While every fan wants their team playing deep into October, the Arizona Fall League provides a fun outlet for a baseball fix to those not quite ready to switch into football mode.
With the Minnesota Twins winding down their third-straight 90-loss season and the Minnesota Vikings off to an 0-3 start, thank goodness there’s hockey and Byron Buxton.
The Twins have one of the more impressive group of prospects headed to the AFL, headlined by Buxton, the No. 2 pick of the 2012 draft. The Twins team up with prospects from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox to form the Glendale Desert Dogs. The AFL rosters are still preliminary, so it’s possible things could get shaken up a bit before play opens Oct. 8. Here’s a snapshot of the Twins prospects headed to the desert this fall.
Byron Buxton – The consensus top prospect in all of baseball, Buxton will face his toughest test to date in the AFL. The 19-year-old reached High-A this season, but will square off against much more advanced pitching in the desert. A solid performance and a good spring could mean Buxton will go straight to Double-A for the 2014 season. An elite defensive center fielder, Buxton showed this year he could hit (.334 average) get on base (76 walks), flash some power (12 home runs) and run with the best of them (55 stolen bases and 18 triples).
Alex Meyer – Acquired in a trade that sent Denard Span to the Washington Nationals, Meyer looks like he has all the tools to become a frontline starter. He just needs to log some more innings. Nagging shoulder issues limited the 6-foot-9 right-hander to 16 starts this season. He reached Double-A for the first time and had a 3.21 ERA and 84 strikeouts over 70 innings (10.8 K/9). If all goes well, there’s a strong chance the 23 -year-old makes it to Minnesota at some point in 2014.
Eddie Rosario – Shifted from the outfield to second base, Rosario’s bat is probably good enough to get him to the bigs no matter where he ends up defensively. The Puerto Rican has hit .307 over four minor league seasons, and had a .302/.350.460 line this season. Rosario had some trouble in his first crack at Double-A, seeing his strikeout rate jump from 12.6 percent in High-A to 21.4 percent. Even though he got over 500 plate appearances during the regular season, the 22-year-old should benefit from some more development time in Arizona.
Trevor May – Another starter acquired for a center fielder this winter, the Twins got May from the Philadelphia Phillies for Ben Revere. The hard throwing right-hander made Baseball America’s Top-100 for the 2012 season, but failed to maintain that level of prospect status, and was underwhelming again in 2013. The 6-foot-5 24-year-old did average over a strikeout per inning, but also had a 4.51 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 4.0 BB/9 in his second full season in Double-A.
Max Kepler – A German born outfielder with a great pedigree, Kepler has spent all of his minor league career in the outfield, but is listed as a first baseman on the Desert Dogs’ roster. Kepler is still very raw, but the 20-year-old lefty has started to find his power, hitting 19 home runs over 120 games the past two seasons. He hit .237/.312/.424 in Class-A this season, so the AFL will be a big test.
Zach Jones – If he can get a handle on his stuff, Jones could make an impact as a reliever. Drafted in the fourth round in 2012, Jones struck out 70 batters in 48 ⅔ innings pitched at High-A this season. The right-hander posted a 1.85 ERA and 14 saves. The big issue is he had a 5.1 BB/9. The AFL hitters for the most part are going to have more advanced approaches that competition Jones, 22, has faced.
A.J. Achter – A former 46th round pick who’s already 25-years-old, Achter is not a prospect, but rather someone the Twins are wanting a closer look at to evaluate whether or not he can be considered a Plan B reliever for the Major League squad in 2014. The Michigan State product had a 2.54 ERA and averaged 8.4 K/9 between Double-A and Triple-A. On the down side, he also averaged nearly five walks per nine innings pitched.
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