When the Arizona Fall League rosters were announced, the Scottsdale Scorpions looked like a “who’s who” of much ballyhooed young stars. From the immortal Bryce Harper to demigod Mike Trout and somewhat experienced big leaguers like Hank Conger and Brandon Crawford, the Scorpions looked like can’t miss AFL action.
Turns out the games, for what their outcomes are worth, are very much worth missing. The Scottsdale Dream Team sits with the worst record in the AFL and its marquee attractions, outside Harper, just aren’t delivering.
Hardball Talk outlined the exceptional level at which Harper is currently playing but his teammates aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. AFL stats come complete with gigantic, industrial-sized drums of salt due to the tiny sample sizes and considerable park effects at play.
Poor Mike Trout is currently sitting towards the bottom of the entire league in hitting, posting a .672 OPS in 71 plate appearances. Trout has just five extra-base hits and, most tellingly, only three steals in his AFL stint.
The easiest, and most obvious, conclusion is Trout is tired. Dead tired, at the very least physically. After a full season which started at Double-A and finished at the big leagues, the 19-year old is back out there, attempting to leg out infield singles and covering space in the outfield.
One half of the killer twitter/tumblr baseball catch-all Productive Outs Ian Miller (also of the very awesome Kowloon Walled City) attended some AFL games last week. When I asked him about what he saw in Mike Trout and his relative energy level, he offered this take:
Not so much tired, just that he was doggin’ it down the line on ground balls. I speculated that maybe he was run down but then, later in that same game, he legged out a double that barely went beyond the 1B bag.
Mental fatigue makes a lot of sense after the kind of whirlwind year Trout’s been through. That is pretty much all it takes to make a 70 plate appearance sample look worrisome. Similar thinking applies to all struggling AFL pros young and old. A nice showcase and a good time for the hardcore baseball nerd but nobody’s career is made or broken while suiting up for the Surprise Saguaros or the Mesa Solar Sox.