This past Saturday, November 19, the Mesa Solar Sox defeated the Surprise Saguaros 6-1 to win the Arizona Fall League Championship.
Three Indians prospects started in the championship game, led by center fielders Greg Allen, Bradley Zimmer and shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang. Allen went 1-4 with a run scored, Zimmer went 0-3 with a walk (although he was completely robbed of extra bases by an amazing diving catch in the first inning), and Chang went 2-4.
The stars of the title game weren’t Indians players, however, as Cubs prospect Ian Happ went 4-4 with two home runs to lead the team offensively while a pair of A’s pitchers Dylan Covey and Frankie Montas tossed eight innings of two-hit ball.
Overall, the Indians had eight players on the Mesa Solar Sox, the aforementioned, Zimmer, Allen and Chang as well as catcher Eric Haase plus pitchers Michael Peoples, Cameron Hill, David Speer and Trevor Frank.
Here’s how everyone performed over the course of regular season:
Bradley Zimmer (23, OF) got off to a tremendous start, winning the Bowman Hitting Challenge on opening day. He then proceeded to have a very productive season for the Solar Sox, slashing .257/.421/.514 over 22 games. While his strikeout rate was still pretty high (27.4 percent), it was the lowest it had been in 2016 compared to Double-A (28.3) and Triple-A (37.3). Also, more impressively, his walk-rate skyrocketed to an incredible 20.0 percent, earning him first place overall in the AFL with 19. Zimmer also led the AFL in runs scored with 25, finished tied for second in home runs with four, was fourth in doubles with seven while finishing fifth in stolen bases with eight.
Greg Allen (23, OF) showed some surprising power, blasting three home runs, good for a sixth place tie. He also led the league in steals with 12 compared to just two times being caught. Allen finished with a solid slashline of .269/.380/.449, although his strikeout rate jumped up a tick to 17.7 percent while the walk rate declined slightly to a still very good 10.4 percent. Allen was named the AFL Player of the Week once and was listed on Jonathan Mayo’s 10 Players who broke out during the AFL season.
Yu-Cheng Chang (21, SS) really stepped up despite having been one of the youngest players on the Solar Sox roster and having never even played against Double-A competition. Chang led the team in batting average at (.304) although he was the beneficiary of an insanely high .486 BABIP. As expected in his first test against top level prospects, Chang’s walk rate dropped and his strikeout rate exploded, but that didn’t stop him from turning some heads, as he was also listed on Mayo’s 10 Breakout AFL players thanks in part to his improved defense.
Eric Haase (23, C) didn’t receive much playing time as the third string catcher, but he made the most of it, batting .278 and smoking three doubles out of his five hits in just five games played. There was too much of a small sample size to really glean anything else.
Michael Peoples (25, RHP) led the Mesa Solar Sox in innings pitched with 25.0, also leading all starting pitchers for the team with a 3.96 ERA, which isn’t half bad since most consider the AFL to be a hitter’s league. Peoples saw his K/9 skyrocket to 9.4 while his walk-rate dropped to 2.5 per nine innings. He also had the third best WHIP among all qualified AFL starters with a rock-solid 1.04.
Cameron Hill (22, RHP) appeared in nine games out of the bullpen for the Solar Sox, pitching 15.0 innings and striking out 13 batters. His walk-rate was poor at a career-worst 4.2/9 and his ERA and WHIP were hurt for it (4.80 and 1.40)
David Speer (24, LHP) actually didn’t do that bad, his numbers are just skewed thanks to one downright dreadful appearance. Speer gave up six runs in only 0.1 innings on October 22nd, but in his other nine appearances, he performed much better. If you remove his one dreadful outing, he had a 1.35 ERA, giving up two runs over 13.1 innings pitched. He also finished second on the team in wins with three.
Trevor Frank (25, RHP) There’s no amount of toying with the numbers that will make Frank’s AFL season look good. He started poorly, giving up three runs in his first 0.2 innings, and then finished with a dud, giving up seven runs spread over his last two outings. He closed with an abysmal 11.88 ERA.