The Arizona Fall League season has come to a close and several Giants enjoyed standout campaigns. Top prospect Gary Brown was among the team leaders in batting average while Heath Hembree excelled out of the bullpen as both players look forward to possible big league debuts in 2013. Meanwhile, Chris Gloor capped a breakout year with a solid performance in the Scottsdale starting rotation.
Among the nine Giants that participated in the Arizona Fall League this season, Brown was unquestionably the headline name. The speedy center fielder finished with an AFL batting average of .313 over 64 at-bats to go with a pair of doubles, one triple and five RBI's. Brown ended the year on a high note knocking out 11 hits over his last 29 at-bats (.379 AVG) spanning the last seven games. Perhaps the only negative to Brown's fall league season was a pedestrian 2-for-5 in stolen base attempts. His batting average was good for third-best on the Scottsdale club.
Still regarded as the top position player prospect in the organization, Brown almost certainly will begin the 2013 season with Triple-A Fresno. He'll garner plenty of attention during big league camp next spring where an impressive effort could go a long way towards making an appearance in San Francisco at some point during the upcoming year.
Hembree is in a similar situation as the top relief pitcher prospect in the Giants farm system. Like Brown, he put together an excellent fall league effort as the right-hander struck out 12 batters with three runs allowed and three walks over nine innings (3.00 ERA). Hembree was a perfect 2-for-2 in save opportunities while limiting the opposition to a .229 batting average.
Hembree will also be under the microscope next spring as he looks to position himself for a big league call-up in 2013. It remains to be seen whether he could be given an opportunity to make the team out of camp or if more seasoning in Triple-A will be required.
Gloor put himself on the prospect map during the 2012 season when the left-hander emerged as one of the top starting pitchers for Double-A Richmond (after appearing in just three games with San Jose during an injury-filled 2011). He continued his fine year in the Arizona Fall League posting a 2.70 ERA and a 2-2 record in seven starts. Gloor's 30 innings led the entire league while the southpaw allowed one or no runs in five out of his seven starts. He also owned a solid 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (11 BB's, 22 SO's).
Gloor doesn't feature an overpowering fastball, but he's now proven he can get people out at both the Double-A level and now in the high-profile fall league. He may get his first taste of Triple-A when the 2013 season begins.
The only Giants player in the AFL this year with previous big league experience was reliever Dan Runzler. Over 10 appearances out of the Scorpions bullpen this fall, Runzler worked eight innings with three runs allowed (3.38 ERA). He struck out 11 batters, but also walked seven. Runzler held the opposition to a .222 batting average and there's no question the hard-throwing lefty has swing-through stuff, but achieving better control is vital if he's to make any kind of impact in the San Francisco bullpen next year.
Three players from San Jose's 2012 squad saw Arizona Fall League action this year in shortstop Joe Panik, first baseman Ricky Oropesa and pitcher Ryan Bradley. Panik struggled with his batting average in the AFL as the former first round draft pick hit just .205 in 78 at-bats. He also contributed one triple, one home run, eight RBI's and four stolen bases. And while Panik's batting average may not have been particularly impressive, he did walk (10) more than he struck out (7) during the fall league season. In fact, Panik was the third-toughest player in the entire Arizona Fall League to strikeout (one every 12.6 at-bats).
Panik also started slow in the California League last spring before gaining steam throughout the second half to finish with a .297 batting average and 76 RBI's. Despite the low batting average (in granted, a limited sample size), the experience of facing top prospect pitching should prove valuable to Panik as he ascends to the upper levels of the minor leagues next year.
Oropesa didn't receive nearly as much playing time as Panik (only 47 at-bats), but posted a slightly higher final batting average of .234. Oropesa also clubbed two home runs after connecting for 16 round-trippers with San Jose. His 11 walks in just 15 games led to a high .373 on-base percentage, but Oropesa also struck out 16 times. If he receives a promotion to Richmond to start 2013, making more consistent contact at the plate will be critical for his future success. However, for a player that has yet to see any action above the Class A Advanced level, like with Panik, the Arizona Fall League experience should prove worthwhile.
Bradley was a late-season roster fill-in and made two relief appearances for the Scorpions. A 10-game winner with San Jose this year, Bradley surrendered two runs with two walks and two strikeouts during his brief action.
Outfielder Chris Dominguez and relief pitcher Jacob Dunnington - two players from San Jose's 2011 team - rounded out the Giants prospects in the Arizona Fall League this year. Dominguez only garnered 41 at-bats, but produced a .317 batting average with two doubles, a team-high tying three home runs and eight RBI's. Dominguez possesses some of the best raw power in the system, but will have to show he can make better contact and produce a higher batting average next season in Fresno to receive consideration for a call-up. While the average and power numbers were impressive this fall, Dominguez did strikeout a whopping 17 times while drawing just two walks.
Dunnington was roughed up in a couple of late outings to inflate his final ERA to 6.75 over 9 1/3 innings. He fanned 14 batters to produce the highest strikeout rate of any Giants pitcher in the Arizona Fall League this season. Opponents hit .333 against Dunnington, but at only 21 years of age and with some Double-A experience already under his belt, the future looks bright for this young right-hander. He may return to the Richmond bullpen to start next season.
The Scottsdale Scorpions finished the year with a 15-16-1 record and in second place in the three-team East Division (2 1/2 games out of first).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.