Eight Arizona Diamondbacks prospects are among the 37-man Salt River Rafters team competing in the Arizona Fall League this October and November.
Along with prospects from the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins, the AFL D-backs treat the 30-game schedule as an opportunity to compete against the game’s top lower-level talent, refining and honing their skills.
General manager Dave Stewart sent top pitching prospect Archie Bradley, catcher Peter O’ Brien and infielder Brandon Drury along with five others to Salt River Fields to join the Rafters for the fall.
Here’s a look at how each of the minor leaguers performed at the midway point of the AFL season:
RHP Enrique Burgos
The Panamanian right-hander has pitched 6.0 relief innings over five appearances, recording a pair of saves while allowing just one hit and two walks and striking out six. Burgos’ microscopic 0.50 WHIP and nil-ERA bode well for a 2015 promotion bid, after the 23-year-old boasted a 2.47 ERA over 55 appearances with High-A Visalia last season.
Drafted by the D-backs while still 17, in 2008, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Burgos garnered Baseball America’s “Best Reliever in the California League” distinction in 2014, while also having his fastball being rated the best in the league.
RHP Archie Bradley
Though making the AFL’s East Fall Stars roster, highly-touted right-hander Archie Bradley saw his regular season struggles continue early in fall ball. In his first 7.0 innings of work — split between three starts — Bradley allowed eight earned runs and 13 total runs.
But in his last start, the hard-throwing right-hander balanced out, pitching four scoreless innings while striking out two. In just 18 lower-level starts last season, Bradley went 3-7 with a 4.45 ERA with a lightened workload due to a long disabled list stint stemming from elbow soreness.
IF Brandon Drury
After a stellar season at the plate in 2014, Drury has failed to carry his momentum to Salt River Fields. The third baseman hit .299 between High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile, racking up 23 home runs and 95 RBI to complement an .872 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
In 55 AFL at-bats, Drury has the worst batting average and the second-worst on-base percentage among Rafters, with marks of .182 and .286 respectively. The 22-year-old has hit two home runs, despite the other poor results.
Drury came to the D-backs via the trade which sent Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves and he has since become one of the organization’s top 10 prospects. Baseball America called the Oregon native the best defensive third baseman in the California League last season. Along with Bradley, Drury is an AFL East Fall Star.
RHP Kaleb Fleck
Like fellow reliever Burgos, Fleck has perpetuated his 2014 success in the AFL, boasting a 1.35 ERA over 6.2 innings pitched in six appearances. The right-hander has struck out 10 in 6.2 innings pitched, giving him the fifth-best strikeouts-per-nine rate in the fall league, with a 13.5.
Fleck, 25, racked up 17 saves in 56 games pitched for Double-A Mobile last season, posting a solid 2.56 ERA in 63.1 innings pitched. He boasted an 11.2 K/9 rate on the season. Fleck has never finished a professional season with an ERA above 2.89 after three seasons in the minors with Arizona.
OF Evan Marzilli
Sent to the AFL following a mediocre season at Double-A Mobile, Marzilli is so far hitting .258/ .343/ .290 in 31 fall at-bats. He has, however, played to his strengths, grabbing a pair of steals and scoring five times.
Marzilli is often recognized as a defensive outfielder, hitting .250 or below in his last two seasons in the minors. The left-handed hitting South Carolina product was Baseball America’s best defensive outfielder in the California League in 2014.
C Peter O’ Brien
Acquired in the deadline trade which sent Martin Prado to the New York Yankees, O’ Brien became Arizona’s top catching prospect upon arrival in the organization. The Miami native finished 2014 with a .271 batting average and 34 home runs between two levels — High-A and Double-A — and three teams.
With the Rafters, O’ Brien has hit a team-high three home runs, while boasting a gaudy .913 OPS. The slugger has drawn 13 walks to help his .413 OBP and he’s getting the most playing time on the team, despite being one of four catchers on the roster. He’s one of three D-backs prospects representing the organization in Nov. 3’s Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields.
RHP Jimmie Sherfy
One of three Arizona relievers in the AFL, Sherfy — a former 10th round selection — has held up nicely this fall, pitching 5.0 innings over five games, while allowing just two hits and striking out five.
Sherfy was less impressive than Burgos and Fleck last season, logging a 4.59 ERA between High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile, where he spent most of the season. Another strikeout pitcher, the right-hander did manage a 12.5 K/9 rate to complement a 5-1 record at the two levels.