As one minor league season (the Arizona Rookie League) ends for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, they announced their roster for the upcoming Arizona Fall League season. These seven players will join prospects from the Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers to form the Salt River Rafters and will be managed by current Diamondbacks 3B Coach Matt Williams.
Last season, the Rafters won their first ever AFL title, bolstered by the MVP performance of Rockies prospect Nolan Arenado. The league has been in existence since 1992, and has played host to a slew of notable MLB players, including Albert Pujols, David Wright and Stephen Strasburg. It even played host to NBA legend Michael Jordan back in 1994 when he was trying to make the roster of the Chicago White Sox.
Several other top prospects will be playing in the AFL this season, including Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds, who has stolen 154 bases this season. Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs will also be heading out to Arizona, as will Tigers hotshot Nick Castellanos.
The games will begin on Oct. 9 for the Rafters as they take on the Mesa Solar Sox at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. Here are the seven players the Diamondbacks will be sending into battle on that day:
Chase Anderson, P
Anderson has been in the Diamondbacks’ farm system since 2009, and was originally a draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2006. He has a 5-3 record this season with a 2.66 ERA, 92 strikeouts, and a 1.12 WHIP in 98 IP for AA Mobile. Last season in high-A ball in Visalia, he racked up 20 strikeouts in only 13 innings, so he is definitely capable of getting hitters to chase.
Tyler Bortnick, IF
Bortnick has seen time at three different positions this season and was acquired from Tampa Bay in the trade that sent Ryan Roberts to Florida. He has stolen 28 bases this season in 128 minor league games at AA and AAA, has driven in 58 runs, and has drawn 58 walks. He does strike out a fair amount, with 84 on the season, but his 37 extra base hits help to soften the blow just a bit.
Matt Davidson, 3B
A first round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2009, Davidson has made a name for himself with his solid power numbers. He drove in 106 runs last year in high-A ball and this year has hit 22 home runs and driven in 71 runs in Mobile. He is the #97 ranked prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, and he very well could see some action in the big leagues next year if the Diamondbacks don’t improve their hot corner situation during free agency.
Evan Marshall, RP
Marshall has pitched 46 2/3rds innings in relief for Mobile this season and the fourth round pick of the D’Backs in 2011 has been pretty decent. He has an ERA of 3.47, has struck out 27 batters and has a WHIP that is certainly high at 1.46. He hasn’t exactly blown hitters away with his stuff, but the Diamondbacks’ inclusion of this young man in their contingent shows that they have faith in him to succeed in the future.
Kevin Munson, RP
Speaking of guys who haven’t exactly lit the world on fire in the minors this year, Munson’s numbers for AA Mobile are substandard, to say the least. His ERA is high at 6.06, and in 52 innings, he has a WHIP of 1.54. The only thing that is a reason for optimism about him is his awesome strikeout rate, which stands at 11.1 per nine innings.
Chris Owings, SS
Owings, a first round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2009, has had a pretty respectable year in A and AA ball this year. He has hit 17 home runs between the two leagues, and has stolen 12 bases as well. His batting average of .284 is solid, but he does strike out a little bit too often, fanning 128 times this year. The 84 runs he has scored make up for that though, so he is a very solid option at the top of the order for the Salt River club.
Eric Smith, RP
The seventh guy on the list for the Diamondbacks is one more arm for the bullpen. He has improved quite a bit from a season ago when he was a starter in Visalia, bringing his WHIP down from 1.89 (yes, it was that bad) to 1.47 and his ERA down from 6.35 to 3.71. He’s also giving up four fewer hits per nine innings, has maintained a similar strikeout level, and has only given up two HRs in 60 2/3rd innings. His walk total is still a bit too high, but this work in progress is definitely making strides forward.