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Arizona Fall League rosters were released late last night, and we have the skinny as to who's going and how each of the six teams will stack up.
The AFL is a stomping ground for budding prospects, and the circuit has earned its reputation as a steppingstone for future standouts.
This year is the league implemented two changes in regard to which players are eligible to play: A player must have no more than one year active major league service time prior to Aug. 31, or the player has had no more than two years of major league service time in full.
The changes allow for more flexibility for clubs to get rookies more experience, and should also bump up the level of competition in the league overall.
Some of those rookies slated to head to the AFL this season are J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder (Brewers), Yuniesky Betancourt (Mariners), Jeremy Accardo (Giants), Matt Murton (Cubs), Brad Eldred (Pirates), and Mike Jacobs (Mets).
Another not-so-significant change is there will be only one team in Scottsdale this year, as the Scorpions move to the facility in Surprise, Ariz., shared by the Rangers and Royals. The Scorpions and Grand Canyon Rafters both used Scottsdale Stadium as its home field last year. The league will consist of a 32-game season, beginning on Oct. 4 and ending on Nov. 10 with the championship game on Nov. 12. The season will be one week shorter than last year, presumably to end prior to the Olympic qualifying tournament.
While there are still a lot of roster spots still open on various teams, here is a breakdown of the top players on each club as they currently stand:
• Complete Arizona Fall League Rosters
PHOENIX DESERT DOGS
Chad Billingsley, rhp, Dodgers; Edwin Jackson, rhp, Dodgers; Greg Miller, lhp, Dodgers; Bill Murphy, lhp, Diamondbacks; Wade Townsend, rhp, Devil Rays; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c, Braves; Kurt Suzuki, c, Athletics; Tony Abreu, 2b, Dodgers; Wes Bankston, 1b, Devil Rays; Daric Barton, 1b, Athletics; Stephen Drew, ss, Diamondbacks; Andy LaRoche, 3b, Dodgers; James Loney, 1b, Dodgers; Josh Burrus, of, Braves; Elijah Dukes, of, Devil Rays; Andre Ethier, of, Athletics.
MESA SOLAR SOX
David Aardsma, rhp, Cubs; Angel Guzman, rhp, Cubs; Adam Miller, rhp, Indians; Adam Peterson, rhp, Tigers; Humberto Sanchez, rhp, Tigers; Allan Simpson, rhp, Reds; Michael Aubrey, 1b, Indians; Kevin Frandsen, 2b, Giants; Tony Giarratano, ss, Tigers; Brandon Sing, 1b, Cubs; Joey Votto, 1b, Reds; Curtis Granderson, of, Tigers; Dan Ortmeier, of, Giants; Brad Snyder, of, Indians.
Dana Eveland, lhp, Brewers; Adam Loewen, lhp, Orioles; Jim Miller, rhp, Rockies; Clint Nageotte, rhp, Mariners; Chris Iannetta, c, Rockies; George Kottaras, c, Padres; Josh Barfield, 2b, Padres; Ian Stewart, 3b, Rockies; Corey Hart, of, Brewers; Adam Jones, of, Mariners; Val Majewski, of, Orioles; Nick Markakis, of, Orioles.
Bryan Bullington, rhp, Pirates; Sean Tracey, rhp, White Sox; Guillermo Quiroz, c, Blue Jays; Neil Walker, c, Pirates; Larry Broadway, 1b, Nationals; Josh Fields, 3b, White Sox; Brendan Harris, 3b, Nationals; Robert Valido, ss, White Sox; Ryan Zimmerman, 3b/ss, Nationals; Rajai Davis, of, Pirates; David Murphy, of, Red Sox; Brandon Moss, of, Red Sox; Ryan Sweeney, of, White Sox.
Brian Bass, rhp, Royals; Scott Mathieson, rhp, Phillies; Jered Weaver, rhp, Angels; Justin Huber, 1b, Royals; Howie Kendrick, 2b, Angels; Kendry Morales, 1b, Angels; Brandon Wood, ss, Angels; Josh Anderson, of, Astros; Michael Bourn, of, Phillies; Billy Butler, of, Royals.
