This season’s Arizona Fall League concluded on Saturday, as members of the Yankees’ organization playing for the Surprise Saguaros dropped the championship game to the Salt River Rafters. The Yankees saw mixed performances from the seven members of the franchise who saw action in the league this fall. Yankees’ pitching prospects fared generally well, but after a fast start the hitters struggled through the season. Let’s take a look at the seven players’ results, and where they currently stand in the system.
After missing significant time for the second straight season due to injuries, Glenn Otto was sent to the AFL to get regular work and build his innings load as he continues his climb towards the upper levels of the minors. In six starts for the Saguaros, Otto was brilliant, producing a 1.88 ERA, 26 strikeouts, and a 0.96 WHIP. Otto continued to struggle with his control as he walked 13 batters in his 24 innings pitched. With this performance, Otto has strongly positioned himself to start the season with Double-A Trenton Thunder next season.
Aaron McGarity was a late add to the AFL roster, but he made the most of his opportunity to perform on this stage. McGarity posted a 0.79 ERA and 0.62 WHIP, with 15 K in 11.1 innings during his time in the league. McGarity has been a strong performer across the three levels of A-ball the last two seasons for the Yankees, and should cross into the Double-A level early next season. .
After logging 92 innings during the regular season as a starter and long reliever, Daniel Bies was used mostly in a one-inning role during the AFL. Bies pitched 11.1 innings in ten appearances during his time with the Saguaros. After allowing runs in his first three outings, Bies settled in, allowing only only six baserunners and one earned run over his last seven games while striking out nine. The 6-foot-9 righty throws in the mid 90s, and if converted to the bullpen full-time, he is the type of power arm that could rise quickly through the system. He will likely start next season with High-A Tampa.
Derek Craft struggled through his AFL experience. Another tall right-handed pitcher, the 6-foot-8 Craft only logged three appearances and 2.1 innings during the fall league. He gave up two runs, four hits, and a two walks. Craft, a 16th-round draft pick in 2018, started the season with the Rookie Advanced Pulaski Yankees this season, before reaching Short-Season A-Ball Staten Island at the end of the regular season. Craft is likely heading to Low-A Charleston to start the 2020 season.
Brandon Wagner started off well, winning AFL hitter of the week by smashing two grand slams, and holding the league lead in RBI heading into October. Unfortunately, Wagner slumped down the stretch, and finished with a .214/.333/.357 slash line. More alarming is that Wagner struck out 27 times in 82 plate appearances. Wagner is likely heading back to Double-A Trenton to start next season.
Josh Stowers got the bump from Low-A Charleston to the AFL after finishing the season red-hot with a .386 OBP. Stowers struggled through 20 games, hitting just .131 and striking out 27 times. One skill that the Yankees were hoping to see Stowers improve was his base stealing ability. During the regular season he stole 35 bases, but was only successful on only 68% of his attempts. His struggles on offense limited his chances to steal, and he was successful four out of seven times in the AFL. Stowers passed his regular season test, but coming off a disappointing fall league, he will have a lot to prove at High-A Tampa next season.
Catcher Donny Sands also struggled through his 16 games in the AFL, hitting only .204 on the campaign. A few years removed from being one of the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, he has struggled for two straight seasons, and will likely be heading back to High-A Tampa to start next season.
The Arizona Fall League provided the Yankees with a clear line between success and failure. While the league’s schedule provides a small sample size and can’t be used as a definitive judgment of a player’s skill or future potential, it is a snap shot that adds to the young player’s resume. Otto, McGarity, and Bies built off their strong regular seasons and re-enforced the notion that they are ready to face bigger challenges next season. After playing the season at the lower level of Class-A ball, Josh Stowers and Derek Craft appear to have been put in a league that exceeded their current ability level. Brandon Wagner and Donny Sands saw their struggles from the regular season carry over to the AFL with no significant breakthrough.