Arizona Fall League Assignments
Sean Rodriguez is one of seven Angels minor leaguers assigned to the Arizona Fall League.
Major League Baseball announced the rosters for the 2007 Arizona Fall League season.
The Angels players will be with the Surprise (that’s a town, not an exclamation) Rafters this year. Click Here for the complete Rafters roster.
The seven Angels are RHP David Austen, RHP Darren O’Day, RHP Fernando Rodriguez, RHP Von Stertzbach, C Ben Johnson, IF Sean Rodriguez, and OF Chris Pettit.
In an August 8 audio interview, Pettit told us he was slated for fall instructional league to learn how to play first and third base. But it looks like that plan has changed; maybe he’ll play the corners in the AFL, maybe not.
Many people have common misconceptions about the AFL. The main one is that the players who go to the AFL are an organization’s top prospects. That’s often true, but not always.
When the AFL was founded in 1992, the idea was to send the game’s top prospects to a six-week league where they could accelerate their development and improve their chance of making the big league roster next spring. Although all major league organizations are required to provide six players, not everyone sends their best players, because they don’t want to risk an injury to a top prospect.
Now you’ll find top prospects, but you’ll also find guys who missed much of the season due to injury (e.g. Austen and Stertzbach). MLB will also negotiate with organizations so they receive a diversity of players; if nobody sends a catcher, it’s a problem, so they’ll ask for certain players at certain positions to balance out the rosters. A versatile player like Sean Rodriguez is a godsend for an AFL manager.
Speaking of Sean … I wanted to note an interesting dichotomy in his 2007 stats. After one season in the Texas League, Dickey-Stephens Park has proven to be very pitcher-friendly, and that’s reflected in Sean’s home-road splits. His home AVG/OBP/SLG are .236/.352/.333. His road numbers are .268/.336/.500. Eleven of his fifteen homers, and 22 of his 31 doubles, were on the road. Most hitters do quite well in the Phoenix desert air, so expect him to post improved numbers in the AFL.
Some other misconceptions …
People often confuse the Arizona Fall League with the fall instructional league. Two different things. AFL is run by Major League Baseball. Official statistics are kept, and the games are played by official rules. "Fall ball" is an informal schedule of contests against other nearby minor league camps. Rules are loosely followed. It’s not unusual to see 10-man lineups with two DHs. You might see an inning end early because a young pitcher is exceeding his pitch count. And the bottom of the 9th might be played even though the home team has won because the visiting team has a pitcher who needs an inning of work. The statistics are not reported, one reason being they wouldn’t make much sense under these informal conditions.
AFL players must be Triple-A or Double-A, although each organization may send one player from below Double-A. (The Angels are sending Pettit.) Instructional league players can be pretty much anyone, but most of the time they’re first-year minor leaguers drafted in June who’ve played only a half-year. You’ll also see players working on a new skill, such as learning a new pitch or position. In 1999, for example, outfielder Jeff DaVanon reported to learn second base, but the new management (Stoneman/Scioscia) abandoned that idea. You might even see a big leaguer for a few days; I saw Troy Glaus working with hitting coach Rod Carew who was trying to get him to go the opposite way with outside pitches. Heaven forbid Mike Scioscia and crew have nothing else to do in October, but if the Angels are eliminated from the post-season then you might see some of the major league coaching staff show up to evaluate the kids.
Instructional league players usually play hard to impress the coaches, while over at AFL you may see some guys take it easy to avoid injury. To some players, the AFL is a part-time job and they don’t want to get hurt in a meaningless game.
With the nation’s attention focused on the post-season and football, few people bother to show up at AFL or instructional league games. That’s a shame, because it’s an opportunity for some intimate quality time with professional ballplayers.