John Set To Travel To Phoenix For Arizona Fall League
While the World Series is just wrapping up and the spotlight shining on San Francisco and Texas, a group of around 180 Major League prospects from every team is in Phoenix participating in the Arizona Fall League. Their dreams of playing on the World Series stage are bright as they prepare to take the next step in their professional careers.
The Arizona Fall League is in its 19th year and has been referred to as a “graduate school” of sorts for elite prospects. There are six teams in the league that are made up of prospects from all 30 Major League teams. Players in the league have an opportunity to showcase their talents to an array of Major League scouts, farm directors and general managers.
While it is mostly a league for top prospects, a number of players do have Major League experience. Three Brewers representatives–Jeremy Jeffress, Brandon Kintzler and Mike McClendon–made their Major League debuts in 2010 and are among 22 this year’s Fall League players with Major League experience.
Ten Brewers prospects are currently participating in the league that began play on October 12 and will play a 32-game schedule. Along with prospects from the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals, the Brewers prospects make the Surprise Rafters. The Rafters play in the West Division with their home stadium of Surprise Stadium. Entering today’s games, the Rafters are in first-place with a 10-6 record.
Mike Guerrero, manager of the Huntsville Stars, is the manager of the Surprise Rafters for 2010. Guerrero has been in the Brewers organization as a coach or manager for 15 years. Representing the Brewers on the Surprise Rafters are the following players: RHP Michael Fiers; RHP Jeremy Jeffress; RHP Brandon Kintzler; LHP Lucas Luetge; RHP Mike McClendon; LHP Dan Merklinger; INF Eric Farris; INF Hunter Morris; OF Caleb Gindl and OF Logan Schafer. I have brief capsules on each player below along with links to their AFL bio page.
I’m heading down to Phoenix tomorrow (7 a.m. flight, ouch) to check in with some of the Brewers players who are playing in the league as well as find some stories about how the Brewers Training Center at Maryvale Baseball Park operates in the offseason. I am also going to see how Brewers scouts use the league to evaluate talent. I plan on completing my week by covering the Rising Stars Game on Saturday which is an All-Star Game for the AFL.
All told, over 1,800 former Fall Leaguers have reached the Big Leagues. On Opening Day 2010, the Milwaukee Brewers 25-man roster had 18 players who were Fall League graduates, tied with Philadelphia for the most in the National League and second only to Oakland (21) in MLB. Included in those 18 are All-Stars Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.
Additionally, four Brewers players who spent time on the Major League roster in 2010 played in the 2009 Fall League: Zack Braddock, Lorenzo Cain, Jonathan Lucroy and Mark Rogers. This shows how close those in the AFL are to making it to the Major Leagues.
I briefly spoke with Lucroy about his experience in the 2009 Fall League.
“I really believe that my experience last year in Arizona helped me get to the Big Leagues this year,” Lucroy said. “You were playing every day with some of the best prospects and getting good at bats against great pitching, facing that competition for over a month, you are definitely going to get better. Not only did it help me as a hitter, but I felt that it helped me as a catcher too because I was working with our pitchers and our coaches.”
Be sure to check in with John and Cait…Plus Nine all week for interviews, photos, stories and videos from Phoenix. If anyone has any ideas for me or questions for any of the players involved or Doug Melvin, please e-mail us and I will see what we can do to get them answered. I’m really excited to travel to Phoenix and write about what is going on with the future of the Milwaukee Brewers.
For more information on the Arizona Fall League, visit the official website for the league at www.mlbfallball.com.
Farris spent most of the 2010 season with Triple-A Nashvile where he finished the season hitting .274 with two home runs and 15 RBI. He was a 4th round selection (131st overall) of the Brewers in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. The infielder missed nearly three months of action after suffering a knee injury on April 29 in a home plate collision. He hit .250 (8-for-32) with 5 doubles, 1 home run, 9 RBI in 10 rehab games with the Arizona Brewers.
Fiers began the season with Brevard County and was promoted to Huntsville on July 4. Overall this season, he went 5-9 with a 3.53 ERA (125ip/49er) in 27 appearances/19 starts. His strikeout to walk ratio was astounding as he has recorded 130 strikeouts and only 32 walks. The right handed pitcher was the Brewers 22nd round selection of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Gindl was a fifth-round selection by the Brewers in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and spent the 2010 season with Double-A Huntsville where he hit .272 with nine home runs and 60 RBI while playing in 128 games in the outfield.
The Brewers’ First-Round Draft selection in 2006, Jeffress made his Major League debut with the Brewers this season. He spent time with Class-A Wisconsin (0-0, 0.00), Class-A Brevard County (0-0, 5.40) and Double-A Huntsville (1-1, 1.26) before joining the Brewers (1-0, 2.70) as a September call up.
Kintzler, a hard-throwing right hander also made his Major League debut in 2010 with the Brewers. He began the season with Double-A Huntsville (1-0, 0.40, 10 saves) and moved on to Triple-A Nashville where he made 22 appearances out of the bullpen (3-0, 2.36 ERA, 6 saves). With the Brewers, he went 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in seven relief appearances.
Luetge was a 21st round selection by the Brewers in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He split time between Class-A Brevard County (1-1, 2.29) and Double-A Huntsville (3-2, 3.48). Luetge is a member of the Rafters “taxi squad” meaning he is only active for Wednesday and Saturday games during the Fall League but still participates in all other team activities.
McClendon made his Major League debut with the Brewers in August and went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 17 relief appearances. A 10th round selection by the Brewers in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, McClendon began the season with Double-A Huntsville (1-1, 0.61) and spent most of the season with Triple-A Nashville where he went 4-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 25 appearances and three starts.
Merklinger, like Luetge, is a member of the Rafters “taxi squad.” He spend most of the 2010 season with Class-A Brevard County, going 7-6 with a 3.64 ERA in 25 appearances and 21 starts. He also made one start at each Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Huntsville. Merklinger was a 6th round selection by the Brewers in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
Morris was a 2010 fourth round pick by the Brewers and was this year’s Southeastern Conference Player of the Year out of Auburn University. He spent the 2010 season with Class-A Wisconsin and hit .251 with nine home runs and 44 RBI.
Schafer spent an injury-plagued season with Class-A Brevard County. He only played seven games this season for Brevard County where he hit .174 (4-for-23) and missed most of the season due to a broken right foot and a sports hernia. He finished the season on the disabled list after being placed on the DL on July 9. He was a 3rd round selection by the Brewers in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.