Diamondbacks AFL Review

The Phoenix Desert Dogs won the Arizona Fall League championship title with the help of eight Diamondbacks prospects. Here is a recap of how well each of those prospects fared in the AFL and what that performance means for their near future.

Max Scherzer, RHP - 1-0 3.38 ERA 24 IP 24 K 5 BB

Scherzer led the Fall League with 24 strikeouts and 24 innings before he was shut down for the winter, bringing his season innings total to 133 frames.  He finished third in the AFL with a 0.88 WHIP, but his success was hardly a test or a surprise.  The goal is for Scherzer to be a healthy member of the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2009 rotation, and Scherzer now appears primed for 150-160 innings next year.

More on Scherzer's time in the AFL  

Brooks Brown, RHP - 2-3 5.61 ERA 25.2 IP 19 K 4 BB

Even though he got selected to the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game, Brown performed even less consistently in the AFL than he did during the regular season.  He went 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA over his best three fall starts, but 0-3 10.38 in the remaining four.  His velocity dipped a little this year, resulting in trouble whenever he doesn't have his best command working.  Brown did not allow a homer all fall and induced two ground outs for every flyout.  That will prove key for him in the 2009 season, when he faces dangerous hitters in homer-ready PCL parks.

Hector Ambriz

Hector Ambriz, RHP - 1-1 2.76 ERA 16.1 IP 20 K 5 BB

Although he has spent most of his career as a starting pitcher, Hector Ambriz enjoyed some of his best pro success as a reliever when he first debuted with Missoula.  He returned to that role in the AFL, and found similar success.  His 2.76 ERA was seventh among Fall League players while his 1.10 WHIP ranked fifth.  His Achillies' heel was the longball: four dingers allowed in just 16.1 innings.  Ambriz tried to overpower hitters and fanned 20 in his final 13 innings of work.  What he needs to work on, however, is the ability to induce ground balls on occasion as well.

Tony Barnette, RHP - 1-0 4.91 ERA 18.1 IP 16 K 4 BB

Tony Barnette had not worked as a reliever since his days at Arizona State, but performed well in that role this fall.  Even though his overall numbers won't bowl you over, he allowed ether one or zero earned runs in nine of his 11 fall outings.  His main value lies as a starter, since his command and pitching smarts are more impressive than his pure stuff.  The real impressive aspect of Barnette's AFL performance was not that he could find success in the bullpen, but rather that he could get some of baseball's best hitting prospects out with his stuff.  This is a pitcher who was facing Low-A hitters in 2007, when his critics said that his stuff was only good enough to retire neophytes. 

Reid Mahon

Reid Mahon, RHP - 0-1 4.50 ERA 14 IP 10 K 5 BB

Mahon had only allowed two earned runs in a dozen AFL innings before allowing four in his final two frames of work.  That is a minor setback for this sinkerball expert.  The real good news is that he appears to have improved his slider, which exhibited little movement last summer.  Mahon will find himself facing big league hitters at some point next year, and the experience he gained facing the best hitting prospects in baseball will prove invaluable.

John Hester, C - .273/.353/.523 3 HR 11 RBI 5 BB 14 K

Hester received less playing time than any other member of the Phoenix Desert Dogs for some reason.  In his 44 at-bats, Hester performed as well as you could hope for offensively, and displayed his usual flair on defense.  He has truly evolved from a player whose offensive contributions were nothing more than a bonus to a well-rounded catcher prospect.  

Rusty Ryal, 2B - .125/.167/.278 2 HR 8 RBI 4 BB 23 K

Despite playing in the AFL Rising Stars game, Rusty Ryal's time in Arizona can only be described as disappointing. By any measure, Ryal was the worst offensive player in the Arizona Fall League.  Ryal has battled back from rough stretches before, so don't expect his confidence to waver.  His struggles this fall have no doubt accelerated negotiations between the Arizona Diamondbacks and other free agent second basemen, so perhaps some good came from such a dismal showing.

Evan Frey, CF - .288/.350/.384 6 2B 3 3B 21 R 7 SB 4 CS

After a successful stint in the AFL, Evan Frey drove in a run in three consecutive innings in the Desert Dogs' championship victory, including both the first and the last that the team would score.  His success is particularly noteworthy due to his relative inexperience.  Frey mostly faced the best pitching that Double-A had to offer this fall, while he split the regular season between Lo-A and Hi-A.    He has truly advanced from a fringe prospect to one of the elite prospects in the Diamondbacks organization.

More on Evan Frey in the AFL


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