty notched 46 K’s in 50.2 frames for Stockton this season. And he’ll be looking to make up for lost time and lost innings in the AFL this year.
Stockton Ports (A+)
65.1 IP / 63 H / 19 ER / 17 BB / 66 K / 2.62 ERA / 1.22 WHIP
Transitioning in the opposite direction of Bray, Duno shifted from a starting role into a relief role this year after having made 84 starts in previous seasons in the A’s minor league system. And the 24-year-old couldn’t have made the move any more smoothly. The Venezuelan righty tied for the most saves in the A’s system with 15 while striking out 66 in 65.1 innings and providing a solid option at the back end of the bullpen for Stockton all season. A solid performance in the AFL could help prepare Duno for a prominent role in Double-A Midland’s bullpen next season.
Stockton Ports (A+)
50 IP / 35 H / 24 ER / 32 BB / 78 K / 4.32 ERA / 1.34 WHIP
Drafted by the A’s in the 31st round in 2016, Sheehan dazzled at Beloit in 2017, putting up a 2.21 ERA while posting 54 strikeouts over 40.2 innings for the Snappers. The Southern California native increased his strikeout rate this season for Stockton, notching 78 K’s in 50 frames for the Ports. Sheehan has averaged an impressive 13.1 K/9 over his minor league career, but he’s also averaged 5.8 BB/9, so control has been an issue for the righty. During his stint in the AFL, Sheehan will have the opportunity to work on harnessing his electric stuff in advance of his likely Double-A debut with Midland next season.
AZL A’s (Rk) / Vermont Lake Monsters (A) / Nashville Sounds (AAA)
22.2 IP / 23 H / 10 ER / 10 BB / 27 K / 3.97 ERA / 1.46 WHIP
With RHP Grant Holmes, who had been set to participate in the AFL this year, sidelined by recurring shoulder problems, Coker will get the chance to join the A’s AFL contingent. After pitching out of the bullpen for Auburn the past two seasons, the 22-year-old was selected by the A’s with their 15th-round pick in this year’s draft. Coker compiled 7 saves for Auburn during the 2018 season before beginning his pro career with the Arizona League A’s this June. He then made a single appearance for Vermont before making his way into a pair of games for Nashville in September after the A’s added most of the Sounds bullpen to the major league roster. Coker has already faced off against some challenging competition early in his career, and the young righty will find himself facing even more challenges in the talent-packed AFL this year.
Visit Athletics Farm for updates on the A’s minor league teams and all the top prospects down on the farm.