AFL rosters starting to take shape
Impressive list of prospects slated for league's 17th year
Entering its 17th season, the Arizona Fall League has developed into the destination of choice for teams to send their most promising and Major League-ready prospects (both on the field and in the dugouts).
Here are some numbers. More than five dozen 2007 alumni had already appeared in the big leagues in '08. Nearly 140 former fall leaguers have been named to All-Star teams in the Majors, including a record 36 in this season. Sixteen AFL alumni have won either the NL or AL Rookie of the Year award, and more than 1,500 alumni dating back to its inception in 1993 have made it to the Show.
This year's AFL campaign -- which begins Tuesday, Oct. 7, and winds up with a one-game championship Saturday, Nov. 22 -- features some renamed and realigned divisions, with the remaining constant being that any parent club that plays its Spring Training games in one of the participating stadiums will continue to keep its AFL players at that site.
While the rosters for the league may be tweaked in the coming days, here is a look at a several of the up-and-comers who will make up the Class of 2008 in Arizona:
Mesa Solar Sox (Atlanta, Chicago Cubs, Detroit, Florida, Philadelphia)
The biggest name on the Solar Sox is actually not a player, but rather a bench coach. Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Famer coming off his second year as manager of the Class A Peoria Chiefs, will be working with the young hitters. Among those joining Sandberg from the Cubs organization will be OF Tyler Colvin, a first-round pick in 2006 out of Clemson who was hitting .258 with 14 homers and 79 RBIs in 131 games at Double-A West Tenn. OF Brandon Jones, a non-drafted free agent in 2004, hit .260 with eight homers and 52 RBIs at Triple-A Richmond this year and is currently up with the Braves, for whom he was batting .283 in 18 games. He drove in 100 runs between two stops in 2007. ... 1B Logan Morrison has been perhaps the Marlins' biggest breakthrough hitter in the Minors this year, batting .334 with 13 homers and 71 RBIs at Class A Advanced Jupiter. ... Philadelphia is sending a pair of Olympians -- C Lou Marson and SS Jason Donald. Marson, a fourth-rounder in 2004, was batting .319 with five homers and 46 RBIs at Double-A Reading before he went to Beijing, while Donald was hitting .308 with 14 homers and 54 RBIs for the R-Phils. ... Detroit has a few players heading west who made their big-league debuts this season. OF Clete Thomas, batting .248 with 44 RBIs and 28 steals for Triple-A Toledo, hit .284 in 40 games with the Tigers, while power-hitting 1B Jeff Larish had 21 homers for the Mud Hens and hit .245 in 19 games in the Majors.
Peoria Saguaros (Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, St. Louis, San Diego, Washington)
The White Sox will be sending their top picks from the last two drafts in SS Gordon Beckham, one of two 2008 first-rounders heading to Arizona, and LHP Aaron Poreda, their 2007 first-round selection. Beckham was hitting .306 in nine games at Class A Kannapolis since making his pro debut. Poreda was 7-9 with a 3.19 ERA in 26 games between Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, but his 155 innings pitched so far indicate that he will be used sparingly with the Sags. ... 3B Dan Murphy, a 13th-round pick in 2006 out of Jacksonville, emerged as one of the Mets' top hitting prospects this year and his current spot in the big-league lineup proves that. He was hitting .339 in 22 games with the Mets after hitting .315 with 13 homers and 69 RBIs in the Minors, mostly at Double-A Binghamton. ... 3B Brett Wallace joined Beckham as the two 2008 first-rounders in Arizona. The Cards' top pick was hitting .341 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs between Class A Quad Cities and Double-A Springfield. ... 1B Kyle Blanks had a nine-RBI game for his Double-A San Antonio club Aug. 25 on the eve of the announcement of the AFL rosters. The Padres prospect, who at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds has been likened to Frank Thomas, was hitting .318 with 18 homers and 101 RBIs. ... Washington sends relief prospect Zech Zinicola, who comes off a season that has seen him pitch at three levels, including Triple-A Columbus. The sixth-rounder out of Arizona State in 2006 has nine saves and a 4.01 ERA.
