Slowly, but surely, we continue our way down the rosters of this coming Arizona Fall League. Thus far in the series, we have covered three of the four teams playing on Opening Day in the AFL on Tuesday, October 11.
Thus far, the rosters looked at have been:
Today, let’s turn our attention to the team squaring off against the Saguaros in the Opening Day double header.
THE MESA SOLAR SOX
Who they are: The Solar Sox are made up of the prospects from the Miami Marlins, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays. They are managed by Ryan Christenson, skipper of the three-time defending Texas League champion Midland RockHounds in the Oakland As organization.
No one shined brighter that the Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez this season, as he answered many questions anyone had about the 19 year old from the Dominican Republic. Jimenez broke out in a big way this summer, slashing .329/.369/.532 with 14 home runs and 40 doubles in his first year of full season ball before being promoted to Myrtle Beach for their championship run.
Franklin Barreto and Ian Happ are two of the more exciting middle infield prospects in the minors. Happ had a nice power breakout across two levels in ’16 (15 home runs and 30 doubles) while Barreto continued to show his athleticism, picking up second base pretty well in his first appearances there of his career. The 20 year old found himself in Triple-A by season’s end and could have a shot at the Opening Day roster for Oakland come 2017.
With Clint Frazier out of the picture and on the New York Yankees, Bradley Zimmer and his big bat becomes the top prospect in the Indians organization. Zimmer also found his way to Triple-A this season, and with the ability to hit for pop (25 doubles, 14 home runs), steal bases (38-for-52 on year) and draw a walk (14 percent) he flashes a skill set that should see him succeed across the board.
PROSPECTS OF INTEREST
The Blue Jays send a duo of prospects that entered 2016 with high aspirations but for one reason or another, they didn’t have that big WOW season. Many felt Conner Greene was the top pitching prospect in the system over Sean Reid-Foley at the season’s onset. He showed signs of that with a strong start in the FSL. He posted a nice 2.90 ERA, but a low strike out rate (5.91 per nine) paired with a high walk rate (4.40) and a high WHIP led to a 4.36 FIP and left some worried about how he would handle his promotion. It wasn’t terrible, but Double-A hitting caught up to him as he posted a 4.19 ERA with pretty much the same strikeout-to-walk ratios. The 21-year old righty could use the time in the desert to hone in on his command.
Anthony Alford entered the year as the Blue Jays top prospect. The 22 year old centerfielder is super fast and extremely athletic (he played both sides of the football in college) and has all the raw skills to be a superior centerfielder. Spending the earlier parts of the season on and off the DL (he missed essentially all of April and a good chunk of June) didn’t seem to help Alford find his groove, but he showed the signs of things to come. He needs to cut down the strikeouts (29 percent) if he wants to take full advantage of his speed, but he is still exciting nonetheless.
Duane Underwood, Jr. appeared (at least briefly) at four levels this season and couldn’t register a win in the process (calm down, I know wins and losses don’t equate to anything when it comes to prospects, but it’s still an interesting tidbit of info). One would think that some one with a fastball like his that flashes near-triple-digit potential would be more around the strike zone, but his numbers suggest otherwise, as he struck out a mere 7.06 per nine and walked 4.76 per nine in 52.1 Double-A innings.
Frankie Montas has been on the move a lot the past year, but hasn’t really been able to settle in anywhere, being on the shelf since June after having a rib removed. He came to the Dodgers as part of the three-way deal involving Todd Frazier from the White Sox and before the dust could settle, he headed up the California coast to Oakland as one of the big three prospects in the Rich Hill and Josh Reddick deal. It will be exciting to see him back on the mound.
FUN FACT: Lastly, Austin Nola is reportedly trying to make the transition from shortstop (and second base and third) to catcher as a 26 year old "prospect". Playing for the Zephyrs this season, he had NOLA on both the front and back of his jersey. There has to be some sort of record in there somewhere.
As always, there are a few prospects of note not discussed. If any catch your eye, please feel free to join in the discussion with your insights!