The 2015 minor league season will be wrapping up in the next couple of weeks, and many St. Louis Cardinals minor league players will then prepare for fall/winter ball. There are leagues throughout the Caribbean and South America, but the most prestigious one is right here in the U.S.
The Arizona Fall League is the premiere fall/winter league that accepts players from all 30 MLB organizations. In fact, MLB clubs are required to send at least 6 players to the AFL. All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible as long as they have been at that level since August 1st and have no more than a year of MLB service. A MLB team can submit one player below Double-A to the Arizona Fall League.
The Cardinals have several intriguing options to send to Arizona this fall and I will try and handicap which ones have the greatest chance, but first lets take a look at the past participants to play in Arizona from the Cardinals organization.
|2014||Mitch Harris||Tyrell Jenkins||Chris Perry||Sam Tuivailala||Cody Stanley||Jacob Wilson||
|2013||Anthony Ferrara||Sam Gaviglio||Dean Kiekhefer||Lee Stoppelman||Jacob Wilson||Stephen Piscotty||James Ramsey|
|2012||Seth Blair||Sam Freeman||Kevin Siegrist||Boone Whiting||Cody Stanley||Colin Walsh||Kolten Wong/Mike O'Neill|
|2011||Keith Butler||David Kopp||Tyler Lyons||Justin Wright||Matt Adams||Ryan Jackson||Oscar Taveras|
Looking back at the last four years of rosters, a clear strategy emerges. It appears when selected pitchers, the club looks at pitchers who are more MLB ready and on the verge of a call up. They will also select pitchers who were injured during the season or whose innings were limited. Offensively, the club looks to select players who are strong prospects that want to continue strong successes from the season.
Point is, don't look for Alex Reyes to play in the Arizona Fall League.
Here are a few players I think could get a look for the fall league.
Patrick Wisdom appears to be a pretty solid choice to play in Arizona this fall as 2015 has been a sort of rebound season for him. His 107 wRC+ is his highest over his three full professional seasons. With that said, he has really struggled in August posting a .151/.266/.264 slash line. The club could give him the extra at bats to try and turn things around or give him the winter off if they fear fatigue has taken over.
While not considered a top prospect, Rodriguez has had a strong season for Springfield and is at a crossroads. He will be a minor league free agent at the end of the season and if the club wants to re-sign him, they may want to see what he has against some of the best pitchers in the minor leagues.
Tilson was a late scratch for the AFL last season and makes sense for 2015, assuming he is healthy. On the verge of a MLB call up and a top 10 prospect make this a pretty likely scenario. A reason the club may hold him out is that he is approaching career highs in games played and at bats, but as a potential 2016 MLB piece, they may want him to get as much experience as he can.
Diaz has been hot since the beginning of July - slashing .319/.365/.551 - and the club may want to see sustained success versus a small sample size. Diaz, who will make $2.5 million in 2016, could become a major league option in 2016 if he has figured things out.
Hazelbaker, who was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this season, has had a strong showing first with Springfield and now with Memphis. Over 147 at bats, Hazelbaker has a .997 OPS for Memphis. If the club sees potential, they would probably want an extended look at him this fall.
Petree could represent the representative that comes from below the Double-A level. He has split time between High-A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield this season and is currently at the lower level, but at age 25, the club may want to see what he can do versus top hitters throughout the minor leagues. Petree's 114 innings in 2015 may be enough to keep him out of the AFL.
Heyer, 24, appears to be a "crossroads" pitcher who could benefit from the Arizona experience. His future appears to be in the bullpen and the club may want to see him there for an extended time before making a decision on 2016. Heyer could be a fan favorite in Arizona as he once won a College World Series for the University of Arizona.
The Cardinals will send three relievers to Arizona and there are several options. After Heyer, Robby Rowland appears to be a favorite as he has shot through the system in his first year with the organization, but he was with High-A Palm Beach on August 1st and would be the lone Class-A representative. Miguel Socolovich, Heath Wyatt, Tyler Waldron, Corey Baker, and Ronnie Shaban could all be possibilities.
The Arizona Fall League kicks off around mid-October, but preliminary rosters should be made available in the next couple of weeks. The Cardinals will be affiliated with the Surprise Saguaros for 2015 and do not have a coach on the coaching staff.
When rosters are announced, you can expect a full analysis at Viva El Birdos.
Thanks for reading!