The 2013 season for the Arizona Fall League begins on Tuesday, October 8 where Kyle Parker, Tyler Matzek and Cristhian Adames headline a list of Rockies prospects representing the Salt River Rafters. The Rafters are made up of players from the Rockies, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Rays organizations.
The AFL is a fun event to visit from a pure prospect standpoint. Crowds are small with a mere 200-400 people in attendance and tickets start at $7 ($6 for kids and seniors) with multi-game packs available at a reduced rate. There are also a number of scouts and other professionals at the games toting radar guns and pitch-charting apps. Don't be surprised to see Keith Law in the stands, especially if there's a good match-up on the lineup cards.
The Rafter will play their home games in Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and all games are within an hour of each other in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. There are a total of six teams, with players from five organizations representing each team. The AFL was founded in 1992 and is run by the office of Major League Baseball.
Several former Rockies have participated in the AFL including: Purple Row's own Craig Baker (2009), Charlie Blackmon (2010), Dexter Fowler (2007), Todd Helton (1996), Troy Tulowitzki (2006) and 2011 AFL MVP Nolan Arenado. If you were following earlier AFL coverage you may notice Tyler Anderson's name is missing from the roster. Even though he was originally scheduled to pitch due to short innings from a shoulder injury this season, it appears he was replaced by pitcher Cole White to perhaps let him rest and start over next season.
Kyle Parker (1B) - Drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft, Parker was the first NCAA Division I athlete to hit 20 home runs and throw for 20 touchdowns passes in a single academic year. Parker continued his power hitting after being drafted and was ranked by Baseball America as the Rockies top power hitter in 2010 and 2012. This season Parker hit .288/.345/.492 with 23 home runs for Double-A Tulsa. The interesting part of Parker's participation in the AFL is the position he's listed at -- first base. This could be the Rockies official transition to playing Parker primarily in a role meant to become Todd Helton's successor.
Tyler Matzek (LHP) - Drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft, Matzek came to scouts attention in a scrimmage when he outpitched Pirates 2008 first round pick and former UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole. The scouting report coming out of high school on Tyler was a lefty who could pitch 90-93 with a tendancy to lose velocity and pitch wild in games when he opened up too soon. Since being drafted, Matzek has continued with those issues, at times flashing an exciting fastball that was ranked No. 1 in the Rockies system by BA in 2009 and 2010. Other times Tyler has proven to be an enigma with bouts of wildness balanced with high strikeout rates. This season was Tyler's most consistent, with a 3.79 ERA in Double-A Tulsa and his lowest walk rate as a professional. Tyler has already pitched 142.1 innings this year, the same as 2012, and with his elevated innings pitched, he may be shutdown early in the AFL season. So if you go, go early to watch this 22-year-old lefty.
Cristhian Adames (SS) - Signed by Colorado as an international free agent in 2007, Adames was added to the 40-man roster this season as he was approaching minor league free agency. A gritty defender who can draw a walk and get on base, Adames was ranked by BA as the Rockies top defending infielder in 2011. Adames hit .267/.331/.350 in Double-A Tulsa and could be facing a roster crunch next year as more of the Rockies top prospects near the big leagues and injured players come off the 60-day disabled list. The AFL is a great place for players like Adames who need to impress their employers into getting a big league shot next season.
Other Star Players to watch:
Byron Buxton (CF) - The top rated prospect by MLB.com will be the highlight of the AFL this season. Representing the Glendale Desert Dogs, Buxton is a must-watch if you catch a AFL game. Buxton hit .326 in High-A this season as a 19-year-old with 23 stolen bases in just 57 games.
Matt Harvey (RHP) - Although he's not yet listed on the Scottsdale Scorpions roster, Adam Rubin of ESPN writes that Harvey could be making a rehab appearance in the AFL this season. Even if he doesn't, the Scorpions will have pitchers Kyle Crick and Jameson Taillon as must-see starters to follow over the next two months.
Delino DeShields (CF) - Since 2001, only two minor league players have broken triple-digits in stolen bases -- Billy Hamilton and Delino Deshields. The son and namesake of a former Expo, DeShields used his raw speed to steal 101 bases in 2012 and created 14 triples this season in just 111 games. Delino will be transitioning from shortstop to centerfield in the Fall League and will be a fun player to keep an eye on throughout the season.
Kris Bryant (3B) - The No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, Chicago Cubs infielder Kris Bryant has shown incredible power throughout his college career and that translated into nine home runs over three minor league levels this season. Bryant's final line of the season was an impressive .336/.390/.688 in 36 games. Bryant will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox alongside a couple of other players to keep an eye on: power hitter Max Muncy and shortstop Addison Russell, who was drafted one spot behind David Dahl last season.
Ryan Howard will be inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame on October 9 in a game between Salt River and the Scottsdale Scorpions. Former Rockies Todd Helton (2003) and Jason Giambi (2002) have previously received this honor.
AFL Tweet of the Week
Rockies Tweet of the Week
Sister: Wow! Look at your hair Me: ugh...looks like a hat day for me Sister: I guess It's not a shower day then Me: Shut up. I'm on vacation— ChuckNazty (@Chuck_Nazty) October 2, 2013
Rockies Twitter Pic of the Week
Getting the offseason started off right pic.twitter.com/BUu7BzDglJ— DJ LeMahieu (@DJLeMahieu) October 3, 2013
Twitter Pic of the Week
Earn October. pic.twitter.com/1QEe1ToAzS— Nike Baseball (@nikebaseball) September 30, 2013