The Arizona Fall League wrapped up last week. The pitching the White Sox sent, as is usual, was rather pedestrian. Most notable was LHP Charlie Leesman, who was getting extra work in the AFL because his season didn't start until late May and he only threw 103.2 innings between Charlotte and Chicago. Leesman added another 10.1 IP, giving up 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6, which should serve as a good springboard into the competition for lefty relievers in spring training.
RHP Chris Bassitt was less impressive. While the righty got the nod for the AFL's all-star game, he was pretty erratic and the two appearances I saw were nothing interesting. Final line: 10 IP, 8 H, 8 BB, 9 K, 1 HBP. He threw 161.2 inning between Winston-Salem and Birmingham during the regular season and playoffs - a rather massive innings jump from the 100ish in 2012 - and that doesn't include any instructional league. The 2011 16th round pick maintained his velocity into the fall but the increased workload may have finally shown itself in the AFL.
RHP Kevin Vance: 12.2 IP, 9 H, 6 BB, 13 K, 2 HBP. Tough to see a righty who sits 89-90 MPH with his four-seam amounting to much.
RHP Stephen McCray: 21 IP, 19 H, 10 BB, 9 K, 2 WP. If Brooks Baseball's pitch classifications are to be believed, he threw his four-seam about 75% of the time; some of those were probably cutters but it doesn't really matter. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, he's not a prospect.
The hitting was more interesting, if only because OF Jared Mitchell decided to at least pretend like he is a prospect. In 2010, he hit .163/.239/.200 in the AFL, so he had a pretty low bar to clear in "repeating the level". And he also was awful between Charlotte and Birmingham this season, so "pulse" this time around in the AFL would have been a win for Mitchell. Instead the lefty decided to go for the gusto, putting up a .304/.425/.580 line. His five home runs in 87 plate appearances was one shy of the six he hit in 380 MiLB PA. He added six stolen bases in eight attempts.
I'm sure all of this buoyed his long-time supporter Buddy Bell and we'll certainly be hearing about Mitchell's sure break-out season once again in 2014. His 19.5% strikeout rate was his most notable AFL achievement, since his percentage in the high minors has been well north of 30%. Trackman data also showed that he was making some hard contact, at a 44% clip. Regardless, I don't think these 87 PA are going to change anyone's opinion. If you thought he still had a chance, you'll see this as confirmation of that. If you had written him off, you'll see this as an aberration. I've been in the latter camp for awhile and this doesn't change my opinion as he still looked pretty poor against guys with legit major league stuff. But, for the first time since 2009 in Kannapolis, he's got something positive to build upon and maybe that will count for something.
The decision to send INF Marcus Semien was...interesting, as it is unusual to see a September call-up there, unless the player was like Leesman and missed significant regular season time. The concern, of course, is fatigue and that may have played a role in his Mitchell-esque .156/.258/.273 performance in 89 PA. He was unlucky on some of the contact he made but he also didn't help himself with too-frequent weak contact. Like Mitchell, I wouldn't read a great deal into it. If fatigue after a long season was the issue, hopefully he'll recover in time for spring training and won't show the ill-effects Carlos Sanchez did after a similarly long season in 2012. He did show good defense.
OF Brandon Jacobs was initially on the taxi squad but was moved to the full-time active roster a couple weeks into the season. He acquitted himself well with a .256/.373/.512 in 51 PA. Acquired in the Matt Thornton trade, it's easy to understand why the White Sox took a shot on him because he is a tool shed. But there's too much swing-and-miss in his game to see him making any major league impact.
INF Micah Johnson only made a cameo appearance before elbow surgery cut short his AFL season. But his .320/.379/.520 in 29 PA with 3 for 4 in steals isn't going to dampen anyone's enthusiasm for his future. I'm still not convinced that he'll produce enough at the higher levels to put his speed to work (not to mention the open question regarding his defensive home) but I'm certainly in a dwindling minority on that.