The Arizona Fall League championship game will be this Saturday at 2 pm CT. It’s being shown on the MLB Network for those of you interested in checking it out. The Surprise Saguaros will be taking part which means we should get a look at several Brewers prospects. Here’s what you need to know about them:
Mitchell Haniger-OF: He was drafted 38th overall in the 2012. He plays center field but it’s believed he’ll eventually move to right field. His first season in the minors was cut short due to an injury but his second year has been much better. He tore up low A-ball before being promoted to high A where he cooled off a bit. In a way the AFL has been a microcosm of his regular season. He got a grand slam in his first game and continued hitting for another week or so. He did so well in fact that he was named co-player of the week. While he still performed adequately (hitting a few more home runs including another grand slam), he wasn’t as consistently good. The AFL can mean a lot of different things to individual players and his performance here doesn’t affect his overall prospect status. Depending on who you talk to, Haniger has the potential to be a solid average regular or a fourth outfielder. His performance will probably be the deciding factor in whether he starts next year at A+ or AA. I think he played his way to AA.
Jason Rogers-OF: Rogers doesn’t have the same pedigree as Haniger. He was drafted in the 32nd round in 2010. Since then he’s played mostly first base. He has been able to hit for a pretty solid average and get on-base, but has no power. Right-handed first basemen with no power don’t usually make it to the majors, at least not in a starting capacity. I normally wouldn’t spend much effort on him, but Juan Francisco and Hunter Morris are the leading in-house candidates at 1B. It’s likely they’ll need a platoon partner and Sean Halton isn’t any more compelling than Rogers (though he’s likely still at least half a season away). He’s hit the ball really well but again, performance isn’t all that important. Offensive stats can be misleading. The hitting is usually ahead of the pitching in the AFL and pitchers aren’t used the same way as they would during the regular season. The Brewers put Rogers to play in the outfield to increase his versatility. They'll also have to decide if they want to put him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.. Being able to play right or left field in addition to first base may mean the difference between platooning with a LHH in the majors and simply becoming a quad-A player. He played this year at AA and will likely split time between first base and the outfield at AAA next year.
David Goforth-RP: Goforth is a right-handed power reliever. He sits around 93-94 with his fastball and can get it up to 98 on occasion. He also features a solid slider. He’s been used primarily as the Saguaros closer and aside from maybe two games, he has been lights-out. The Brewers likely sent him to the AFL just to work on polishing some pitches and face greater competition before making the leap from AA to AAA. They might also want him to get used to closing because they still think closers are things. Closers aren’t things, but it shows their level of confidence in him and that’s important information. There’s a good chance he gets some time in Milwaukee too.
The Others: Kevin Shackelford and Tyler Cravy are the other two relievers the Brewers sent. They don’t have the same ceiling as Goforth (high leverage reliever) but they have both been solid for the Saguaros. It’s possible we’ll see them Saturday. Cravy is old for the levels he’s pitched at, A+ being the highest. Both he and Shackelford will need Rule 5 protection. They did pitch quite well in the AFL so that’s possible, though I think it’s equally likely they leave one or both unprotected and someone grabs them. Taylor Jungmann was also sent to the AFL but a groin strain sidelined him for most of it and he pitched on Tuesday so there’s no chance he’ll be in the game on Saturday. He’s quickly pitching his way to non-prospect status. Adam Weisenberger is the last player the Brewers sent to the AFL. He’s a catcher and a non-prospect.