Arizona Fall League rosters and breakdowns. Text by Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Josh Norris and Vince Lara-Cinisomo. (*-denotes taxi squad member activated only on Wednesdays and Saturdays).
|GLENDALE DESERT DOGS|
|Coaching staff—Manager: Bill Haselman (Dodgers); Pitching coaches: Jose Bautista (White Sox), Justin Meccage (Pirates); Hitting coach: Nelson Prada (Phillies); Trainers: Grant Hufford (Astros), Dru Scott (Pirates)|
THE STARS: Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford, who missed the first month and change of the season while recovering from a quad injury sustained in spring training, is the obvious star on this roster. The precocious 20-year-old, who ranked as the game's No. 3 prospect on our midseason list and made a second straight appearance in the Futures Game, projects as a potential four-tool player, with footspeed as his only minor weakness. Austin Meadows, No. 41, on this year's Top 100 prospects, is one of the jewels of the Desert Dogs' outfield and will bring his similarly sparkling toolset to the AFL. Houston outfielder A.J. Reed put together the best offensive season in the minors, leading all players in home runs (33), RBIs (120), OPS (1.059) and slugging (.621), and his combination of power and patience has put him in the conversation for the minor league player of the year.
INTERESTING: Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp had a spectacular August and reminded everyone exactly why he was a second-round pick. He's coming off Tommy John surgery last winter but reports are that his arm strength has come all the way back. Another catcher, Pittsburgh's Reese McGuire, is one of the youngest players on this roster but struggled to hit in high Class A this year. Chicago's Courtney Hawkins has light-tower power but still needs to work on his approach to make it more available in games.
REHABBING: Nick Delmonico is not rehabbing an injury, but his reputation. Delmonico was suspended 50 games for PED use last season and then was released by the Brewers in February. He signed with the White Sox and has said he missed the grind and is happy to have another shot.
— Josh Norris
|MESA SOLAR SOX|
|Coaching staff—Manager: Mark Johnson (Cubs); Pitching coaches: Steve Connelly (Athletics), Jeff Schwarz (Marlins); Hitting coaches: Brenton Del Chiaro (Angels), Dan Dement (Rays); Trainers: Ben Cates (Marlins), Kris Russell (Rays)|
THE STARS: High-end pitching prospects are difficult to find in the AFL, with teams preferring their best arms shut it down for the offseason. Athletics lefthander Sean Manaea is an exception. Since the A's acquired Manaea from the Royals in July in the Ben Zobrist trade, Manaea has pitched well in six Double-A starts, missing plenty of bats with his plus fastball/slider combination. And he’s yet to surpass 70 innings for the season . . . Like Manaea, Rays shortstop Daniel Robertson was also a key trade chip in a deal for Zobrist, with Robertson moving from Oakland to Tampa Bay in January and making a smooth transition this season to Double-A. Robertson can hit and control the strike zone with occasional power, but he's been limited to 72 games in Double-A this season after having surgery to remove the hamate bone from his left hand in June . . . Rays first baseman Casey Gillaspie is back on the field now with high Class A Charlotte after missing most of July and August with a broken left hand. Tampa Bay's 2014 first-round pick spent most of the season at low Class A Bowling Green, a conservative assignment for a 22-year-old college first-rounder, so the upper-level pitching will be a key test for Gillaspie.
INTERESTING: Willson Contreras spent most of the season splitting time behind the plate with Kyle Schwarber in Double-A. So while it's easy for Contreras to get overshadowed by Schwarber's impact bat, Contreras has had a breakout season, batting .324/.404/.466 in 120 games with nearly as many walks (53) as strikeouts (61) . . . Fellow Cubs prospect Jeimer Candelario has also seen his stock rise, hitting well in the Florida State League and even better upon his promotion to Double-A Tennessee . . . The A's have one of the better prospect groups on the Solar Sox, including shortstop Chad Pinder, who is batting .318/.363/.487 in 116 Double-A games . . . Teenagers are rare in the AFL, but 19-year-old Rays first baseman Jake Bauers has been in Double-A since the end of June, so he shouldn't be overmatched.
