The Arizona Fall League is the perfect platform for prospects to step up to the plate and set themselves apart at the end of the minor league season. Aside from the All-Star Futures Game, it’s MiLB’s biggest and brightest stage. It’s a place where a few good weeks between the white lines can wipe away a season of disappointment or injuries and a place that can pour jet fuel on what was already an explosive performance.
This year the Athletics sent 7 players out to Arizona, and boy did they put on a show. Oakland’s Greg Deichmann led the league in home runs with 9 and total bases with 52. The A’s hitters combined to hit .249 with 9 HR, 27 runs, 33 RBI, and 2 steals. On the side of the ball, Jhenderson Hurtado dominated en route to 11 scoreless innings while allowing just 6 base runners. All together, Oakland pitchers hurled 45 ⅔ innings, striking out 48 batters and walking 10 with a 1.97 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP.
Okay, enough with the touting. Let’s dive into the individual performances.
Greg Deichmann, OF (#22 Prospect in Midseason Rankings)
21/82, 15 R, 9 HR, 20 RBI, 2 SB, .256/.347/.634
After a lackluster regular season in Midland (AA), Deichmann put the AFL on notice. Against some of the best pitching he’s seen in pro ball, Greg was head and shoulders above the competition. It was by far his best showing since his pro debut in 2017. The LSU product’s stock has faded the past two seasons as he’s struggled with health and contact (.218 AVG, 30.6 K%) and shown limited power (.174 ISO, 44 2B+HR) through 505 at-bats. The ISO doesn’t sound bad, but his .156 mark in AA this season was tied for 73rd among those with at least 300 plate appearances.
But clearly, it’s not all bad. Something clicked for Deichmann out in Arizona and when you watch him take BP, you can tell he still has serious pop. All you have to do is listen to the way the ball explodes off his bat. And did I mention he suddenly swiped 19 bags this year? Perhaps it’s simply a matter of health. After missing 7+ weeks in the middle of the season, Deichmann returned to hit .247 with 4 HRs in his final 20 games — nearly double the home run rate he posted prior to his IL stint.
At the end of the day, Deichmann still possesses the tools that made him an intriguing draft pick: solid arm, average speed, and big-time raw power and if he’s able to parlay his AFL success into production in 2020, we could see him in Oakland before the end of the season. In 2018, the boys at FanGraphs noted that Greg might just be a minor swing change away from blowing up. Perhaps, that’s what we just witnessed.
The biggest difference for Greg Deichmann?
It could simply be staying healthy.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) October 17, 2019
Outlook: While this is definitely encouraging, I want to see what he can do in regular season competition before pushing him too far up the rankings. If he comes out strong in April and is able to pick up where he left off in AZ, I’ll be a lot more excited. The pop in his bat is for real if he can stay on the field and make enough contact.
Alfonso Rivas, 1B (#33 in Midseason)
15/49, 8 R, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, .306/.417/.449
While it wasn’t on the explosive level of Deichmann’s AFL run, Rivas had himself a nice postseason tour in Arizona, too. His .866 OPS ranked top 10 among all hitters in the AFL which was buoyed by his .417 OBP, which was tied for 2nd in the league. Rivas roped 7 doubles and worked 10 walks while striking out 17 times in 49 at-bats — that 16.9% walk rate is quite impressive.
— Matt Thompson (@mdthompFWFB) October 9, 2019
Outlook: Having only recently turned 23 and already having had a taste of the AAA experience, you might assume that Rivas is rising up prospect boards, however, his stature and limited power have effectively capped him where he is. The need for undersized 1B/LF without much pop is limited and the A’s already have Matt Olson manning first and much higher ranked prospects in line for a shot in the MLB outfield. Rivas is going to have to hit a ton in AAA to get a shot at the next level and even still, he may need a trade to another team.
Nick Allen, SS (#11 Midseason)
12/62, 4 R, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, .194/.242/.210
The AFL season was a struggle for Allen. To put it in perspective, this was definitely his biggest test to date in pro ball and sometimes an adjustment period is necessary when guys take a step up. The good news is that Nick had a strong season at A+ Stockton (.292 AVG, 13 SB) and now has some experience against upper level competition before making his AA debut in 2020.
Outlook: This was a learning experience for Allen. Not enough here for me to want to adjust his stock.
— Matt Thompson (@mdthompFWFB) October 11, 2019
Brady Feigl, RHP (NR Midseason)
9 ⅔ IP, 13 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 1.86 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
This is the Fall League that Feigl needed to have after a less than desirable regular season at A+. He allowed just 2 runs in 9 ⅔ innings of relief work and punched out 14 batters. While he did allow 15 baserunners, the Ks helped mitigate the damage.
Outlook: This was a promising rebound for Feigl and perhaps coming out of the pen allows his stuff to play up enough to make him more effective. His 31.8% K rate was much higher than the 20.7% we saw as a starter in the regular season. If Brady struggles to find success as a starter in AA, perhaps the A’s will try him out of the pen. This would obviously limit his fantasy upside but would give him a much quicker road to the majors.
Jhenderson Hurtado, LHP (NR Midseason)
11 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.55 WHIP
Hurtado was absolutely dominant as a reliever in the AFL. More than a strikeout per inning, 2 walks, and only 6 total baserunners is an incredible stretch at any level, let alone in what is essentially a MiLB All-Star league. This is hardly the first time he’s missed bats as he averaged more than a K per inning during this summer and 2018, as well.
Outlook: Hurtado is a 23-year old relief prospect with strikeout upside, however, he’s thrown exactly 5 innings above A-ball so far. I need to see more against upper-level competition before getting too excited.
Jesus Zambrano, RHP (NR Midseason)
11 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 10 K, 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Zambrano is a 23-year old righty who split his season between High-A and AA in 2019. After a rough first outing in AZ where he gave up 2 homers in ⅔ of an inning, he put together an impressive run of 10 ⅓ innings allowing 2 ER and striking out 9.
Outlook: Unlike Hurtado, Zambrano threw more than 70 innings at A+ and AA this season and had a lot of success while doing so, sporting a 1.47 ERA combined ERA with 63 Ks and 21 BBs. Before you throw him on your dynasty squad, note that all these innings came in relief and Jesus has started just 1 game in the past 2 years. That said, the former KATOH super deep sleeper certainly could have some relief value for Oakland in late 2020 or 2021.
Daniel Gossett, RHP (Not a Prospect)
14 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 12 K, 2.57 ERA, 0.93 WHIP
Gossett is not a prospect, but a major leaguer returning from injury. This was his only action of 2019.