If you love prospects, then it doesn’t get any better than the Arizona Fall League.
With six teams comprised of baseball’s top prospects from all 30 organizations, the AFL provides an opportunity to witness the future of the game on one field.
After looking at the hottest and coldest hitters at every minor league level during the regular season, we’ve decided to continue the series into the fall, so as to cover the happenings of the AFL.
So, here’s the first installment of the hottest and coldest pitchers in this year's Arizona Fall League.
Sammy Solis, LHP, Washington Nationals
2013 AFL Stats: 7.2 IP, 6 H, ER, 3 BB, 10 K (2 GS)
A second-round draft pick in 2010, Solis had a solid first full professional season in 2011, posting a 3.26 ERA and a 93/23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 86.2 innings between both Class-A levels. However, after experiencing elbow soreness during his first tour of the AFL and again during spring training in 2012, the 6’5” left-hander subsequently underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery.
While Solis technically returned to action in late May, the Nationals didn’t dial back their concern until mid-July. This fall, the 25-year-old will work to build up arm strength after logging only 59.2 innings during the regular season. Coming off 3.2 scoreless innings in his AFL season debut, Solis was equally impressive in his start on Tuesday, allowing one run on three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts over four innings.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2013 AFL Stats: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, BB, 6 K (2 GS)
Acquired from the Nationals during the offseason in exchange for Denard Span, Meyer, 23, had a solid first two months of the season at Double-A New Britain before landing on the disabled in early June with a sore right shoulder.
After roughly two months on the shelf, the 6’9” right-hander returned to the mound in late August and looked like his usual self with an electric plus-plus fastball-slider combination. Overall, Meyer posted a 3.21 ERA and 84/29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 70 innings.
Making his AFL debut on Oct. 8, Meyer was understandably rusty and allowed three earned runs on five hits over three innings. Bleacher Report's Adam Wells was in attendance for Meyer’s second outing on Monday and walked away thoroughly impressed after watching the right-hander strike out three batters over two scoreless frames.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
2013 AFL Stats: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K (2 GS)
Heaney didn’t take the mound for the first time until May 20 after suffering a lat injury during spring training. But once he got going, the 22-year-old was quick to make up for the lost time by posting a 0.88 ERA and .193 opponent batting average with 66 strikeouts over 61.2 innings in the Florida State League.
The left-hander finished the season at Double-A Jacksonville and held his own with a 2.94 ERA in 33.2 innings.
Heaney flashed his mid-rotation potential during his first AFL start on Oct. 11, allowing only two hits with six strikeouts over three scoreless frames. Though he turned in another solid outing on Wednesday night, the left-hander’s command was noticeably less sharp, as he allowed two earned runs on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 3.2 innings.
Derek Law, RHP, San Francisco Giants
2013 AFL Stats: 3.1 IP, 2 H, BB, 5 K (3 G)
Law has the potential to be the reliever everyone talks about this fall, much like Yankees’ right-hander Mark Montgomery in 2012.
This past season, the 23-year-old dominated across three levels, posting a 2.31 ERA with 14 saves and the best combination of strikeout (13.84 K/9) and walk (1.63 BB/9) rates among all minor-league relievers. Law was especially impressive at High-A San Jose over the second half of the season, registering a 2.10 ERA with 11 saves and 45 strikeouts in 25.2 frames.
Participating in his first AFL, the right-hander has already drawn rave reviews after only three appearances. With a strong showing this fall, Law could make a case to open the 2014 season at Double-A Richmond. And if that’s ultimately the case, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the major leagues later in the year.
Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants
2013 AFL Stats: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 9 K (2 GS)
Although a strained oblique limited Crick to only 14 starts this past season, the 20-year-old was flat-out nasty when healthy, posting a 1.57 ERA and .201 opponent batting average with 95 strikeouts in 68.2 innings at High-A San Jose.
Boasting a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and frequently scrapes 98, along with a trio of secondary offerings that can flash plus, Crick has the makings of a front-of-the-rotation pitcher. That being said, both his control and command will need considerable refinement before reaching the major leagues.
Crick has shown signs of rust in the early going of the AFL, struggling to command his fastball and work down in the zone consistently in both starts. The good news is that the right-hander has continued to miss bats in the offense-oriented league, amassing nine strikeouts through his first five innings.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
2013 AFL Stats: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, K (2 G)
Montgomery was viewed as one of baseball’s top left-handed pitching prospects after both the 2010 and 2011 seasons—then with Kansas City—and it seemed as though he would reach the major leagues earlier than expected.
Since then, however, the 24-year-old’s once-promising career has steadily deteriorated amidst his ongoing struggles in the high minors—now with two different teams.
The southpaw’s first AFL outing was one to forget, as he allowed three earned runs on five hits in 1.1 innings. However, he did rebound nicely with a perfect inning on Monday.
Adalberto Mejia, LHP, San Francisco Giants
2013 AFL Stats: 3 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (2 G)
Mejia enters the AFL fresh off a breakout campaign at High-A San Jose, where he posted a 3.31 ERA and a 89/23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 87 innings. While the 20-year-old left-hander has also shown impressive command relative to his age and level of competition, the 2013 season marked the first time that he consistently missed bats.
Appearing in two games already this fall as a reliever, Mejia has struggled in both outings, allowing a combined five earned runs on four hits and two walks over three innings. On a positive note, the left-hander has retired four of the five same-side hitters he’s faced.
Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
2013 AFL Stats: 6 IP, 11 H (3 HR), 10 ER, 4 BB, K (2 GS)
Selected with the No. 38 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Lorenzen was regarded as the top two-way talent in the class after excelling as Cal State Fullerton’s center fielder and closer.
After signing with the Reds, the 21-year-old was moved at an accelerated pace through their system, making stops at four different levels before finishing the season with Double-A Pensacola.
While Lorenzen breezed through the Reds’ lower-level affiliates, his rawness was exposed at both High-A and Double-A. Appearing in 12 games between the two levels, the right-hander registered a 5.40 ERA with 11 walks and 11 strikeouts in 11.2 innings.
After allowing seven earned runs on six hits (two home runs) and three walks in his AFL debut, Lorenzen was only slightly better in his follow-up outing. Though he lasted four innings, the former Cal State Fullerton closer allowed three earned runs on five hits while notching only one strikeout.