2009 Arizona Fall League

Rosters for the Arizona Fall League should be announced sometime this week.


The Arizona Fall League (AFL) will be celebrating its 18th anniversary this year. It began play in 1992 (Derek Jeter was the AFL’s first MVP).

The AFL was created mainly to allow young players (especially pitchers) to compete under a more controlled environment than is found in the Latin winter leagues, and also so that teams could be located in the same geographic area (Phoenix) to allow MLB scouts easier access to the games.

The AFL was designed primarily for AA players who were expected to move up to AAA the following season (hence its informal “AA+” classification), but it also is a place for “hot shot” prospects from Class-A to get some experience against more-advanced competition, and also for older AAA players looking to get noticed, and even for MLB rookies looking to improve some aspect of their game that needs work.

Not all players assigned to the AFL by an MLB club are necessarily that organization’s best prospects. Sometimes an AFL team needs a certain organization to furnish a shortstop or a catcher or a lefty pitcher, and that organization just doesn’t have a true “prospect” at that position. So the MLB club might have to contribute a journeyman “organizational player” to the AFL team instead.

The 33-game 2009 AFL season begins play on October 13, and runs through November 21. Games are played Monday through Saturday, with no games on Sunday. Ticket prices are $6 ($5 for seniors), and fans can sit wherever they choose. The last regular season game is November 19, followed by a single “AFL Championship Game” between the two division winners on Saturday November 21.

AFL games are heavily-attended by scouts (a typical AFL game has about 70 or 80 fans and about 15 or 20 scouts), and how a AA or AAA player performs in the AFL often is the difference between getting added to his club’s 40-man roster or not, or perhaps getting selected in the Rule 5 Draft.

And if a hot-shot youngster from “A”-ball handles himself well in the AFL, it could mean that he will be able to skip a minor league level or maybe even get an NRI to the big club’s Spring Training.


The six AFL teams are located at various Spring Training sites in the Phoenix area (one team each in Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Surprise, and two teams in Peoria). The league is divided into two divisions (East and West), with three teams in each division.

Each one of the six AFL teams is a consortium of five MLB clubs. The Cubs are the “host” team for the AFL team known as the “Mesa Solar Sox,” and the Solar Sox play their home games at HoHoKam Park in Mesa (where the Cubs play their Spring Training games). The other four MLB clubs associated with the Solar Sox this year (and they change from year-to-year) are the Boston Red Sox, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Angels, and Minnesota Twins. In addition to providing players, each club in the consortium contribute either the manager, the pitching coach, the bench coach, or one of the two trainers, and these assignments rotate each season. (I believe the Cubs are due to furnish a trainer this year).

Each AFL club has a 35-man basic roster, with each of the five associated MLB organizations furnishing seven players, including four pitchers and three position players. A club may add additional position players to their AFL club, but the additional players are assigned as “reserves” to a so-called “taxi squad,” and they are eligible to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays only. A member of the “taxi squad” can be elevated to “full” roster status to replace an injured player.

The rosters are assembled by the Player Development Directors from each of the five teams in the consortium. The PDDs engage in a conference call in mid-August, where they “hash out” their AFL team’s rosters. (It used to be rosters were established by a more-formal “draft,” where farm directors from each of the parent MLB clubs would be able to place players on the roster one at a time in order of preference).

The primary 35-man AFL roster (not including the “taxi squad”) typically consists of three catchers, seven or eight infielders, four or five outfielders, and 20 pitchers (four pitchers from each organization). Six of the pitchers are usually “starting pitchers,” and each starting pitcher starts one game per week.

To be eligible to play in the AFL, a player must:

1) Have accumulated less than one year of active MLB service time (not including time spent on the DL) as of September 1.

2) Be on a AA or AAA minor league roster or MLB roster as of August 1.

3) Be activated from the Disabled List prior to the last 45 days of the season.

4) Be on the parent MLB club’s 40-man roster or on a minor league “Reserve List” at the beginning of the AFL season and continuing through to the end of the season (“Free-Agents” are NOT permitted to play in the AFL).

There are a couple of exceptions and restrictions to the rules:

1) Each MLB club is permitted to place no more than two players who were not on a AA or AAA roster or MLB roster as of August 1st on its AFL team. (It used to be only one such player was permitted from each MLB organization, but the number was increased to two this year after the Hawaiian Winter League folded and implementation of the “Junior” AFL for younger prospects was postponed until 2010).