REHABBING: Oakland's 2014 first-round pick, third baseman Matt Chapman, has hit .259/.353/.587 with 23 home runs in 77 games as a 22-year-old in the high Class A California League. A knee injury in spring training caused him to miss the first month of the season, and he hasn't played since Aug. 2 due to a left wrist injury, so the AFL will be a way for him to make up for that time on the disabled list.
— Ben Badler
|Coaching staff—Manager: Rod Barajas (Padres); Pitching coaches: Gabe Luckert (Braves), Derrin Ebert (Reds), Rich Dorman (Marlins); Hitting Coach: Sean Berry (Orioles); Trainers: B.J. Downie (Mariners), Clete Sigwart (Reds)|
THE STARS: This is one of the thinner teams in the AFL this year. Mariners' 1B D.J. Peterson, a 2013 first-round pick and 2015 Top 100 Prospect, is finishing a .223/.287/.344 campaign between Double-A and Triple-A. Peterson needs a big October to give him a boost heading into 2016. Mariners outfielder Tyler O'Neill has hit 30 home runs in the California League, tied for third best in the minors. Reds shortstop Alex Blandino, a 2014 first-round pick, had an excellent first full pro season at high Class A Daytona.
INTERESTING: Orioles catcher Chance Sisco can hit but he has to keep proving he can handle the defensive responsibilities of catching well enough to be a viable big league option as a backstop. Padres center fielder Travis Jankowski can try to make an argument that San Diego doesn't need to go out and find a center fielder for 2016. Braves righthander Mauricio Cabrera can reach triple digits with his fastball but he needs to figure out how to throw more strikes.
REHABBING: Mariners lefthander James Paxton is a proven big leaguer when healthy but he has spent more time then he wants on the disabled list over the past few years, so he tries to get back some needed innings here. Reds righthander Nick Travieso, a 2012 first-round pick, is trying to make up for some of the innings he lost when he spent two months on the disabled list with an injured forearm he suffered when he was hit by a comebacker. Braves righthander Dan Winkler, a Rule 5 pick, is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
— J.J. Cooper
|SALT RIVER RAFTERS|
|Abel De Los Santos||RHP||22||R-R||6-2||200||WAS|
|Coaching staff—Tripp Keister (Nationals); Pitching coaches: Marc Valdes (Mets); Larry Pardo (D-backs); Hitting coaches: Jason Camilli (D-backs); John Tamargo (Blue Jays); Trainers: Drew MacDonald (Blue Jays), Billy Whitehead (Rockies)|
THE STARS: The Rafters are not, well, filled to the rafters with star power, but they have a strong two-way catcher in Colorado’s Tommy Murphy, whose power and throwing arm returned this season after back issues wiped out 2014. Yoan Lopez got a huge ($8.25 million) bonus from the Diamondbacks but is best known to date for hitting No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson in the face with a pitch in an intrasquad game. The Nats’ Wilmer Difo is a plus runner who sometimes shows double-plus speed and is both aggressive and efficient as a basestealer. He has very good first-step quickness that translates to above-average range at either shortstop or second base.
INTERESTING: Rowdy Tellez is a power-hitting but one-dimensional first baseman who got a big bonus ($800,000) after being a 30th-round pick in 2013. Gabby Guerrero, the nephew of Vladimir, was acquired by Arizona for Mark Trumbo and has plus-plus raw power but not much of an approach at the plate; Spencer Kieboom is a good receiver and is in the mold of a David Ross-type backup.
REHABBING: Oscar Hernandez, a Rule 5 pick of the Diamondbacks who at one point was slated to be Arizona’s starter at catcher, broke a bone in his left hand and didn’t make his major league debut until July 12. The glove-first backstop will have a chance to make up for some lost time.
