The Arizona Fall League season has come and gone. The annual league run by Major League Baseball is a chance for teams to send out a few players who either need extra work after an injury or who could just use some extra seasoning in general. This year, the Orioles contributed a handful of prospects to the Peoria Javelinas. The experience was not a smashing success on the whole.
If there was one primary goal for the AFL for the O's, it must have been to see a healthy Dylan Bundy get through a modest workload without having any problems. That was a failure. Bundy did not head to join the league until it was already halfway through its short season and he only managed to throw 21 pitches across two different one-inning stints before he was shut down due to elbow stiffness.
With Bundy facing the 2016 deadline where he must be on the 25-man roster as a result of the contract he signed when he was drafted, that's not an encouraging sign. Maybe if he'd had a few successful one inning outings, the O's could feel some kind of confidence about using Bundy out of the bullpen next year. Now there's nothing certain about his status. When will the elbow stiffness subside, and what will he pitch like when he's finally back on the mound? That will be one of the bigger questions facing the team heading into spring training.
Though Bundy was the player with the most to gain in the AFL, he wasn't the only Orioles minor leaguer out there. They also sent shortstop Adrian Marin, catcher Chance Sisco, outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, and pitchers Jason Garcia, Donnie Hart, Jon Keller, and Tanner Scott. Garcia's presence was unusual in that the league doesn't typically see players who spent the whole of the most recent year as big leaguers. The Orioles wanted him to get some work, so here he went.
Bundy's woes are described above. Keller only pitched in two games, so there's nothing much to add about him. A little bit about each of the rest of the players and how they did:
Drafted: 3rd round, 2012
Marin is rated by MLB.com as the Orioles #25 prospect. The chance of a big league trajectory for any team's #25 prospect isn't great, and the O's system isn't good right now anyway. One need not look much farther than the .238/.286/.344 batting line he posted in his second season at Frederick to see why Marin's chance in particular is not great.
The .692 OPS he managed in the AFL is not surprising, though it also came against pitchers who are likely of a higher caliber than what he has seen to date, so perhaps there's something encouraging there. Before this season, MLB.com had this to say about him:
While it might look like he lacks the arm strength to stay at shortstop, he tends to make up for any deficiencies with outstanding fundamentals, with excellent footwork, a quick release and an accuracy. ... Marin is still way ahead of the curve in terms of age and the level he's playing at. His feel for the game and natural confidence should continue to allow him to play above his tools.
He'll be 22 next season, so if any development beyond what he is right now is going to start happening, that would be a good time. This time next year the O's will have to decide whether or not they want to put him on the 40-man roster. Even if his best case scenario is utility infielder, that's no bad outcome for a third round pick.
Drafted: 2nd round, 2013
Sisco is the #8 prospect according to MLB.com. They're pessimists on him compared to others; Baseball Prospectus actually had him as the #101 prospect in all of baseball before this year. What's great about Sisco is that he's a catcher who has hit for a high average and solid on-base percentage despite being young for every level. He played his way up to Bowie at age 20. That's good. He posted a .255/.328/.327 batting line in the AFL. That's not so good.
One thing to keep in mind is that success or failure in the AFL is not always indicative of much. Two years ago, Jonathan Schoop went out to Arizona and batted only .177. He's done OK for himself. That same year, Henry Urrutia scorched the league over 18 games for a .985 OPS. It only means so much. Sisco could have done better, but the learning experience may be the real value for him.
Drafted: 14th round, 2013
Yastrzemski is rated as the #13 prospect on MLB.com. Right away you notice he's older than these other guys - he was a college senior when drafted and signed, which doesn't usually portend a big league future. He generated a bit of buzz in the 2014 season when he played well enough to get two midseason promotions, but that progress stalled in a full season at Bowie this year - he batted only .246/.316/.372. His AFL season wasn't much better, ending up with a .645 OPS.
Don't count him out entirely as some kind of future David Lough-type outfielder, but he'll have to get better to get even that far.
Drafted: Rule 5, 2014 (originally 17th round, 2010 by Red Sox)
You'll never believe this, but Garcia walked 15 batters in 15.1 innings of work out in the AFL. I know, it's stunning. He also struck out 19 batters. It all added up to a 4.11 ERA over six games. The good news is that, now that the Orioles can option Garcia to the minor leagues without losing control of him, they almost surely will, so maybe someone in Norfolk can help him throw more strikes.
Drafted: 27th round, 2013
Hart doesn't even crack the Orioles top 30. Sorry, Donnie. That's probably because he was 24 when he started the season at Frederick this year, so even a dominant 1.03 ERA over 35 innings of work there only tells you so much. The 5'11" Hart is left-handed and has a pulse. He'll get chances to show what he can do.
Not a great AFL for him, however, with a 4.82 ERA. That was only in nine innings of work, so the standard small sample size disclaimer applies.
With their addition of Andrew Triggs to the 40-man roster, the O's just showed they're willing to reward the success of an older reliever. Hart would first have to have a strong 2016 for Bowie to find himself in the same boat. It's not impossible.
Drafted: 6th round, 2014
One way to get yourself on the prospect radar is this:
Orioles lefty Tanner Scott just touched 101. Becoming a common occurrence here.— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) November 2, 2015
A lefty who throws 101? Yeah. That'll do. Scott's not got it all together yet, though. Specifically, he walks way too many guys, including 22 in 42.1 innings of work between Aberdeen and Delmarva in the O's system this year. In the AFL, it was more of the same. Scott pitched nine innings over eight games, and while he lit up the radar gun, he also walked five batters against ten strikeouts.
If he makes it to the show, we know what's going to punch his ticket there. There are a lot of steps to climb to get there. You can also see very easily why he was a sixth round pick. Maybe they can put him through the Zach Britton string drill.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, there was no real great success here. The Bundy problem, whatever it may be, hangs like a rain cloud over everything, and it wasn't exactly worth throwing a parade otherwise. There are a lot of mights and maybes and, "Well, hopefully he'll do better next year." Some of that may improvement may happen. Most of it won't. Perhaps none of it will. That's the nature of minor leaguers.
If there wasn't heartburn enough, the AFL leader in ERA was former Orioles draftee Josh Hader, now with the Milwaukee Brewers, who held the league to a 0.56 ERA over 16 innings. Small sample size, yes, but a tough pill to swallow after Bud Norris just earned a midseason DFA.