2) Each MLB club is permitted to place no more than one “foreign” player on its AFL team. (NOTE: “Foreign” is defined as being from places where “Winter Ball” is played: the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela).

3) Each MLB club is permitted to place no more than one player selected in the previous Rule 5 Draft on its AFL team.

Depending on whether the player is interested and/or invited (and players can decline to pay in the AFL), the most-likely 2009 AFL candidates from the Cubs organization should come from this list (one or two slots might initially be left open as a “TBA”):

James Adduci, OF
Darwin Barney, SS (played in AFL last year)
Matt Camp, IF-OF
Russ Canzler, 1B
Welington Castillo, C (or else will play in DWL)
Starlin Castro, SS (or else will play in DWL)
Steve Clevenger, C-1B (played in AFL in 2007 & 2008)
Tyler Colvin, OF (played in AFL last year)
Ryan Flaherty, INF (as Class "A" exception)
Jake Fox, 3B (unless the Cubs qualify for the post-season)
Brett Jackson, OF (as Class “A” exception)
Blake Lalli, 1B-C
Chris Robinson, C
Marquez Smith, 3B
Tony Thomas, 2B
Josh Vitters, 3B (as Class ”A” exception)
Ty Wright, OF

Mitch Atkins
Justin Berg
Chris Carpenter
Andrew Cashner
Casey Coleman
John Gaub
Jay Jackson
Casey Lambert
Alessandro Maestri
J. R. Mathes
Jeremy Papelbon
Blake Parker
Gregory Reinhard
Jayson Ruhlman
James Russell
Jeff Samardzija
Brian Schlitter
Jeff Stevens

Any player eligible to be a post-2009 Rule 55 minor league free-agent who re-signs with the Cubs prior to the start of the AFL season would also be eligible to play in the AFL.

Here are the Cubs who have played in the AFL over the first 17 seasons:

"t" = "taxi squad"

John Gardner, RHP
Mike Grace, 3B
Jeff Hartsock, RHP
Jesse Hollins, RHP
Jim Robinson, C
Dave Swartzbaugh, RHP

Matt Franco, 3B
Mike Hubbard, C
Brooks Kieschnick, OF
Geno Morones, RHP
Dave Stevens, RHP
Turk Wendell, RHP

Terry Adams, RHP
Mike Carter, OF
Doug Glanville, OF
Brooks Kieschnick, OF
Chris Petersen, SS
Ottis Smith, LHP

Mike Hubbard, C
Robin Jennings, OF
Jason Maxwell, SS
Jon Ratliff, RHP
Wade Walker, LHP

t-Pat Cline, C
Brandon Hammack, RHP
Jason Maxwell, SS
Scott Moten, RHP
Kevin Orie, 3B
Marc Pisciotta, RHP
Steve Rain, RHP

Richie Barker, RHP
Marty Gazarek, OF
Terry Joseph, OF
Jose Nieves, SS
Steve Rain, RHP
t-Brad Ramsey, SS
Justin Speier, RHP

t-Roosevelt Brown, OF
Chad Meyers, 2B
Chad Ricketts, RHP
Jay Ryan, RHP
Nate Teut, LHP
Danny Young, LHP
Julio Zuleta, 1B

t-Pat Cline, C
Eric Newman, RHP
Corey Patterson, OF
Chad Ricketts, RHP
Brian Stephenson, RHP
Jeff Yoder, RHP
Julio Zuleta, 1B

t-Hee-Seop Choi, 1B
Jeff Goldbach, C
Eric Hinske, 3B
Will Ohman, LHP
Jaisen Randolph, OF
Jason Smith, SS
Nate Teut, LHP

Scott Chiasson, RHP
Chris Gissell, RHP
t-Nate Frese, SS
Bobby Hill, 2B
Nic Jackson, OF
t-Ryan Jorgensen, C
David Kelton, 3B
Mike Meyers, RHP

Hee-Seop Choi, 1B
Ryan Gripp, 3B
Ferenc Jonjegan, LHP
Jon Leicester, RHP
Ray Sadler, OF
Todd Wellemeyer, RHP

David Cash, RHP
Jason Dubois, OF (AFL MVP)
Brendan Harris, 3B
Casey Kopitzke, C
Jason Szuminski, RHP
t-Ryan Theriot, INF
John Webb, RHP

