The prestigious Arizona Fall League is something of a finishing school for future big leaguers, with each team comprised of top prospects from five different organizations. If you haven't been there, it's a Bucket Lister for the die-hard baseball fan; an antidote to the increasingly crowded and expensive spring training experience. In fact, the AFL is exactly what spring training used to be: an opportunity for fans to get up close and personal with not just players but the game itself. Rare is the AFL game, each of them played in one of the desert's many spring training venues, that gets more than a couple hundred fans.
A detailed history of the league shows that matriculation from the AFL to the Majors is the rule rather than the exception, so when your team sends one of its youngsters to the Valley of the Sun, you can be sure thathis progress is worth tracking. Henceforth is a look at the budding stars who represent the Giants in the AFL, which runs through mid-November.
With a roster also populated by prospects from the Angels, Phillies, Red Sox and Nationals, the Scorpions have an impressive following among transplants from around the country, and they have the most hyped player in league history in Washington phenom Bryce Harper. Giants prospects have the benefit of comfort in that the Scorpions' home games are played at Scottsdale Stadium, San Francisco's spring training home. The three biggest names among Giants prospects in the AFL are clear: shortstop Brandon Crawford, who spent considerable time in The Show as a rookie this season; Gary Brown, a center fielder who spent the year at Single-A San Jose and earned a trip to the All-Star Futures Game; and Joe Panik, a 20-year-old shortstop drafted in the first round out of St. John's University this summer. Crawford, who has a terrific glove but has quite a bit to prove offensively, is off to a hot start in Arizona, batting .360 through six games for the Scorpions (as of Wednesday). Brown, expected to man center field for the Giants as early as 2013, was the California League player of the year but hasn't been as impressive early in the AFL, batting .229 through eight games. Panik, who batted .341 in 69 games for short-season Single-A Salem Keizer after signing this summer, had six hits in his first 30 at-bats for a .200 batting average for the Scorps. The rest of the Giants prospects playing for the Scorpions are pitchers.
-- Seth Rosin, a 22-year-old righty reliever, went 2-3 with a 3.34 ERA in 39 games at Single-A Augusta in 2011 and has a 3.00 ERA in three games for Scottsdale in the AFL. He was a fourth-round pick in 2010.
-- Austin Fleet, a 24-year-old righty, went 9-5 with a 3.87 ERA in 32 games, including six starts, at three minor-league levels in 2011. He was drafted in the 16th round in 2010 and is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four AFL appearances.
-- Daryl Maday, a 26-year-old righty starter, was a 30th-rounder in 2006 who went 4-12 with a 4.75 ERA while splitting time this season at Triple-A Fresno and Double-A Richmond. He is 1-1 with a 5.14 in two starts in the AFL.
-- Stephen Harrold, a 22-year-old righty reliever, went 5-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 57 games at San Jose (38 games) and Richmond this season. A 12th-round pick in 2010, he is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in five AFL outings.
Through Tuesday, the Scorpions were 4-8 on the year, 5 12 games behind the AFL East-leading Salt River Rafters, which features prospects from the Tigers, Astros, Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks.