We may be heading down the stretch in the big leagues and seeing the final playoff games across the minor leagues, so what better time than now to start looking ahead to the Arizona Fall League? The first game will kick off on October seventh, and we will be providing first hand reports from the league all season, but first we will take a look at each of the rosters, starting with the Peoria Javelinas.
The Javelinas will feature prospects from the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, and Tampa Bay Rays and will play their home games away from “home”, instead playing down the road at Surprise Stadium which will also be the home of the Surprise Saguaros.
The AFL often gets the biggest prospects in baseball, but the pitching staffs are often less than impressive thanks to the rise of Tommy John Surgery and inning limits set forth by teams, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good arms on the Javelinas. The biggest names for the Peoria squad come from the Royals, and that is also true for the pitchers. The Royals number five prospect per MLB.com, Miguel Almonte, headlines the club’s staff after a less than stellar campaign in High-A Wilmington. Almonte threw just over 110 innings while striking out 101 batters but putting up an ERA of 4.49.
Despite seeing parts of each of the past three seasons in the big leagues with the Los Angeles Angels, Nick Maronde will head to the AFL after seeing just 47 innings over five levels and two organizations in 2014 and an ERA over 7 in the minor leagues.
Cardinals prospect, Tyrell Jenkins, just finished his fifth season in the minor leagues but has yet to see an inning above High-A despite previously being on the back end of some top-100 lists. His career high in innings is just 82.1 despite every appearance being as a starter, but he does have a K/9 rate of 7.1 and a walk rate of 3.2/9.
The Royals sent their top two position players, Raul Mondesi and Hunter Dozier, along with former #5 overall pick Bubba Starling. I got to see all three guys a lot back in Spring Training, and was really impressed by Mondesi and Dozier. Mondesi struggled in the Carolina League this season, but he played most the season as just 18-years old, almost 5 years younger than the league average. He has incredible speed and should stick at short, but his bat is still a major work in progress from both sides of the plate.
Dozier was one of the biggest surprises in the first round of the 2013 draft, going eight overall, but ended up signing well below slot to free up money for the Royals to sign Sean Manaea. While he may have been a surprise to go so early in the draft, he has performed like a first rounder thus far. He hit .295 in Wilmington but struggled after getting the promotion to Double-A. His power has not turned into home runs yet, hitting just eight between the two levels, but there is certainly some pop in his bat and he looks to be an above average defensive third baseman.
Starling has been a disappointment since being drafted, and this year was no different. He hit just .218 while striking out 150 times in 132 games. Despite his poor numbers at the plate, his arm and defensive ability in center field are still well above average and can play at any level.
The Tampa Bay Rays send Justin O’Conner to Peoria where will hope to show off one of the best arms behind the plate in all the minor leagues, and he hopes to continue his improved batting numbers.