The A's 2013 Arizona Fall League participants will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, along with prospects from the Angels, Cubs, Nationals and Tigers. The A's will be sending seven players to Arizona - four pitchers, a catcher and two infielders.
Ryan Dull, RHP - A 32nd round pick in 2012, Dull gets overlooked because of his size, but it's impossible to overlook his results. Working exclusively as a reliever, a route taken with many short pitchers to help decrease their workload, Dull has stuck out 12.4 batters per nine innings in a year and a half as a professional pitcher, and perhaps even more impressively, walked just 1.7 batters per nine. Having already been drafted as a senior, Dull has moved quickly through the A's system, reaching Double-A Midland this season. He should return there in 2014 but could continue to move quickly as a reliever.
Omar Duran, LHP - Players get sent to the AFL for a number of different reasons, and in some cases, it's as a last chance for the player to prove he's worthy of a 40-man roster spot to protect him from minor league free agency or the Rule V Draft. That's the case with Duran, a 6'3" left-hander out of the Dominican whose strike out totals are as impressive as his walk totals are frightening. Working again as a reliever in High-A Stockton this season, Duran struck out 80 batters in 50 innings but walked 39. The ability is present, but he's running out of chances to prove he can harness it.
Seth Frankoff, RHP - In his first season as a full-time reliever, Frankoff saw the spike in productivity that organizations hope to see from middling starting pitching prospects. Frankoff was average at best in 2012 as a 23-year-old swing man in Low-A ball, which is hardly the profile for a top prospect. This season, however, his strike out numbers spiked to 11.4 batters per nine innings, giving him a chance to make it as a relief prospect. He's still been old for every level and has had an advanced approach compared to his competition, so the AFL will be a good test.
Jeff Urlaub, LHP - A nondescript 26-year-old left-handed reliever who has seen his strike out numbers as he ascends through the minors. Not really a prospect.
David Freitas, C - As a prospect, Freitas can do two important things well - draw a walk and hit for moderate power - that make him intriguing as a catching prospect. The A's thought he was intriguing enough that they traded for him last summer when they sent Kurt Suzuki to the Nationals, who had drafted Freitas in the 15th round in 2010. Freitas has been old for most of his minor league levels, but his patience and pop give him a chance to work into a backup role.
Max Muncy, 1B - Earlier this season, I used Muncy as an example of what was wrong with the California League. Muncy, despite not having shown a ton of power before in his career, was off to a hot start with the bat, and the question seemed obvious just how much of it had to do with the hitter-friendly environments in which he was playing. Sure enough, he was promoted to Double-A around a month later and hit just two home runs in 41 games there. I'm not saying Muncy can't hit, but he'll have to prove he can do it somewhere other than in the California League before I get too excited about him.
Addison Russell, SS - The crown jewel of the A's system, Russell heads to the desert as one of the league's youngest participants this fall. The A's 2012 first round pick is wrapping up his first full professional season with a triple-double in extra base hits (29 doubles, 10 triples, 17 home runs) and an .887 OPS. The jump from the California League to the more advanced pitching of the AFL should be a tough test for Russell and it wouldn't be a shock to see him struggle a little bit, but the experience will help set him up for Double-A next season and a possible fast-track to the majors before his 21st birthday.