As major league baseball is winding down (or up, depending on how you look at it), fall baseball is just getting started! The Arizona Fall League (AFL)—where teams send their best young prospects to further develop their skills—officially got underway this past Tuesday. The AFL schedule runs from now until about mid-November, and includes a league All-Star Game on November 5th and a league Championship Game on November 19th.
The Twins have seven prospects participating in the AFL this year: four pitchers and three position players. They will be playing for the Surprise Saguaros, along with prospects from the Red Sox, Royals, Pirates, and Rangers.
Here are this year’s participants, their 2016 stats, and what we can hope to see them accomplish.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
Since the Byron Buxtons and Miguel Sanos of the world are now in the majors, Gonsalves is basically considered the Twins’ top minor league prospect. He had a stellar 2016 season, which he spent almost equally split between the High-A Ft. Myers Miracle and the AA Chattanooga Lookouts. He was named the left handed starting pitching prospect of the year by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline.
Hence, Gonsalves goal is pretty clear: To solidify and build of his status as a stop starting pitching prospect. If he pans out like everyone hopes, it could be great news for the pitching-starved Twins.
John Curtiss, RHP
Curtiss, whose full name is John Pickens Curtiss (yes with two s’s, and that’s a hell of a name), battled injuries before even joining the Twins organization. While pitching in college, Curtiss missed a year after having Tommy John’s Surgery and a rib removed in what I guess we can call Phil Hughes’s Surgery. He was also out for much of last year dealing with a concussion.
When Curtiss was pitching in college, he was a reliever, and he pitched entirely out of the bullpen for the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Ft. Myers Miracle during 2016. Twins scouts, however, were and are hopeful that Curtiss can become a starter, which he was for the Twins organization in 2014 and 2015.
Curtiss may use his time in the 2016 AFL to show that he is healthy and where he will eventually belong if he does indeed make it to the majors—in the rotation, or in the bullpen.
If he never makes it to the majors, Curtiss has a backup plan: He is apparently also a prolific and entertaining song writer.
Mason Melotakis, LHP
Melotakis missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John’s Surgery, but still entered 2016 ranked as the Twins’ 26th top prospect, according to MLB.com. Despite a slow start, Mason had a strong year pitching for the Chattanooga Lookouts.
His goal for the AFL is to continue to progress after coming back from Tommy John’s and show that he can become a consistent late-inning arm out of the pen.
Randy Rosario, LHP
Rosario missed most of the 2014 season and part of the 2015 season with Tommy John’s, but was able to hit as high as 97 mph with his fastball soon after his return. Despite some ups and downs in 2016 while pitching for the Ft. Myers Miracle and briefly for the Chattanooga Lookouts, Rosario showed real flashes of greatnes.
Rosario’s goal for the AFL is just to continue his improvement and find more consistency. He has exciting enough stuff to make big leagues in the system if he can get it under control.
Mitch Garver, C/1B
This will be Mitch’s second tour of duty in the AFL, as he also participated last year (and did quite well). He had a fantastic 2016 season (not including when his ceiling fell on him) between the AA Chattanooga Lookouts and the AAA Rochester Red Wings.
So we pretty much know Garver has a good bat. What he really needs to show now is that his defense behind the plate it good enough to make him a viable major league option. If he can show that, there’s a good chance he could see time in the majors in 2017.
Nick Gordon, SS
Nick Gordon, of course, is the younger brother of Dee Gordon and was the Twins’ first round draft pick in the 2014 draft. He got off to a fast start playing for the Ft. Myers Miracle in 2016, and had a pretty solid year.
In the AFL, Gordon just needs to show further consistency and improvement. Seeing how well he handles shortstop defensively is also important to see if he could one day handle the position in the big leagues or if he would be a more viable second base option.
Tanner English, OF
Tanner is a speedy outfielder who spent most of 2016 with the Ft. Myers Miracle, but also played five games with the Rochester Red Wings. He was kinda “eh” at the plate this year, but that’s ok. Tanner’s real claim to fame is being a great defender.
Hence, his goal for the AFL is pretty simple: Let’s show some improvement and competency with the bat.
What do you hope to see in in the 2016 AFL, if anything?