MLB's Arizona Fall League gets underway this afternoon in the Land of the Endless Strip Mall, and eight of the best and brightest prospects from the Cincinnati Reds system will suit up with the Surprise Saguaros for the next month and a half. The AFL is a prime proving ground for many prospects considered among the most elite and advanced in teams' systems, and the talent collected in the desert for the 2014 edition follows along those lines.
This year, the hopeful future Reds will take the field with said squad of saguaros where they'll be managed by Delino Deshields, who is currently in charge of the the Reds' AA affiliate in Pensacola. Joining him from the Cincinnati farm will be pitchers Ryan Dennick, Carlos Gonzalez, Nick Howard, and Ben Klimesh, infielders Seth Mejias-Brean, Juan Perez, Kyle Waldrop, and outfielder Jesse Winker. They'll be paired with some notable prospects from other systems in Surprise, too, including Taijuan Walker (Seattle Mariners), Rusney Castillo (Boston Red Sox), D.J. Peterson (Seattle), and Hunter Renfroe (San Diego Padres) among many others.
Unfortunately, Ryan Wright was dropped from the roster and replaced by Perez for some unspecified reason (aliens). Top ranked prospects like Byron Buxton (Minnesota Twins), Mark Appel (Houston Astros), and Addison Russell (Chicago Cubs) will also be in the league on other teams, providing some stiff competition.
The six teams in the AFL will play each other daily for five weeks (with off-days on Sundays) before the league's championship game on November 15th decides the 2014 victor. We'll track Winker's return from the wrist injury that ended his season prematurely, Howard's progress on the transition from UVA closer to minor league starting pitcher, and Mejias-Brean's continued bid to be a viable big league corner infielder while other franchises play in the big boy playoffs. It's as close as we can get to the Farmer's Only days of yore until the Winter Meetings roll around to crank up the hot stove for good, so keep your eyes peeled for the next best thing to Cincinnati Reds baseball.
For the full Surprise Saguaros roster, check here.
For the AFL's complete schedule, check here.
For milb.com's AFL preview, check here.
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