AFL Set to Expand Schedule in 2019

With many MLB organizations curtailing or (as is the case with the Cubs) completely eliminating Fall Instructs, there are plans afoot to expand the Arizona Fall league (AFL) schedule in 2019 from the present six weeks (30 games) to eight weeks (40 games). If implemented, the 2019 AFL season would begin two weeks earlier than it does now (the last week of September instead of the second week in October),  

Because there is presently about a four-week gap between the end of the minor league season and the start of the AFL season, players assigned to the AFL have to spend a week to ten days at their parent MLB organization's minor league facility in Florida or Arizona getting back into playing shape before reporting to their AFL team. It is presumed that starting the AFL season two weeks earlier and closer to the end of the minor league season would eliminate the need for players to prepare for the AFL by attending Fall Instructs and playing in Instructs games. 

What is not (yet) on the table is expansion of the AFL from six to ten teams. At present only six of the ten Cactus League Spring Training stadiums (Camelback Ranch, Mesa Sloan, Peoria, Salt River at Talking Stick, Scottsdale, and Surprise) are used by the AFL, but three of the other four stadiums (Mesa HoHoKam, Phoenix Maryvale, and Tempe Diablo) have hosted AFL teams in the past, and the fourth (Goodyear) could easily host a team as well. Expanding from six to ten teams would mean that three (rather than five) MLB organizations would be affiliated with each of the AFL teams, with each club sending seven or eight pitchers and five or six position players to their AFL affiliate instead of four pitchers and three or four position players as is the case now. 

Prior to 2017 most of the clubs with a Spring Training base in Arizona participated in what was called "AZ Advanced Instructs" (AKA the "Junior AFL"), a league that was created for players who could not get a slot in the AFL because of roster limitations (the Cubs fielded an AZ Advanced Instructs "co-op" team with the Angels). But the league was disbanded in 2017 as clubs began to cut-back Fall Instructs operations, leaving players who are too advanced for "basic" instructs no place to get additional coaching and game experience. Expanding the AFL (and thus creating more AFL slots for each MLB organization) would help make-up for the loss of Advanced Instructs.

It should be noted that over the past two or three years the eligibilty rules for the AFL have been relaxed, allowing more international players and players with no experience above Lo-A (like Cubs 2018 1st round draft pick SS Nico Hoerner) to participate.

Comments

Would startinng the AFL in September provide any rehab opportunities for MLB players who are ready to come off the DL but miss the end of the minor league season, or would the rules prevent that (I know Schwarber was able to somehow)?

BRADSBEARD:  A player cannot be assigned to the AFL on an Article XIX-C Minor League Injury Rehabilitation Assignment, but a player can be assigned to the AFL after he has been reinstated from the DL.

So even with the AFL moving up the start of the season two weeks (which would be one week prior to the conclusion of the MLB regular season), a player on an MLB DL will not be able to play in the AFL unless and until the player is reinstated from the DL. (Up until a couple or three years ago, a player was not eligible to play in the AFL if he was on an MLB or minor league DL as of August 1st or was placed on an MLB or minor league DL after August 1st, but that was one of several AFL eligiblity rules that have been relaxed or just plain eliminated).   

Here is how Kyle Schwarber was able to play (albeit very briefly) in the AFL in 2016:  

1. OCTOBER 22: Schwarber is reinstated from the Cubs MLB 60-day DL, LHP Giovanni Soto is Designated for Assignment to make room on the 40 for Schwarber, and Schwarber is assigned to the AFL Mesa Solar Sox "Taxi Squad"; 
2. OCTOBER 22 & 24: Schwarber serves as DH for the Mesa Solar Sox (two games); 
3. OCTOBER 25: After serving as a DH in two AFL games, Schwarber is flown from Scottsdale Airport in Arizona to Cleveland via private jet just in time to be placed on the Cubs World Series Active List (25-man roster) prior to the start of Game #1.  

In order for Schwarber to be eligible to play in the AFL and then in the World Series, he could not be replaced on the Cubs 2016 Post-Season Eligibility List by another player prior to the start of the NLDS or NLCS. Fortunately the Cubs kept their options open and did not replace Schwarber with another player, even though it was pretty much assumed that he was out for the year and would not be able to play in the post-season. 

If there is an expansion of the league, will teams be able to have more players on their roster?

HAGSAG: Expanding from six to ten teams would mean that three (rather than five) MLB organizations would be affiliated with each of the AFL teams, with each club sending seven or eight pitchers and five or six position players to their AFL affiliate instead of four pitchers and three or four position players as is the case now. 

If it's just a schedule expansion (which at this point is all that is likely to happen in 2019), AFL rosters will probably have to be expanded so that each of the five MLB clubs that contribute players to a particular AFL team would send five pitchers instead of four. Attrition of pitching would be the biggest problem if the schedule is expanded from six weeks to eight weeks and from 30 games to 40. 

braves prospect braxton davidson hurt his foot jumping around on his way to home plate after a walkoff homer in the AFL championship game.  he had to be helped off the field, unable to put any weight on his foot.

doh.

also, this year's AFL all-star game and championship game were A+ stuff.

foot sprain, no break.  good for him...sucks it put a shadow over his big moment.

yanks pick up james paxton for the 1st big trade of the off-season.

yanks and rsox are gonna beat the crap out of each other on the way to the playoffs next year.

didn't come cheap...justus sheffield + more on the way to the M's.

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