The Arizona Fall League has long been regarded as a proving ground of sorts, a place where some of the most touted prospects in the game play short-season ball with the eyes of the baseball world focused just on them. The rosters for the 2017 season were announced on Tuesday, and while the Cincinnati Reds will be sending six players to participate in this year’s league, it won’t exactly be the top prospects in the system that will be representing the club.
Relievers Joel Bender, Brennan Bernardino, and Jake Ehret will be in the bullpen for the Scottsdale Scorpions, while Taylor Sparks, Blake Trahan, and Chad Tromp will rep the Reds as position players, as the team’s roster currently shows. For reference, only Trahan ranks among the Top 30 prospects in the Reds’ system according to MLB Pipeline, and on that listing he checks in at #27. Sparks represents the highest draftee of the bunch as a 2nd round pick from the 2014 draft, but he’s hit just .188 in 51 games across three lower levels this year and is currently a 24 year old in the A+ Florida State League.
It’s an interested trend, really. Last year, the Reds sent eight players to participate in AFL play, but much like this year’s group, the 2016 crop featured zero 1st round draftes and none of the team’s prospects who’d cracked Top 100 MLB prospect lists. Perhaps that’s just how things have played out in back to back seasons, but it sure appears the Reds aren’t exactly keen on sending their best and brightest to participate at this juncture. That’s not a league-wide thing, either, as four of the Top 20 prospects from MLB.com’s rankings will be attending, as Jonathan Mayo notes.
Regardless, it’s a chance for this group to get more exposure and experience, and while there may not be a star among them, there’s reason to believe they’ll be contributors for the big league Reds at some point. Heck, last year’s crop has already seen the likes of Chad Wallach and Barret Astin get big league time, for instance.
These rosters are a bit fluid, of course, as injuries, trades, and other happenings my adjust them. And as The Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans noted specifically in a recent tweet, it appears the Reds have a pair of “TBA” roster spots they might fill at some point, too.