Arizona Fall League – 2018

The Arizona Fall League began play yesterday. The league was founded back in 1992 as a way to give young minor league players a way to extend their season without playing in winter ball or traveling long distances. It is often described as a “finishing school” giving a bevy of young players not only an opportunity to extend their seasons but compete against elite players and continue to work on the skill set that they were developing during the 2018 season. The league itself is owned and operated by Major League Baseball and includes top young players from all of the 30 MLB teams. It is a two-division, six team league with the Mesa Solar Sox, Salt River Rafters and Scottsdale Scorpions in the East Division and the Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas and Surprise Saguaros in the West Division. Dodger fans will be most interested in the Glendale Desert Dogs of the West Division which has representatives chosen by five MLB teams including the Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, and the New York Yankees. Each Major League team provides seven players who together fill out the 35-man rosters of the six teams. Additionally, teams may elect to send taxi squad players who are only eligible on Wednesdays and Saturdays and most useful with pitchers. MLB teams also provide managers, coaches, and trainers for the six teams. Justin Viele is the hitting coach for the Glendale Desert Dogs coming off his championship season with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the High-A California League. Former Dodger, infielder Dave Anderson, is the manager of the Desert Dogs. The eligibility rules to compete in the AFL are relatively simple:
  • All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible, provided the players are on at least a Double-A level roster no later than August 1.
  • One player below the Double-A level is allowed per Major League team.
  • One foreign player is allowed, as long as the player does not reside in a country that participates in winter ball, as part of the Caribbean Confederation or the Australian winter league.
  • No players with more than one year of credited Major League service as of August 31 are eligible, except a team may select one player picked in the most recently concluded Major League Rule 5 Draft.
  • To be eligible, players on Minor League disabled lists must be activated at least 45 days before the conclusion of their respective seasons.
 As a side note, the league has its own Hall of Fame that was established in 2001. Former Dodger Mike Piazza is a member of the initial HOF class from 2001. To date he is the only member of the AZL Hall of Fame to become a member of the MLB Hall of Fame. This year’s Dodgers minor leaguers selected to participate in the AZL are an interesting mix including pitchers  Ben Holmes, Andre Scrubb, Jordan Sheffield and Nolan Long, catcher Keibert Ruiz, infielders Jared Walker and Errol Robinson along with outfielder Cody Thomas. Ben Holmes:Holmes was signed by the Dodgers in early July after he had been released by the Jupiter Hammerheads of the Advanced A Florida State League.  After a stop with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in which he posted a 1.06 ERA over 17 innings he was assigned to the Tulsa Drillers and became a significant piece in their championship run. With the Drillers he pitched 38.1 innings with an ERA of 2.82 and a WHIP of 0.97. The interesting part of his selection to the Glendale Desert Dogs is that he is now 27 years old but may well be a late blooming left-hander given new life in the Dodgers organization.He no doubt will be working on continuing his adjustments made since joining the Dodgers organization.” I think it’s all really been an adjustment for the past month,” Holmes said. “I’ve learned how to be a brand-new pitcher since coming over from the Marlins. It’s been one big constant adjustment, but it’s been a lot of fun. I’m learning a lot and meeting a lot of really cool guys.” Andre Scrubb:Scrubb is a 6’4”/265-pounds right-hander who was selected by the Dodgers in the eighth round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of High Point University. On the season he posted a 2.86 ERA along with a 1.25 WHIP. He struck out 72 in 63 innings pitched while walking 32 with time split between the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and Tulsa Drillers. The 23-year-old native of Woodbridge, Virginia most likely needs to cut down on his walks to progress to the next level and look to get on the Dodgers 40-man roster. Nolan Long:Long was selected by the Dodgers in the 16th round of the 2015 First Year Player Draft out of Wagner College on Staten Island in the state of New York. He had previously been picked in the 38th round of the 2012 draft by the San Francisco Giants after his senior season at Waterford High School.The 24-year-old right-hander has completed four seasons in the Dodgers organization.  