Cleveland prospects getting a little extra time in the sun in the desert of Arizona saw their offseason activity come to a close last Thursday with the completion of the Arizona Fall League regular season schedule.
Tribe players teamed with those from the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates to form the Glendale Desert Dogs roster. Glendale finished with a winning record at 16-14, but landed two games in back of the Peoria Javelinas (18-12) for the top mark in the AFL West Division.
Peoria defeated the Mesa Solar Sox in the AFL Championship game last Saturday.
The Indians had eight players – four position and four pitchers – participating in the annual league. Two of those players ended the season on MLBPipeline.com’s Top 25 Prospects list.
Francisco Mejia, who was ranked third on MLBPipeline.com’s list, has been consistently considered one of Cleveland’s top organizational prospects. He headed to the desert to hone his craft at third base (making two errors at his new position), but kept up the strong play with the bat as he slashed .365/.397/.476 over 15 games. His average was second-best on the team and he led Indians players on the roster with 23 hits, eight RBI, and two homers. He also struck out just six times, two and a half fewer than his next closest Indians teammate and the fewest of all Desert Dogs hitters.
He was the only Indians position player to make the AFL Fall Stars Game lineup. His work at third base was the focus of his participation, as the Indians look to find a way to keep Mejia on the big league roster in 2018 despite a logjam of catchers in front of him.
Bobby Bradley, the Indians’ top first base prospect who spent the season at Double-A Akron, struggled in the fall league. He hit just .230 and struck out 32 times, a dozen more than his next closest teammate. He had 17 hits (two doubles, one triple, two homers) in 74 at bats over 18 games, but drove in just six runs while committing three errors in the field. Bradley was ranked 21st on MLB Pipeline’s list, due in large part to his power display.
The Indians also had second baseman Tyler Krieger and outfielder Ka’ai Tom on the Glendale roster. Krieger slumped at the plate, hitting .175 in 17 games with ten hits, but six of those hits fell in for doubles. Tom batted .275 in October and November play, but boasted a .420 on-base percentage as a result of his team-leading ten walks, a mark matched by Los Angeles Dodgers catching prospect Will Smith.
Angulo worked in eight innings over a span of nine games. Command was an issue for the young right-handed reliever, who walked ten batters and struck out eight in his offseason work. He finished the regular season with an 0-1 record with a 9.00 ERA and a 2.63 WHIP. He was selected as one of the pitchers for the AFL West Division roster.
Eubank did not earn a decision in ten outings for the Desert Dogs. He worked in nine and one-third innings, allowing six runs on 12 hits with three walks and nine strikeouts. He posted 5.79 ERA and a 1.61 whip at season’s end.
The left-handed starter Brady had the most success of the four Tribe hurlers on the Glendale roster. He made six starts and amassed 22 2/3 innings in the process. He went 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in those contests, giving up ten runs (seven earned) on 22 hits. His 16 strikeouts were the most by an Indians pitcher in the AFL and ranked second on the Glendale staff.
Linares had mixed results in his seven relief appearances for the Desert Dogs, ending the year with a 6.43 ERA and a 2.14 WHIP while allowing opposing hitters to bat .364. He allowed ten runs (five earned) in seven innings, walking three but striking out just two in his seven outings.
None of the Indians’ representatives were named to the All-AFL team.
The players will finally get a baseball break, enjoying the next few months before baseball resumes in Arizona and Florida as teams begin to gather in February for spring training.