Charlie Blackmon and Anthony Carter were rewarded nicely for their strong seasons in Class AA this year. Both are headed to the prestigious Arizona Fall League.
The six-team league based in the Phoenix area is a showcase for baseball’s top prospects and has been a steppingstone to the majors for many players, including fellow Gwinnett products Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur, Jason Bulger and Blake Wood.
Blackmon, a former North Gwinnett and Georgia Tech standout, will play for the Scottsdale Scorpions, while Parkview graduate Carter will pitch for the Peoria Saguraros. The league starts on Oct. 12 and runs through Nov. 20.
Blackmon, an outfield prospect with the Colorado Rockies, missed most of the first two months of the season with Tulsa in the Texas League, but made up for the lost time in a big way.
A hitless outing in the last game of the season Monday cost Blackmon a .300 average after batting .348 in August. He ended up at .297 with 22 doubles, four triples, 11 homers, 55 RBIs, 53 runs and 19 stolen bases in 86 games. Thanks to 32 walks compared to 43 strikeouts, he had a .360 on-base percentage and his slugging mark was .484.
A second-round draft choice of the Rockies in 2008, Blackmon went into the season ranked as Colorado’s 12th-best prospect by Baseball America.
Carter, also 24, had a breakout season in relief after not being highly rated as a prospect previously. Pitching out of the bullpen for the first time after two bad starts with Birmingham, he tied for the Southern League lead in saves with 22.
Carter, who had won 11 games each of the previous two seasons as a starter in Class A, had a 2.58 ERA in 44 relief appearances, striking out 55 with 16 walks in 521⁄3 innings. Opponents hit .201 against him.
The right-hander worked two strong innings in the Southern League All-Star game and had the saves lead until Matt Gorgen recorded three in the last week to tie him for season honors.
Ted Simmons will be Carter’s manager with the Saguraros and Richard Dotson his pitching coach. Blackmon’s manager will be Randy Knorr and the hitting coach Alan Zinter at Scottsdale.
Each Arizona Fall League team gets prospects from six major league organizations. Seven Braves prospects, including Freddie Freeman, have been assigned to the Phoenix Desert Dogs, where Don Mattingly will be the manager and the G-Braves’ Jamie Dismuke the hitting coach.
Providence Christian graduate Collin McHugh finished the season strong for Savannah, as did Dacula’s Shannon Wilkerson of Greenville. Now their teams will meet in the Class A South Atlantic playoffs.
Greenville hosts the opening game tonight before the best-of-three Southern Division series moves to Savannah on Friday. Savannah won the first-half division title and Greenville took the second half.
McHugh, who was drafted by the New York Mets out of Berry College, won his last four decisions to finish 7-8 and had a 3.33 ERA. He allowed just one hit over five scoreless innings against Asheville on Monday and struck out 129 in 1322⁄3 innings this season.
Wilkerson, an eighth-round draft pick by Boston last year, was sidelined by a hand injury during the first half of the season and the former Augusta State standout took awhile to get going after returning. But he had four hits in his final nine at-bats and finished with a .245 average in 73 games.