This year’s iteration of the Arizona Fall League (AFL) wrapped up recently, and it concluded with a championship celebration for the Peoria Javelinas. The club, populated by farmhands from the Brewers, Braves, Padres, Rays, and Mariners, finished the regular season with a league-best 21-9 record. That earned them a date in the AFL title game with the Salt River Rafters, whom they defeated by a score of 3-2 in 10 innings.
Our Milwaukee Brewers sent eight representatives to the Fall League to suit up for Peoria (and later, a ninth player headed down to pitch for Mesa) so let’s take a moment to recap how well those players performed in the so-called “prospect finishing school.”
LHP Daniel Brown
Brown, a fastball-slider lefty who works in the low-to-mid-90s, enjoyed an excellent AFL. In nine appearances he covered 12.0 innings, allowing only eight hits, four walks, and a 3.00 Earned Run Average (ERA). Deserved Run Average thought his performance was nearly perfect; his DRA came in at 0.12 for a DRA- of 2.5! (DRA- measures DRA in league context, with 100 as average and the lower the number, the better).
RHP Bowdien Derby
The Javelinas used Derby as a starter in the AFL, and he toed the slab to begin seven games while logging 26.3 innings pitched. He did so with a modest 4.78 ERA, though DRA- (86) still assessed Derby as 14 percent better than the average pitcher on the circuit. Derby’s 18:9 strikeout:walk ratio wasn’t exactly inspiring, and we’ll see if the AFL performance that followed up a decent season as a swingman for Colorado Springs is enough to convince some team to pick him in this year’s Rule 5 Draft. Derby was left unprotected by the Brewers.
RHP Jon Olczak
Olczak turned in one of the most stellar campaigns of any reliever on the AFL circuit this year. He logged a 1.50 ERA across 12.0 innings, striking out 13 while allowing only eight hits and five walks. DRA- (45) valued his work as 55 percent better than his league-average cohorts. This comes after a terrific 73 DRA- in 56.3 innings for Double-A Biloxi during the regular season, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to find out that the fastball/slider slinging Olczak (who sits 92-94 MPH) winds up generating plenty of Rule 5 interest in advance of next month’s draft.
RHP Miguel Sanchez
The 24 year old Sanchez put together a surprising pop-up season in 2018, advancing from Class A-Advanced all the way up to Triple-A before earning a shot at the Fall League. He continued to be effective in Arizona, posting a 3.60 ERA in 10.0 innings. He struck out eight while walking three, generating ground balls at a 65 percent rate. DRA- (74) saw his performance as well above average for the league.
RHP Aaron Wilkerson
After a truncated regular season split between Triple-A and the big leagues, the Brewers sent Wilkerson as a late addition to the AFL so that he could stretch back out in advance of pitching in winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Wilkerson joined the Mesa Solar Sox and appeared in three games, tossing four scoreless innings with three strikeouts and three walks.
C Mario Feliciano
Injuries limited Feliciano to just 46 games between the Arizona Rookie League and Class-A Advanced in 2018, so the Brewers assigned him to the Fall League to try and catch him up with some addition reps. It didn’t work out, though, as injuries unfortunately halted Feliciano’s progress once again. After only two games and six plate appearances (that included a hit and two walks), he was sidelined with discomfort in his throwing shoulder that led to arthroscopic surgery at the beginning of November. He should be ready to go again come next spring.
UTIL Weston Wilson
A jack-of-all-trades utility man, Wilson was highly impressive during the AFL campaign, batting .364 average /.462 on-base /.636 slugging percentage in 39 plate appearances for a True Average of .387. He clubbed a double, a triple, and two home runs, and even stole a pair of bases, too. A former 17th-round draft pick, more and more are coming around to the idea that the 24 year old Wilson has the ability to be a big leaguer after his terrific season between Class A-Advanced, Double-A, and the Arizona Fall League in 2018.
OF Trent Grisham
This former first-round pick, on the other hand, has plenty of people doubting that he’ll ever make it to The Show based on what he’s been showing lately (and really since being picked in 2015). Grisham’s passive approach has led to walks aplenty as a professional, but not much in the way of batting average of hard contact. Grisham hit .133/.304/.133 with 17 strikeouts in 57 AFL plate appearances, leading Mark Anderson of the BP Prospect Team to comment recently that “his comfort in the box and overall feel for hitting are seemingly non-existent at this point.”
2B Keston Hiura
Hiura is Milwaukee’s top prospect for good reason. Often described as a “hitting savant,” Hiura led the AFL in hits (31), RBI (33), and total bases (54). His five home runs were one off the league lead and his .934 OPS ranked sixth overall. Hiura’s overall slash was good enough for a .352 True Average, and he was so good so often that the BP Prospect Team seemed almost annoyed that they needed to keep writing about him. Hiura’s tremendous performance helped net not only the AFL Championship trophy, but earned him some well-deserved personal hardware, too.
#Brewers‘ hitting machine Keston Hiura is the 2018 @MLBazFallLeague MVP after hitting .323 with 5 homers and a league-leading 33 RBIs in 23 games. More from @wboor: https://t.co/Qbc6keDe54 pic.twitter.com/f47t6zO7fR
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) November 17, 2018