Plenty of San Francisco Giants fans are lamenting the fact that they’re not able to watch their team in the playoffs, but there will be something to keep them occupied beginning on Tuesday as the Arizona Fall League, MLB‘s premier offseason developmental league, will kick off action.
The Giants’ affiliate in the AFL is the Scottsdale Scorpions, and this year they will be sending starting pitchers Kyle Crick and Adalberto Mejia, relievers Cody Hall and Derek Law, catcher Andrew Susac, first baseman Angel Villalona and outfielder Jarrett Parker.
Of the players on that list, Crick and Mejia are the most highly regarded. Many consider the 21-year-old Crick to be a second coming of Matt Cain, and he certainly did all he could to back up those claims this year. Over 68.2 innings at Class-A San Jose, Crick had a 1.57 ERA, while holding hitters to a .201 average with 95 strikeouts and 39 walks.
It’s a consensus belief that he is the team’s best prospect, and if everything goes right for him in Double-A, he could be ready to pitch in the majors as soon as late 2014.
Mejia is a bit more of a project, but he’s come along very well so far and put up great numbers in 2013. Between 16 starts at San Jose and a spot start at Triple-A, the 20-year-old left-hander had a 3.33 ERA, with 91 strikeouts and 25 walks over 92 total innings.
Mejia’s not much of a power pitcher and relies more on good location and ground balls to find success, but he’s got plenty of time to refine his skills, and he’s shown supreme composure while skyrocketing through the system at such a young age.
Law and Hall have not been talked about very much as big-league prospects and neither of them has overwhelming stuff, but both had dominant seasons in 2013 and will get a chance to build off that. Law split the season between High and Low-A, and had a 2.31 ERA over 46 appearances. He had a ridiculously good 102 strikeouts and 12 walks over 66.1 innings, and picked up 14 saves along the way.
Meanwhile, Hall split the season between High-A and Double-A, and he was equally successful. He had a 1.80 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 15 walks over 60 innings, and he held hitters to an incredible .153 average. Neither of these pitchers has made top prospect lists, but if they continue to succeed, they could be in the big leagues in short order as the Giants always seem to be in search of additional bullpen help.
Each of the position players was highly regarded when they entered the Giants’ system, but each of them had concerns that they will try to quiet over the next couple months.
Susac was a second-rounder in 2011, and was hailed as a possible successor to Buster Posey. Through his first two professional seasons, the 23-year-old has had some good moments, but he’s been pretty inconsistent. He hit just .256 this year in Double-A, though he did have 12 homers and a .362 OBP.
The prevailing belief is that his defense needs some work, and at this point he’ll need to really impress to pass up Hector Sanchez on the Buster Posey succession chart.
Villalona, a former international bonus baby, has some serious power-hitting ability, but hasn’t shown much else thus far. Between Single-A and Double-A, he hit .231 with 27 doubles and 22 homers. If he develops some discipline, he could be a nice part of the Giants’ offense, but if the team signs Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, it could cloud Villalona’s future with the team.
Parker was a second-rounder in 2010, and he’s been pretty disappointing thus far. He’s struck out in 36 percent of his career minor-league at-bats, and he hasn’t been able to hit for average. However, his home run totals have gone up every season, all the way to 18 in 2013, and maybe the Giants want to see if this skill will enable him to contribute to their bench at some point.
It should be interesting to see how each of these players will rise to the challenge of playing on a big stage. There’s been a pretty big major-league success rate for players who succeed in the AFL, so Giants fans should keep an eye on how these prospects perform.