Welcome to fall ball! If you haven’t heard about it before here’s an introduction to the Arizona Fall League. The 2014 AFL’s season officially begins Tuesday and runs through November 15.
Over the last 23-years the AFL has been a showcase for each team’s best up and coming talent. Part of the reason it was founded was because baseball’s top prospects were, at the time, left to play winter ball outside the country and MLB wanted an more accessible fall league to keep track of the future stars of the sport.
There are six teams in the AFL and each team is allowed to send six of their best prospects to the league, usually these are players who have played at least at the Double-A level but clubs can also elect to send a Class-A player.
The league is divided into two divisions: East and West. Each team contains a mixture of players from five different Major League ball clubs.
The teams that make up the AFL Eastare the Mesa Solar Sox (Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals), the Scottsdale Scorpions(San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, New York Mets), Salt River Rafters(Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins).
The teams in the AFL West are the Surprise Saguaros (Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers),the Peoria Javelinas (Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals) and the Glendale Desert Dogs (Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers).
How much potential do these prospects have? According to MLB.com the 2014 All-Star Game had 36 former AFL players. Nearly 60 percent of all AFL players will go on to make a Major League roster.
Notable names on this year’s rosters include Cubs’ shortstop Addison Russell, Astros’ pitcher Mark Appel, Seattle’s pitcher Taijuan Walker and Dodger’s shortstop Corey Seager, just to name a handful. There are 176 more players that make up the AFL most of whose names you will one day know.
The Bowman Hitting Challenge was held Saturday to kick off the season and the Fall Stars Game will be held on November first, but play officially begins this afternoon with Walker starting for the Saguaros and Royals’ prospect Kyle Zimmer for the Javelinas at 12:35 MST.
Last season the AFL was used to test out MLB’s new expanded replay system. This year MLB will use the AFL as its guinea pig for the new pace of game initiatives.
I will personally be reporting from my first trip to fall ball in a couple of weeks time so stay with BBST for all your AFL updates!