Mark October 9 down on your calendar if you’re the type to follow minor league players after the minor league season. That’s the date of the first game for the Surprise Sagueros, the team affiliated with the Royals (and others) in the Arizona Fall League.
The Royals will send minor leaguers from their system to join those of the Braves, Rays, Rangers, and Marlins in Surprise in the eight team league. Last season, Wil Myers took his first steps towards rebounding from a tough 2011 Double A season by mashing in the AFL.
This year’s players are:
RHP Edwin Carl
Carl’s 2011 is one of legend after throwing 33 innings in the Pioneer League and three more in the Midwest League. He struck out 72 batters. He only walked five unintentionally. For those scoring at home, that’s a 15 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.
That’s pretty ridiculous.
In 2012, he’s spent half his time in Kane County and half in Wilmington. The strikeouts are still there as he’s whiffed 102 in 114 innings. He’s walked 27, which, while over five times what he did last year, is still very good. He’ll turn 24 in two days, so the Royals are hoping to get more looks at him in Surprise to see what they have here.
LHP Justin Marks
A former third round pick, he’s shown the ability to be an adequate part of a minor league rotation. His control could be better (3.5 BB/9 for his career and 4 BB/9 in Double A) but he can get strikeouts and has decent secondary stuff. He could end up being a spot starter or lefty reliever one day. Marks was recently promoted to Omaha.
LHP Jon Keck
The Royals saw enough from Keck in Wilmington to move him up to Double A after six weeks. After 22.1 innings at High A, he’s been okay in Northwest Arkansas, but not spectacular.
He’s got to work on his control if he’s going to be an option at the big league level. While his 8.1 career K/9 is great, the 5.2 BB/9 isn’t and it’s been 6.1 BB/9 in his 40 Double A innings. Keck was a 2009 draft pick who’s been hanging around the lower levels since signing.
The shortstop formerly known as Paul Carlixte and Orlando Caxito was a million dollar signing out of the Dominican and has had a very good season with the bat and the glove in Low A Kane County and High A Wilmington.
Defense is his best asset and he has good hands and a good arm, plus scouts think he may be able to develop power. This year, he’s hitting .266/.318/.451 in 517 plate appearances and has 14 homers between Kane County (10) and Wilmington (4). He’s hit .289/.333/.438 in 59 games with the Blue Rocks. He’s definitely the most interesting player assigned to Surprise, although he’s designated as the “taxi squad” player – only eligible to play Wednesdays and Saturdays.
SS Alex McClure
So far, McClure hasn’t hit much as a pro (.216/.272/.266 in almost 1000 plate appearances) but he’s said to be a smart player with decent speed and a good glove. He broke his hand last season and missed some time but was able to work his way up to Double A this year.
Merrifield was part of the 2010 College World Series Champion South Carolina team (and in fact delivered the championship-clinching hit in walkoff fashion) and was drafted by the Royals in that same season. He’s a very good doubles hitter (30 in 2011, 21 so far this year) with okay home run numbers. He stole 24 bases last year and has 25 so far this year as well and was promoted to Double A earlier in August.
Fletcher was the player of the year in Kane County last season and is a guy with some pop. Unfortunately, he’s also a guy who doesn’t have a lot of skill in the field. He’s usually been in the outfield, but saw a lot of time at first base in Wilmington this season.
After hitting .289/.353/.411 in the Carolina League, he was moved up to Northwest Arkansas in June. Since, he’s hit .245/.302/.409 with nine homers. He’s struck out more than a third of the time in Double A as opposed to about 20% of the time at the High A level. That’s probably what he’ll be working on in the AFL most. Fletcher was deemed the Royals “priority player” to maximize his playing time.
The Royals also announced that an eighth player – a pitcher – will join the group in Surprise, but have yet to decide on which player that will be.
Update: Added information about Fletcher and Calixte’s designations for the AFL period.