His 2018 season had two chapters. The first with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes was one of dominance in which he posted a 1.03 ERA over 35 innings pitched along with a 0.86 WHIP. In a like number of innings with the Tulsa Drillers the 6’10”/255-pound Long saw his ERA balloon to 5.05 yet he had a fairly good WHIP at 1.21 and on the season gave up only 44 hits in a total of 70.2 innings. His difficulty seemed to be pitching well with runners in scoring position. Jordan Sheffield:Sheffield, 23, was selected by the Dodgers in the competitive balance round in 2016 and 36th overall out of Vanderbilt University. The 5’10”/190-pound right-hander has found the going rough throughout his three-year minor league career. During the 2018 season with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes he posted a 6.32 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP over 37.1 innings pitched. To be fair he missed the entire months of June and July as well as one-half of May, so the 2018 season is perhaps not a good barometer of where he can go. Upon his return in 2018 he made nine relief appearances allowing no runs in seven of them. His role as a relief pitcher was either to ease him back into action or was a change in direction from starting to relief. The AFL will afford him the opportunity of getting in some additional meaningful work Keibert Ruiz:Ruiz is currently ranked second on the Dodgers Top 30 Prospects list so he needs little introduction. Just turning 20 in July he played the entire 2018 season with the AA Tulsa Drillers. On the season he hit .268 along with 12 home runs and 47 runs batted in. In August the 6’0’/200-pound switch hitter hit a robust .341 with three home runs and 17 runs batted in. In the postseason he hit .333 with two home runs and eight runs batted in over eight games. One of his hits was a walk off single. On the season behind the plate he made but four errors in 783 total chances for a .995 fielding percentage. The AFL provides him with an opportunity to handle more elite pitching behind the plate. Errol Robinson:Robinson was selected by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2016 June Draft out of the University of Mississippi. During the 2018 campaign with the Drillers he hit .247 with 10 home runs and 50 runs batted in. Not noted for his power the 10 home runs were a bit of a surprise. Noted for his defense the 6’0’/180-pound shortstop is considered to be the best infield defender in the Dodgers minor league season. Now 24, the right-handed hitting Robinson also played some second base and third base with the Drillers. Jared Walker:Although he was selected by the Dodgers way back in the 2014 Amateur Draft in the sixth round he is still only 22 and has developed the power that perhaps was expected when he was drafted out of high school. On the season between Great Lakes and Rancho Cucamonga the left handed hitting Walker hit .255 with an OBP of .365 along with 25 home runs and 75 runs batted in. His .980 OPS with the Quakes would have been league leading if he had enough at bats to qualify. At one point with the Quakes he homered in five consecutive games. Initially a third baseman, the 6’2”/195-pound native of Powder Springs, Georgia has transitioned primarily to first base where he posted a .990 fielding percentage in 2018. Cody Thomas:Thomas, who just turned 23 on October 8, was selected by the Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2016 Amateur Draft out of the University of Oklahoma. The left-handed hitting outfielder, who throws right-handed, hit 19 home runs with the Quakes along with 35 doubles. His 87 runs batted in were second most in the league. The 6’4”/211-pound Thomas led the league in total bases with 248 while finishing second with 82 runs. On the year he hit .285 with an OBP of .355. He has hit at least 19 home runs in each of his three minor league seasons. We can expect Thomas, or perhaps Jared Walker, to represent the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Bowman Hitting Challenge on October 13. 

