The 2019 Arizona Fall League is about two-thirds of the way through its six-week season. Seven players from each MLB team combine to form a total of six AFL squads, with the A’s contingent suiting up for the Mesa Solar Sox, and one of those Oakland youngsters is putting on quite a show. He’s arguably been the best hitter in the league so far, and at the very least he’s easily been the best slugger.
After scuffling in the minors for the last two years, outfielder Greg Deichmann is breaking out on the national stage. The A’s drafted Deichmann in the 2nd round in 2017, with the 43rd overall pick, which isn’t a can’t-miss draft pedigree but is still high enough to be notable. His carrying tool was his plus power, and he wasted no time showing it off — in his pro debut that summer, he swatted eight homers in 46 games to nearly lead the Low-A NY-Penn League.
However, he’s all but disappeared since then. Just two weeks into 2018 he injured his wrist, and it lingered through the entire campaign — he played only 47 games and batted .199 for High-A Stockton. Despite that lost season, he moved up to Double-A this year, but the story was mostly the same. He missed two months to a shoulder injury after diving for a fly ball, and in the 80 games he did play he batted .219 with merely middling power. His wRC+ marks of 77 in High-A, and 90 in Double-A, help illustrate his lack of production.
Deichmann, 2019 AA: .219/.300/.375, 90 wRC+, 11 HR, 10.0% BB, 30.3% Ks
After two straight disappointing campaigns, and looking forward to his age-25 season, there’s a lot for Deichmann to prove. He needs to stay healthy for a full year, and then he needs to unlock that talent and produce some numbers in the upper minors as soon as possible. Fortunately, he’s taking a huge first step toward those ends over the past month. In 16 games and 68 plate appearances:
Deichmann, 2019 AFL: .310/.397/.741, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 7 BB, 20 Ks
Those seven homers don’t just lead the league, they’re nearly double the runner-up. Only two other hitters have as many as four, both of them national Top 100 prospects (including Giants catcher Joey Bart), and only a handful even have three. His 1.138 OPS is also among the league leaders — the only higher mark among those with full regular playing time is Bart, and he’s only got two-thirds as many plate appearances. Deichmann’s walk and strikeout numbers are nothing special, but they’re not major red flags either.
While all seven of Deichmann’s dingers (and most of his production overall) have come off righties, here he is making some solid contact against a lefty.
Of course, as always there is context to keep in mind. For starters, the AFL is a tiny sample size, with few if any hitters even reaching 100 plate appearances. On top of that, the pool of players is diverse in terms of age and experience level, even more so this year than in the past due to a change in the rules — rather than mostly Double-A and Triple-A prospects, teams can send anyone under contract in their organization, from the lower levels of A-ball up through established MLB players looking for injury rehab.
But even with all that in mind, it’s great to see signs of life from Deichmann’s bat after two dud summers. It doesn’t guarantee that he’ll bounce back next year in the minors, but it’s enough to enter 2020 with some optimistic hope for his future.
Bonus: Deichmann was the A’s lone rep for the Fall Stars Game on Saturday, though he went 0-for-3 in his team’s victory. Here’s the box score, and here’s a quick feature on Deichmann from insider Jim Callis.
Bonus #2: Despite playing almost exclusively RF in the minors, Deichmann has seen six games in CF in the AFL. He’s not known for his raw speed but he was able to swipe 19 bases in Double-A this year at a solid success rate, so there is some sneaky athleticism in there. It’ll be interesting to see if the A’s give him any looks up-the-middle next summer.
Other A’s in AFL
There are six other A’s playing for the Solar Sox, and most of them are playing well. First up are two other hitters.
Rivas, 1B (49 PAs): .325/.429/.475, 0 HR, 6 doubles, 8 BB, 14 Ks
Allen, SS (44 PAs): .195/.250/.195, 0 HR, 0 XBH, 3 BB, 15 Ks
First baseman Alfonso Rivas is precisely displaying his unusual skill set, with great plate discipline and on-base ability but not a lot of power. On the other hand, Nick Allen is the one A’s prospect having a poor AFL campaign, though perhaps that’s fair enough for a guy who just turned 21 last week and missed nearly half the season to injury. We should be more excited by Allen’s first-half breakout in High-A this year than discouraged by this tepid AFL showing.
Meanwhile, the pitchers come from all corners of the A’s organization, from Low-A up through MLB, and all of them are dealing. For context, the league has a 3.66 ERA overall (excluding the Mexican Winter League teams that have participated for a few crossover games).
Gossett: 2.57 ERA, 14 ip, 12 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 10 hits
Zambrano: 3.38 ERA, 8 ip, 8 Ks, 3 BB, 2 HR, 9 hits
Feigl: 2.35 ERA, 7⅔ ip, 10 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR, 9 hits
Hurtado: 0.00 ERA, 8 ip, 9 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR, 4 hits
First up is Daniel Gossett, a major leaguer who missed all of 2019 to Tommy John surgery. He has served as a starter in the AFL, with five appearances overall. In his debut he went two innings with two runs, but in each game after that he’s consistently thrown three strong frames and averaged around 0-1 runs, 2 hits, 2-3 Ks, and a walk. Double-A righty Jesus Zambrano has picked up a relief win and a save in addition to the numbers above.
The other two names are out of the lower minors. Righty Brady Feigl was a starter for High-A this year in his first full pro season (2018 draft, 5th round), but he’s racking up strikeouts in a relief role in the AFL. And last but not least, lefty Jhenderson Hurtado might be the most impressive of the bunch so far. The 23-year-old has only thrown a few innings above Single-A Beloit in his career, but he’s dominated the AFL competition so far — and it hasn’t just been garbage time, as he’s directly followed the starter in all of his appearances and thus pitched meaningful, early frames.
All in all, it’s been a productive AFL season for the A’s contingent so far. Gossett has gotten in some rehab innings in real games, Deichmann has begun his long-awaited bounce-back, and Hurtado is increasing his sleeper stock. Rivas, Zambrano, and Feigl are all producing, and even Allen is at least back on the field after missing multiple months. For more on these players, here’s our preview writeup, which was written before Feigl and Gossett were announced.
The AFL has two more weeks of games yet to play, culminating in the Championship Game on Oct. 26. The Solar Sox (10-10) are two games behind their division leader for a spot in that final game.