The 2015 Arizona Fall league rosters were announced earlier this week and the St. Louis Cardinals are sending eight prospects to the prestigious fall league. The Arizona Fall League kicks off in October and runs through November with the championship game on November 21st. The Cardinals' representatives will be competing on the Surprise Saguaros along with prospects from the Royals, Brewers, Yankees, and Rangers.
Here is a look at the Cardinals delegation to this year's fall league:
The 26-year old Kiekhefer is making his second appearance in Arizona after pitching for the Salt River Rafters in 2013. Kiekhefer is finishing his 6th minor league season with the Cardinals and has spent the last season and a half with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. Rule 5 eligible, Kiekhefer could make his way on the 40-man roster in December after a strong showing in Arizona. The left handed specialist has shown extreme consistency with Memphis thanks to a 2.54 ERA in 2014 and a 2.53 ERA this season. I have always thought he could be a solid LOOGY at the major league level and with Randy Choate's contract expiring, the Cardinals could be giving him one last look before making that decision.
If you remember, I took a look that the possibilities for the AFL a couple of weeks ago, and I incorrectly predicted that Alex Reyes would not be a candidate for the AFL, because the Cardinals had a history of not sending their top pitching prospects. Looking at his 2015 numbers, you can see why the Cardinals would like to get an extended look at Reyes. Going into Thursday action, Reyes is at 96 combined innings this season, which is 13 less than last season. They may want to increase his innings from last year. Typically, each team gets to designate one starter for the AFL and I am assuming Reyes will be it for the Cardinals, although Luke Weaver could start as well.
In my earlier prediction post, I mentioned Rowland, but thought he would be left off due to AFL rules stating that teams could only have one player below Double-A and Rowland did not meet the requirements for service time at AA. I am guessing they some how got around this rule as Luke Weaver is also on the team. Rowland is a very interesting prospect, who could join the top 20 ranks for 2016 with a strong AFL showing. Rowland was a 3rd round pick from the Diamondbacks in 2010, but struggled in their organization. Mechanics tweaks allowed him to reach all the way to Double-A this season. The Cardinals probably want to see what Rowland can offer against tougher hitters as he had less than 10 innings at AA.
Again, the combination of Reyes and Weaver is confusing as each club is only supposed to send one starter. I am sure there are exceptions to the rule. Maybe Reyes and Weaver will alternate starting. Luke Weaver is making the Arizona Fall League probably because he should have been pitching at a higher level for the majority of 2015, but the Cardinals kept him at Palm Beach all season. Weaver is a top 10 prospect who will benefit from the experience of playing against some of the best prospects in the game.
When I previewed the AFL, I left Ohlman off the list, but his inclusion into the league makes sense. A member of the Cardinals' 40-man roster, Ohlman had a nice season with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. Over 392 plate appearances, Ohlman racked up a 122 wRC+. At 24 years old and with a crowded catching position on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals want to see what the have in Ohlman. This fall season could determine what happens with Ohlman in 2016.
I correctly predicted Diaz would make the AFL after a slow start but strong finish. Currently off the 40-man roster, Diaz has shown that he probably deserves to be on it and the Cardinals could be looking at adding him to the 25-man active roster at some point in 2016. For someone with just under 600 plate appearances on American soil, Diaz could use all the swings he can get. If his hot finish carries over to the AFL, he will likely be a top 20 prospect for 2016.
I also had Wisdom headed to the AFL for very obvious reasons. Wisdom has had a very rocky 2015 season. After starting out slow and earning a trip to Florida for intense swing analysis, Wisdom turned the corner in May, June, and July. However, August saw a dip with a slash line of .167/.263/.250 and 28 strikeouts over 24 games. Like with Diaz, the more AB's the better look the Cardinals will get. Wisdom is nearing a fork in the road with bust on one side and fringe prospect on the other.
Tilson was also an easy pick as he was slated for the 2014 AFL, but was a late scratch due to injury. Tilson fits in the Diaz category as the Cardinals want to see what they have as he could see major league time in 2016. Unlike Wisdom and Ohlman, the Cards know that he will be a valuable piece at some point in his career, it's just "when" is the question. In his first full Double-A season, Tilson had a 104 wRC+ and it looks like his peak is a reserve outfielder at the major league level.