The Arizona Fall League is one of the best things about living in Arizona for baseball fans. You get to see many of the game’s top prospects, up close and personal, in a way (and at a price!) that’s all but impossible anywhere else, even in spring training. Virtually anyone who is anyone has played in the AFL at some point. To take just a couple of recentish years, among those who took part in 2013 were Nick Ahmed, Jake Barrett, Andrew Chafin and Jake Lamb, while the following season saw Archie Bradley, Brandon Drury, Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker. Overall, most of our current 25-man roster have seen AFL action at some point.
All 30 teams send prospects to the league. There are six AFL teams, the roster of each comprising players from five franchises. Arizona’s are part of the Salt River Rafters, playing at our spring training complex in Scottsdale. The season this year will start on October 10th, with the teams playing in two divisions of three. It runs through the AFL Championship Game, between the division winners, which happens on the afternoon of Saturday November 18, at Scottsdale Stadium. With adult tickets at just $8, it’s excellent value for money, and I’m sure there will be a SnakePitAFLFest or two fitted in, after the D-backs season has finally finished. So, hopefully, November. :)
The participants from the Diamondbacks are not limited to the players. The manager of the Salt River Rafters is also from our farm system: J.R. House, who is currently manager of our Double-A affiliate, the Jackson Generals. He’ll be joined by Mike Locasto, the Generals’ strength and conditioning coach, who’ll be fulfilling the same role for the Rafters. But let’s take a look at the six Diamondbacks’ prospects who will be part of the Salt River roster for the AFL. [From what I can see in our editorial queue, Michael will be along with a little more “scouting oriented” report on them shortly, so consider this more of an introduction!]
RHP Ryan Atkinson
Atkinson is another player we picked out of indy ball. He didn’t get drafted in college (fun fact: his room-mate one year was current Cub Ian Happ), so took a year out, working at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center as a patient services manager. The itch to play was still there, and a tryout led to a spell in the Frontier League, from where the D-backs signed him in July 2016. Obviously, he is a little old for his level, but has put up a 3.50 ERA over 24 starts across three levels this season, most recently AA Jackson, and has struck out a total of 152 across 128.2 innings. That’s the second most K’s in our organization, behind Jose Almonte. More detailed scouting report.
RHP Yoan Lopez
Surprised to see this. I’d kinda assumed we’d given up on our troubled Cuban pitching prospect (TM), who went AWOL from his farm team in both 2015 and 2016, and considered quitting baseball. The injury issues which have also plagued him, delayed his start this season until June, due to a strained rotator cuff, and may be why he is seeing AFL action. But the 24-year-old has put up good numbers in High-A out of the Visalia Rawhide bullpen. Over 26.2 innings there, he has allowed two earned runs, with a K:BB ratio of 48:8. If he can just stay a) healthy, and b) with the program, we might get something back for the $8.3m signing bonus Dave Stewart gave him.
C Michael Perez
If it feels like Perez has been around for ever... he has. This is his seventh season in the Diamondbacks’ farm system, having been drafted as an 18-year-old in the fifth round of 2011. He still has yet to make it above Double-A, but has been the regular catcher in Jackson this year, batting .279/.365/.424 over 80 games there. He was rated as the best defensive catcher in our system three times by Baseball America, in 2013-15. Though given the well-known lack of depth at that position in our system over the past few years, that isn’t saying very much. He’s now 25, and time is not on his side, though there aren’t many rivals in the system, save Jackson colleague Oscar Hernandez.
LHP Colin Poche
I will admit, this is a name I did not recognize. Poche was a 14th-round pick little more than a year ago, so will be one of the younger players in the AFL. He has been part of the bullpens in Kane County and Visalia - but likely won’t be for long, given his 1.14 ERA over 47.1 innings, especially with an eye-popping K-rate of 14.6 per nine innings. While impressive, seems like there’s one of these somewhere in our system every year, so I’m now a little jaded by them. I’ll hold off TOO much excitement, until he has proven he can get major-league hitters out. Otherwise, he could just end up being the 2019 version of Silvino Bracho. Who was the 2016 version of Enrique Burgos...
INF Jack Reinheimer
Reinheimer is an unusual AFL player, in that he has already played in the major leagues. He made his debut with the D-backs on August 1, during the great Shortstop Shortage of 2017, though is still seeking his first MLB hit. He has spent the rest of the season with Reno, appearing in 122 games for the Aces, with a line of .277/.339/.352. A mid-season All-Star in the Pacific Coast League, he was originally a fifth-round pick by the Mariners in 2013. He is the last remaining fragment of the June 2015 Mark Trumbo trade with Seattle, who is still part of either team. He is also an AFL veteran, having played there previously in 2015.
OF Victor Reyes
Reyes came from the Braves in exchange for the 75th pick in the 2015 draft - this was a competitive balance pick, awarded by lottery, so could be traded. It was technically part of the deal which let us dump Trevor Cahill’s salary on Atlanta. The 23-year-old switch-hitter is another member of the Jackson Generals, and has a line of .276/.317/.372. He’s the highest-ranked D-back prospect in the AFL this year, coming in at #19 on MLB’s ranking. [Rennheimer is #25] The report there says, “If he can grow into a little more extra-base pop, he could become an everyday corner outfielder, though he likely profiles better as a fourth outfielder who hits his way to the big leagues.”