Summer is sadly coming to an end as school starts for just about everyone across the country next week, and once summer starts winding down so too does baseball season. While the MLB playoffs to carry us through October, most minor league baseball leagues are either finished with their season or wrapping up play within the next few days. One league that completed play recently was the Arizona League, a short-season rookie level league that plays its games in the Spring Training complexes in Arizona. Play begins shortly after the draft in June, and each team squeezes in about 55 games by the end of August. The AZL is the lowest level of affiliated baseball on the mainland – it is most often where players drafted out of high school or recent Dominican Summer League graduates are assigned. The average age for hitters in the league was 19.8 years and average age for pitchers was 20.3 years this year.
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The AZL Brewers finished with just a 23-33 record and placed third in the league’s Central Division. The Brewers had the youngest collection of hitters in the league, averaging just 19.1 years old, and they produced at roughly a league average clip. The offense averaged 4.52 runs per game, slightly below the 4.61 league average mark, but their collective OPS of .689 beat league average by 18 points. On the other hand, the Brewers had the league’s oldest pitching staff at an average age of 21.4, and they allowed the second most runs per game and had the fourth worst ERA among the 14 team league. The Brewers were outscored by a total of 25 runs on the season and failed to achieve their Pythagorean W-L record of 26-30.
Despite a losing record, the Milwaukee Brewers actually had a host of talented players on their AZL affiliate. The franchise added some terrific prospects via the draft that debuted in the AZL, and also had several international talents getting their first shot at playing in the States. Again, keeping in mind the average age of the league, here are the prospects that enjoyed standout campaigns for the AZL Brewers:
OF Trent Clark
Age: 18 || B/T: L/L
Clark was the Brewers’ first round selection in this year’s draft, a prep outfielder praised for his advanced approach at the plate. Clark quickly got to work showing off his hitting polish after being assigned to the Arizona League. Across an even 200 plate appearances, Clark slashed .309/.422/.442 with seven doubles, six triples, and a home run. He walked nearly as many times (30) as he struck out (36) in his 43 games played, and added 20 stolen bases and seven outfield assists to his register, as well. As a reward for his outstanding performance, Clark was promoted to the Helena Brewers of the Pioneer League to finish out the 2015 campaign.
OF Joantgel Segovia
Age: 18 || B/T: R/R
Segovia was quite successful last season in the DSL, and carried over that success to a strong stateside debut in the AZL. Joantgel collected only 108 plate appearances for the Brewers, but slashed an outstanding .368/.434/.389 while leading the team in on base percentage. He could grow into some more power as he gets older, but for now Segovia is enjoying success as a slap hitting, on base machine. He was also rewarded with a promotion to Helena.
1B Tyrone Perry
Age: 19 || B/T: L/R
Perry fell to the Brewers in the 14th round of this year’s draft due to some perceived holes in his swing and a commitment to Florida State. Milwaukee managed to sway Perry into signing, and he hit the ground running in the AZL. The biggest concern for Perry coming out of the draft was his penchant to swing and miss, but the 20.8% K rate that Perry managed this year in 130 plate appearances is an acceptable rate for someone who slashed .278/400/.426. Tyrone flashed his trademark power by slugging three home runs and seven doubles, but perhaps the most exciting development was his tremendous patience at the plate with a 16.2% walk rate that led the team.
OF Demi Orimoloye
Age: 18 || B/T: R/R
It’s already being said by some that Orimoloye could end up being one of the biggest steals of this year’s draft as a 4th round pick, and it’s easy to see why. The 6’4″ 225 pound behemoth has shown the potential for a true power-speed combo: slugging 6 homers, 9 doubles, and 2 triples while stealing 19 bases in 33 games. Orimoloye led the team with a .518 slugging percentage and a .226 ISO, but reminded us he is still raw in his approach with a 39 K:3 BB ratio in 144 plate appearances. Orimoloye left the team early (with the Brewers’ permission) to play the Canadian junior national team, and he is currently getting excellent experience against advanced competition in Japan.
SS Gilbert Lara
Age: 17 || B/T: R/R
Lara is the Brewers’ record holder for largest international signing bonus at $3.1 mil last season, and was considered to be the one of the top talents in his class when Milwaukee signed him. Lara skipped the DSL altogether, jumping straight into the AZL as a 17 year old. While his line of .248/.285/.332 in 214 plate appearances doesn’t immediately jump off the page at you, the fact that he held his own against pitching that was an average of 3 years older than him is very encouraging. Lara garnered some strong reviews for his work in the field, as well. Milwaukee has continued to aggressively push the young shortstop’s development, and he is now finishing out the season with Helena.
P Bradley Kuntz
Age: 22 || B/T: L/L
Kuntz was passed over in the draft and is 1.7 years older than league average, but I’d be remiss not to mention his dominant campaign in Maryvale. In 27.2 innings covering nine games (one start), he posted a 0.65 ERA, 37 strikeouts, eight walks, and just a 0.83 WHIP. Kuntz allowed zero home runs has gotten a 54% ground ball rate on the year. He was promoted to Helena in the second week of August and has continued to dominate there.
P Gentry Fortuno
Age: 17 || B/T: R/R
The Brewers pick in the 18th round of this year’s draft had an eye-popping debut campaign against a league nearly three years older than him: 13 games (7 starts), 33.1 innings, a 1.89 ERA, 19 strikeouts, and just 4 walks with a 1.14 WHIP. Fortuno doesn’t dominate hitters with his velocity, but uses his advanced command and sinking fastball to induce ground balls at a rate north of 60%. Fortuno will report to fall instructionals later this month, after he finally turns 18.
P Miguel Diaz
Age: 20 || B/T: R/R
Diaz missed the early part of the season with injury, but made his debut in late July and was very successful in his second go-around in the AZL. He appeared in seven games and made five starts, logging 20.1 innings with a 2.21 ERA. He allowed just one home run, struck out 23, and walked only five batters.
P Quintin Torres-Costa
Age: 20 || B/T: L/L
Torres-Costa is making the best early case for the “every pick matters” mantra, as he posted some dominating numbers after being selected in the 35th round of the draft out of Hawaii. In 20.1 innings in Maryvale, Quintin struck out 26 hitters while walking just five, posting a 2.61 ERA and 56% ground ball rate. He was promoted to Helena in mid-August where has gotten hit a little more, but continues to post an elite strikeout-to-walk ratio.