Strasburg Highlights AFL Roster
The rosters were announced today for the Arizona Fall League (AFL), a league for each organization’s top prospects. Washington prospects will join farmhands from the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Rays and Toronto Blue Jays on the Desert Dogs roster. Additionally, Harrisburg Head Athletic Trainer Atsushi Toriida will serve as one of the trainers for the Desert Dogs. The AFL, regarded throughout professional baseball as the “finishing school” for Major League Baseball’s top prospects, begins its 18th season on Tuesday, October 13.
The No. 1 and No. 10 overall picks–Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen–highlight the Nationals’ prospects for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. It will give Storen and Strasburg an opportunity to form a bond that may appear at Nationals Park next year.
“I’m excited,” Storen said to mlb.com. “Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for the future. It’ll be great to meet him and see him throw. I hope I’ll be able to close his games and hopefully it’ll be the first of many I get to do that.”
Catcher Derek Norris, shortstop Danny Espinosa and first baseman Chris Marrero will join them. Strasburg arrives in Florida at the end of the week to begin his pitching routine and should be set for the AFL. Storen continues to climb the Minor League ladder but GM Mike Rizzo has said he won’t be a September call-up.
“I want to keep building off what I’m doing now, making adjustments and getting better each outing,” Storen said. “I hope to put myself in position to help out the Nationals at a higher level next year.”
Storen: He has fired scoreless ball in 8.0 innings of work and recorded a save in each of his six appearances since joining the Senators on August 11. Before reaching Double-A, Storen went 1-0 with two saves and a 1.80 ERA (2 ER/10.0 IP) in seven Carolina League games with Potomac. Prior to joining the P-Nats on July 19, he struck out 26 and did not walk a batter in 14.2 innings (11 games) with Single-A Hagerstown. Overall, the Stanford University product has fanned 43 and walked just seven in 32.2 combined innings (24 appearances) with Harrisburg, Potomac and Single-A Hagerstown.
Norris: He leads the South Atlantic League with 215 total bases and 79 walks. His 23 home runs and .410 OBP are both tied for the league lead with Lexington’s (Astros) Brian Pellegrini. The 20-year-old paces all catchers in professional baseball in homers and RBI (78). He has reached base safely via hit (119), walk (79) or HBP (8) 194 times in 117 games (1.76 times per contest). Norris was a 2009 SAL All-Star selection and he entered the season rated as the No. 6 prospect and top overall catching prospect in Washington’s system by Baseball America.
Espinosa: After hitting just .219 (21-for-96) in 27 games during July, he is batting .312 (24-for-77) in 23 August contests. Espinosa leads the Carolina League with 81 runs scored and ranks among the league leaders in walks (2nd, 68) and OBP (5th, .374). Espinosa entered the season as the Best Defensive Infielder among Nationals prospects according to Baseball America. He was selected in the 3rd round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Long Beach State University (CA).
Marrero: The 21-year-old is hitting .393 (11-for-28) with four doubles, five RBI and six runs scored in his first eight games at the Double-A level. Marrero hit .287 (119-for-414) with 21 doubles, two triples, 16 homers, 65 RBI, 42 walks and 58 runs scored in 112 contests with Potomac. At the time of his promotion to Harrisburg, he ranked among the Carolina League leaders in hits (3rd), total bases (3rd, 192), home runs (5th), slugging percentage (5th, .464) and batting average (t-5th). Marrero was Washington’s first-round pick (15th overall) in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
If you need a brief history on the AFL: right from the website…
Makeup of the AFL
– There are six teams in the Arizona Fall League: the Scottsdale Scorpions, Mesa Solar Sox, Peoria Saguaros, Phoenix Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas and Surprise Rafters. These club names were picked by Major League Baseball as reflective of the Southwestern desert traditions in the state.
– The teams are broken into two divisions, East and West. Each Major League Baseball team sends six top prospects to the Arizona Fall League, 180 players in all. The games are played in the Spring Training ballparks used by the Giants, Mariners, Padres, Cubs, A’s, Royals and Rangers.
– How good are the players in the Arizona Fall League? The 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh featured 25 AFL alums, including first-time All-Stars David Wright, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
– Each August, Major League clubs hold a position draft to determine the players who will go to Arizona. Most are Double-A and Triple-A Minor League players. Each club can opt to send one player considered a Class A player.
History of the League
The roots of the Arizona Fall League go back several years, when the Major Leagues wanted to create an easily accessed offseason league. A concern was that some of the best ballplayers left to play winter ball out of the country, such as in the Caribbean and there was no way to monitor them.
If Major League Baseball created a league that it could govern and monitor, it would be better organized. If a player was injured, proper care and treatment would be on-hand. With the Arizona Fall League, managers, coaches, scouts and league officials could participate.
“That was the beauty of this,” says Steve Cobb, AFL executive vice president, “and that seemed to be one of the unifying factors for all the clubs. They created a Fall League where all of their personnel would be involved, with reduced travel and immediate accessibility on the part of scouting.”