This article has 43 Comments

  1. Play in the league started yesterday. The Glendale Desert Dogs lost 8-7 to the Peoria Javelinas.
    Keribert Ruiz had two hits in five at bats while scoring a run along with a run batted in.
    Cody Thomas had a double in four at bats and scored a run.
    Andre Scrubb pitched 1.1 innings giving up three hits and one earned run. He allowed two inherited runners to score.

  2. DC, thank you so much for this information. Hopefully you can keep us posted with the AFL progress weekly. I love this…

  3. Sorry about these damn ads. My web developer is on a cruise until next Tuesday and I am not smart enough to figure it out on my own. I’ll fix it next week.

  4. Can someone smarter than I explain why the Dodgers have shied away from sending their top arms to the AFL?
    Is it keeping usage down?

    1. If by “Top Arms” you mean one of these: May, Santana, White, Alvarez, Gonsolin, Uctea, et al, I would guess that you just answered your own question. I don’t know of any other…

  5. When I first learned of the players identified to be part of the Arizona Fall League, I found them to be a very eclectic group. Sprinkled in were real prospects, marginal prospects, prospects getting maybe one last chance to shine, and prospects with a new beginning.
    I was very curious when Ben Holmes was included. I mentioned him a few times during the season as maybe another FAZ find. He has been mostly very good since he signed with the Dodgers after being released by the Marlins. He is a little older to be considered a legit prospect, but I think maybe he could become a multi inning long LHRP at the ML level. I do not see him as a starter or as a high leverage late inning reliever, but he has something that may translate into a serviceable long reliever.
    Another new beginning label could be pinned on Jordan Sheffield. I understand that both organization and player wanted Jordan to become an effective mid-rotation starter. Some thought he had a ceiling of a #2. However, most thought that his best opportunity to be a factor at the ML level is as a reliever. That transition started last year, and this could be his coming out party. If he does well in Arizona, Jordan may find himself starting 2019 in Tulsa.
    The star prospect is Keibert Ruiz. He still needs work on his footwork and transition from glove to hand in his throws to 2nd. He is still a work in progress, but one that is showing real signs of a potential future AS catcher. It will be fun to watch to see how his AFL numbers match up with Will Smith’s of last year. After Smith was promoted to AAA, Ruiz found his bat again, and finished strong (offensively and defensively) in AA. Some prefer Smith, while some prefer Ruiz. IMO, it is great to have both these guys on the cusp of a ML career.
    Andre Scrubb and Nolan Long are considered legit relief prospects that need an additional challenge. Both had very promising 2018 campaigns, and both ended at AA. I think both of these relievers should be considered potential ML relievers some time next season. Long is Rule 5 Draft eligible, but it is very rare for AA relievers to get drafted at the ML level. He will undoubtedly be protected on the AAA roster, so he will not be at risk for the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft. Scrubb has another year before he needs to be protected.
    I think Errol Robinson, Cody Thomas, and Jared Walker are all being showcased. I am not sure that there is a spot relegated to any of them on the Dodgers future roster, but each have enough talent to be considered as marginal ML prospects. Errol Robinson may never hit enough to become a ML SS, but he is so defensively sound that he can become a solid utility player. I would be interested to see how much more CF time he may get. I have always liked Cody Thomas, but I do not see him as much more than a #4/#5 OF. I would love to be wrong, but he turned 24 two days ago, and he has still not reached AA. He plays all three OF positions, and I would like to see him get some 1B time and become a potential SVS clone. Or he could become another Trayce Thompson type. Admittedly, I did not start to follow Jared Walker until last year, but he had a good enough year to get this honor and exposure. I hope he takes full advantage.

    1. Great stuff, AC [& DC]. My first reaction on seeing the list of players was happiness that we’re including a top tier player like Ruiz (we are being very aggressive with him and could see him sooner than a lot of people realize). I was also surprised to see Sheffield was only 23; it seems he’s been given up for dead several times and even if he “only” winds up a relief arm, he still has potential to be a big league competitor. Like many, I’d love to see him focus on the bullpen exclusively so we can see what we have. Finally, i know very little about Cody Thomas. He’s not in my normal rotation of prospect outfielders I think about. However, having been surprised in the past (by Schebler, for example), I’m putting him on my watch list for 2019 and maybe he can break out a bit in the AFL to get a head start.
      The AFL participants are usually a mixed group of varying ceilings, and we often include players who miss time due to injury, but overall I think this group is one of the stronger we’ve put together recently. Just Ruiz alone makes them a must-follow. As we march toward our postseason destiny, it’s nice to know our lower levels are continuing their progress as well. (BTW, it’s funny–Errol Robinson was originally rumored to be in the Machado deal so I keep forgetting we kept him!)

      1. dionysis – Your comparison to Scott Schebler may well be a good one. Both left-hand hitting with Thomas four inches taller.
        Scott played in the AFL in 2014 and actually hit better than Corey Seager. He turned 24 on October 6 that year while Thomas turned 24 this October 8. Cody struck out a lot with the Quakes, third most in the league, but was joined by Jeren Kendall, Connor Wong, Christian Santana and Omar Estevez in the top ten with strikeouts.
        . with Callis/Mayo and Rosenbaum list Thomas as a “sleeper”.
        “Thomas originally went to Oklahoma to play quarterback but had more success as an outfielder with the Sooners. He has totaled 39 homers in his two full pro seasons and his raw power ranks among the best in the Dodgers system, though he has to prove he can make consistent contact against quality pitching. He runs well for a 6-foot-4, 211-pounder and has solid arm strength.”

        1. Awesome. It just shows how #NotaScout I am that I went and saw Schebler when he was in Single-A and I immediately dismissed him as not a prospect. I wasn’t crazy about his body and he was a dead pull hitter [Max Muncy anyone?]. Just goes to show: never give up on the hit tool. Thanks again for the info on Thomas. He looks athletic.

