The 2019 season for the Arizona Fall League starts up today and with comes another month or so of hot minor league action for folks to dive into before we get into the dead of winter. We know you guys are excited. Starting next week, we will be providing weekly recaps of the goings on from the previous week of games. Tentatively, those recaps will occur on the AFL’s off days and Garrett is likely to be writing all of them (he loves him some AFL) although other members of the minor league crew may chip in from time to time. Below, you will find a primer on what the Arizona Fall League is as well as some tidbits about the prospects the Braves are going to be sending.
What is the Arizona Fall League?
The Arizona Fall League is an off-season where every team sends representatives to compete for roughly a month. In years past, the league would get started in early October but has been moved up to mid-September this year. There are a lot of good reasons for this change including that many teams are getting rid of instructional leagues and pitchers getting warmed back up again after a month off was tricky. If you want an in-depth look at why the AFL changed things up, Baseball America did a great write-up on these changes that you can look at right here.
As for how players are selected to go or not go, there is a good bit that goes into it. First, there are eligibility requirements to play in the league. Its a bit convoluted and the rules have changed recently, but the short version is that it is mostly made up of Double-A and Triple-A players although clubs are allowed to send SOME players from the lower levels. There are also considerations like whether or not the player has played in the league before and how the club wants to handle his workload in a given year, but that is the gist of it.
Who are the Braves sending to the AFL?
The Braves will be sending eight players to the Arizona Fall League this season to play on the Scottsdale Scorpions. Below are some quick notes on the players you can expect to see playing.
Greyson Jenista - OF - The Braves 2nd Round pick in 2018, Greyson is coming off a down year although he did draw walks at a high rate and showed some glimpses in the second half that he was turning things around after making some swing adjustments. He will have to show a better hit tool and actually have his power play in games.
Trey Harris - OF - One of the breakout stories from the minor leagues in 2019. Harris slashed .323/.389/.498 across three levels of the minor leagues this season. Would be nice to see a touch more power in his game, but he can flat out hit.
Justin Dean - OF - Probably one of the most underrated and under appreciated prospects in the Braves’ farm system (likely due to his height). Dean is one of the fastest players in the Braves’ minor leagues, plays excellent defense, has a good hit tool and approach at the plate, and he has more pop in his bat than one would think. Make-up is off the charts.
Daysbel Hernandez - RP - Doc Herbert’s favorite relief prospect gets a chance to show out in the AFL. Had an outstanding season in Florida where he posted a 1.71 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 52.2 IP. Needs to cut down on the walks, but he was much better in that department towards the end of the season.
Connor Johnstone - RP - Posted a 4.24 ERA across two levels where his primary job was to eat innings, give occasional spot starts when guys were promoted, and fill in where needed...which is also what he did in 2018. Expect more of the same in the AFL.
Brad Roney - RP - Amongst Braves relief prospects, Roney may have some of the best raw stuff of any of them. Has an incredibly live arm, but injuries have set him back over the last couple of seasons. Expect at least one national writer to tweet about Roney from the AFL because he has attention-getting stuff.
Garrison Schwartz - OF - Garrison posted a .543 OPS across two levels last season. In short, he hasn’t been good, but the Braves are doing Scottsdale a solid by helping to fill out their roster even if Schwartz isn’t likely to provide a ton of value.
Brandon White - RP - Another relief prospect from Florida who had an outstanding season (and for reasons beyond my understanding, was not promoted), White posted a 1.35 ERA in 2019 and struck out 61 in 53.1 IP. The Braves have moved him slowly for some reason, but with a successful AFL stint, he could be a guy that could play his way into the majors at some point in 2020.