Diamondbacks: Life On the Farm (Arizona Fall League Edition)


This week’s big news is the release of the Arizona Diamondbacks prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League (AFL). To be eligible for the AFL, a player must be in Double-A or Triple-A no later than August 1 of that season and have accumulated less than one full year of Major League service time by August 31. Teams can send one player from below Double-A and one foreign player, as long as the foreign player does not reside in a country that participates in winter baseball. Also, a player cannot participate if they were on the disabled list (DL) within 45 days of the end of their respective season.

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That’s the AFL eligibility criteria. Not too difficult to navigate. Now, teams are required to send a minimum of six players. The AFL is where teams send guys they need to learn more about or whom they want to get more work. This year, the Diamondbacks are sending a group of players who fit both those categories. That group is eight deep and is composed of the following:

Adam Miller, RHP (AA)

Yoan Lopez, RHP (AA)

Daniel Gibson, LHP (AA)

Keith Hessler, LHP (AAA)

Oscar Hernandez, C (MLB, currently on rehab at AAA)

Jack Reinheimer, 2B/SS (AA)

Gabriel Guerrero, OF (AA)

Daniel Palka, OF (A)

You can read highlights of each player’s season below, but a couple of quick observations are in order. The Diamondbacks have been determined to see what Hernandez can do and sending him to the AFL is a wise option. Remember how dire the catching situation looked after the Miguel Montero trade? That this Hernandez seemingly comes out of nowhere and is considered a legit prospect? We’ll see how he does upon return from injury and in the AFL. Reinheimer and Guerrero were the two names brought to the Diamondbacks from Seattle in the Trumbo trade. They are fairly highly ranked as prospects and the Diamondbacks no doubt need more input (like Number Johnny Five, right?). Lopez had struggled with injury for quite a bit of the season, so continuing his game makes sense. And the other four have made such strong strides in their games since last season, it makes sense to get them some more action against different competition before next season.

Reno Aces (AAA): 68-71, 2nd place

A 5-2 week helped them move up a spot, but they are still trailing Fresno by 13 games. Archie Bradley pitched seven strong innings on Wednesday. Last week, we had a round table discussion about whether the Diamondbacks need to be worried about his injury history. My opinion revolves mostly around his ability to pitch at an acceptable major league level. If he can’t get his control under wraps, then what is there to worry about?

On Tuesday, Aaron Blair went eight strong innings of one run ball in a win. He only threw 91 pitches, 62 going for strikes, so he could have gone further, but why force it? There is a high likelihood the Diamondbacks will try to get him a cup of coffee this month.

The only Triple-A AFL player for the Diamondbacks is Hessler (if you don’t include Hernandez’s rehab assignment). Hessler, who is 26 years old, had eight major league appearances this season with poor results. In 17 appearances at Triple-A, he has also struggled. In his 34 appearances below Triple-A, he only gave up two earned runs in 40 innings, coupled with 52 strikeouts.

Mobile BayBears (AA): 34-30, 3rd place

They have five games left and sit two games behind division leading Pensacola. You’d think they don’t have a chance at the playoffs since they didn’t win the first half championship and just went 3-4 on the week. Well, golly gee willickers, guess who they play in the final five games? Pensacola. There is the little problem of Mississippi being in 2nd place and 1.5 games ahead of Mobile, but if there was ever a chance to be had, this five games series is it.

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The BayBears are sending five players to the AFL. Among them are Reinheimer and Guerrero, new comers from the Seattle organization. The third is Yoan Lopez. It’s not necessary to profile them since they get profiled so often as higher level prospects. The two who may not be so well-known are Adam Miller and Daniel Gibson. Miller’s claim this season has been his 2.82 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. He has 28 walks to go with those strikeouts, but the Diamondbacks must see something in him to get him some time in the AFL. Gibson has 57 strikeouts to 21 walks, but has a 1.64 ERA. Miller  was a 20th rounder and Gibson was a 7th rounder in 2013. It’s obvious the Diamondbacks are looking for bullpen arms and feel they need more data on these potential bullpen guys for next season.

Visalia Rawhide (A): 40-26, 2nd place

The Rawhide are in the playoffs after winning the first half championship, so dropping out of first is not a big deal at this point. This is where Palka plays. He has spent the entire season on the team, but has been strong at the plate. With a .280 average, 29 home runs, and OPS of .886, the Diamondbacks have made him their exception from the lower levels of the minors this season.

Some may be wondering why Palka and not Dansby Swanson. It’s simple really, Swanson has not had many at bats since being drafted and is still getting his bearings at short season Hillsboro. There is little to no chance of Swanson making it to the majors next season, so they Diamondbacks are focusing the spot on a guy they see rising at a faster current rate in Palka.

Lower Levels Prospect of the Week:

As promised last week, I will profile a prospect toiling away in the lowest levels of the minor leagues each week until the end of the season. This week’s focus is Cody Reed. His name may sound familiar after I mentioned him as being a rumored ask by the Braves in the deal that sent last year’s first round pick Touki Toussaint to the Braves. It was just a rumor, but it was enough to get my wheels turning. What could the Diamondbacks like so much about him to keep him instead of the kid they drafted a round before him just one year earlier?

Both are big, strong, athletic pitchers. Both have shown advanced skill for their age to this point. Could it be a simple as Reed being a lefty? Doubtful. If anything, I think the Diamondbacks saw more advancement in Reed’s secondary pitches than in Toussaint. I will admit that I have yet to see either in person; however, I have watched as much video as I could find on both. Reed shows one thing that Toussaint doesn’t in all the film I have seen: an ability to work inside and out with more than one pitch.

That is a skill many pitchers never truly develop and one that will commonly lead a pitcher to the bullpen. If you can throw two pitches wherever you want, you have something. If you throw three or more, you are on the fast track. As I said, it is only video, but on multiple occasions, Reed is seen getting guys to swing and miss pitches in the strike zone (or at least on the edge), but on the other half than where he was working until that pitch. In order to do that, you need incredible tactile sensation and proprioceptive control. The difference in pitches being accurate on the outside versus the inside of the plate is as little as a millimeter at the time of release.

It will be fun to see how he develops, but he could play his way into the Diamondbacks plan as early as next season if the video is truly representative of his feel for pitching.