Preliminary rosters have been announced for the 2019 Arizona Fall League. Each club will send seven prospects, creating six total AFL squads. The Oakland A’s contingent will suit up for the Mesa Solar Sox, alongside players from the Angels, Cubs, Indians, and Tigers, with their first game coming on Wed., Sept. 18 which is three weeks earlier than in previous years.
Five A’s youngsters have so far been named to Mesa’s roster, which is still a work in progress. These assignments aren’t set in stone, as injuries or other factors can change things over the next few weeks, but this is where the list stands now. There will still be two more Oakland prospects added to the mix, which are currently expected to be pitchers. (Click here for full roster.)
- RHP Jhenderson Hurtado
- RHP Jesus Zambrano
- 1B Alfonso Rivas
- SS Nick Allen
- OF Greg Deichmann
Three of those names made our preseason Community Prospect List — Deichmann (15), Allen (19), and Rivas (28), though if we were to re-vote right now then Allen would surely jump way up the rankings after an excellent season. Also, Double-A hitting coach Tommy Everidge is on Mesa’s coaching staff.
Before we look at who these players are, a quick update about the AFL itself, which has undergone some rule changes this year. As noted, it’s starting a few weeks earlier, for reasons that make good sense (click that link for more details). As a result of the earlier start in blazing Arizona, the first couple weeks of games will be played at night (see schedule here). And, on a separate note, the pool of eligible players has been expanded from mostly upper-minors guys to anyone under contract, which means the chance for more lower-minors players or even some major leaguers who need to rehab injuries after the minor league season ends in a few days.
Jhenderson Hurtado | LHP | Age 23
Acquired: Free agent (Venezuela), Feb 2013
2019, A-: 0.77 ERA, 23⅓ ip, 34 Ks, 10 BB, 1 HR, 2.72 FIP
2019, A: 2.61 ERA, 31 ip, 38 Ks, 13 BB, 1 HR, 3.06 FIP
Hurtado hasn’t really been on our prospect radar before, and has only been in U.S. ball for three seasons, but he’s having a breakout year in 2019. His first appearance actually came in High-A Stockton in May, resulting in one inning and four runs, but he didn’t stay there. Then when Low-A Vermont got their short-season going in June he quickly proved to be too much for the younger batters to handle. He moved up to Single-A Beloit in late July and he’s been good in just about every outing there, racking up strikeouts and doing everything you hope to see on the stat sheet.
Jesus Zambrano | RHP | Age 22 (now 23)
Acquired: Int’l free agent (Venezuela), Aug 2012
2019, A+: 1.88 ERA, 28⅔ ip, 31 Ks, 8 BB, 2 HR, 3.25 FIP
2019, AA: 1.27 ERA, 42⅔ ip, 32 Ks, 12 BB, 1 HR, 3.08 FIP
Zambrano has been bubbling just under the surface of our prospect radar for years, and now he’s finally having a breakout too. He’s been in the A’s system even longer than Hurtado, and in the U.S. since 2014. After a couple years in the AZL, and a couple more in Vermont and (mostly) Beloit, the 5’9 righty started showing signs last summer and now has taken a huge leap forward. He’s suddenly putting up strong numbers in Double-A, and at a young age for the level — he turned 23 last week, so really this was his age-22 season.
Here’s more from Melissa Lockard of The Athletic: “Although still not a flame-thrower, Zambrano’s breakout season has coincided with an uptick in velocity that began last season. ... He’s averaged 93 mph in recent outings and was clocked as high as 95. The former starter still has a deep pitch mix with his cutter, changeup and breaking ball, and he adds some deception, as well.”
Alfonso Rivas | 1B | Age 23
Acquired: 2018 draft, 4th round
2019, A+: .283/.383/.408, 122 wRC+, 8 HR, 13.0% BB, 22.2% Ks
2019, AAA: 4-for-7, double, 2 BB, 1 K
Rivas is finishing up his first full pro season, and the lefty is off to a nice start to his career. He’s got the odd profile of a first baseman who doesn’t hit for power, instead relying on plate discipline and on-base skills, but so far he’s making it work. When the A’s promoted Seth Brown to Oakland on Monday, Rivas got the call up to replace him in Triple-A for the final few days until the season ends. For more, here’s our preseason writeup about him. Note: He’ll turn 24 a few days before the AFL starts.
Nick Allen | SS | Age 20
Acquired: 2017 draft, 3rd round
2019, A+: .292/.363/.434, 122 wRC+, 3 HR, 13 SB, 8.5% BB, 15.9% Ks
Allen was a significant draft pick. He was considered a possible 1st-round talent but fell to the 3rd round, partly because of his undersized 5’8 stature, and the A’s snagged him and paid him nearly 1st-round money ($2M) to skip college and go pro out of high school. His strength is his elite defense, which draws massive scouting grades (65 Pipeline, 55/70 Fangraphs), and this year he started hitting too. Unfortunately his season was cut short at the end of June, thanks to a high-ankle sprain incurred on a slide, but nevertheless he had a great year and may have played his way into the Top 10 of our CPL next winter. Here’s an excellent profile from Lockard, which especially praises Allen’s defense and his ability to use the whole field as a hitter.
Greg Deichmann | OF | Age 24
Acquired: 2017 draft, 2nd round
2019, AA: .215/.289/.359, 9 HR, 18 SB, 82 wRC+, 9.1% BB, 29.9% Ks
Deichmann was a high draft pick but hasn’t put much together yet in the pros. He struggled in 2018 at High-A Stockton (77 wRC+) and has done so again this summer, though in both years he was interrupted by long-term injuries that each cost him a couple months (wrist/hamate last year, shoulder this year). His calling card is supposed to be power, but while we wait for that to show up, he’s also stolen 18 bases in 22 tries for Midland.
This looks like a fun group for the AFL, even if it’s geared a little more toward sleepers than big-name prospects. Hurtado and Zambrano are compelling breakouts and it will be interesting to see more out of them. Allen and Deichmann both missed lots of time to injury this year, so now they can make up some of those at-bats. Rivas doesn’t quite fall into either of those camps, but he’s good and he did miss a couple weeks in May, so let’s see what he does against some tougher competition. And remember, there are still two more spots to fill!