Does Success in the Arizona Fall League lead to Major League opportunities in the following season?

Aspiring major leaguers are showing their wares in the desert this fall, including many an Astro: Koby Clemens, Jay Austin, J.B. Shuck, David Carpenter, Kyle Greenwalt, Matt Nevarez, Pat Urckfitz, Jay Austin and Brandon Barnes. It's not as if we can really take away all that much from the AFL as a result of the small sample sizes that players accumulate. It's still a good showcase though for players who have aspirations to make it to The Show in the near future.

Our Astro representatives comprise an interesting mix in their own right. For Clemens, it is a chance to continue his terrific play after a powerful 2010 season for Corpus Christi. J.B. Shuck made the leap to AAA and the outfielder performed much as he had in prior seasons- he got on base and hit for no power. His future may well be as a fourth or fifth outfielder down the line, so as important as his offense, Astro brass are probably looking at his defense to help determine Shuck's career path with the Astros.

On the pitching side, David Carpenter is the 25 year old pitcher the Astros got in return for Pedro Feliz who is transitioning to life on the mound. At least one source isn't all that keen on Carpenter's chances at major league success, but again, he's a live human being and it's debatable whether or not Pedro Feliz was that last year. It very well could have been a Weekend at Bernies' situation for Feliz in 2010, judging by his play.

So will a solid fall lead to big league success the following year? Well, not necessarily. A look back to the top performers from 2009 in Arizona shows very few guys parlayed their desert hotness into a spring time break with their major league parent club. Offensively, the likes of Jose Tabata (PIT), Ike Davis (NYM), Starlin Castro (CHC), and Mitch Moreland (TEX) contributed in the majors in 2010 after pretty solid Arizona Fall League stints. Buster Posey didn't let a poor showing in 71 AB (.683 OPS) keep him from dominating NL pitchers in his rookie season.

On the pitching side of things, no pitcher threw more than 29.2 innings with Wilton Lopez leading the way for Astro farmhands with 19.1 innings. He's also the best example of an Astro player doing well in both the AFL and the majors in successive campaigns. Around the bigs, Drew Storen, Mike Leake and somebody named Stephen Strasburg put up impressive lines before making the club out of Spring Training. All three were former college pitchers, which coupled with a lot of talent helped their chances a great deal.

As it stands now, I don't get the impression that any of the Astro representatives have even an outside chance of pulling down a roster spot next season. Perhaps Clemens or Shuck at some point in the season could surprise and grab some big league time, as could Matt Nevarez. Realistically this is just an excuse to check box scores before the long, long winter of no baseball. So get excited for baseball while it's still here, but don't get too bent out of shape if our guys don't impress. Odds are we won't be seeing any of them for at least a season or two.

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