Final Rafters Report and AFL Wrap-up


On Saturday the Arizona Fall League Championship was played and the 2009 AFL season officially came to an end.  Sadly that means this will be the final Rafters Report of the year.  Since this is the final one, I am including the typical fare from previous Sunday Rafters Reports plus some info on the final batting and pitching leaders in a few categories.  There will be one additional AFL related post in Central Processing fashion where I will provide AFL season stats for the participants from all the other AL Central teams in addition to the Kansas City Royals.

I had intended to provide some thoughts on the AFL Championship game, but a few things prevented that from being a part of this post.  First was the visit from my parents, which while much appreciated and enjoyed by myself, my wife and our two boys, did take away from critical game watching time.  I did record the game via DVR, but sadly it had to be deleted before being watched to make room for the Amazing Race.  Our DVR is packed full as it is.  My wife is extremely wonderful, but I’d prefer to avoid any frustration that would be directed my way if her show was unable to record.  If you are wondering Peoria defeated Phoenix 5 to 4.  If you want to read more about the game, you can click here.  With that out of the way, let’s get to the Rafters Report.

Thursday, November 19th (7-4 Win)
3B-Mike Moustakas:  1-4

With the win, the Surprise Rafters finished the season with a 16-16 record.  It was good for 2nd in the West and was the 3rd best record overall in the 6-team league.

Season Stats:
SS-Jeff Bianchi:  0.265/.329/.412, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 1 SB, 7 BB, 10 SO
3B-Mike Moustakas:  0.267/.288/.560, 5 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 1 SB, 2 BB, 11 SO
CF-Jarrod Dyson:  0.310/.364/.408, 3 2B, 2 3B, 2 SB, 3 CS, 6 BB, 15 SO
RHP-Aaron Crow:  4 G, 15.1 IP, 5.87 ERA, 17 H, 2 BB, 12 SO
RHP-Aaron Hartsock:  11 G, 15.1 IP, 4.11 ERA, 15 H, 4 BB, 10 SO
RHP-Blake Wood:  8 G, 14.2 IP, 6.75 ERA, 20 H, 5 BB, 12 SO
LHP-Brandon Sisk:  6 G, 8.0 IP, 2.25 ERA, 6 H, 4 BB, 7 SO
LHP-Ben Swaggerty:  6 G, 6.2 IP, 9.45 ERA, 7 H, 7 BB, 4 SO

Royals Related Thoughts & Projections:
The MVR (Most Valuable Royal) of the AFL goes to surprise performer Jarrod Dyson (25).  He was a late addition to the roster after David Lough was scratched due to injury, but he showed himself very well.  Brandon Sisk gets honorable mention, especially since the AFL is notoriously tough on pitching prospects, but he only pitched in 6 games.  Dyson had a solid season split between Low-A Burlington and AA NW Arkansas.  That coupled with his strong AFL performance should earn him a spot with the Omaha Royals to open the 2010 season.  I can see a scenario where he starts 2010 in AA, but my guess is that Derrick Robinson will be bumped up from Wilmington to be the Naturals primary CF and Dyson should be up to the challenge of AAA anyway.

Jeff Bianchi will almost assuredly open the 2010 season in Omaha.  His final AFL numbers were just so-so, but the encouraging sign that I took from Bianchi’s performance as a member of the Rafters was his consistency.  His 2009 numbers in Wilmington and NW Arkansas are a little misleading, because he had an extended stretch at each level where he hit over 0.500.  It is certainly good that he is capable of such hot streaks, but they do cover up his performance during the rest of the season.  I believe that Bianchi will be a contributing player at the ML level, but to become a regular player he needs to become less streaky and more consistent.  He did just that in the AFL and that gives me hope for his future.

