Wallace Leads 8 Cards to Arizona Fall League

Eight top St. Louis Cardinals prospects will participate in the 2008 Arizona Fall League as members of the Peoria Saguaros, led by the organization's top 2008 draftee, third baseman Brett Wallace.

On Tuesday, the tentative rosters for the 2008 Arizona Fall League were released. Eight members of the St. Louis Cardinals are expected to participate. They are pitchers Brad Furnish, Tyler Norrick, Justin Fiske and Adam Ottavino, catcher Steven Hill (taxi squad), shortstop Tyler Greene, third baseman Brett Wallace and outfielder Shane Robinson.

Previously announced late last month were the managers, pitching coaches and hitting coaches for the upcoming AFL season as well as the team affiliations.

Springfield Cardinals skipper Ron "Pop" Warner was selected to lead the Peoria Saguaros this fall, assisted by former Memphis hitting coach Rick Eckstein, now with Washington's Triple-A club and fresh from the Olympics and pitching coach Wally Whitehurst who hails from the San Diego Padres organization.

Brad Furnish. After 25 appearances for A-Advanced Palm Beach, the 23-year-old left-hander was promoted to Double-A Springfield two weeks ago. In three Texas League starts and 16 innings, Furnish has allowed just one earned run (0.56 ERA).

Furnish was taken by the Cardinals in the second round, 54th overall, in the 2006 draft from Texas Christian University.

Tyler Norrick. This left-hander has been slowed by injury, logging just six regular season starts between Palm Beach (five) and Memphis (one) with an ERA over six. Norrick, who turns 25 next month, was first slowed by tendonitis then a shoulder strain. He is currently on Palm Beach's disabled list and last pitched in game action on July 23.

Norrick was selected by the Cardinals in the sixth round of the 2006 draft out of Southern Illinois University.

Justin Fiske. The Cardinals third left-handed AFL representative is quite a story. Fiske, who turns 24 years of age next week, was acquired from an independent league club last July.

Fiske moved from Batavia last season to Quad Cities this April and May, and through Palm Beach to Double-A Springfield just eight days later. After relieving for his first year, he made his initial professional start on July 14 and has seven more since. Overall, Fiske has a 3.70 ERA this season with 90 strikeouts and 34 walks in 73 innings.

Adam Ottavino. If any player could use more time to right his ship, it would be this 22-year-old right-hander. Starting 0-3 with Springfield, Ottavino went onto the disabled list with shoulder inflammation in May, only to struggle upon his return, even taking a short "mental break" away from starting to work with a specialist in transcendental meditation.

Overall this season, Ottavino is 2-7 with a 5.48 ERA. He has fanned 92 and walked 51 in 108.1 innings and 23 starts.

Ottavino was taken by the Cardinals in the first round (30th overall) of the June, 2006 First-Year Player Draft from Northeastern.

Steven Hill. A standout hitter looking for a permanent home defensively, Hill is listed as a catcher on the Saguaros roster, though he can also play corner infield positions and a bit of outfield.

After a strong initial campaign in 2007 with Batavia and Quad Cities, Hill also began well with Palm Beach in 2008 before his promotion to Springfield in early May. One month later, his momentum was stalled by a broken hand. Returning to action just ten days ago, Hill was returned to Palm Beach to play his way back into shape.

The 23-year-old joined the Cardinals organization in the 13th round (412th overall) of the June, 2007 First-Year Player Draft from Stephen F. Austin University in Texas.

Tyler Greene. The 25-year-old has been blessed with a combination of power and speed and is a good defender, yet has struggled with consistency ever since he was taken from Georgia Tech just two picks after Colby Rasmus in the first round of the 2005 draft at number 30 overall.

Greene returned to Springfield this spring after a torn knee ligament limited him to 65 games in 2007. There, he hit .259 with 16 home runs, 41 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 20 attempts. The right-handed hitter was promoted to Memphis one month ago when Brian Barden left to join Team USA for the Olympics.

In 91 Triple-A at bats, Greene has roughly maintained his Double-A average, improved his OBP by 36 points (to .343), but has declined over 100 points in slugging (.449 to .341). He has struck out in one third of his at-bats with Memphis.

Brett Wallace. The Cardinals' 2008 first-round draft pick from Arizona State will be the organization's highest-profile prospect in the Arizona Fall League.

The 22-year-old third baseman, taken with the 18th pick overall, excelled at Quad Cities of the Midwest League and has continued in his short stint with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. Between the two stops, the left-handed hitter has posted a .341/.431/.551 line. Wallace has eight home runs and 33 RBI in 176 professional at-bats.

Shane Robinson. Limited to 47 games in 2007 due to a foot injury, Robinson was the talk of the Texas League in the first half of 2008, leading the league in hitting at .352 and being named an All-Star.

The right-handed outfielder was promoted to Memphis in late June. By late July, he went on the DL for the second time in 2008 and returned to action just ten days ago. Hitting just .213 in Triple-A, Robinson could clearly benefit from the additional fall at-bats.

The 23-year-old became a Cardinal after being taken in the fifth round (166th overall) of the June, 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

AFL background

Other MLB clubs supplying prospects to the Saguaros along with the Cardinals, Nationals and Padres are the New York Mets and Chicago White Sox. In total, the AFL consists of 210 players on six clubs. The League is organized in two divisions, American and National, with the Saguaros a member of the former.

It its 17th year, MLB's premier prospect showcase begins play on Tuesday, October 7 and ends with the championship game between the two divisional winners on Saturday, November 22. The full schedule can be accessed here and rosters here.

Details on the Cardinals' recent history in the Arizona Fall League and much more can be referenced in my July 30 article entitled "Pop Warner to Manage in Arizona Fall League".

Player selection

Players for each club's roster are selected draft-style by the player development staffs of the participating organizations. They work together to complete a full roster of starters, relievers, catchers, infielders and outfielders, each providing seven players. (Five organizations times seven players each equal 35-man rosters.)

The eighth is an optional taxi squad player. These players can only participate in games on Wednesdays and Saturdays, though they often are moved into full-time duty later on as injuries strike.

AFL players are sourced from Triple-A and Double-A rosters as of August 6, but one player per organization can be added from a lower level. Each club may have up to 20 pitchers, though only 15 can be active on any given day.

Here is one for Colby Rasmus fans, wondering why the rehabbing outfielder was not selected. AFL rules state that all players on minor league disabled lists must have been activated at least 45 days prior to the conclusion of the regular season to be AFL-eligible. Therefore, Rasmus does not qualify.

On the other hand, I have seen rehabbing players added to AFL rosters in the past, so exceptions have been made as recently as 2007. For example, oft-injured, now release pitcher Stuart Pomeranz played last fall despite having been on the DL almost the entire regular season. His rehab assignment did not begin until early August.

Edit: This article has been updated to include shortstop Tyler Greene, omitted from our initial list when his name was misspelled as "Green" on the official roster linked-to above. Apologies to Tyler!

We have you covered!

As every year, stlcardinals.scout.com will be your leader in first-hand reporting on and from the Arizona Fall League. So, check back for eyewitness reports on the Cardinals prospects that will be playing for the Peoria Saguaros this October and November.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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