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Arizona Fall League: A’s prospects win championship with Mesa Solar Sox

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Solar Sox featured 9 players from Oakland’s farm

Mesa Solar Sox v. Surprise Saguaros
Jeff Criswell
Photo by Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The 2021 Arizona Fall League season is in the books, and a handful of Oakland A’s prospects ended up winning championship rings.

The AFL is made up of six teams, and each MLB club contributes a handful of prospects to one of those teams. The A’s sent nine players to be part of the Mesa Solar Sox, joining with reps from the Blue Jays, Cubs, Marlins, and Orioles.

  • OF Austin Beck
  • UT Jonah Bride
  • SS Logan Davidson
  • SS Jeremy Eierman
  • RHP Bryce Conley
  • RHP Jeff Criswell
  • LHP Hogan Harris
  • RHP Pedro Santos
  • RHP Brock Whittlesey

The group includes a few notable names and a few sleepers. Beck and Davidson were 1st-round draft picks, Criswell and Eierman were 2nd-rounders, and Harris was a 3rd-rounder, and all five of them have cracked our Community Prospect List before. The other four names are deeper on the radar.

The Solar Sox finished first place in their three-team division to qualify for the Championship Game on Saturday, and then they won that final contest 6-0 over the Surprise Saguaros. The A’s contingent weren’t the most productive stars on the team overall, but a couple of them did post strong performances during the regular season and then two Oakland hitters led the way in the title game last weekend.

The standout of the bunch turned out to be Bride, who maximized his on-base skills at the plate while playing four defensive positions including catcher. His efforts were rewarded on Friday when he was added to the 40-man roster for protection from the Rule 5 draft, offering an idea of how much his stock has risen this year. On the pitching side, Criswell piled up the strikeouts despite a shaky ERA in the hitter-friendly league.

Here’s a closer look at the nine A’s prospects, including their stats both in the minors this summer and the AFL this fall. Note that the AFL is an extremely high-scoring environment, with the whole league averaging nearly six runs per game, and Mesa averaging more than seven runs per game both for and against.

Jonah Bride | UT

  • 2021, AA: .265/.407/.424, 130 wRC+, 9 HR, 17.1% BB, 17.1% Ks
  • 2021, AFL: 13-for-52, .250/.451/.462, 3 HR, 22.5% BB, 16.9% Ks

The 23rd-round draft pick climbed up the sleeper ladder this summer with a promising bat in Double-A, and he continued showing off his plate discipline and contact skills in the AFL. His .451 OBP ranked 11th out of 70 qualified hitters in the league, and he flashed a little bit of power along the way. Perhaps most interesting of all were the defensive reps he took behind the plate as the catcher for three games, upping the ante on the modern super-sub archetype.

In the Championship Game on Saturday, Bride went 3-for-5 with an RBI to help the team to victory. He drove in a run in the 1st inning with a sharp liner to left field (click here to watch!), then added singles in the 5th and 9th innings.

Logan Davidson | SS

  • 2021, AA: .212/.307/.313, 71 wRC+, 7 HR, 12.0% BB, 30.1% Ks
  • 2021, AFL: 20-for-73, .274/.400/.411, 2 HR, 16.7% BB, 36.7% Ks

Davidson was the team’s 1st-round pick from 2019, but then missed out on his first full season when the minors were canceled in 2020. He got an aggressive assignment to Double-A this summer but finished with lackluster numbers, and in particular he didn’t allay concerns about his low-graded Hit tool.

The AFL gave him some extra at-bats this fall, and his stats were a similarly mixed bag. He drew a ton of walks as usual, maintaining encouragement about his batting eye, but he struck out a lot and didn’t hit much. He ended on a high note though, going 3-for-4 in the Championship Game — he doubled and scored in the 1st inning, singled sharply in the 2nd, walked in the 4th, and then lined an RBI single in the 6th (click here to watch!) and went on to steal second base.

Jeremy Eierman | SS

  • 2021, AA: .247/.335/.448, 109 wRC+, 10 HR, 8.2% BB, 36.1% Ks
  • 2021, AFL: 3-for-31, .097/.222/.097, 0 HR, 13.9% BB, 38.9% Ks

Eierman showed enough power in Double-A for an above-average batting line, but his strikeouts were still off the charts. That swing-and-miss tendency is clearly a point of emphasis moving forward, and his opportunity to work on it this summer was cut short when a quad injury ended his season early. He returned to action for the AFL, but unfortunately the strikeouts continued unabated.

