As usual, the Diamondbacks prospects will form part of the Salt River Rafters, one of the six teams in the Arizona Fall League, who’ll be playing their home games at Salt River Fields. They’ll be joined on that roster by players from the Braves, Brewers, Tigers and Rockies, in what has become a hot showcase for some of the game’s top prospects. According to MLB.com, 12 of their top 50 prospects will be taking part in the AFL this year. The season opens on October 25th, and runs through November 19th. As well as SRF, games will also take place at Scottsdale Stadium, Surprise Stadium, Camelback Ranch, Sloan Park in Mesa and Peoria Sports Complex.
Here are the six nominees from the Diamondbacks’ farm system who are slated to take part this year.
Kevin Cron, 1B. If you’ve been following our minor-league reports, you’ll know this name, who has been slugging the heck out of the ball in Mobile: his 25 home-runs trails only Kyle Jensen (30) in the D-backs’ farm system. That’s the good news. The bad? A .220 average and a K-rate of 26.5%. He’s certainly got the genes, with his brother being C.J. Cron of the Angels. His father, Chris, also reached the majors and is cousin to former D-back Chad Moeller, as well as being Arizona’s minor league hitting co-ordinator. Kevin is getting married in December, with C.J. as his best man and Reds pitcher Brandon Finnegan, who we faced last week, among the groomsmen.
Jorge Despaigne, RHP. The 25-year-old Despaigne played alongside Yoan Lopez in the Cuban league, and was declared a free agent in September 2014. At the time there was expected to be significant interest in him. But, for whatever reason, he didn’t sign until July this year, when the D-backs picked him up for a $50,000 signing bonus. He’s a cousin of Orioles pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne, and made six starts in the Dominican Summer League, going 3-0 with a 3.48 ERA. Control was supposed his big problem, but the DSL stats looked decent, with a K:BB ratio of 39:10 over 31 innings. Obviously, he’s way old for that level though, and the AFL will be a much bigger test.
Dawel Lugo, 3B. Received from the Toronto Blue Jays in August last year, in exchange for Cliff Pennington, Lugo has put together a very nice campaign. He has hit better than .300 for both High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile, with a combined line of .311/.338/.493, for an .831 OPS, despite being only 21. At the time of the trade, he was a shortstop, but there were always concerns about his speed, and he has seen over 80% of his innings at the hot corner this year. His power has really come on this season: he had four HR all last season, but in the same number of PAs in 2016, has hit sixteen home-runs. John Sickels wrote more about Lugo, earlier this month.
Jared Miller, LHP. Left-hander Miller was an 11th-round pick for Arizona in the 2014 draft, and the reliever has certainly moved about. The AFL will be his fifth league this year, having also played with Kane County, Visalia, Mobile and Reno. He was a starter last season, but moved to the bullpen this year, and seems to have found better success in that role. He has made 44 relief appearances, and been unscored on in 37 of them. Miller posted a 2.20 ERA and an impressive 80 strikeouts over 61.1 innings, with 20 walks.
Gabe Speier, LHP. Bet you forgot we got another player in the Shelby Miller deal, didn’t you? Speier was originally a Red Sox prospect, but went to the Tigers with Yoenis Cespedes in December 2014, only for Detroit to send him to Atlanta the following November as part of the Cameron Maybin deal. A month later, he came to Arizona. Like Miller, he has kept his bags packed, playing at four different levels. Most recently, he was at Mobile, and has a 0.69 ERA over 13 innings there. All told, his ERA is 2.35 in 57.1 innings, with a K:BB of 49:20. Be ironic, should he turn out to be more valuable than Miller for Arizona.
Jamie Westbrook, 2B. A local kid, born in Gilbert, Westbrook was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft out of Basha High School there. He was called by John Baragona last December, the reason why the D-backs could afford to trade Dansby Swanson. We’ll see how that works out, as the numbers this season haven’t quite lived up to that billing. After hitting .319 for Visalia last year, Westbrook has batted .267 with Mobile - though he is still young, having only turned 21 in June. He had a great stint in May, hitting .422 over 19 games from May 13-June 1, but has cooled significantly since, batting .249 thereafter. Still a work in progress.
Arizona Fall League games are great. Tickets this year are $8, and are general admission, so you can sit wherever you want. With rarely more than a few hundred people in attention, they let you get up close to players you’ll eventually be seeing in the All-Star Game [This year, 42 ASG players, including six AL and five NL starters, were AFL alumni] It’s definitely one of the pleasures of Arizona baseball, and if you haven’t done so before, is thoroughly recommended. We’ll certainly be attending a game or two, so stay tuned for details.
Edit. Here are the current D-backs who appeared in the AFL previously.
- Rickie Weeks, Jr. (’03-04)
- Tuffy Gosewisch (’07-09)
- Welington Castillo (’09)
- A.J. Pollock (’10)
- Jean Segura (’11)
- Chris Owings (’12)
- Jake Barrett (’13)
- Jake Lamb (’13)
- Archie Bradley (’14)
- Brandon Drury (’14)
- Robbie Ray (’14)