Player development never sleeps! It’s a year long process (hear that, Congress?) that constantly iterates performance into lessons into mechanical changes into lifestyle changes into performance and so on....
And so the seasons change.
As the regular seasons come to a close this weekend, we look forward to fall camps, especially the greatest fall development camp of them all: the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is a showcase for the best — and most major league-ready — prospects in the game. The stars of next year will be playing each other in Phoenix this October. How big a predictor of future major league success is the AFL? Let’s let their own website tell us the answer:
How good are the players in the Arizona Fall League? The 2014 All-Star Game in Minneapolis featured 36 AFL alums. Nearly 60 percent of all AFL players make a Major League roster, with an incredible 212 All-Stars, 12 MVPs, four Cy Young Award Winners, three World Series MVPs, 66 Silver Sluggers, 58 Golden Gloves, and 25 Rookies of the Year.
This afternoon the initial rosters were announced, and the following players from the Giants’ system have been tabbed:
Aramis Garcia, C.J. Hinojosa, Heath Quinn, Melvin Adon, Chase Johnson, Garrett Williams and Sam Wolff will represent the Giants in the Arizona Fall League.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) August 30, 2018
There are a few things to note about how the AFL rosters come together. There ARE eligibility rules — rather complicated ones, in fact — but these “rules” are more honored in the breach than in the observance as the saying goes. And the second important thing to note is that changes will be made to these rosters between now and the league’s opening day on October 9.
With those details out of the way, let’s dig in!
There are generally two major considerations for teams as they decide which of their players to send to the AFL: 1) they send players they foresee having some role in the major leagues in the near future; 2) they send players whose development was cut short for some reason during the year and need extra reps to catch up.
Consideration #1 can’t be overstated enough — teams believe in the guys they send to the AFL. When the Giants sent Kelby Tomlinson to the AFL back in 2014, silly ol’ me thought “guess they didn’t have anybody they really wanted to send there.” But Tomlinson showed off a significantly retooled swing that fall, destroyed AA the following summer and ended up making his big league debut before 2015 was over. This is an important assignment.
As far as consideration #2 — you can see that it applies to nearly everybody on this year’s Giants list. Whether through injury or other circumstances, five of the six of the Giants representatives saw less time on the field than the club had planned for them. Aramis Garcia is the only exception to this and his production was significantly curtailed by injury in the spring.
You can read all about Garcia in Doug’s recent front page article. The second round pick in 2014, Garcia has been slowed by a succession of injuries but is now occupying the major league backup catcher role — a role that he seems likely to inherit permanently in the not- too-distant future. Garcia’s defense has progressed significantly as a pro, and he has a good amount of pop to the pull side.
A middle infielder selected in the 11th round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Texas, Hinojosa’s most notable ability is his Panik-esque contact skills. The man does not like to strikeout. His arm can be a little bit of a stretch on the left side of the infield and he hasn’t shown much power as a pro, but he profiles as a UT MI type. Hinojosa’s 2018 got off to a late start as he was first rehabbing a tear of his achilles heel (suffered in the final game of the 2017 season) and then was popped for a 50-game suspension due to a drug of abuse.
The Giants’ highest remaining draft choice from the 2016 draft (recall that their top pick, Bryan Reynolds, went to Pittsburgh for Andrew McCutchen), Quinn is a powerful corner OF taken in the 3rd round out of Samford University. Quinn’s 2017 was a season to forget as he suffered multiple injuries and a long second half slump. But his return to the Cal League in 2018 was triumphant as he led San Jose in most offensive categories. A calf injury kept him out for most of the month of May.
Adon is likely the player from the Giants’ contingent who AFL scouts will be most eager to see. His fastball was rated the Best in the Cal League in Baseball America’s Tools Poll. Adon can hit triple digits and, more impressively, he sits in the upper 90s for innings on end, maintaining premium velocity throughout games. Adon’s been on the DL with an oblique injury since late June. He needs to be added to the 40-man this winter, though his overall game is still raw.
Already a member of the Giants 40-man roster, Johnson had a season of fits and starts coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2017. Johnson didn’t return from his TJ rehab until May and he had trouble staying on the field, suffering two more DL stints including a bizarre one when he was hit by a line drive while sitting in the dugout. Johnson can reach the mid to upper 90s with his fastball, but his secondaries still lack consistency. Johnson gained prominence when he once struck out 14 batters in a relief appearance following a rehab start by Tim Hudson in San Jose.
Williams started the year as the 2nd best pitching prospect in the Giants system, but like the first best (Tyler Beede), his season was beset by control problems which led to a stint in the bullpen. Williams offers two plus pitches from the left hand side — when he can get them in the strike zone. Hopefully, he can still have a starter’s role in his future.
Part of the Matt Moore trade, Wolff missed the entire first half of the season rehabbing a flexor tendon tear. When he returned to action in AA he got knocked around a bit while working himself back into game shape. 2017 was his best season as he rocketed through the Texas system, showing off upper 90s velocity.