For the first time, MLB moved up the schedule for the Arizona Fall League this year. Typically, we have some AFL action to look forward to after the World Series ends, but in 2019 the AFL ended before major-league action did. I hate this decision a lot, but for some reason the league didn’t ask my opinion on the matter. Regardless of my feelings, the AFl season has indeed come to a close, with all teams finishing up last Friday and the championship being won by Salt River on Saturday. Royce Lewis of the Twins organization was named the league’s MVP.
As far as Red Sox players go, it was a mixed bag of performances. I updated our daily tracker for the last week that I missed on vacation, and have the full-season totals available now. Below I’ll quickly go through each player, a takeaway or two from their performance and their end-of-year numbers. Keep in mind, though, that the real takeaways here come from scouting reports from those that actually saw the action. Even more than regular minor-league action, AFL games are made up of players working on specific parts of their games and their numbers are not necessarily indicative of their talent.
102 PAs, .256/.324/.389, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 14 R, 7 SB, 20.6% K%, 9.8% BB%
Duran put the ball in play at a decent rate after struggling a bit in Double-A in the second half of the year. His performance really picked up in the final week of action after a lull in the middle of the AFL season. After playing pretty much exclusively in center field during the regular season, he moved all around the outfield this fall.
76 PAs, .243/.289/.314, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 12 R, 4 SB, 21.1% K%, 6.6% BB%
Chatham got off to a scorching start in the fall before struggling mightily over the second part of the year. The Red Sox used this as a chance to get him more time at second base and he even played a game in left field at the end of the year. Given his limited ceiling, more versatility is always a plus. Chatham will get more action in next month’s Premier12 international tournament.
36 PAs, .313/.389/.438, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB, 22.2% K%, 8.3% BB%
Wilson only played in the first half of the AFL season, with the All-Star Game being his final appearance. His season was cut short due to hamstring tightness. He impressed mightily in his limited time, though, playing in both corner spots and hitting the ball extremely well. Expect him to gain some buzz as a potential major-league contributor at some point in 2020.
22 PAs, .200/.273/.250, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB, 45.5% K%, 9.1% BB%
Netzer was a late addition to the AFL roster after Wilson left. Netzer is not a top prospect and struggled mightily at the plate. He has had solid bat-to-ball skills at times as a pro, though, and the Red Sox used this as an opportunity to increase his defensive versatility. He played third base, right field and left field here after serving mostly as a second baseman in 2019.
9.1 IP, 5.79 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 23.3% K%, 25.6% BB%
Mata pitched out of the bullpen in the AFL, appearing in seven games and never throwing more than two innings. The numbers don’t look great, but reports from Arizona were more favorable than they would indicate. Mata could see time in the major-league bullpen next season under the right set of circumstances, though it’s far from a sure thing.
22 IP, 2.86 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 26.3% K%, 12.1% BB%
Houck spent most of the second half of the regular season as a reliever, but stretched himself back out as a starter here. This was an indication the organization may really see him as a starter in the future, though I’m still skeptical. Houck struggled with control at times, but the results overall were solid. He will join Chatham in the Premier12 tournament.
8 IP, 6.75 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 24.3% K%, 16.2% BB%
Aybar is going to be one of the most interesting names to watch this winter as the Rule 5 protection deadline approaches. The lefty is extremely raw as a late conversion to the mound, but the stuff is there. He showed both sides of that coin in the AFL.
10.1 IP, 4.35 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 32.7% K%, 12.2% BB%
Diaz was probably the least-known player for the Red Sox in the AFL (Netzer is in consideration, too) but he impressed some scouts. The consistency wasn’t really there, but he racked up a bunch of strikeouts and according to director of player development Ben Crockett as told to Jen McCaffrey of the Athletic it was his slider that did most of the damage. Diaz pitched as a reliever here but will presumably go back to starting in 2019 assuming there is room for him in Portland’s rotation.