    2. AC – I have followed Walker for what seems like forever but he is still only 22. I had him on my 2015 and 2016 – 20 and under teams. Perhaps it was just because there were not many options at third base. He seems to be a good team player and a fine young man. I will do a profile on him later.

      1. DC, that would be great. He just seemed to slip through my reviews. I am glad that the organization thinks enough of his potential to send him to Arizona.

  6. Ben Holmes is his legal name but he also goes by Wetzler. In 2014 he was arrested drunk for breaking into a home he thought was his (it wasn’t). I guess stuff happens… No one is very high on him and his fastball in below 90 MPH. Maybe they see something I don’t but he is a curious pick.

    1. I believe everyone deserves a second chance. Yasmani Grandal cheated, Andrew Toles had some issues but we embrace those guys now. Holmes doesn’t perhaps have the upside they do but his is a feel good story. Maybe he will be a wily left-hander or a LOOGY. Obviously the Dodgers see something in him as there surely must have been other choices to send to the AFL.
      He said this after his taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his Drillers debut.
      “I was really able to mix and change speeds,” he said. “The fastball and changeup where there. The curveball was kind of hit or miss, but I was able to change speeds and keep them off-balance.” As mentioned above in his quote, perhaps he has learned to pitch under the Dodgers tutelage. He indeed is a long shot but has persevered.

      1. He should study Ryu. I don’t know if there’s a better pitcher in the game at maximizing his stuff through command, mechanics, & tempo. I could not be more impressed with him. Future pitching coach if the language holds 😉

  7. Haha. The CC talk about about the umpire Angel Hernandez is almost as funny as Porcello’s response to CC.

    1. I just hope we don’t get Hernandez, in any of our series!

      His law suit is meritless, but that is probably the same reason he keeps getting work, in the post season.

    2. I read a funny tweet yesterday. Every time a call is overturned, an Angel(Hernandez) gets his wings.

    3. I want no part of Angel Hernandez or Bill Miller. Both of them should be excluded from the playoffs for the rest of their careers.

  8. Wow. There was just a trade. The Nats got Barracough from the Marlins. Didn’t some people here want him as a reliever?

    1. Marlins are acquiring international money to sign the top two prospects. Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr.
      The Dodgers still have a lot of international money left just not enough to sign the two brothers. They did sign a pitching prospect yesterday.

      1. Building a portfolio of talent, the extra %2, winning at the margins, the smartest guys in the room . . .

      2. 17 year old Cuban Osvani Guetierrez was given $600,000. He’s a reported strike thrower with command of his off-speed stuff and can touch 93 mph. Not considered one of the top prospects though.

  9. Dear God I’m already tired of the comparing Kratz-to-David-Ross talk and the series hasn’t even started.

  10. NLCS start times are set:

    Game 1: Friday 5:09 pm FS1
    Game 2: Saturday 1:09 pm Fox
    Game 3: Monday 4:39pm FS1
    Game 4: Tuesday 6:09pm FS1
    Game 5: Wednesday 2:05pm FS1 (yes, 2pm on a Wednesday in LA, wtf)
    Game 6: Friday 5:39pm FS1
    Game 7: Saturday 6:09pm FS1 (unless the ALCS is already finished by then, in which case this game starts at 5:09pm)

    Lord I hope 1) that we win this series, and 2) that we win it before a game 7, as Lebron’s home opener is that night at 7:30pm!!

    1. In some ways 2-3-2 can benefit the road team. Just win one of the first two games and you have a nice three-game stretch at home. Take two of three, as you should, and the pressure swings to milwaukee.

  11. Glendale lost today in the AFL, but Ben Holmes pitched 3 shutout innings and Jordon Sheffield pitched one shutout inning in relief. Cool stuff!

    Ben “Freaking” Holmes!

    1. Looking at it more deeply, you should get a little more pleasure of the pitching that Holmes and Sheffield did today. Offensively, the Peoria team is loaded. They have two of the best position players in a very good Padres minor league system; OF Buddy Reed (#13) and 3B Hudson Potts (#23); 2B Keston Hiura (#1 Brewers); 1B Evan White (Mariners #2); and OF Christian Pache (Braves #6). 4 IP, 0 runs, 4 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts. Every other Glendale pitcher (4) gave up a run. Good game for the Dodgers prospects.

  12. I’m too lazy to look it up but what players didnt see any action against atlanta? Barnes, dozier? If Robert’s is thinking of a move might it be stripling for wood or urias for wood or verdugo for dozier or fields for ???

Comments are closed.