Arizona Fall League rosters were recently announced and that means one of the more fun times of the year are upon us. Autumn in the desert heats up when the biggest prospects in baseball join forces with each other to go head-to-head in an abbreviated season of what amounts to a seven-week All Star Game.
Basically, it’s a minor league baseball enthusiasts version of Prospect Heaven.
The first game isn’t until October 11th, so there is some time to take a look at the different rosters as the AFL opener approaches. The first game pits the Scottsdale Scorpions against the Glendale Desert Dogs. Seems like a good place to start.
Who they are: The Scorpions roster comprises the prospects from the Los Angeles Angels, the New York Mets, the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants. They will be managed by Tom Goodwin, who is currently the Mets first base coach in the bigs.
Gleyber Torres — the big return in the Aroldis Chapman trade for the ever evolving New York Yankees farm system — is the highest rated prospect on the squad, sitting at No. 27 on Baseball America’s Midseason Top 100 and No. 19 on MLB Pipeline’s same rankings. Torres struggled at first when joining the Yankees in the pitcher-friendly FSL but has been scorching hot over his past ten games going 13-for-38 over that span.
Torres is really the only highly-profiled prospect on the team, but that doesn’t mean that there are still a few big names to watch. The Phillies, who are stacked with outfield prospects of note as well as some exciting infielders, have seemingly sent none of their big name prospects (it would have been fun to see Cozens and Hoskins continue to rake in the heart of the lineup), which is a bit upsetting. (note: there are currently only nine pitchers announced on the roster. There are some rumors aswirl that James Kaprielian will be headed west, so there could be several more names on the way.)
Prospects of interest:
Aramis Garcia had a breakout season in the Sally last year for the Giants farm system, so much so that the 23 year old, former second round catching prospect earned an invite to spring training with the big league club. This season in High-A, Garcia has been plagued by injury, making three different visits to the DL — missing all of June and almost all of July — and playing some rehab games in the Arizona League.
It is discouraging, because Garcia seemed to find his power stroke last season with a career best 15 home runs and it would've been exciting to see what his healthy bat could do in the power happy California League. He is certainly one to keep an eye on in the AFL.
A Taylor and a Tyler make up a Ward and Wade to watch. Taylor Ward was the Angels first round pick out of Fresno State last year, a first round pick that left many scratching their heads. It wasn’t that Ward didn’t have talent, it was whether he had first round talent. A monster half-season debut across Rookie level and Low-A seemed to silence critics, as he slashed .348/.457/.438, walking 29 times and striking out just eight in 56 combined games. He has struggled in the California League this year, slashing .241/.316/.314 finding some power with eight home runs, but also seeing an increased strikeout rate, posting a 77-to-47 mark.
Here is a scouting report from Bobby DeMuro on Taylor Ward.
Tyler Wade is one of four infielders (joining Torres, Bird and Miguel Andujar who has caught many an eye this season) the Yankees sent west. The intriguing thing is that Wade is listed as an outfielder on the roster. With suddenly one of the deepest farm systems in middle infield talent, the Yankees want to find a way to keep Wade’s versatile skill set in the mix. Having played a combined ZERO games in the outfield since the Yankees made him a fourth round pick in 2013, it will be interesting to see how the experiment plays out.
Gavin Cecchini has improved as a hitter and infielder every season in his five year minor league career. While the Mets are deep in utility type players, the 22 year old seems as if he is finally on the cusp of earning a major league roster spot. Showcasing his skills in Arizona could help do that.
Lastly, although he is not a prospect, Greg Bird will see his first action of the 2016 season. While some felt the Yankees first baseman was rushed to the bigs, he delivered a very nice rookie campaign. He was shut down in 2016 when it was found out that he played much of ’15 with a shoulder injury. No stranger to the AFL — Bird was the 2014 MVP — and with Mark Teixeira officially out of his way in New York, these will be the first baby steps back to the bigs for The Bird.