Arizona Fall League Primer/Preview

Hey, we posted this on our site a little earlier, but I thought I'd share it with all of you, since we'll be a week without the big league team.  The AFL started today, with Scottsdale's game ongoing as I write this.  You know you missed reading about Brandon Belt nearly every day...

What is the Arizona Fall League?

The AFL is a six-team prospect league. The teams have 35-man rosters submitted by five major league teams for each squad. All the players must have played at Double-A or higher, except for one player from each major league representative who may be from a lower level. The season will play 32 regular season games, and Scottsdale Stadium will host the one-game championship on November 20th.

Scottsdale Scorpions (Giants, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Orioles, Rockies):

Giants Representatives: Brandon Belt, Charlie Culberson, Conor Gillaspie, Joe Paterson, Jason Stoffel, Ryan Verdugo.

Top Prospects: Belt, Bruce Billings (COL), Charles Blackmon (COL), Michael Burgess (WSH), Josh Collmenter (AZ), Marc Krauss (AZ)

The Scorpions are short on pitching, but have an impressive group of hitters. Belt was one of the most electrifying hitters in the minors, despite some struggles in Triple-A. In the outfield, Michael Burgess of Washington leads a talented group. Burgess was the 49th overall pick in the 2007 draft, and he hit 18 home runs for a combined .822 OPS between the Carolina and Eastern League. Marc Krauss of the Diamondbacks system hit 25 home runs in the California League while batting .302. And Colorado’s Charles Blackmon hit .297 with 11 home runs and 19 stolen bases in the Texas League.

The best starters for the Scorpions start with Bruce Billings. The former San Diego State pitcher split time as a starter and reliever in the Texas League this year, posting a 3.28 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings. Josh Collmenter of the Diamondbacks spent time at three levels between Single-A and Triple-A, making 25 starts for a 3.38 ERA.

Mesa Solar Sox (Angels, Cubs, Mets, Phillies, Pirates):

Top Prospects: Chris Carpenter (CHC), Brett Jackson (CHC), Jeremy Moore (LAA), Aaron Pribanic (PIT), Matt Rizzotti (PHI), Tony Sanchez (PIT), Justin Wilson (PIT), Brandon Wood (LAA), Josh Zeid (PHI)

The Solar Sox will be led by some good pitchers, and a pair of speedsters in the outfield. Leading the speed is Jeremy Moore of the Angels, who hit .303 in the Texas League, while stealing 24 bases. He also hit 13 home runs and ten triples. He will be joined by former Cal star Brett Jackson from the Cubs organization. He had 30 steals with 12 home runs between the Florida State League and Southern League, while batting .297.

They will be supported by Matt Rizzotti, Phillies first baseman, who had a .985 OPS with 17 home runs from Single-A to Triple-A. Pirates first round pick from 2009, Tony Sanchez, will be manning the primary backstop. He appeared in just 59 games this year in the Florida State League, but he hit .314 with an .870 OPS. One intriguing selection for the team is Brandon Wood from the Angels. Wood was a super-prospect a few years ago, but has scuffled in minimal major league time. He is the most experience player for any team in this league.

On the mound, Justin Wilson from the Pirates leads the way. He had a 3.09 in the Eastern League, with 134 strikeouts in 142 2/3 innings. Another Pittsburgh pitcher, Aaron Pribanic, had a 3.33 ERA in 27 starts in the Florida State League. Among the supporting squad will be Phillies prospect Josh Zeid (2.93 ERA, 12 starts, 31 relief appearances, 111 strikeouts, 107 1/3 innings) and Chris Carpenter of the Cubs (3.41 ERA, 26 starts).

Peoria Javelinas (Astros, Blue Jays, Indians, Mariners, Red Sox)

Top Prospects: Brandon Barnes (HOU), Koby Clemens (HOU), Matt Daly (TOR), Alan Farina (TOR), Josh Fields (SEA), Ryan Lavarnway (BOS), Josh Lueke (SEA), Jason Rice (BOS), Nate Tenbrink (SEA), Eric Thames (TOR), Tom Wilhelmsen (SEA)

This is a team with some power, and some pitching of mostly relievers in the regular season. It’s not unusual to see relievers get starting assignments in the AFL, to try and stretch them a little, and to not have as many starters who had long seasons have to do a lot of extra work. For the Javelinas, 2008 first round pick Josh Fields of the Mariners leads the way with a 3.14 ERA in the Southern League, but also includes other relievers like Alan Farina (1.29 ERA, Toronto), Matt Daly (2.50 ERA, Toronto), Jason Rice (2.895 ERA, Boston), and Josh Lueke (Seattle). Lueke was the pitching equivalent of Brandon Belt, working every level from Low-A to Triple-A, picking up a 1.86 ERA and 17 saves, with 94 strikeouts in 63 innings. One notable starter is Seattle’s Tom Wilhelmsen, who had a 2.19 ERA in 12 starts (15 overall appearances).

In the power department, catcher Ryan Lavarnway of Boston had 22 home runs in 126 games in the Carolina and Eastern Leagues, while Houston’s Brandon Barnes had 28 home runs, mostly in the California League. Koby Clemens, son of Roger, had 26 home runs in the Texas League despite hitting just .241. And Santa Clara’s own Eric Thames hit 27 home runs in the Eastern League for the Blue Jays organization. The table for these hitters will be set by Nate Tenbrink of the Mariners organization, who hit .318 on the season with 26 steals in 29 attempts.

