Major League Baseball’s premier prospect showcase, the Arizona Fall League, will be getting season number 22 underway with a six-week schedule that begins on Tuesday, October 7.
Seven St. Louis Cardinals farmhands are among those on rosters announced Tuesday. The selections include no players from Triple-A Memphis while heavy in Double-A experience, with five from Springfield.
The Cardinals headliners this fall come from the 2010 and 2011 drafts, right-handed starting pitcher Tyrell Jenkins (supplemental first rounder in 2010) and outfielder Charlie Tilson (second round in 2011). Compare that to last year’s AFL standouts Stephen Piscotty and James Ramsey, who had been drafted just the year before.
Of course, as high school draftees, Jenkins and Tilson have needed more development time than college standouts like Piscotty and Ramsey. In addition, Marco Gonzales, who I would have projected to be in this group when the season started, was rushed to St. Louis when injuries hit.
The 2014 group of seven include, from:
Triple-A Memphis: none
A-Advanced Palm Beach: Pitchers Chris Perry and Jenkins.
On September 3, the Cardinals added Breyvic Valera to their AFL participants. The Springfield infielder/outfielder offers positional flexibility and is a good hitter for average. It appears that at least initially, he will be a taxi squad player, eligible Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
All seven Cardinals prospects will suit up with the Peoria Javelinas and will have a familiar face awaiting them. One of the club’s two pitching coaches will be Peoria pitching coach Jason Simontacchi. Peoria, which will actually play in Surprise, will be staffed with players from the Cardinals, Royals, Indians, Braves and Rays.
The Javelinas other pitching coach will be R.C. Lichtenstein of Montgomery (Double-A, Rays). Peoria’s hitting coach will be Garey Ingram of Gwinnett (Triple-A, Braves), with Vance Wilson serving as manager. The former major league catcher is familiar to Springfield fans as the current manager of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals) of the Double-A Texas League. The Cardinals organization will also be represented on the Javelinas staff by Memphis Redbirds athletic trainer Jeremy Clipperton.
Participating organizations provide seven to eight players each, typically made up of four pitchers, three position players and one taxi squad member. Of the seven regulars, three players are to be sourced from Double-A and above, two players are to be from the A-Advanced level with the other two from any level of play. With 35 to 40 active players, including 20 pitchers, players can be rotated to avoid excessive fatigue.
More on the Seven Cardinals
Tilson, 21, has been designated as the Cardinals’ priority player, assuring him of regular playing time, typically at least two of every three starts. Jenkins, 21, who came back in June from shoulder surgery, will be the Cardinals’ member of the Javelinas’ five-man rotation. The Cardinals have not yet designated an eighth participant, a taxi squad player who is restricted to Wednesday and Saturday play only.
In a bit of an unusual twist, two of the Cardinals seven are repeaters. Wilson played quite well in the AFL last fall and Stanley, 25, also competed there the year before, in 2012. The second baseman, 24 years of age, has been out since mid-June following knee surgery and remains on the disabled list today.
Another player looking to make up for lost time is Perry. After a tremendous start to the season in relief for Peoria and quickly adapting to A-Advanced, the 24-year-old right-hander went on Palm Beach’s DL on August 16.
Tuivailala, who turns 22 in October, may be the most intriguing player of the group. Possessing a 100 mph fastball, the converted infielder is still working on his secondary pitches and his control. If he can complete the package, the talent is there to go far.
Harris drew attention as the former Navy officer who had to compete his service commitment before pursuing his professional baseball career. Harris, who will celebrate his 29th birthday during the final week of the AFL schedule, is the oldest player in the league, born almost a decade before the AFL’s youngest player, Royals outfield prospect Raul Mondesi.
In the August update to The Cardinal Nation’s top 40 prospect rankings, Tilson came in at number nine. Jenkins is 12th, Wilson 23rd and Tuivailala 26th. Harris, Perry and Stanley are currently unranked.
Additional AFL Particulars
The six-team circuit will feature action each Monday through Saturday afternoons (and occasionally evenings) through November 13 with the one-game championship on November 15. Games are held in five spring training stadiums around the Phoenix metropolitan area, as two teams call Surprise home.
As has been the case for the last decade, I will be reporting first-hand from Arizona on the Cardinals prospects competing in this year’s AFL and plan to attend the league’s Fall Stars Game on Saturday, November 1. The game will also be televised nationally on MLB Network as will the league final.
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