I’m thinking of the Yankees pearls that have emerged from the AFL – Aaron Judge and Greg Bird two years ago (Bird will be back in the AFL having lost all of last season to injury), and Gary Sanchez last year – looking like bona fide major league ballplayers already. And then I look at the Phillies representatives on the Scorpions this year and they are, shall we say, underwhelming at first glance.
Perusing the position players, a red pinstripe flag is that the Phils are sending Aaron Brown for a second consecutive season. Being in the AFL the first time around is a feather in one’s cap; being there a second time without the need to obtain more playing time due to injury is usually not a good sign – particularly at age 24. Brown struggled considerably in AA this year, putting up a slash line of .225/.689 on a very good Fightin’ Phils team. I would have much rather seen Brown’s oft-injured teammate Roman Quinn do another stint in the AFL. Or the ballyhooed catching prospect Jorge Alfaro and either of the homer happy Bash Brothers, Dylan Cozens or Rhys Hoskins. Instead we have Brown joined by 3B Mitch Walding, a 5th round pick from 2011 who seems to have been promoted to the Fightins by default, and light-hitting 2B Scott Kingery who appears to be this year’s version of Drew Stankiewicz. Rounding out this year’s crew are pitchers Victor Arano, Miguel Nunez and Brandon Leibrandt.
If there’s any silver lining in not expecting much from the Phils’ representatives to the Scottsdale Scorpions, it’s the opportunity to skip a few games and take a look at the Cubs’ #1 pick from last year, and the 24th overall MiLB prospect, Ian Happ. After getting off to a very hot start for the AA Smokies, Ian has cooled to a .262/.727, but will be in the AFL just as much to further develop his defensive versatility as he will be to prove that his bat can translate to the next level. Loving the human interest side of the game, having a connection to his Aunt Pam increases the pleasure of watching him take on these challenges.