The Arizona Fall League rosters have been announced, and the Giants are sending seven prospects to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions: shortstop Christian Arroyo, 2B/OF Austin Slater, outfielder Mac Williamson, left-handed starter Adalberto Mejia, right-handed starter Clayton Blackburn, and right-handed relievers Ray Black and Daniel Slania.
The odds are excellent that we'll see at least one of them next year, as the Giants are working on a long streak of promoting an AFL veteran the year after they appear in the league. Last year's Scorpions team had Kelby Tomlinson, and the 2013 team had Andrew Susac. In 2011, the Giants offered up a double play combination of Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik, and they played with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, nbd.
Everyone always talks about how much fun the Cactus League is, and it really is. It's warm and you get to dance on winter's baseball-less grave. It's a vacation of renewal, and it's almost spiritual. But it's so danged crowded now, and it isn't cheap. I've had at least a half-dozen people tell me, unsolicited, that the Arizona Fall League is an experience that's just as essential. The attendance is usually in the hundreds, not thousands, and access to the players is as free and easy as it ever will be again. You should go. And you should pay for me to go. I will buy you one (1) drink, and it will be the best drink of your life.
Mejia and Blackburn are both AFL vets, with Arroyo, Slater, Williamson, Black, and Slania going for the first time. Of the seven, Arroyo is probably the best prospect, coming straight out of the GIants' factory of high-contact middle infielders, but with a better draft pedigree than any of them. He's hitting .308/.348/.471 for the San Jose Giants*, even though he's just 20 years old.
*For contrast, Matt Duffy is hitting .302/.342/.445 for the Giants this year, so picture a shortstop in Class-A doing exactly what Duffy has done for the Giants this year, and you have a very rough idea of how impressive Arroyo has looked. Even the K/BB numbers are similar.
When it comes to the most intriguing prospects, it's kind of a toss-up. At this time last year, Mejia was a better bet to be the Chris Heston of the 2015 Giants, but then he was suspended 50 games for a stimulant to start this season. Clayton Blackburn could contribute to the rotation as soon as next year, and Mac Williamson has an outside shot to pair with Norichika Aoki in the outfield.
Ray Black, though, throws 103 MPH.
He's probably the most interesting prospect in the AZL just because of the wow-factor, which is loosely defined as "103 MPH." The Giants are doing their best to build a modern-day bullpen filled with power arms, and they've already graduated a couple of them. Black might be the best of them all, even though he's been severely limited throughout his career by injuries. With his fastball, he wouldn't necessarily be on a wait-and-see kind of promotion track. As soon as he answers questions about this stamina and control, he'll be up. They're some big, looming questions, though.
It'll be fun to check the box scores, though, and see if he makes the other prospects look like weenies. Here's hoping.
All told, this is one of the more interesting AFL classes for the Giants since Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, and Thomas Neal went in 2009. Thought I have a special spot in my heart for the Evan Longoria/Emmanuel Burriss/Eugenio Velez infield in 2008, along with the idea of Scott Munter relieving Max Scherzer in 2007. They're all so much fun.
Think about that one (1) drink. The offer stands.