OK, close your eyes and picture yourself sitting behind home plate at a beautiful ballpark, on a perfect day, surrounded by big league scouts, watching a game filled with prospects from ten different major league teams. Pretty nice dream, isn’t it? Well, without trying to rub it in, your fantasy is my reality because I’m fortunate enough to live in the Valley of the Sun.
An envelope arrived in the mail a few weeks ago from the “Office of the Commissioner of Baseball”. No, it wasn’t my voting credential for the MVP & Cy Young Award…it was better! It was my annual season pass for the Arizona Fall League.
The Arizona Fall League, which was the brainchild of Hall of Fame Baseball Executive Roland Hemond, brings together 180 players for six weeks every September and October. Utilizing six of the Spring Training ballparks in the Phoenix area for six weeks, local fans pay $9 (or less) to watch some of the top prospects in baseball compete against each other and attempt to impress scouts and team executives with their talent. Back in 2011, for example, Mike Trout & Bryce Harper patrolled the same outfield for the Scottsdale Scorpions. This Fall, at least ten of the MLB.com top 50 prospects will be on rosters including Jo Adell (LAA), Royce Lewis (MIN), Alex Kirilloff (MIN), Forrest Whitley (HST), Joey Bart (SF), Jarred Kelenic (SEA), Alec Bohm (PHL), Nolan Jones (CLV) and Dylan Carlson (STL).
Today, we’ll take a retrospective look at the last decade of the league (2009-18) and some of the players who made it to “the show”.
* Starlin Castro hit .376 and swiped 9 bases
* Grant Desme led the league with 11 HR’s but eventually retired at age 23 to join the ministry
* Mike Moustakas cranked five HR’s in only 75 AB’s
* Mike Leake made five starts and posted a 1.37 ERA
* Brandon Belt hit .372
* A.J. Pollock hit .317 with 7 SB’s
* Charlie Blackmon only hit .264 but with more walks than strikeouts, his OBP was .372…maybe he’ll make a good lead-off hitter someday
* Marc Rzecpzynski was 4-0 in six starts with a league-leading 1.26 ERA
* Forget about Trout & Harper, the leading hitter was Jedd Gyorko with a .437 BA and a 1.204 OPS
* There was also another .400 hitter…Scooter Gennett at .411
* Nolan Arenado batted .388 with 33 RBI’s in 29 games
* Dallas Keuchel’s 5.08 ERA gave you no clue as to his future success
* Billy Hamilton stole 10 bases but only hit .234…sound familiar?
* Christian Yelich batted .301 but had zero HR’s…think he’ll ever develop any power?
* George Springer hit .286 and his 13 walks got his OPS up to 1.012
* Chase Anderson went 3-1 with 25 K’s in 23+ IP
* Kris Bryant hit 6 HR’s in only 77 AB’s and posted an OPS of 1.184
* C.J. Cron was the leading hitter with a .413 BA and 20 RBI’s
* Mitch Haniger led the league with 24 RBI’s
* Mike Montgomery had a 2.57 ERA…three years later he got the last out of the World Series
* Jesse Winker was the leading hitter at .338
* Greg Bird & Hunter Renfroe each hit 6 HR’s
* Roman Quinn swiped 14 bases in 24 games
* Zach Davies was 3-0 in seven starts with a 1.75 ERA
* Gary Sanchez was the top slugger with 7 HR’s & 21 RBI’s
* Jeimer Candelario showed off his skills by hitting .329 with 5 HR’s
* Jeff McNeil’s .230 BA didn’t deter his progress to the big leagues in 2018
* Josh Hader’s miniscule 0.56 ERA was a forecast of things to come
* Gleybar Torres was the batting champion at .403
* Cody Bellinger posted a .981 OPS
* Tim Tebow hit .194 and struck out 20 times in 62 AB’s
* Frankie Montas allowed one earned run in 17 innings
* Ronald Acuna JR. led the league with 7 HR’s
* Austin Riley had an OPS of 1.021
* Victor Robles had a .389 OBP and swiped 7 bases
* Max Fried was 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA
* Pete Alonso tied for the league lead in HR’s
* Keston Huira’s 33 RBI’s led the league
* Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit .351
The season begins on September 18th and finishes with the Championship Game on October 26th. Hope you can join us sometime at the ballpark in Arizona…you’ll recognize me as the one guy sitting behind home plate without a radar gun.