The prospect-laden Arizona Fall League opens play on Monday, October 2, with significant Lansing Lugnuts representation. The Mesa Solar Sox, combining minor leaguers from the Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees, will feature 2023 Lugnuts manager Craig Conklin and 2022 Nuts athletic trainer Jake
The prospect-laden Arizona Fall League opens play on Monday, October 2, with significant Lansing Lugnuts representation. The Mesa Solar Sox, combining minor leaguers from the Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees, will feature 2023 Lugnuts manager Craig Conklin and 2022 Nuts athletic trainer Jake Routhier on its coaching staff and former Lugnuts pitchers Stevie Emanuels, Jack Perkins and Jack Weisenburger, and infielders Brett Harris and Max Muncy on its roster.
Emanuels, a starting pitcher with Lansing in 2021 and 2022 after being selected in the fifth round in 2020 in Washington, returned in 2023 as a back-end reliever and posted a 1.44 ERA in 15 games spanning 25 innings before moving up to Double-A Midland for six appearances / 11 1/3 innings. All told, Emanuels struck out 49 while walking 15 in 36 1/3 innings between the two levels.
Perkins, drafted in the fifth round from Indiana in 2022, dominated the Midwest League in 2023 with a 2.52 ERA in 53 2/3 innings, allowing only 34 hits and 18 walks while striking out 49 before moving up to Midland for 12 appearances to conclude the season, finishing with 93 strikeouts in 107 2/3 innings. He is ranked the Athletics' No. 20 prospect by MLB Pipeline.
Native Michigander Weisenburger attended Rockford High School and the University of Michigan and was drafted by the A's in the 20th round in 2019. He arrived in Lansing with a sensation start to 2021, notching four saves while fanning 26 batters and walking just four 15 1/3 innings before a Double-A promotion. In 2022, however, he was shut down after only eight relief appearances, returning to the mound this year for 13 games totaling 16 2/3 innings for the RockHounds. His pitching repertoire resembles Perkins' arsenal, featuring a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a wipeout slider.
Harris, the A's No. 11 prospect and No. 2 third base prospect, was unremarkable offensively in his professional debut after being taken in the seventh round out of Gonzaga, batting .222 for the Lugnuts in 2021. He returned to open 2022 and slashed .304/.415/.578 with seven home runs in 29 games and quickly moved up to Midland, hitting 10 more homers with an .802 OPS in 84 games for the RockHounds while showcasing his stellar defensive ability. Harris began 2023 back in Double-A, slashed .283/.399/.426 with a 40:42 BB:K ratio and earned a call-up to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he batted .271 with four home runs in 36 games. It is likely that Harris will make his MLB debut for Oakland in 2024.
Muncy, the A's No. 8 prospect and No. 2 shortstop prospect (behind only his former high school teammate Jacob Wilson), might well be Oakland's top MiLB breakout player from the past season. The 2021 first-rounder batted .255/.327/.386 with six homers for the Lugnuts in 72 games, and then took his performance to greater heights in Double-A with a .302/.387/.446 slashline in 51 games in Midland, boosted by hitting .356 in August. His performance in Arizona amongst blue-chip talent is sure to be scrutinized, as he seeks to secure his place within The New Oakland.
In addition to the five Oakland Athletics prospects on Mesa, the Surprise Saguaros' roster includes Toronto Blue Jays prospect pitcher Fitz Stadler, the tallest player in Lugnuts history at 6-foot-9. Stadler worked 106 innings for Lansing in 2019, finishing with a 4.92 ERA and 94 strikeouts next to 40 walks. He returned two years later and fanned 52 batters in 35 2/3 innings in Double-A New Hampshire to earn a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo, but then missed all of 2022 due to injury. The former Arizona State Sun Devil returned to action in 2023 and recorded a 4.08 ERA in 28 2/3 innings out of the New Hampshire bullpen, walking 19 and striking out 34. In need of innings, he'll find them in Arizona in October... and perhaps make a case for himself as part of the Blue Jays' future.
For more information on the Arizona Fall League, visit mlb.com/arizona-fall-league.