The Arizona Fall League wrapped up play yesterday, with the Peoria Javelinas taking down the Salt River Rafters in ten innings of championship-game baseball. This years contingent from the Cardinals lacked the notable names of years past, but nonetheless provided some inspiring performances. It’s as good a time as any to look back on the individual performances, especially given Eric Longenhagen’s recently released Cardinal’s prospect list. His info and looks give lend a little context to the numbers, which is always helpful when dealing with smaller sample sizes. Here’s who helped their stock, who hurt it, and those who didn’t move the needle all that much.
Andy Young - 2B
AFL Totals: 20 G, 87 PA, .301/.416/.521, 16.1% BB%, 19.5% K%
You can’t really start a conversation about the AFL without talking about Andy Young. The former 37th-rounder built on his breakout 2018 campaign with an equally impressive stint in Arizona. In the end he placed 5th in the league in OPS - even though he was snubbed from the Fall Stars Game. Regardless, who Young is as a ballplayer and as a prospect came into focus this fall. He’s a stocky, average-tooled middle infielder with power and a potentially average average glove. His arm strength and limited range keep him from being serviceable at third and short, so his path forward is at the keystone. He’ll likely either start at Springfield with an eye on a quick promotion, or begin the year at Memphis all together. Either way, it’s not crazy to think we could see him make his big league debut sometime in 2019.
Evan Kruczynski - LHP
AFL Totals: 6 GS, 22.2 IP, 1.99 ERA, 8.11 K/9, 4.46 BB/9
Kruczysnki is another lesser-known prospect that put finishing touches on a strong 2018 performance. After pushing his way to Springfield this year, the big lefty needed to prove his average arsenal could play against the top talent in the minors. He delivered, and now seems like a solid bet to become a back-end starter with a little more development time. The fastball sits 88-92 and tops at 93, complemented by a full set of average secondary pitches. It all plays up thanks to delivery funk and his ability to pound the zone.
Tommy Edman - 2B
AFL Totals: 11 G, 52 PA, .238/.400/.310, 19.2% BB%, 13.5% K%
Edman proved that he is exactly what he thought he was when he was drafted. He’s a switch hitting, contact-oriented middle infielder that adds value on the bases and with a little positional versatility. There’s never going to be much, if any, power in his profile. However, Edman could become a valuable bench piece moving forward.
Connor Jones - RHP
AFL Totals: 9 G, 15.1 IP, 4.11 ERA, 10.13 K/9, 4.76 BB/9
Jones was probably the most exciting development of the Fall. He entered the AFL as a highly-drafted college starter with stuff that backed up his junior year and never came back. His carrying tool, a bowling ball low-90’s sinker, kept him in the pitching pipeline conversation but sooner or later he’d have to start missing some bats. This fall, he was moved from the rotation to the bullpen and saw his stuff bump up in a major way. Working in a mostly multi-inning relief role, Jones’s sinker sat 92-96 and bumped 98. It’s an absolute weapon of a pitch, and the secondary stuff flashes 55 just enough to make him a viable bullpen piece. I wasn’t a Jones fan before, but I am now.
Conner Greene - RHP
AFL Totals: 9 G, 9.2 IP, 11.17 ERA, 5.87 ERA, 14.67 BB/9
YIKES. Greene is a volatile prospect, and we knew that going in. But it’s hard to imagine things going much worse for him in the desert. His command completely abandoned him, neutralizing his tantalizing stuff and majorly dinging his stock. Before the AFL it felt like the clock was ticking on Greene, or at least on his chance to start. Now it looks like bullpen at best, in a sort of scenario where he cobbles enough command together for a couple years and fits as a fastball-slider middle relief piece.
Jeremy Martinez - C
AFL Totals: 12 G, 47 PA, .231/.388/.256, 17.0% BB%, 12.8% K%
Another go-around, another instance of Jeremy Martinez failing to impact the ball in any way whatsoever. It’s really a shame that the bat has completely evaporated, given how intriguing his pro debut was. The approach still totally holds up, but pitchers are just going to keep challenging him as long as he moves up the ladder. Best case scenario here is a back-up catcher, not the potential starter he seemed like coming out of USC.
Lane Thomas - OF
AFL Totals: 20 G, 79 PA, .262/.385/.328, 17.7% BB%, 22.7% K%
The overall line isn’t great, but not bad enough to move the needle on Thomas’s projection. He's a power-speed bench outfielder type, with enough range to handle centerfield and provide positional flexibility. His power didn’t translate to the desert, but this feels more like batted ball noise than any meaningful regression. I’ll bet on his 2018 season being more fact than fiction, and his 4th OF projection standing pat.
Will Latcham - RHP
AFL Totals: 10 G, 11.1 IP, 10.32 ERA, 6.48 K/9, 6.48 BB/9
Latcham didn’t perform in the desert, but he also had the least to lose of all the prospects rostered by the Cardinals. If he lit the world on fire, great! But if he fizzled out, his ceiling as a middle-relief piece wouldn’t be in too much danger. He stills profiles as a mid-90s heater, above-average slider guy, who with more time to hone his craft could see time in a big league ‘pen.
And that, folks, is the 2018 Arizona Fall League.