SF Giants 2021 MiLB Year in Review: Arizona Fall League

Hunter Bishop
Hunter Bishop / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

This is an addition to the series of articles reviewing the minor-league season in the SF Giants system. Today we'll look at the individual performances of players sent to the Arizona Fall League. Previous reviews covered the Dominican Summer League, Arizona Complex League, San Jose Giants, Eugene Emeralds, Richmond Flying Squirrels and Sacramento River Cats.

For nearly 30 years, the Arizona Fall League has been somewhat of a finishing school for many of Major League Baseball's top prospects. Beginning in 1992, MLB clubs have sent a handful of their top Minor League players to Arizona after the end of the MiLB season for additional training and playing time, with and against other teams' promising prospects.

Batters make up most of the top prospects who are assigned to the AFL, but a few top pitching farmhands also spend time in the circuit. According to the AFL website, the 2019 MLB All-Star Game featured 43 different AFL alums, and through 2019 there were 19 MLB MVPs, six Cy Young Award winners and 30 Rookies of the Year who had gone through the league.

The AFL has six teams, each of which fields a roster made up of prospects from five different organizations. Giants attendees annually compete on the Scottsdale Scorpions, which play their games at San Francisco's Spring Training home: Scottsdale Stadium. The other MLB organizations that teamed up on the Scorpions in 2021 were Boston, Cleveland, Minnesota and Tampa Bay.

Marco Luciano headlined the SF Giants contingent in the league

A total of eight Giants minor leaguers went to the AFL in 2021, with a mix of prospect pedigree from top-of-the-line to intriguing relievers. Consensus top prospect Marco Luciano participated, as did fellow MLBPipeline.com Giants top-30 prospects Hunter Bishop, Patrick Bailey, Seth Corry, Will Wilson and Gregory Santos, while R.J. Dabovich and Cole Waites rounded out the crew.

Luciano, the #5 overall prospect in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com, held his own despite his age and lower competition level (most players in the AFL have reached at least Double-A). The 19-year-old shortstop, after a solid performance in the regular season at Low-A San Jose but some struggles with High-A Eugene, batted .253 with a solid .356 OBP. He didn't hit for much power, but his three extra-base hits were all home runs.

The #6 prospect in the system, outfielder Hunter Bishop, only had 45 at-bats in the MiLB regular season and 150 in his pro career after being a 1st-round pick out of Arizona State in 2019, so the AFL was crucial for him to pick up more development time. In 14 games with Scottsdale, Bishop swung the bat well: .262/.373/.381. Almost half (five) of his 11 hits went for doubles, and he knocked in eight runs. Bishop was named to the AFL's "Fall Stars" Game and hit a long home run in the all-star contest.

Catcher Patrick Bailey, the team's 2020 1st-rounder and #8 prospect, was trying to rebound from a rough finish to his regular season in which he hit .185 with two homers in 33 games at Eugene (coming on the heels of a .322 average and seven round trippers in 47 games with San Jose). In the AFL, he might have regained some of his prospect luster: a .292/.375/.417 slash line with three doubles and a home run in 14 games. Bailey earned a spot in the Fall Stars Game, where he grounded into a fielder's choice in his only plate appearance.

The Giants' top pitching prospect (#11) sent to Scottsdale, left-hander Seth Corry, also had success in San Jose but struggled in Eugene. Though he continued to walk too many batters (the primary thorn in his side thus far in his career), Corry had success overall: a 3.09 ERA in 11 2/3 innings pitched over six starts. He struck out 17 and allowed just four hits - none of them leaving the park - but issued 12 free passes.

Shortstop Will Wilson, #15 on the team's prospect list, hit two home runs and three doubles in 67 at-bats, but only 11 total hits meant he batted a paltry .164.

The final top-30 prospect was #24 Gregory Santos, a right-handed relief pitcher. After missing most of the 2021 campaign thanks to an 80-game suspension for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, Santos shook off the rust in the AFL with a 4.15 ERA in 10 games. He allowed three runs in one inning in the Fall Stars Game.

The final two players, relievers Dabovich and Waites, turned in decidedly different performances. Dabovich had a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, striking out 15 and giving up just four hits, but he walked 12 batters. He pitched a scoreless inning in the Fall Stars Game. Waites, who excelled in the regular season, was shelled to the tune of a 16.20 ERA in 10 games. He whiffed 11 in 8 1/3 innings, but nine hits and eight walks contributed to 15 runs scoring against him.