GRAND CANYON RAFTERS
Travis Bowyer, rhp, Twins; Logan Kensing, rhp, Marlins; Matt Lindstrom, rhp, Mets; Glen Perkins, lhp, Twins; Taylor Tankersley, lhp, Marlins; Robert Andino, ss, Marlins; Eric Duncan, 3b, Yankees; Drew Meyer, ss, Rangers; Matt Moses, 3b, Twins; Josh Wilson, ss, Marlins; Reggie Abercrombie, of, Marlins; Lastings Milledge, of, Mets; Denard Span, of, Twins.
Double-A West Tenn righthander Ricky Nolasco dominated Wednesday in the Diamond Jaxx' 3-1 win against Mississippi. The fourth-round pick in 2001 allowed a run on seven hits and struck out 11 over eight innings. On the season, Nolasco improved to 12-3, 3.15 with a league-leading 160 strikeouts in 148 innings. His 12 wins rank second in the Southern League behind Birmingham righthander Sean Tracey's 13.
"His command is phenomenal, Birmingham manager Razor Shines said. This is the guy that just doesn't walk you. I think if he walked you, he tried to walk you. I think he throws the ball exactly where he wants to throw it. He's in the low 90s with his fastball, he throws a good breaking ball and a good change. You've got to do things right when he's pitching, because he's not going to put guys on base."
White Sox lefthander Ray Liotta has been overpowering since his arrival in the Carolina League. Liotta, a second-round pick in 2004, tossed six shutout innings Wednesday in Winston-Salem's 4-1 win against Lynchburg. Liotta allowed just four hits, struck out six and walked two. Since being called up from low Class A Kannapolis, Liotta is now 5-1, 1.23 in 37 innings.
Orioles lefthander Adam Loewen seemed to have turned a corner since the all-star break, reeling off six wins and carrying a 1.20 ERA in July. But Loewen has fallen off that streak, and Wednesday night at high Class A Kinston was further proof. The highest drafted Canadian ever walked four of the first eight batters he faced and didn't make it out of the second inning against the Indians. His final line: 1 2/3 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 0 K. Loewen's fastball touched 95 mph, but he had little command of his secondary pitches and wound up facing just 16 hitters. "He is truly an enigma," an NL scout said. "He'll go 3-0 on you and look like he's got nothing in there. And then, boom-boom-boom--three big league pitches on the black. You just never know what you're going to get." Incidentally, Indians righthander Nick Pesco cruised through six innings of the 11-1 Kinston win. He allowed a run on three hits and retired 10 consecutive batters at one point.
After a slow start after his demotion from the big leagues, Matt Murton busted out in the Pacific Coast League. The Cubs outfielder went 4-for-5 from Triple-A Iowa Wednesday and is now 7-for-19 since being reassigned.
Clearly excited about being named co-player of the year (along with teammate Eric Campbell) in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, Max Ramirez went off last night. The Braves catcher went 3-for-4 with two doubles. The Venezuelan is now hitting .367.
Having missed a month due to injury, John Matulia is picking up where he left off for Princeton. The centerfielder went 2-for-4 and is now hitting .398. However, he needs to work on his baserunning skills as he got caught stealing and is now 8-for-18, eerily reminiscent of Will Clark's 1987 season.
After going 127 games without a player accumulating five hits in a game this year, two players at Double-A Arkansas achieved the feat in the same night on Wednesday in a 15-7 win over Arkansas. Shortstop Erick Aybar and first baseman Kendry Morales each delivered five base knocks as part of a 24-hit attack. Morales, who added six RBIs, homered for the fourth time in six games, while Aybar, who is now 12-for-17 in his last four contests, has seen his average move ahead of .300 for the first time this season, with totals of .304/.353/.443 in 490 at-bats.