— Vincent Lara-Cinisomo
|Adam Brett Walker||OF||23||R-R||6-4||225||MIN|
|Coaching staff—Matt Quatraro (Indians); Pitching coaches: Paul Abbott (Red Sox), Mike Couchee (Giants); Hitting coaches: Chad Allen (Twins), Nelson Santovenia (Tigers). Trainers: David Getsoff (Giants), Jason Schwartzman (Tigers)|
THE STARS: A year ago, scouts who watched Indians outfielder Clint Frazier came away expecting to see more from the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 draft. This season, Frazier rebounded with a strong season for high Class A Lynchburg and an outstanding second half. The 20-year-old Frazier will share an outfield with fellow Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer, the team's 2014 first-rounder and Lynchburg teammate for most of the season until Zimmer, 22, earned a promotion to Double-A Akron in July . . . Giants shortstop Christian Arroyo hits everywhere he goes. Batting .308/.348/.471 in 84 games this season for high Class A San Jose, the 20-year-old Arroyo is an aggressive hitter with a knack for barreling the baseball.
INTERESTING: The Red Sox didn't send Yoan Moncada to the AFL, but first baseman Sam Travis will be there after splitting the regular season between high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland . . . Twins Double-A outfielder Adam Brett Walker swings and misses a ton, which is a major red flag, but he also brings outstanding power, which should play well in the hitter-friendly AFL . . . Tigers outfielder Mike Gerber doesn't have Walker's power, but his simple, efficient swing stays in the hitting zone a long time. The Tigers conservatively sent Gerber, 22, to the low Class A Midwest League, where he batted .296/.357/.469 in 129 games, so the better pitching he'll see in the AFL will give a better gauge of the Tigers' 15th-round pick from a year ago . . . Ray Black missed his first two pro seasons due to a shoulder injury, so he's a 25-year-old reliever who only pitched in the high Class A California League this year. He walked 22 batters in 23 innings, but he also struck out 48 (a ridiculous 18.8 K/9) with a triple-digits fastball . . . Joining Black in the big velo, where-is-the-ball-going camp is Twins righthand reliever Nick Burdi, who pitched well in high Class A Fort Myers before running into trouble upon his Double-A promotion.
REHABBING: Giants lefthander Adalberto Mejia isn't rehabbing from an injury, but he is building up innings after sitting out until June because he tested positive for the stimulant sibutramine. After throwing 108 innings in 2014, Mejia has pitched 47 1/3 innings with a 2.47 ERA in Double-A Richmond this year. While Mejia might be a candidate to help the Giants next season, it would be a big jump in workload if he did it as a starter, even with the AFL exposure.
— Ben Badler
|Coaching staff—Manager: Carlos Subero (Brewers); Pitching coaches: Jose Rosado (Yankees), Carlos Reyes (Royals); Hitting coach: Bobby Rose (Rangers); Trainers: James Stone (Royals), Brent Neuharth (Cardinals)|
THE STARS: Milwaukee prospect Brett Phillips, acquired at midseason in the package for Carlos Gomez. Phillips combines the potential for 20-home run power with an arm that some grade as a 70 into a tantalizing, toolsy package. One the mound, the presence of Alex Reyes will make for appointment viewing. Reyes brings a fastball that has touched as high as 102 mph this season and couples it with a curveball and changeup that each project as plus in the future. He's one of the few prospects in the minors with ace-level potential. Another one of the Cardinals' prized arms, Luke Weaver, the team's first-round pick in 2014, will join Reyes on the Saguaros' staff. After the Cole Hamels trade cleaned out their system, Lewis Brinson emerged as the Rangers' top prospect behind slugger Joey Gallo. He's played at three levels this year and put together an OPS of .992 while playing excellent defense in center field.
INTERESTING: Yankees shortstop prospect Tyler Wade, a fourth-round pick from 2013, has shown enough skills to shoot through the system and reach Double-A before his 21st birthday. One of the toolsiest guys around, Royals outfielder Bubba Starling will take a second turn in the AFL after playing for Peoria in 2014. He quietly put together a very nice season between high Class A and Double-A. Pitchers Adrian Houser and Josh Hader, like Phillips, were part of the package the Astros sent to Milwaukee in exchange for Gomez.
REHABBING: Jurickson Profar, once one of the game's most promising prospects, has spent nearly two years rehabbing from a variety of injuries, the most severe of which was a torn labrum in his shoulder that require surgery this winter. He’s getting ready for the Fall League with some DH time at low Class A Hickory … Yankees third baseman Eric Jagielo, who was scheduled to attend the AFL last year before being hit in the face by a pitch in the fall instructional league, had surgery this season to remove loose bodies from his knee.
— Josh Norris