About half way through the Arizona Fall League, let’s see how Cardinals prospects are performing for the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Through 14 games in a league filled with future big league talent, it is tough to make any definitive analysis about individual performance. Due to small sample size, immense offensive and defensive talent, and inconsistent lineups, we must avoid the tendency to make bold claims regarding the performance of Cardinals prospects. In other words, both impressive performances and disappointing ones must not be blown out of proportion.
Specifically for hitters, the Arizona Fall League is a tough situation to find offensive success. With starting pitchers only going 3-4 innings per start, hitters are frequently faced with unfavorable match ups, getting ambushed with nasty stuff for only a couple innings at a time. Furthermore, the AFL makes an effort to get every player involved, which means that lineups rotate frequently. In this way, it becomes difficult for hitters to get in a groove, a rhythm in which they begin to catch fire.
Lastly, it is worth being said that statistics on the Arizona Fall League are limited. Of the statistics available, most are very vanilla, thus preventing us from making the specific, well supported arguments provided with sabermetrics. All in all, approach this AFL update with a grain of salt. Treat it with objectivity, taking it for what it is worth. At the end of the day, the prospects are here to get valuable innings and to go head to head with the best the league has to offer. As with the grand majority of Minor League affairs, it is about development more so than results.
So far, Harrison Bader is tearing it up in the AFL. In 9 games played, Bader is hitting .367 in 30 at-bats. This average is second best on the Desert Dogs. Of his 11 hits, Bader has only recorded 1 extra base knock (a double). Both due to sample size and high-quality pitching in nearly every situation, it is understandable that Bader is mostly reaching base with singles. In the field, although it is hard to evaluate his performance, Bader has yet to commit an error. With plus athleticism and arm, it is nearly impossible to see Bader becoming a defensive liability at any point during his career. For Bader, now, the challenge now regards consistency for the rest of his time in the Fall League.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 25, 2016
Compared to Bader, DeJong has not performed nearly as well. With an average of .194, he has struggled at the plate. Specifically, DeJong is having issues with strikeouts, with 9 in his first 24 outs. To be fair, though, some of this strikeout trouble can be attributed to tough pitching matchups and frequent substitutions. To offer a little bit of perspective regarding DeJong’s performance, consider a comparison to Bader. Both players have about 30 at-bats. While Harrison Bader is hitting .367, an impressive number, he only has 5 more hits than DeJong. As stated in the introduction, hesitate to criticize poor performance, for many factors are working against these prospects.
Through 34 at-bats, Carson Kelly has an average of .235. Impressively, however Kelly is second in the league in RBIs, with 10. While his average is not superb, he is performing when it counts. While this is encouraging, the main benefit supplied by the AFL for Kelly is innings behind the dish. Regardless of statistics and performance, Kelly needs these innings, helping him to gain experience handling a variety of different pitching styles. Hopefully his time in the AFL will help him when it comes time for a larger role at the MLB level.
Through 3 starts, Gomber is giving the Desert Dogs exactly what they are to expect, pitching with consistency and poise. In 12.0 innings pitched (tied for the league lead) Gomber has allowed 4 earned runs, striking out 14 batters and yielding a WHIP of 1.08. Compared to other starters across the league, Gomber is thriving. At this point, Gomber needs to take this opportunity to improve his repertoire, continuing to bolster his already steady arsenal of pitches.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) October 25, 2016
In only 5 innings of relief, Wick has performed below expectations. Before diving into the stands, I want to reiterate that such a statement should not be generalized to his development at large, for the AFL is full of supreme talent after the end of a long season. For Wick, he has yielded a WHIP of 2.0, allowing 3 runs, 1 home run, and 4 walks. As he continues to pitch for the Desert Dogs, Wick must strive to return to optimal form, allowing few walks and having efficient outings.
Through 7 innings of relief work for the Desert Dogs, Littrell has been extremely solid. He has a measly WHIP of .71, allowing 2 earned runs in his work thus far. Most importantly, Littrell has had phenomenal command, only walking 1 batter in his first 4 outings. Previously plagued by control issues, it is extremely encouraging to see Littrell pitch with better precision. If he keeps up this control for the entirety of the AFL, the Cardinals should be very excited about his potential in the organization.
Unlike Littrell, Sheriff has struggled thus far in fall league. With a WHIP of 2.77, he has allowed 9 hits and 4 earned runs in just over 4 innings of work. With only 3 strikeouts and 1 walk, it appears that Sheriff has simply been registered well by opposing hitters. Hopefully the journeyman can make an adjustment going forward, resorting to his ways of short innings and flurries of ground balls.
Through 14 games, for the most part, the Cardinals are performing decently. As the Arizona Fall League progresses, let us hope that the prospects not only continue to improve, but to stay healthy while doing it.