The Oakland Athletics are focused on a rebuild as they plan out a location for their new stadium. At the conclusion of the Arizona Fall League, A’s fans can smile at the fact that two prospects made the All-AFL team.
The Mesa Solar Sox fell short of the AFL title, losing 8-2 in the championship game versus the Peoria Javelinas. The Solar Sox did earn a victory by placing two players on the All-AFL team, however. Both of those players are prospects for the Oakland Athletics.
The Mesa Solar Sox are the affiliate for the Oakland A’s for the Arizona Fall League. The Washington Nationals also send players down to Arizona to play for the Solar Sox. Washington traded Neuse in July, netting the Nationals relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
As fate would have it, Neuse exploded in front of the team that shipped him away just a few months earlier. The Nationals failed to have a player finish on the All-AFL team (although Victor Robles was a runner-up).
Despite being listed as a third baseman, Neuse played DH for the majority of his tenure in Arizona. He led the league with 23 RBIs and seven doubles, also coming in second in runs scored (20) and total bases (49). To further add to his dominance this fall, he smashed seven home runs, tied for third in the AFL.
Regardless of his offensive performance, Neuse did not start four games at DH. Rather, he played shortstop.
Although this may seem insignificant, the fact that Neuse was solid at the position foreshadows what may happen once Neuse reaches the show. Matt Chapman broke our defensively last season and had all but claimed his spot was manning the hot corner.
Chapman presents a large blockade for Neuse’s path to the majors. The DH slot is now occupied by slugger and poor defenseman Khris Davis. Fortunately for Neuse, experience at shortstop may provide him with the tools needed to solidify himself as a starter in the A’s future plans.
The Athletics 14th ranked prospect played shortstop at Oklahoma. Familiarity with the position is what Neuse needs to ensure success, as current starter Marcus Semien could become expendable as he approaches arbitration this offseason.
Neuse powered his way through the Arizona Fall League, as Oakland Athletics fans hope he can do the same as he rises the pipeline.
While Sheldon Neuse shined at the plate, Sean Murphy showed his worth behind it. Listed as one of the breakout players of the AFL, Murphy showcased his sharp defensive skills across the league schedule.
Murphy, ranked the 11th best prospect in the A’s organization and the 10th best catching prospect, displayed his arm strength throughout the season. Although his offensive statistics were not flashy, Murphy threw out 11 of 18 potential base stealers. With a 70-grade arm, it’s not hard to see how Murphy can achieve such a high success rate.
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Furthermore, one look at his game tape shows Murphy blocking nearly every ball in the dirt that came his way.
Looking at the current setup of the major league roster, Murphy decided to shine at the right time. Bruce Maxwell is slotted to start next season, but things can change between now and March.
His domestic violence charges are still outstanding. His anthem protests may shy some fans away from supporting him. A .237 batting average in 2017 doesn’t help Maxwell’s case to start either,
The other catcher blocking Murphy’s path is Josh Phegley, who has failed to impress in the majors. To keep things short, he barely hit over .200 in 2017 and was supplanted by Maxwell as the everyday starter mid-season.
The Oakland Athletics had two players truly showcase their talent in Arizona. Others, such as Logan Shore, displayed glimpses of future success. Although all of these prospects need refinement, the A’s look to be well prepared for the future.