Scottsdale Scorpions (Boston, Houston, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)
Boston was still waiting on making most of its assignments, but among the Red Sox prospects expected to attend is RHP T.J. Large, who has been excelling in relief between Class A Advanced Lancaster, where his 3.16 ERA in the first half helped the team clinch a playoff spot, and Double-A Portland. ... Houston will carefully watch the so-far-successful conversion of 2005 first-rounder Brian Bogusevic from pitcher to outfielder (think Rick Ankiel and now Baltimore's Adam Loewen). So far this year, Bogusevic is hitting .341 in 46 games at Double-A Corpus Christi. ... 1B Mark Trumbo has emerged as one of the Angels' top new power hitters and was batting .285 with 32 home runs and 90 RBIs between Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Arkansas. RHP Nick Green has thrown 154 innings so should work sparingly, but the 2004 35th-rounder now at Triple-A Salt Lake is expected to see some big-league time soon. ... Pittsburgh gave newly acquired RHP Jimmy Barthmaier (via trade from the Astros) a quick big-league taste and now sends him to Arizona to continue to refine his stuff. He had a 4.17 ERA between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
Peoria Javelinas (Cincinnati, Milwaukee, New York Yankees, Seattle, Tampa Bay)
The Reds will send LHP Matt Maloney, a third-rounder in 2005 acquired from the Phillies in the 2007 deal for P Kyle Lohse. He was 11-4 with a 4.35 ERA at Triple-A Louisville. OF Drew Stubbs was the club's top pick in 2006 out of Texas. Moving up through three levels this year, he was hitting a combined .282 with seven homers, 55 RBIs and 33 steals. In relief, look for Reds sleeper RHP Carlos Fisher, who moved from the rotation to the 'pen this year and has posted a 3.12 ERA between Double-A Chattanooga and Louisville, including a 4-0 record and 1.15 ERA for the Bats. ... The Brewers are loading the Javelinas with three of their top prospects. RHP Jeremy Jeffress, a first-rounder in 2006 with a blazing fastball, had struck out 115 in 93 1/3 innings at two stops. C Angel Salome was hitting .356 with 11 homers and 80 RBIs in just 94 games for Double-A Huntsville. 3B Mat Gamel, who just moved up to Triple-A Nashville from Huntsville, was hitting .326 with 19 home runs and 96 RBIs overall. ... The Yankees have not announced most of their representatives yet, but they will be sending OF prospect Austin Jackson, currently on the DL at Double-A Trenton with back spasms. Jackson, considered the best hitting prospect in the organization, was batting .287 with nine homers, 68 RBIs and 19 steals for the Thunder. ... Netherlands-born OF Gregory Halman has been a true Dutch treat for the Mariners this year, sitting one homer shy of the 30-30 mark as he's batted .277 with 29 homers, 82 RBIs and 31 steals between Class A Advanced High Desert and Double-A West Tenn. He turns 21 today. ... Tampa Bay OF J.T. Hall got on the radar screen with his Florida State League Home Run Derby championship and was hitting .269 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs between Vero Beach and Double-A Montgomery.
Phoenix Desert Dogs (Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Oakland, Toronto)
Arizona will send 2006 supplemental first-round pick RHP Brooks Brown to the Dogs. Despite a 6-14 record at Double-A Mobile, his ERA is more than respectable at 4.23, and the Georgia product has struck out 105 batters in 140 innings so far. ... 2B/OF Eric Young Jr. follows in his dad's speedy footsteps as he has stolen 46 bases in 99 games for Colorado's Double-A Tulsa squad, hitting .285. RHP Casey Weathers was the Rockies' first-round pick in 2007 out of Vanderbilt and had a 3.15 ERA for the Drillers before joining the US Olympic team. ... The Twins are sending the Desert Dogs their most potent one-two closer punch in RHPs Robert Delaney (aka "Big Daddy") and Anthony Slama. Delaney, between Advanced A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain, has posted a 1.27 ERA and 17 saves, striking out 72 in 64 innings while walking nine. Slama, solely with the Miracle, has a 1.06 ERA and 25 saves and has fanned 108 in 68 innings, walking 24. ... RHP James Simmons makes a return trip to the Phoenix squad for Oakland after pitching their in 2007, his pro debut season after being selected in the first round out of UC Riverside. He has a 3.53 ERA at Double-A Midland. The Athletics will be well-represented with old and new in Phoenix. 1B Sean Doolittle, a supplemental first-rounder out of Virginia in 2007, was hitting .288 with 22 homers and 88 RBIs between Advanced A Stockton and Midland. In addition, the club will get a chance to watch newly acquired 2B Adrian Cardenas and C Josh Donaldson, picked up in mid-summer trades from Philadelphia for P Joe Blanton and the Cubs for P Rich Harden, respectively. Cardenas was hitting .302 between three stops this season, while Donaldson was hitting .348 in 41 games at Stockton since joining the system. ... Along with Travis Snider (click here for story), the Blue Jays will be well-represented by 2007 first-round C J.P. Arencibia, hitting .299 with 27 homers and 102 RBIs in his first full season out of Tennessee, and 2B Scott Campbell, who was hitting .314 with nine homers and 46 RBIs at Double-A New Hampshire. He is one phone call away from becoming the first New Zealand native in the big leagues.
Surprise Rafters (Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas)
While Baltimore still has four "TBAs" to be filled, they are sending their top prospect, who is also arguably one of the top five prospects in the Minors, C Matt Wieters. The 2007 first-round pick, a switch-hitter, is one of the contenders for Minor League Player of the Year, hitting .350 with 26 homers and 88 RBIs between Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie. ... 1B Beau Mills and 3B Wes Hodges will give Cleveland pop at the corners in Surprise. Mills, the son of Boston hitting coach Brad Mills, was the team's top pick in 2007 and was hitting .293 with 21 home runs and 90 RBIs at Class A Advanced Kinston. Hodges, a second-round pick in 2006, was hitting .285 with 16 homers and 91 RBIs at Double-A Akron. Also coming to Arizona is LHP Tony Sipp, a closer prospect who has missed most of the last two years with elbow trouble but who had a 3.03 ERA so far in 21 games of rehab comeback work. ... LHP Rowdy Hardy was the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year in 2007 for Kansas City's Wilmington squad, going 15-5 with a 2.48 ERA that summer, and was 6-10 with a 4.65 ERA in 147 innings at Double-A Northwest Arkansas this year. ... The Dodgers are sending southpaw prospect Scott Elbert to continue his comeback from arm trouble that cost him all of 2007 and most of 2008. In his comeback so far at Double-A Jacksonville, the 2004 first-rounder had a 2.45 ERA in 24 games of relief. SS Ivan DeJesus Jr., the son of the former big leaguer, was hitting .319 at Jacksonville with five homers, 55 RBIs and 14 steals. ... OF Julio Borbon, the Rangers' first-round pick in 2007 out of Tennessee, was hitting .313 with seven homers, 54 RBIs and 51 steals between Class A Advanced Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.