One note: Former Giants prospect Dan Turpen will be on this team, representing his new team, the Red Sox. Turpen was in the AFL last season. Another former Giant, Scott Barnes, will be on the roster. Barnes went to the Indians in the Ryan Garko trade in 2009.

Peoria Saguaros (Padres, Rays, Reds, Twins, White Sox)

Top Prospects: Brad Bach (SD), Joe Benson (MIN), Alex Cobb (TB), Cole Figueroa (SD), Jeremy Horst (CIN), Devin Mesoraco, (CIN), Ben Revere (MIN), Dave Sappelt (CIN), Neil Schenk (TB)

The Saguaros have an interesting mix of hitters, and a few good pitchers in support of them. Things start with speed. Minnesota’s Ben Revere had 36 steals in the Eastern League while batting .305, with a .371 on-base percentage, but slugged just .363. Meanwhile, Cole Figueroa of the Padres organization had 26 steals in the California League and an amazing .408 on-base percentage over a .303 batting average. Meanwhile, Cincinnati catcher Devin Mesoraco had 26 home runs while being aggressively promoted from Single-A through Triple-A, batting .302. Minnesota’s Joe Benson had 27 home runs, mostly in the Eastern League. One intriguing player is Cincinnati outfielder Dave Sapelt, who had just 25 steals in 43 attempts while batting .342, with ten home runs and 11 triples.

On the pitching side, Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb leads the staff, posting a 2.71 ERA in the Southern League in 23 games, 22 starts. The team will also feature Brad Brach, who had 41 saves in the California League while collecting a 2.47 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. Other strikeout relievers are Jeremy Horst of the Reds (75 K’s in 72 innings) and Neil Schenk of the Rays (86 in 67 2/3 innings).

Phoenix Desert Dogs (Athletics, Braves, Dodgers, Marlins, Yankees)

Top Prospects: Manuel Banuelos (NYY), Freddie Freeman (ATL), Grant Green (OAK), Craig Heyer (NYY), Justin James (OAK), Brandon Laird (NYY), Stephen Parker (OAK), Tyler Pastornicky (ATL), Tyler Robinson (LAD), Jerry Sands (LAD)

The Desert Dogs are all about the offense, and the biggest name is Jerry Sands. The Dodger first base prospect is the leading home run hitter in the AFL, with 35 home runs in the regular season between Low-A and Double-A. Also notable is the Yankees’ Brandon Laird, who hit 25 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A, 20 home runs from Oakland shortstop Grant Green to go on top of a .318 average, and 18 from Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman in Triple-A. One other notable power hitter is Oakland’s Stephen Parker, whose 21 home runs was impressive, but he collected 105 strikeouts and 84 walks, all in the California League.

Phoenix will also get speed from Atlanta second baseman Tyler Pastornicky, who picked up 35 steals between Single-A and Double-A, and Dodgers outfielder Trayvon Robinson, who had 38 steals in the Southern League.

On the pitching side, the best starter is 19-year old Yankees starter Manuel Banuelos, who had a 2.51 ERA although he made just 14 starts this season. Yankee Craig Heyer, who split time as a starter and reliever with a 3.52 ERA, will add more depth. Reliever Justin James posted a 1.83 ERA for the A’s between Double-A and Triple-A.

Surprise Rafters (Brewers, Cardinals, Rangers, Royals, Tigers)

Top Prospects: Fabio Castillo (TEX), Ramon Delgado (STL), Danny Duffy (KC), Johnny Giavotella (KC), Eric Hosmer (KC), Patrick Keating (KC), Blake King (STL), Brandon Kintzler (MIL), Derrick Robinson (KC), Davis Stoneburner (TEX)

For Surprise, it’s the pitching that will rule. Starter Danny Duffy of the Royals (2.74 ERA across for levels in 14 starts) will lead the staff, but the team has an impressive group of relievers that will share a lot of duties. Patrick Keating of the Royals had 101 strikeouts in 71 innings while collecting 15 saves this season, and Milwaukee’s Brandon Kintzler had a 1.47 ERA while picking up 16 saves in the upper minors. Rangers reliever Fabio Castillo had a 2.11 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings, mostly in the California League. Ramon Delgado had a 1.34 ERA in 51 appearances for the Cardinals, while teammate Blake King had 84 strikeouts in 68 innings with a 2.91 ERA.

At the plate, the biggest name is Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer, who had 20 home runs while batting .338 and putting up a .406 on-base percentage. He’ll be joined by 16-home run hitter Davis Stoneburner, who also collected 17 steals with an .845 OPS on the regular season. Second baseman Johnny Giavotella from the Royals hit .322 with a .395 on-base percentage with 13 steals. And possibly the fastest player in the AFL will be Kansas City’s Derrick Robinson, who collected 50 steals in 127 games.

This FanPost is reader-generated, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of McCovey Chronicles. If the author uses filler to achieve the minimum word requirement, a moderator may edit the FanPost for his or her own amusement.

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