The end of the minor league season is next week for nearly all leagues, and with that comes the announcement of the Arizona Fall League rosters. Normally, the Arizona Fall League is known for primarily top hitting prospects, as teams will not send some of the more elite pitching prospects due to specific innings limitations. However, with a number of top pitching prospects missing time this year due to a myriad of reasons, we will see some of the best pitching the league has seen in a few years. Here's the basics of the Arizona Fall League:
- There are six teams in the AFL, with five different organizations providing prospects to each team.
- Each organization is required to provide seven players, and there are limitations of where they can currently be in the organization in terms of minor league level.
- There are limitations on the amount of players that can be pulled from High-A and below, as well as the amount of foreign players.
- There are players on each roster noted as "Taxi Squad" players, who only play on Wednesday and Saturday.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the more interesting prospects on each roster.
Glendale Desert Dogs - CHW, MIA, MIN, LAD, CIN
Andrew Heaney (MIA) - Heaney missed time at the start of the season, but has been going berserk ever since. In 89 innings between High-A and AA, Heaney has struck out 85, walked 25, and allowed just 70 hits. At this point, I think I would be a little surprised if Heaney isn't on the Marlins' opening day roster.
Byron Buxton (MIN) - The top prospect in baseball will be in Arizona for Glendale, and more at bats will likely be a good thing for Buxton. He seems extremely likely to start the 2014 season at AA given the high level performance between the two Single-A levels.
Corey Seager (LAD) - The Dodgers' top draft pick in 2012 has already reached High-A, but has struggled since arriving there to the tune of .165/.264/.367. He seems likely to return to High-A to start the 2014 season, but could move quickly from there.
Peoria Javelinas - HOU, KC, SEA, SD, PHI
Danny Hultzen (SEA) - Hultzen will look to throw more innings as he missed time due to injury at multiple points this season. He seems like he should be a candidate for the 2014 rotation, and hopefully his time in the AFL will help him toward that goal.
Austin Hedges (SD) - Hedges has emerged as the top overall catching prospect still in the minors, although it remains to be seen whether he can become the top fantasy catching prospect as well. He has reached AA already, but may not be a top 10 fantasy catcher at his peak.
Delino DeShields Jr (HOU) - DeShields is listed on the AFL roster as an outfielder, and it sounds like DeShields will be moving out there permanently. Given the extension that the Astros signed with Jose Altuve, it makes some sense that DeShields be moved to another position, and center field makes a lot of sense with his speed. DeShields was drafted as an outfielder, but converted to second base after signing.
Scottsdale Scorpions - PIT, NYY, SF, NYM, ATL
Alen Hanson (PIT) - While Hanson has been playing shortstop exclusively this year between High-A and AA, I would imagine he could see some time at second base as well, given the Scorpions' roster makeup and that Hanson is anticipated to shift to second base long-term.
Kyle Crick (SF) - The top prospect in the Giants' organization, Crick has only thrown 61 innings this season due to injuries, and is a good opportunity to get him some more in-game innings rather than time at instructs.
Mesa Solar Sox - CHC, OAK, WAS, LAA, DET
Javier Baez (CHC) - I wonder at this point if Baez could end up making the Cubs' opening day roster in 2014. Where he would play is unclear, unless they wanted to shift him to third. He has 35 home runs and 20 stolen bases between High-A and AA this year with about a week to go in the season.
Kris Bryant (CHC) - One of the few top draft picks from this year's draft going to Arizona, Bryant has reached High-A and I will have a profile on him for Friday.
Addison Russell (OAK) - I've written about Russell before, and the more I hear about him, the more of a chance I think he could be in Oakland by the end of 2014.
Albert Almora (CHC) - Almora will play on the Taxi Squad, which means that he will only be available to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It's another opportunity for him to get at bats given that he missed time at the start of the season due to injury.
Salt River Rafters - ARI, TOR, TAM, STL, COL
Aaron Sanchez (TOR) - Sanchez has missed time this year due to a shoulder injury, and as a result has thrown just 79 innings this year at High-A Dunedin. He's one of a number of Toronto pitchers who have missed time due to injury, and his performance this year has been a mixed bag from start to start.
Marcus Stroman (TOR) - Stroman missed nearly 50 games to start the season as he was suspended at the end of last year for a drug policy violation. He's been pitching really well at AA, but it hasn't really stopped the concerns about whether he is a starter or reliever in the long-term.
Surprise Saguaros - BAL, TEX, BOS, MIL, CLE
Jorge Alfaro (TEX) - The Legend will be the most interesting fantasy catching prospect in Arizona, as he remains a potentially elite offensive option despite not reaching AA yet.
Jonathan Schoop (BAL) - Schoop missed a substantial amount of time this year due to a back injury, and yet will likely get a shot to win the everyday second base job going into the 2014 season.