Future stars of baseball shine during 26th season of Arizona Fall League

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy Arizona Fall League/MLB
New York Yankees prospect Estevan Florial, ranked 46 out of the top 100 prospects in Major League Baseball, is playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs.

As the 26th season of the Arizona Fall League opens up to showcase the future stars of Major League Baseball, fans are encouraged to attend to see the next generation of players as they shine throughout the Valley.

“What makes this league unique is that fans have the opportunity to see the next wave of major league players right before they break,” Director of the Arizona Fall League Steve Cobb said during a recent phone interview. “The players in an average game here, 20 to 25 players, will make the majors in a year to a year and a half, so all these players are the future of baseball.”

The league features six teams, with each team allocated prospects from five of the 30 Major League Baseball teams.

The teams, Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas, Surprise Saguaros, Mesa Solar Sox, Salt River Rafters and Scottsdale Scorpions play 30 games each with 15 at home and 15 on the road.

The Desert Dogs have won the Fall League championship six times (2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008), and the Javelinas have won five championships (1994, 1997, 2009, 2012, 2017).

“The league is sponsored by MLB and we play an all-star game, which will be in Scottsdale on Nov. 17,” Cobb said. “The league is broken into two divisions with the winners playing a championship game at the end of the season with the winners getting championship rings.”

Over the past 25 years, the Arizona Fall League has been showcasing young stars of Major League Baseball, including current standouts Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant.

“If you come to watch games, all the players are high level and there could be 40 to 50 in each game that are major league prospects,” Cobb said. “You get to see them up close, and they are players that are the future of the league.”

Hundreds of future Major League All-Stars have come through the Fall League since its inception, including Mike Piazza, the first AFL alum to get enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

There have also been 29 Rookie of the Year Award winners, 17 MVP Award winners (20 total awards, with Albert Pujols winning three) and six Cy Young Award recipients (eight awards, with Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer winning twice each) who put the finishing touches on their minor league development in Arizona over the two and a half decades of the league’s existence.

“Players in the Fall League range from Class-A to AA, but they could have up to two years of total major league service time,” Cobb said. “Which means they can have up to 360 days on a major league roster and still play in the Fall League.”

Each major league team must assign a minimum of seven of their minor league players to the league, with the normal assignments being four pitchers and three position players.

Among the top prospects on this year’s rosters include Dodgers catcher Keibert Ruiz (ranked No. 37 of the top 100 prospects) and Yankees outfielder Estevan Florial (No. 46) with Glendale and Braves outfielder Cristian Pache (No. 55) with Peoria.

“There’s a two-pronged mission to the AFL,” Cobb said. “One is for the players to accelerate, and hopefully jump a classification, while the second is for the managers and umpires to develop. For those who aspire to be major league managers, this is a place to gain additional experience. The AFL provides employment opportunity to enhance managers’ and coaches’ skills to better improve and advance.”

Peoria is managed by Daren Brown, who was interim manager of the Seattle Mariners in 2010, winning 19 of the 50 games he managed.

Glendale is managed by former major league infielder Dave Anderson, who played for 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, winning a world series with the Dodgers in 1988.

“Managers have had some good success, with Dusty Baker as a good example of a field manager who had not had managerial experience until he had managed here in ’92 for some seasoning,” Cobb said. “Then he became the field manager of the Giants for a decade before joining the Cubs. And he was the National League Manager of the Year three times, 1993, 1997 and 2000, so fans can see future managers, as well.”

Tickets to games cost $9 for adults, and $7 for children ages 3 to 17 and senior citizens 55 and older. Seats are not assigned. Group tickets for 20 or more are available for $5 apiece. The AFL sells individual season passes ($75 for seniors and $90 for adults) and family passes ($125 for up to six people).

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Peoria Times

Peoria Times
7122 N. 59th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85301-2436
Ph: (623) 842-6000
Fax: (623) 842-6013

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