On Tuesday afternoon, MLB announced the slate of prospects from each team that will be headed out to compete in the Arizona Fall League this October. The group of Orioles prospects headed out to play with the Salt River Rafters will be headlined by 2015 first round pick Ryan Mountcastle, who has been playing third base for Double-A Bowie since earning a promotion there.
Four more Orioles prospects are currently slated to join Mountcastle in Arizona. He’ll also be joined by a couple of Bowie teammates, hard-throwing lefty reliever Tanner Scott and infielder Steve Wilkerson, Triple-A reliever Andrew Faulkner, and Frederick Keys starter Keegan Akin, who was a second round pick in last year’s draft.
This is Scott’s third consecutive season being sent to the Arizona Fall League. The Orioles keep wanting him to get extra work in hopes that he will figure out how to throw strikes in addition to being able to throw 100 miles per hour as a left-handed pitcher.
Additionally, the Orioles have two more spots that they can announce later on. According to MASN’s Steve Melewski, those spots will eventually be used for a pitcher and an outfielder.
AFL action kicks off on October 10 and runs through November 18, with a “Fall Stars” game on November 4. Joining the Orioles prospects on the Rafters will be prospects from the Brewers, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Rockies.
In recent years, the Orioles have tended to send to Arizona players who either had injury setbacks during the season or who they want to get more of a look to see what they have. Competition in the Arizona Fall League is generally going to be better than the A-ball leagues, so for a guy like Akin, that will be a nice test. Of the top 100 MLB prospects, 11 will be headed to the AFL. That’s fewer than the 21 from last season.
Here’s a very short rundown of each player.
Started the season at Frederick as a shortstop. After batting .314/.343/.542 in that league as a 20-year-old, he got a promotion to Bowie, where they shifted him to third base. The Bowie days haven’t gone as well. In 32 games, he’s batted .203/.219/.325. Sending him to the AFL is probably a chance to give him both ABs against better pitchers and more time at third base in general.
Throws 100. Walks a lot of guys. Strikes out even more guys. I’m talking 44 walks and 83 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched this year. If the Orioles can cut down the 22-year-old’s walk rate, they’ll really have something here.
The 25-year-old infielder was a senior sign by the O’s in the eighth round of the 2014 draft out of Clemson. If you haven’t heard of him, that’s OK - he’s slowly climbed the ladder in the O’s system without much distinction before this year.
After a .323/.407/.426 batting line for Frederick in 41 games, they promoted him to Bowie, where he’s been playing second base. In 66 games there, Wilkerson is batting .295/.357/.423. He’s old for the level, so maybe it doesn’t mean much, but Wilkerson has played all of second, third, and shortstop professionally and will be Rule 5 eligible this offseason. The O’s may want to see if they have a late-blooming utility infielder on their hands.
Akin skipped right over Delmarva to begin this year with High-A Frederick. In 21 starts there this season, he’s pitched 100 innings and struck out 111 batters, which is great, although he’s walked 46 as well. Akin is just 22. He pulled an oblique on August 4 and hasn’t pitched since, so sending him to the AFL is both a “get him work” and “challenge him with better hitters” move.
One of the several “acquired for a player to be named later or cash” moves made by Dan Duquette this year. Faulkner saw limited big league action with the Rangers in both 2015 and 2016 and has been pitching out of the Norfolk bullpen this year, with a 2.50 ERA in 31 games for the 24-year-old. Joining the common theme, throwing strikes is his problem. He’s walked 23 batters in 36 innings. The Rangers also sent him out to Arizona last fall.
If past years are any indication, the TBA pitcher spot will be someone who has been injured and may not pitch much while recovering. That could be last year’s first round pick, Cody Sedlock, who’s gone on the DL twice with a forearm strain that hasn’t yet officially reached Tommy John surgery level.
It could also be Hunter Harvey, on his way back from his own Tommy John, in order to get Harvey some (but not too many) innings against better competition. Or it could be someone I haven’t thought about at all, because it’s the Arizona Fall League and it probably won’t end up mattering all that much.