Final Arizona Fall League Update
By John Verburg
Well, it’s been two weeks since the last update, and given that yesterday was the last day of the regular season in the AFL, this will be the final update of the year. The team, the Salt River Rafters, that the Tigers are affiliated with will be playing for the championship tomorrow in Arizona, however, it is little to do with the guys the Tigers put on the roster. It has been a little bit of a rough year for the Tigers prospects in Arizona, especially for their pitchers. It’s not out of the ordinary for pitchers to struggle in the Arizona Fall League, but a breakdown of the numbers is what is concerning.
The Tigers have four pitchers in the AFL right now, two of which are considered amongst their top prospects in Andy Oliver and Casey Crosby. Despite Crosby having a good ERA, both have struggled. Crosby has limited damage to his ERA, giving up just 2 ER in 13.2 innings. A closer look though shows he has allowed 7 runs to cross the plate, and his WHIP is a robust 1.61, due in large part to poor command. Crosby has walked 10 guys in his 13.2 innings, and has allowed 12 hits as well. Operating out of relief, Crosby has managed to strike out 13 guys.
Oliver is even worse. Oliver has been walking guys at an even worse rate than Crosby. He has walked 15 guys in 17 innings, as well as giving up 19 hits for a WHIP of over 2. Oliver has been operating as a starter and has posted an ERA of 5.82 in those 8 starts. This is obviously a less than encouraging performance for a young man who struggled in the 2011 season, and had his prospect status take a hit. At this point, I am not sure that Oliver or Crosby would have much value in the trade market, and the Tigers are going to have to hope for a bounce back from Oliver in 2012.
One guy that I kind of expected to struggle on the pitching side, that did pretty well is Tyler Stohr. Stohr ended up finishing with an ERA of 4.63, but that was in large part due to one outing. He had a solid year, which was somewhat of a surprise coming off of Tommy John, and his AFL success capped a strong year. Stohr was one of the more dependable relievers on the Rafters, appearing in 13 games.
Position player wise, the Tigers faired a little bit better. Rob Brantly and Hernan Perez contributed offensively, and Dixon Machado flashed a quality glove at SS, though he struggled mightily at the dish.
If I had to pick a Tigers MVP, it would have to be Brantly. Brantly led the Rafters in batting average with a .388 mark. Brantly only got 49 at-bats and only struck out twice. Scouting reports aren’t glowing on Brantly as he didn’t show much power at all, but he does show an ability to move the ball around the field and get some hits.
Hernan Perez showed pretty well in the AFL for a youngster. This 2nd baseman hit .302 in 63 at bats. Perez’ issue is that he doesn’t have any patience at the plate, despite having good hand-eye coordination. He only walked twice, but struck out just 9 times as well. Perez is still working on his defense, but at 20 years old, he more than held his own.
Machado also was real young for the league, but his hitting went the other way. Machado only hit .118 despite having a much more solid approach than Perez. His glove is far more advanced at this point though, and had heard on more than one occasion that he was making some eye popping plays with the glove.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo did a top 25 prospect list for the Arizona Fall League, and although there isn’t any Tigers guys on the list, I thought I would include it, so you all could see the type of competition that is playing in the league. It may give you some insight as to why a young guy like Machado would struggle, or why Oliver and Crosby’s numbers might not look all that good.