The 2011 AFL season has ended. Many were predicting that defending champion Scottsdale would appear in the final with an outfield of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. It turns out the two superior teams were the new Salt River Rafters and the Surprise Saguaros. They happened to be scheduled for the last game of the AFL season and Surprise ambushed Salt River 12-2. Don’t expect that to be a harbringer for the results of Saturday’s final.
You can review some detailed notes on the AFL here: http://www.mlb.com/documents/2011/11/16/25984038/1/11.16.11_Notes.pdf
Salt River Rafters (22-16)
They won the East by four and a half games. Their MVP was Nolan Arenado who hit .388 with six homeruns and 33 RBIs. The batting average was third in the AFL and the RBI total was second. His 12 doubles led all players. Adam Eaton was the igniter of the offense, hitting .344. His 31 runs scored led the AFL, but his 29 strikeouts need to be reduced if he wants to continue batting leadoff.
Their top pitchers came out of the bullpen. Josh Wall led the team in saves with four. He was 2-0, 2.16 in eight bullpen appearances. One behind him with three saves was Kevin Munson. He was 1-1, 1.32 with an impressive 3/16 walk to whiff ratio in 13 plus innings. Casey Crosby only had one save, but he equaled Munson’s 1.32 ERA. He was a bit on the wild side with a 10/13 walk to whiff ratio in 13 plus innings. Stephen Fife had a nightmarish season, going 1-6 with an 8.06 ERA in eight starts. The opposition hit .363 off the Dodger prospect.
Mesa Solar Sox (17-20)
Robbie Grossman was a beast from the leadoff spot, hitting .375 with seven homeruns. His 1.097 OPS was fourth in the AFL. He also walked 20 times to his 18 whiffs, the 20 walks tying him for the AFL lead. The one down side to the Pirate prospect is that he was only 6 for 12 in stolen base successes, a flip of the coin success rate. The Cubs have to hope that the Josh Vitters (.360, 4, 17) is the player they were hoping for when they made him their first round pick in 2007. He did hit as many homeruns in his first game in the AFL as he did the rest of the season, but his average stayed above .300. Junior Lake was a perfect 18 for 18 in stolen bases. He also hit .296 and played a pretty good shortstop, giving the Cubs something to think about with Starlin Castro already cemented at the position. Joe Mahoney put himself back on the prospect map with his .325, 4, 22 season. He did committ more errors in his first game (4) than he made the rest of the season (3).
Terry Doyle (4-0, 1.98) may have been the best pitcher results wise in the AFL. Among starters only Danny Hultzen had a better ERA, but Doyle had a much better hits to innings pitched ratio and a better walk to whiff ratio (5/22). Even though Steve Johnson did not get a decision, his 2.96 ERA was in the top ten of the AFL and was third among all starters. Except for his all star appearance, the Pirates 2011 number one pick Gerrit Cole was successful in his five starts, fashioning a 2-0, 3.00 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 15 innings of work. The biggest disappointment on the mound had to be the Cubs Andrew Cashner and his 12.45 ERA in 12 relief appearances.
Scottsdale Scorpions (14-22)
It was a difficult year for the defending champions. Bryce Harper got off to a slow start, but he ended up being their best hitter with a .333, 6, 26 numbers. His six homeruns were tied with many for third in the league and his 26 RBIs were third. Mike Trout never got on track, only hitting .245 with one homerun and five RBIs. He will probably see AAA time to begin the 2012 season based on this performance, just after his struggling numbers in the major leagues this past year. A little more seasoning would do him good. 2011 number one pick Joe Panik was second on the team in hitting with his .323 average and he played a consistent shortstop, committing only one error.
Last year’s winning pitcher in the AFL championship game Sammy Solis found himself with a 1-1, 4.50 ERA pitching a full season in the AFL. He had some command issues, walking 16 in just 26 innings of work, but also fanning 25. Matt Purke did not give up a run in his last four one inning appearances. His 13.50 ERA are the result of the 11 runs he gave up in his first three appearances.
Surprise Saguaros (26-10)
No team in the history of the AFL has had a better winning percentage than the Saguaros. They won the West by more than nine games. The MVP of the team and the league had to be the Rangers 2010 number one pick Mike Olt. He was one short of the AFL homerun (14) and RBI (43) records. He ended up hitting a pretty decent .349. The only down side was that his 36 strikeouts were third in the AFL. The 2010 number one pick by the Rangers had four multi homer games, equaling the number of other players who had a multi homer game. He also had three games of five RBIs or more. No other AFL player had more than one five plus RBI game. It wasn’t just all about Mike, as Leury Garcia (.361), Wil Myers (.360) and Kevin Mattison (.349) all had pretty good offensive years. The 29 runs scored by Kevin were second in the AFL and the 20 walks by Wil were tied for the AFL lead. Mike Mahtook (.338, 3,14) was the Rays 2011 number one pick that handled himself well in the AFL.
Miguel de los Santos (5-0, 3.26) led the AFL in wins and strikeouts (40) in just 30 innings of work. Miguel mixed in six starts with his three relief appearances. Sean Gilmartin (2-1, 4.34) was another number one 2011 pick that saw a lot of action in the AFL. The Braves top pick did give up five dingers in 29 innings of work.
Peoria Javelinas (16-19)
Jedd Gyorko led all AFL hitters with his .437 average. He also hit five homeruns and drove in 22 runs. His .704 slugging percentage was second in the league and his 1.204 OPS was tops. There were only two players who hit over .400 that qualified for the batting title. Teammate Scooter Gennett and his .411 average was second in the AFL. He was the Javelinas leadoff hitter, but still slugged .556 to give himself a 1.026 OPS, ninth in the AFL. Ryan Jackson played a pretty steady shortstop, but also contributed offensively with his .342 average. He outplayed winter league teammate Nick Franklin (.258, 2, 14).
Forrest Snow won the ERA title with his 1.10 ERA in 10 appearances, one of them a start. He did give up six unearned runs, but his hits to innings pitched (10/16) and walks to whiffs (3/16) were still impressive. The Mariners 2011 number one pick Danny Hultzen (1-0, 1.40) spun the best ERA of all AFL starters. After that performance the Mariners may give him an opportunity to make their starting rotation out of spring training. Jeff Bradley (1-0, 6.48) may have been the most disappointing 2011 number one pick. At least he did better than future Brewers teammate Cody Scarpetta (0-3, 19.64). The high ERA was the result of two starts when he gave up seven runs in each game but combined to only retire one hitter.
Phoenix Desert Dogs (14-22)
Despite their poor record they did have some players to brag about. Michael Choice slugged six homeruns while playing in only 17 games. He hit .318 while driving in 18 runs. Anthony Gose led the league in whiffs with 41 batting from the leadoff spot. He only hit .250 with a .348 OBA that allowed him to steal seven bases in nine attempts. Grant Green showed some power hitting five homeruns and increased his repertoire by playing the outfield. He only hit .290.
T.J. McFarland was their most effective starter (3-0, 3.18). The opposition was able to hit him at a .280 clip, especially lefthanders, who hit the lefthanded pitcher for a .371 average. Brad Boxberger got off to a tremendous start, striking out his first seven outs. He got banged around his last appearance for four runs in one inning of work to lift his ERA to 5.40. Anthony Capra had 17 walks in just nine plus innings of work, resulting in a 21.21 ERA in 11 appearances.