With the Minor League season winding down it's time to turn our prospectin' attention to gio2chat's favorite subject.... (aside from monkeys) WINTER LEAGUES! There are a number of different Winter Leagues associated with MLB. The Arizona Fall League (AFL) is the most prominent of these. The Arizona Fall League gets underway in early October and runs through mid-November. There are also the 4 leagues that comprise the Caribbean League: one in Venezuela, one in the Dominican, one in Mexico, and one in Puerto Rico. And then there is the Australian Baseball League.
Since the cream-o-the-crop of players generally end up in Arizona, I'd like to take a look at some potential candidates O's fans could look for out in the desert. But first, a look at the eligibility requirements that MLB has established in order for players to be allowed to participate.
The rules for Arizona Fall League eligibility are not too complex. Each MLB club sends 6 players to the team they have been assigned. The O's play for the Mesa Solar Sox, along with prospects from the Cubs, Pirates, Twins, and White Sox. Any player in AAA or any player who has been in AA since at least August 1 is eligible to be sent to Arizona. Only 1 player from lower than AA is allowed. No players with more than 1 year of MLB service time can be sent, excepting players picked up in the most recent Rule 5 Draft. There are also rules relating to foreign players and to players who were on the DL during the year. So, with that primer out of the way let's briefly look at who the O's sent last year, and then prognosticate on who the O's might send this year.
For some reason, and I don't know why, the O's had 7 players representing the organization in Arizona last year: (OF) Xavier Avery, (C) Brian Ward, (1B) Joe Mahoney, (P's) Steve Johnson, Cole McCurry, Sean Gleason, and Casey Lambert. So who could be going this year? Let's take a look....
(OF) L.J. Hoes. Little Jerome has had himself a pretty excellent season this year. Across two levels (AA-Bowie and AAA-Norfolk) L.J. has put up a .297/.382/.396 line while drawing a BB for nearly each K (70:63). Sending him to Arizona could give the O's an opportunity to see just how well his skills match up with other top-tier young talent throughout the league.
(SS/2B) Jonathon Schoop. I'm not entirely clear on how the rule for foreign born players works, but I think Schoop would be eligible since he is from Curacao, and not from either Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, or the Dominican Rep. Schoop got off to a slow start for the Bowie Baysox, but has put up increasingly impressive numbers with each passing month. More impressive is that he's done this while being the 3rd youngest player in the Eastern League (only uber-prospects Manny Machado and Nick Castellanos are younger). A stint in Arizona this fall could give the O's a chance to see if Schoop will need more developmental time in Bowie to start next season or if an aggressive assignment with Norfolk is in order.
(3B) Ty Kelly. Mr. Kelly has become a bit of a personal favorite of mine. All he's done, and at whatever level the O's place him, is hit. A .346/.460/.513 line with High-A Frederick. A .278/.350/.389 slash line during a brief stint filling in as an injury replacement with AAA Norfolk. And now a .307/.377/.378 line over 34 games so far with AA Bowie. The diminishing power is concerning. And he is already 24 years old. Time to see if he can hang with the big dogs. I'll be rooting for him.
(RP) Clay Schrader. Dude's got a howitzer attached to the right side of his torso. Problem is that it sometimes sprays rounds like an uzi; all over the place. A 13.1 K/9 earned him a promotion from Fredrick to Bowie during the summer. Alas, he brought a 6.9 BB/9 rate with him. And those numbers have basically reversed during his time in Bowie: 5.3 K/9, 10.1 BB/9. Perhaps some further instruction and top-notch competition could do him some good.
(SP) Mike Wright. Another young arm who's fine form in Frederick earned him a promotion to Bowie during the summer. Wright's sinking fastball burns up a lot of worms, resulting in a 1.26 GO/AO rate this season. He had a nice run of success after returning from a D.L. stint, but has scuffled a bit over his past 3 outings. Further development and instruction is definitely warranted should the O's wish to keep him as a Starter. If they see his future as being in the bullpen then an assignment to Arizona would probably be unnecessary.
(SP) Kevin Gausman. This is a bit of a wild card. He threw 123.2 IP while with LSU (and who knows what his pitch counts were like). He's thrown 9 IP between Aberdeen and Frederick thus far, with another 9 or so likely before the season ends. That would place him in the neighborhood of 140 IP total on the season. Might be better just to shut his arm down for the winter. A placement in Arizona would be an aggressive move.
(OF) Brendan Webb. Another favorite of both myself and Mr. j.q. higgins. Webb is a 3-true-outcome type of hitter. Exiled in the land of duck for most of the year, Webb excelled nonetheless. His stats seemed to suggest that he was not being particularly challenged by SAL pitching. And, well, Carolina League pitching hasn't impressed him much either as of yet. Though his power has declined slightly, he is still putting up a OPS over .800. The real concern has been his BB:K rate in Frederick. 87 BBs to 108 Ks with Delmarva, he has 8 BBs to 22 Ks with the Keys. Would love to see how his batting eye handles the competition in Arizona though.
Other players of note who could be candidates (but whom I don't wish to write a blurb about at the moment) include: (SP) Tyler Wilson, (SP) Parker Bridwell, (1B) Tyler Townsend, (3B) Torsten Boss, (OF) Glynn Davis, and (OF) Johnny Ruettiger. Sucks about Nick Delmonico's knee injury. Due to it he will not be eligible for the league, though he would have been a strong candidate for it.
So, thoughts? Additional names you'd like to mention? Have at it, Chatters.