Arizona Fall League 2007
With my team (the Jays) without any hope of making the playoffs, I still need to feed my baseball hunger on top of MLB playoffs. Since I would rather stab myself in the eye than listen to updates on the Leafs’ training camp, I focus my attention on the upcoming Arizona Fall League season which showcases the hot prospects of today and future stars of tomorrow. I present to you the Arizona Fall League primer for 2007.
Makeup of the AFL
There are six teams in the Arizona Fall League: the Scottsdale Scorpions, Mesa Solar Sox, Peoria Saguaros, Phoenix Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas and Surprise Rafters.
The teams are broken into two divisions, East and West. Each Major League Baseball team sends six top prospects to the Arizona Fall League, 180 players in all. The games are played in the Spring Training stadiums used by the Giants, Mariners, Padres, Cubs, A’s, Royals and Rangers.
Each August, Major League clubs hold a position draft to determine the players who will go to Arizona. Most are Double-A and Triple-A Minor League players. Each club can opt to send one player considered a Class A player.
History of the League
The raison-d’etre of the Arizona Fall League was to create an easily accessed off-season league. Major League franchises were concerned that some of the best ballplayers left to play winter ball out of the country (mostly the Caribbean) and there was no way to monitor them. (Brandon League anyone??)
Thus Major League Baseball created a league that it could govern and monitor and MLB teams could staff each team with their coaches, trainers and development personnel.
Baseball Benefits off the Field
“There’s a two-pronged mission to the AFL,” says Steve Cobb, AFL executive vice president. “One is for the players to accelerate, and hopefully jump a classification. The other is for the managers and umpires to develop. For those who aspire to be Major League managers, this is a place to gain additional experience. The AFL provides employment opportunity to enhance managers’ and coaches’ skills … Dusty Baker is a good example of a field manager who had not had managerial experience until he had managed here in ’92 for some seasoning. Then he became the field manager of the Giants for a decade and now the Cubs. And he was the National League Manager of the Year three times — 1993, 1997 and 2000.
“The umpires come from the Umpire Development Program,” says Cobb. “And again, this league is for their development as well.
“We’ve had considerable success with working through (college) sports management programs,” Cobb adds. “People have gained some baseball experience here in the Phoenix market, from working in the AFL. We have been able to enhance many interns’ careers. The Arizona Fall League is unique in the industry.”
Given the top prospects who play here, every game in the AFL is a *potential* future All-Star Game. It’s a definite destination for baseball fans and families who want to see great action on the diamond. All of the facilities are Major League standard as the big clubs field their spring trainings at the various AFL complexes. A day or night at a game is affordable: $6 for an adult and $5 for kids and seniors, and all tickets are general admission.
Action begins on Tuesday, October 9, and runs through the one-game championship that will be played at Scottsdale on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 12:35 p.m. (local time). In addition, the second annual Rising Stars Showcase, which will display the cream of the crop when it comes to prospect status and 2007 on-field achievements, will be played at Surprise on Friday, Oct. 26, the off-day (weather permitting) before the final weekend of World Series action.
Now lets get to this year’s rosters!!
I’ll start off with the Toronto Blue Jays, who are affiliated with the Scottsdale Scorpions. One of the Jays’ prospects last year, Chip Cannon garnered MVP honours with 11 ding dongs and 29 RBI. Don’t be surprised to see a repeat performance by one of the Jays’ attendees this year: Travis Snider. Mr. Snider has been compared to Jay Bruce in regards to the level of development at their respective ages and how they project as big league players. Bruce is widely regarded as the top prospect currently in the Minors. Rounding out the Jays AFL participants are JP Ricciardi Draft Duds David Purcey, Ricky Romero, Jamie Vermilyea and demoted-to-AA SS Sergio Santos. While I don’t expect anything out of this group, I would much rather track their progress than hear about how drunken Leaf Mark Bell stays sharp by skating during his 15 game suspension.
Other notables on the Scorpions include Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay’s 3B of the future (almost present) and promising young Giants’ arm Jonathan Sanchez.
Rounding out the prospects to watch are these first rounders:
Trevor Crowe (Indians), Chris Lubanski (Royals), John Mayberry (Rangers), Cameron Maybin (Tigers), Colby Rasmus (Cardinals), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Gregory Golson (Phillies) ; infielders Blake Dewitt (Dodgers), Cliff Pennington (As) and Trevor Plouffe (Twins); catcher Jeff Clement (Mariners); and pitchers David Huff (Indians), Greg Miller (Dodgers), Max Scherzer (Diamondbacks) and Joe Savery, the Philadelphia Phillies’ top pick this past June.
Keep checking back for updates on your favourite prospects from this year’s crop of players in the Arizona Fall League.