Ronny Cedeno, SS
Brian Dopirak, 1B
t-Jake Fox, C
t-Adam Greenberg, OF
Sean Marshall, LHP
Russ Rohlicek, LHP
Jae-kuk Ryu, RHP
Geovany Soto, C

David Aardsma, RHP
t-Buck Coats, IF-OF
Angel Guzman, RHP
John Koronka, LHP
Matt Murton, OF
Eric Patterson, 2B
Brandon Sing, 1B

Jake Fox, C
Adam Harben, RHP
Lincoln Holdzkom, RHP
Scott Moore, 3B
Eric Patterson, 2B
Carmen Pignatiello, LHP
Clay Rapada, LHP

Matt Avery, RHP
Justin Berg, RHP
t-Steve Clevenger, C-1B
Sam Fuld, OF (AFL MVP)
Grant Johnson, RHP
Josh Lansford, 3B
Rocky Roquet, RHP
Joe Simokaitis, SS

Darwin Barney, SS
Esmailin Caridad, RHP
t-Steve Clevenger, C-1B
Tyler Colvin, OF
Jesse Estrada, RHP
Rocky Roquet, RHP
Nate Spears, 2B
Donald Veal, LHP


Who'd have ever guessed that Ryan Theriot would be the best cubs "prospect" to ever play in the AFL?

Ferenc Jonjegan doesn't appreciate you dissing him.

Thanks, Phil!

Do you have thoughts on who the Cubs will/should be sending this year?

Great to see you posting again. Hope the summer has been good.

I'm curious if you've seen Wesley Darvill and if you have any thoughts on him.

As for AFL, I really hope Flaherty gets to go. I'd really like to see them jump Flaherty to AA next year, playing preferably 2nd, but perhaps 3rd base as well. I'd also like to see them put Vitters there to get some AB's/work, considering the time he's missed this year.

I'm not sure what to think on the pitchers side. A part of me would like to see our top 3 get more work, particularly Cashner since they've been so careful this year. A part of me wouldn't mind protecting him. I'd really like to see the Cubs commit to Samardzija as a pen arm and get him work there. I definitely hope Gaub is there, as he's got a good chance to play a role next year.

per rotoworld:

Billy Wagner to Redsox for ptbnl x2

and Astros LaTroy Hawkins on waivers...per Rosenthal, Rockies likely to bite on him (not a pretty image)

Submitted by Romero on Tue, 08/25/2009 - 12:51pm.
Do you have thoughts on who the Cubs will/should be sending this year?


ROMERO: With Rule 5 Draft eligibles Tyler Colvin, Welington Castillo, and John Gaub virtual locks to get added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster post-2009, I would think "on the bubble" pitchers like Blake Parker, Jeremy Papelbon, and Alessandro Maestri could get sent to the AFL to help the Cubs decide if they should be protected.

Otherwise, among the position players, Tony Thomas, Marquez Smith, and James Adduci are likely to get strong consideration. Smith and Thomas should get moved up to AAA next season and the AFL would help them make that adjustment, and Adduci has morphed into a definite MLB 4th OF prospect. And Josh Vitters is the type of uber-prospect you see in the AFL every year, although a lot depends on his physical condition (he's missed a few games recently with a hand injury, although he has finally returned to action).

Among the pitchers, Gaub still could get an AFL slot even though he probably will be added to the 40 no matter what. Whether Cashner, Coleman, Carpenter or J. Jackson get a slot depends on whether the Cubs feel they have thrown too many innings during the minor league season. In fact that's one of the reasons why the AFL is such a hitters's league. A lot of clubs hold back their best pitching prospects because the pitcher's club feels he has already thrown enough innings.

Roster via Muskat


A. Cashner, J. Gaub, B. Parker. J. Russell, S. Castro, W. Castillo, J. Vitters


In a sort of related vein, Goldstein called Castro a second basemen the other day.

BA voted him as the best defensive shortstop in the FSL. I think it's a case of one looking at the errors, and the other looking at whether the ability/talent is there. As of now, I'm not worried, but obviously, if his errors are a problem next year, then it becomes a concern. The focus is often on offense when a kid is pushed, when the defensive development could lag behind (and it's not like Daytona has a great field).

Makes me wonder why BA is picking best tools for leagues before the season is over. I assume that they must be throwing errors, since 2nd base was mentioned. If he can't catch the ball, moving to 2nd wouldn't seem to help.

How does Castro and Castillo both make the roster if the rules say that you cannot send more than one "foreign" player to the AFL?

Phil, great post. Love your stuff!

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