Because of all the player movement in the minors, sometimes it's hard to appreciate a good season until you do the addition yourself. Case in point: Athletics second baseman Kevin Melillo. A fifth-round pick last June out of South Carolina, Melillo went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs in Double-A Midland 3-1 win over San Antonio last night, and is now batting .337/.410/.570 in 24 Texas League games. Melillo, who began the year at Low A Kane County and also spent a month at high Class A Stockton, is batting .318-21-77 in 124 games with 18 stoles bases, 77 walks and 92 runs scored.
In other good news for the Athletics, 2003 first-round pick Brad Sullivan is finally showing some signs of coming around. In his last five appearances coming out of the bullpen for high Class A Stockton, Sullivan has fired 10 shutout innings, allowing just seven hits.
A 2004 13th-round pick out of Texas known for his big curveball, the Blue Jays may have found a keeper in righthander Kyle Yates. Yates allowed one run on four hits over six innings Wednesday in high Class A Dunedin's 8-1 win over Lakeland, improving his season totals in the Florida State League to 6-2, 2.02 in 71 innings. In his last four games, Yates has allowed just two earned runs in 28 innings, allowing just 16 hits and striking out 30.
While he entered the game with an ERA over seven, righthander Scott Mitchinson showed the stuff that made him a top 10 prospect for the Phillies on Wednesday night. The 20-year-old Aussie fired a complete game two-hitter in short-season Batavia's 10-0 win over Auburn, striking out nine.
Yankees lefthander Abel Gomez earned his first victory with five dominant innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Wednesday. A 6-foot, 170-pounder from Venezuela, Gomez racked up nine strikeouts and surrendered a run off a hit and three walks. C.J. Henry, a first-round draft choice this year by the Yankees, went 3-for-5 and swiped his 17th base.
Dodgers righthander Charles Dasni dealt five shutout innings on his way to his first victory in his 12th appearance in the GCL. Less than a week after allowing nine earned runs against the Marlins, the 20-year-old surrendered just two hits in five innings against the Marlins.
The state of Louisiana has produced an impressive array of high school, junior college and four-year players in recent drafts and Louisiana-Lafayette product Dallas Morris was supplementing this year's class with a solid debut campaign in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. The Angels 24th-round pick this June, Morris boosted his numbers to .318-8-40 with a 2-for-3 effort Wednesday for Orem. Morris, a third baseman, has hit safely in eight of his last nine games.
Missoula third baseman Rusty Ryal pieced together his fourth four-hit game in the last week. The Diamondbacks 12th-round pick out of Oklahoma State this year, Ryal is batting .328-6-37 in 232 at-bats. Lefthander Greg Smith, Arizona's sixth-round pick from Louisiana State this year, rebounded well following a disastrous outing in his last appearance when he allowed 11 earned runs in three-plus innings in a loss to Casper. Smith struck out eight with a walk and no runs in six innings of work in the Osprey's 7-0 victory.
Mariners second baseman Luis Valbuena homered and stole a base Wednesday for short-season Everett. The 19-year-old leads the Northwest League with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs and has added 13 steals in his first season in a domestic league. He signed out of Venezuela in 2002 and played in the Venezuelan Summer League the last two seasons, earning league MVP honors in 2004.
Rockies righthander Shane Lindsay kept rolling at short-season Tri-City. He held Yakima scoreless on two hits over 5 2/3 innings while striking out nine. The 20-year-old Australian has allowed just 33 hits in 59 innings. Lindsay's five walks set a career high, but he still owns a 97-33 strikeout-walk ratio. He leads the Northwest League in strikeouts and ranks second with a 1.99 ERA.
Catcher Taylor Teagarden notched only one hit in his first seven games in the short-season Northwest League but has picked up 18 hits in his last 12. He enjoyed his second three-hit night in three games Wednesday, hitting his sixth home run and doubling twice. He's batting .339-6-11 in 56 at-bats at Spokane.
Eighteen-year-old Dominican righthander Waldis Joaquin continues to dominate hitters for the Giants entry in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He faced 11 batters in a three-inning stint Wednesday and struck out eight of them, also allowing a hit and a walk to record his first save. Joaquin has compiled a 37-10 strikeout-walk ratio in 30 innings.
Contributing: Will Kimmey, Alan Matthews.
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