Arizona Fall League Rosters Announced
For roughly six weeks each fall – usually from mid October until Thanksgiving – some of the best young players in the game assemble to participate in what has become the top “finishing school” for player development, the Arizona Fall League. The league consists of six teams comprised of up-and-coming prospects across the game of baseball representing all 30 MLB clubs. It’s a showcase that has boosted the prospect status of many and expedited the rise to the Major Leagues for others.
With the 19th season of the AFL set to begin on October 12, preliminary rosters were announced recently so let’s take a look at some of the more notable names featured across the league this fall.
Mesa Solar Sox
The Solar Sox roster will be made up of players from the Angels, Pirates, Cubs, Mets, Phillies, and Pirates. The top name is easily Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez, the 4th overall pick in the 2009 Draft. Sanchez has impressed this year in High-A ball, posting a .314/.416/.454 line while playing solid defense behind the plate. He was limited to just 59 games, however, due to a broken jaw suffered in mid June. The AFL will be a good way to get him some additional at bats this season before a likely jump to AA to start 2011.
Also on the roster are Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson and third baseman Josh Vitters, Pirates outfielder Andrew Lambo (acquired this past July from the Dodgers in the Octavio Dotel trade), and Angels third baseman Brandon Wood. Wood is notable as he’s no longer a prospect but he’s never been able to live up to expectations in the Majors. Most speculation seems to center around the Angels wanting to showcase him enough to drum up some potential trade interest in the offseason.
The Javelinas also feature a top pick from the 2009 Draft, 2nd overall selection Dustin Ackley of the Mariners. He has had a solid season split between AA and AAA, putting up a .267/.368/.407 line while becoming accustom to second base full time after playing mainly first base and the outfield in college. With a Spring Training invite expected, he’ll compete for a job with the Mariners right out of the gate but at worse he’ll be a mid to late season callup in 2011. Ackley actually made his professional debut last year in the AFL, hitting .315 over 20 games.
The Javelinas roster will be made up of players from the Mariners, Astros, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Indians. The team’s hitting coach happens to be none other than Stubby Clapp, the diminutive (he’s just 5’8”) second baseman formerly of the Cardinals. Other notable names include Mariners pitchers Josh Fields and Josh Lueke, Astros first baseman Koby Clemens, and a pair of Cuban shortstops in Toronto’s Adeiny Hechavarria and Boston’s Jose Iglesias.
The Saguaros roster will be comprised of players from the Twins, Rays, Padres, White Sox, and Reds. Padres pitcher Cory Luebke, who’s made two starts so far for the big league club, headlines this roster after combining for a 10-1 record and 2.68 ERA between AA and AAA. The right hander pitches to contact and has held batters to a remarkably low .200 opponents batting average in 114 minor league innings this year. He’ll likely compete for a rotation spot next Spring.
Other notables include Rays outfielder Leslie Anderson, Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, and Twins pitcher Kyle Waldrop and outfielder Ben Revere. Mesoraco may complete for playing time in Cincinnati next Spring with incumbent starter Ryan Hanigan. Revere will be a longshot to start the season in Minnesota depending on whether an opening in their outfield exists. In all likelihood he’ll start out in AAA until playing time becomes available.
Phoenix Desert Dogs
Managing the Desert Dogs will be none other than Don Mattingly, who I personally believe will be a strong candidate for an open managerial position this coming offseason so his work in the AFL could prove to be an important part of the evaluation process for many organizations. He’s going to have a decent roster to work with that will be made up of players from the Yankees, Athletics, Braves, Marlins and Dodgers.
Among those on the roster are Athletics outfielder Michael Taylor and shortstop Grant Green, Marlins catcher Kyle Skipworth, Dodgers shortstop Ivan De Jesus and outfielder Trayvon Robinson, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Yankees infielders Corban Joseph and Brandon Laird, and catcher Austin Romine. Romine’s younger brother, Andrew, is a shortstop for the Angels who will also be in Arizona this fall (on the Solar Sox roster).
On paper, the Scorpions appear to have the weakest roster among the AFL squads this year. With players from the Nationals, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Orioles there aren’t many notable names or top prospects to get excited about. The one standout is Washington catcher Derek Norris who is coming off of a disappointing .235/.419/.419 season in AA. However, fortunately for Norris and the Nationals he won’t need to be rushed to the Majors considering their depth behind the plate. The organization still has Ivan Rodriguez signed through next season and top prospect Wilson Ramos in the mix, plus former starter Jesus Flores in the system and finally recovered from injuries that stole his 2009 and 2010 seasons.
The other two notables both come from the Giants organization in first baseman Brandon Belt and third baseman Conor Gillaspie. Both may see some time in San Francisco depending on their offseason plans, specifically whether they resign Aubrey Huff.
Working in the Rafters favor will be a strong pitching staff featuring Royals starters Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery, Detroit reliever Chance Ruffin, and Brewers swingman Jeremy Jeffress. Both Duffy and Montgomery are considered two of the top prospects in a deep Royals farm system but neither is really MLB ready just yet. Ruffin was a 2010 draft pick who could rise through the minors quickly if he shows enough consistency working out of the bullpen. Jeffress earned a surprise September callup in Milwaukee after having his prospect status marred by a number of off field problems and drug-related suspensions.
The Rafters roster will be made up of players from the Royals, Tigers, Brewers, Cardinals, and Rangers. It will also showcase Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, Brewers second baseman Brett Lawrie, and Rangers outfielder Engel Beltre.