The off-season is underway and there is little for baseball fans to do but to wait for deals to be made. However, there has been baseball played recently by some youngsters. Brandon Magee lets us know the Boston Red Sox prospects in the Arizona Fall League performed.
For minor league prospect watchers, the Arizona Fall League is the only truly covered bridge from a summer of baseball to spring training. While prospects play in instructional “leagues” in the spring training complexes of Florida and Arizona, statistics are not sent out to the hungry hoardes craving information. And while some prospects do play in the various winter leagues around the Caribbean, they soon lose playing time as Major League players come in as the teams near the end of each league’s season and the beginning of the Caribbean Series. The AFL, on the other hand, plays 30 competitive games with only minor league prospects… and information flows freely to the awaiting watchers of prospects.
A Word of Warning
Thirty Games. One month of baseball. That is not a lot of time to make an impression, good or bad, and one small slump can make a prospect’s fall look worse than it actually was. It should also be noted that the AFL starts a month after the minor league regular season ends, making the AFL more like spring training than the regular season.
The Major Prospect
The Red Sox sent one great prospect to the AFL this season, first baseman Sam Travis. Travis did little to dampen enthusiasm, batting .344/.394/.505 and helping to lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to the AFL Championship Crown. Travis led the league with ten doubles and 32 hits, was third in the league in total bases with 47, and was in the top ten in batting, slugging, OBP and OPS. Travis will likely begin the 2016 season with the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox and has to be considered the leading candidate for the Boston first base job in 2017.
Asuaje, who had played the majority of his 2015 season with Portland at second base, showed his positional versatility by playing mostly at third base in Arizona. He put up a good batting line for the Scorpions, hitting .329/.359/.425 over his eighteen appearances. The 24-year old, who showed decent patience during the regular season, drawing 56 walks, only drew three walks in the AFL. Asuaje was traded to the San Diego Padres as the AFL season ended as a part of the Craig Kimbrel trade.
Lin, who has a fine defensive reputation, continued his struggles with offense in Arizona. After putting up a .202/.268/.266 line in the final two months of the regular season with AA Portland, Lin batted .208/.296/.229 in 14 games for the Scorpions. He did show a slight uptick in walk percentage in the AFL, walking in 11% of his plate appearances as opposed to less than 8% during the regular season. Whether this was an aspect he was working on in Arizona or just an example of small sample size, we can only speculate.
Small sample size is a bigger issue when looking at the pitching performances of the Red Sox prospects sent to the AFL. Judging a pitcher on just the stats from 14 innings of work is a fool’s errand, and that is the largest number of innings that a Red Sox pitcher had this season in Scottsdale.
Aaron Wilkerson was the starter sent to Scottsdale from the Red Sox, seeing his fourth team in the calendar year. Wilkerson, perhaps showing the wear and tear from his 137 regular season innings, only pitched in two games for the Scorpions, giving up ten hits and five walks in just seven innings of work. He allowed six earned runs while striking out only a quartet.
Wilkerson’s spot in the rotation was taken by Justin Haley, coming off a 16-loss season for Portland. The 24-year old, however, took the opportunity to put a pleasant coda to his season, allowing a single earned run in 14 innings over four appearances. Haley allowed only ten hits and two walks in his AFL appearances while striking out 12. His final appearance of the season was a 4 inning, one hit, six strikeout performance.
Danny Rosenbaum, in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, couldn’t buy a win in the regular season, going 0-8 in 15 starts for Lowell and Portland. He finally picked up a pair of wins in Arizona, coming out of the bullpen. In nine games for Scottsdale, Rosenbaum pitched 10 2/3 innings, allowing a single run. However, he continued to struggle with his command, walking eight while striking out ten.
Three other relievers pitched in Arizona for the Sox. Kyle Martin pitched 8 1/3 innings over six appearances, allowing a pair of runs on six hits and a walk while striking out eight. He would be replaced on the team by Jamie Callahan, who had pitched in Greenville during the regular season. Callahan pitched in three one inning appearances, allowing a run on a hit and a walk; striking out three. Chandler Shepherd, who finished the regular season with Salem, pitched 11 1/3 innings over nine relief appearances. Shepherd allowed five runs on four hits and two walks in his first three appearances, but did not allow a run in his final six appearances (8 innings). In his final six games, he allowed a single hit while striking out 13.