Austin Beck | OF

  • 2021, A+: .202/.253/.351, 63 wRC+, 7 HR, 5.6% BB, 33.8% Ks
  • 2021 AAA: 3-for-20, 3 HR, 2 BB, 13 Ks
  • 2021, AFL: 9-for-53, .170/.233/.208, 0 HR, 8.3% BB, 38.3% Ks

The former 1st-round pick is still searching for his groove in the pros, though he did open eyes during a brief tour of Triple-A this summer by knocking a few dingers. The AFL didn’t bring any new progress.

Bryce Conley | RHP

  • 2021, AA: 4.39 ERA, 94⅓ ip, 88 Ks, 44 BB, 6 HR, 4.09 FIP
  • 2021, AFL: 5.23 ERA, 10⅓ ip, 7 Ks, 9 BB, 1 HR, 12 hits

Drafted in the 22nd round in 2017, Conley has made a quiet but steady march up to Double-A, though he hasn’t jumped onto the serious prospect radar. He can hit 97 mph in a relief role, reports Melissa Lockard of The Athletic. His characteristically high walk rate reared its head in the AFL, but he held his own in a tough environment for pitchers.

Jeff Criswell | RHP

  • 2021, A+: 4.50 ERA, 12 ip, 12 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 4.11 FIP
  • 2021, AFL: 6.75 ERA, 22⅔ ip, 32 Ks, 12 BB, 5 HR, 26 hits

Criswell is one of the hotter pitching prospects in the A’s system, as their 2nd-round pick in the 2020 draft, but he missed most of this summer to injury. The AFL gave him a chance to finally log some innings, and the numbers listed above constitute his entire pro career to date. The 6.75 ERA looks high but it was slightly below Mesa’s team average (6.92), and his strikeouts were by far the most on the staff — especially impressive considering he entered with basically zero experience.

Hogan Harris | LHP

  • 2021, minors: Didn’t pitch due to injury
  • 2021, AFL: 7.20 ERA, 10 ip, 14 Ks, 14 BB, 0 HR, 7 hits

Harris was drafted in 2018 but has only racked up 54⅔ innings in the minors due to various injuries, including Tommy John surgery that wiped out his whole 2021 campaign. He got back on the mound for the AFL, and there’s no need to analyze much beyond that — it was encouraging just to see him back in action, much less still missing some bats.

Pedro Santos | RHP

  • 2021, A-: 6.32 ERA, 68⅓ ip, 87 Ks, 62 BB, 4 HR, 5.43 FIP
  • 2021, AFL: 5 ip, 3 Ks, 7 BB, 0 HR, 8 hits

Santos is relatively new to the system, making his full-season debut this summer as a 21-year-old in Low-A Stockton. He led the Ports team in strikeouts, but also ranked third in the league in walks. The AFL was an ambitious assignment, and while the numbers aren’t pretty, he did at least keep the ball in the park.

Brock Whittlesey | RHP

  • 2021, A+: 4.47 ERA, 46⅓ ip, 52 Ks, 11 BB, 4 HR, 3.69 FIP
  • 2021, AFL: 9.00 ERA, 13 ip, 8 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 22 hits

Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019, Whittlesey began this summer with 10⅓ sparkling innings for Low-A Stockton, including 10 Ks and zero walks. He was quickly bumped up to High-A Lansing, where he kept up his strong strikeout-to-walk ratio. He got hit a bit harder in the AFL, but still kept the ball in the strike zone in a league where pitchers averaged more than five walks per nine innings.

There’s also a beard. Whoa nelly.

Scottsdale Scorpions v Mesa Solar Sox
Brock Whittlesey
Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Looking at the group overall, the pitchers are tough to analyze because of the wacky league environment as well as all their extenuating circumstances — Criswell and Harris had injury rust to shake off, while Santos and Whittlesey join them in being particularly inexperienced in the pros. The biggest takeaway is seeing a healthy Criswell rack up strikeouts while keeping the walks in check, in his largest sample size so far.

On the hitting side, the three high-profile bats are still having strikeout issues, but the unheralded Bride was there to steal the show. Of note, Beck and Eierman are both eligible for the Rule 5 draft next month like Bride would have been, but only Bride was added to the 40-man roster for protection. (Conley and Harris are also eligible.)

Congrats to all nine A’s prospects on their new Arizona Fall League championship rings!