We cannot ignore the annual gathering of young players that takes place every fall in Arizona. A lot of the guys who play here may never wear a major league uniform, but others will launch themselves on a fast track to the big show with one good season. For example, how many of us had ever heard of Starlin Castro before he hit everything that moved in the AFL last year? Unless you read the Baseball Prospectus or live in a Cubs Single A city, I would guess very few. All that changed with a few weeks in the fall. Starlin Castro went from little known shortstop to The Biggest Story heading into spring training. That’s the AFL. Love it or hate it, you just can’t ignore it.
Unfortunately, it can be tough to get a useful read on how players are performing in the AFL. While there are a few reporters covering the league, they tend to be more concerned with Bryce Harper than Ryan Flaherty. Stats from the league are readily available but can be tough to read. A starting pitcher might have two starts and only six innings pitched, but that does not mean he got rocked in both his starts. On the other hand, you might find a batter who has an average of .500 but only two at bats. Stats just won’t tell the whole story.
What we can find, I hope, are trends that will bear continued scrutiny into the spring and the start of the new baseball season. I can’t promise that we’ll find the next Castro buried in the AFL numbers, but I am sure we can learn something about some players who could have an impact on the Cubs in the near future.
The Cubs have seven players in the AFL this year. Two infielders: Ryan Flaherty and Josh Vitters, one outfielder: Brett Jackson, and four pitchers: Chris Carpenter, David Cales, Jake Muyco, and Kyle Smit. Over the next few weeks I’ll take a look at each of these players in depth. I’ll look at their careers so far, what they need accomplish in Arizona, and what we can learn from the numbers they have posted so far. So check back on Wednesday, when we kick things off with a look at Ryan Flaherty.