It seems a certainty that Mike Moustakas will be playing 3B in Double-A next season, and he continued to display his power with a solid SLG in the AFL.  Unfortunately the red flags became a little more pronounced as he continued to struggle with plate discipline.  AFL stats are like spring training stats in that they don’t mean a whole lot.  However, in Moose’s case they continued a trend we saw with Wilmington this season.  I had hoped that the offensive environment would help him reestablish his prospect “shine” amongst Royals fans, but unfortunately the 0.288 OBP and 11 SO to 2 BB may have done just the opposite.  It is obvious to everyone, but I will say it anyway:  2010 is a huge year.

For me, anything Aaron Crow did in the AFL was just a bonus, and while he did struggle at times, he also showed why he was a first round selection in the 2009 draft.  In his last two starts he struck out eight in 8.0 IP without walking a batter.  His last start as a whole was an absolute gem, as he allowed only one hit to go along with 4 SO in 4.0 innings.  My assumption is that he will open the 2010 season as a member of the Natural rotation in Double-A, but personally I see a lot of value in the team letting him make a handful of starts for Wilmington to get his feet wet.  He is going to move quickly, so letting him have a couple starts to build confidence and adjust to the minors would not significantly affect his timetable for reaching the majors.  Twelve SO to go with only 2 BB in 15.1 AFL innings was a nice gift to long suffering Royals fans.

Aaron Hartsock turned in a solid AFL season in his own right.  He dominated with Wilmington, and then threw an excellent 51.0 innings in double-A.  He belongs on the opening day roster of the Omaha Royals and a late season call up isn’t out of the question if he can handle AAA competition.

Blake Wood was very hittable in the AFL and that, unfortunately, continued the trend he established in AA during the 2009 season.  At this point his best chance to reach the majors is as a reliever, especially with the quality of rotation arms coming up in the minors behind him.  He should begin his 2010 journey as a member of the NW Arkansas bullpen.

Brandon Sisk allowed only 30 hits in 61.0 innings and paired that with a 4.3 SO/BB for Wilmington during the 2009 season.  He was impressive in the AFL as well.  He allowed less than a hit per inning and struck out seven in six appearances.  On their own, AFL stats aren’t that significant but like Dyson, Moustakas, Hartsock, and Wood, his AFL performance matched up with, or echoed, his regular season and that is significant.  He is destined to start the 2010 season with the Naturals in double-A.  With his ability to limit baserunners, control the strike zone, and miss bats, Sisk is definitely someone to watch.

Ben Swaggerty came into 2009 as the top ranked LH reliever in the Royals system, but that distinction didn’t get him ranked in Baseball America’s top 30.  During the season he was excellent with the Blue Rocks, okay with the Naturals, and dreadful with the Rafters.  He should start the 2010 season back with NW Arkansas, but may wind up in Omaha depending on how the team elects to fill out their AAA bullpen.

AFL Batting Leaders:
BA:  3B-Brent Morel (CWS)  0.435
OBP:  C-Matt McBride (CLE)  0.511
SLG:  LF-Colin Curtis (NYY)  0.731
TB:  CF-Grant Desme (OAK)  72

AFL Pitching Leaders:
WHIP:  LHP-Matt Reynolds (COL)  0.93
SO:  RHP-Robbie Weinhardt (DET)  29 with a 14.2 SO/9
ERA:  RHP-Drew Storen (WAS) and RHP-Toshiyuki Yanuki (Japan)  0.66
IP:  RHP-Ian Kennedy (NYY)  29.2

2009 AFL MVP: 23 year old CF-Grant Desme of the Oakland Athletics hit 0.315/.413/.667 with 5 2B, 11 HR, 2 SB, 16 BB and 34 SO.  His AFL season came on the heels of hitting a combined line of 0.288/.365/.568 with 31 HR, 40 SB, 54 BB, and 148 SO between Low-A and High-A during the 2009 season.

As mentioned above, the next edition of Central Processing will provide the stats of the players from the other AL Central teams who participated in the 2009 AFL season.  In addition to that and the normal Monday Royals Caribbean Report, I am also hoping to get something up on the 40 man rosters of each of the AL Central teams.  I’m not sure how everything will time out and of course that is all subject to adjustment as other relevant news breaks.

(Wally Fish is Kings of Kauffman’s lead blogger.  Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)