AFL Players to Watch and Initial Season Live Blog
As has been the norm for most of the past twenty years, I’ll be associated with the league in some capacity and will try and keep you updated not only on the players we all know, but those under the radar guys who step up and perform their way to the major leagues.
My first game of the season will be on Wednesday at 12:35 PST, as Bryce Harper and Mike Trout lead the Scottsdale Scorpions out to the West Valley to oppose the Surprise Saguaros in their home opener.
Despite my previous track record of not being able to conduct a live blog for more than three innings, I hope to have that issue resolved…I recently downloaded Google Chrome, which seems to be better than Firefox in that regard.
There is one potential glitch in my plans, however…my Media pass hasn’t arrived as yet. Normally the league waits almost to the last minute to mail them off, so I’m not entirely concerned at this point, but I may be forced to trying to get a Wi-Fi connection from the seating area, which may prove difficult.
Anyway, as is the usual, there are a handful of players on each roster I’m looking forward to seeing. The schedule this year is a bit different than in the past, with one team moving from Peoria to the far East Valley to the new Dbacks/Rockies facility at Talking Stick.
To compensate some of the teams, the AFL put together a schedule dominated by back to back home/road matchups, similar to what you see in the NHL or NBA. My hometown team, Surprise, for example, plays fourteen home road matchups throughout the season. With my days off from work being fixed, the potential is there to see one or two teams consistently more than any other, which, as it turns out, is the case.
Not that it’s a bad thing, as the team most frequent on my schedule is Scottsdale, which means, if they are here all year, I’ll see Harper and Trout more than anyone else.
Anyway, here’s my “watch list” of players for the upcoming season.
Mesa Solar Sox: Pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trey McNutt and outfielders Aaron Hicks, Xavier Avery, and Josh Vitters.
That’s right, former Cubs number one pick as a third baseman, Josh Vitters is coming to Arizona to learn the outfield.
Peoria Javelinas: Pitchers Danny Hultzen, Cody Scarpetta, Jeff Ibarra, and Collin McHugh, catcher Adam Moore, infielders Nick Franklin, Jed Gyorko and Jefry Marte, and outfielders James Darnell, Kentrail Davis, Logan Schafer and Chih-Hseing Chang.
And, yes, as it the case with Vitters, a top infield prospect (Darnell) is heading to Arizona to learn the outfield.
Phoenix Desert Dogs: Pitchers David Phelps and Tyson Ross, catcher Yasmani Grandal, infielders Adeiny Hechevarria, Corban Joseph and Ronnier Mustelier, and outfielders Grant Green, Michael Choice and Anthony Gose.
And, yes, yet again, a first rounder is changing positions (Green).
Salt River Rafters: Pitchers Casey Crosby, Andrew Oliver, Drew Pomeranz, Casey Weathers and Josh Zeid, infielders Nolan Arenado and Ryan Wheeler, and outfielders Kyle Russell and Tim Wheeler.
Scottsdale Scorpions: Pitchers David Carpenter and Sammy Solis, catchers Hank Conger and Derek Norris, infielders Brandon Crawford, Will Middlebrooks, Jean Segura and Anthony Rendonn and outfielders Gary Brown, Tyson Gillies, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.
Surprise Saguaros: Pitchers Sean Gilmartin, Jeremy Jeffress, Dan Jennings, and Alex Sanabia, catchers Christian Bethancourt and Kyle Shipworth, infielders Tim Beckham, Christian Colon, Matt Dominguez, Mike Olt, LeuryGarcia, and outfielders Todd Cunningham, Mike Mahtook and Wil Myers.
If there is anything I’ve learned about the AFL over the past twenty years it’s that nothing is official. For example, Brett Jackson, the top positional prospect in the Cubs’ chain, was scheduled for the AFL but will instead play for Team USA in the upcoming World Cup in Panama. If the US makes it to the Gold Medal Game, the earliest Jackson could play in the league is October 18th. He could conceivably play more than half the season and in the Rising Stars game, but the level of play and stress of representing the United States over two weeks could be more impactful than seven weeks in Arizona, the Cubs could conceivably shut him down.
So, remember, set your phone alarms to remind you of Wednesday, hopefully my passes show up so I can get into the press box and get a connection.
It’s worth noting for those following the playoffs should know that Roy Halladay, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Desmond Jennings, Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, Elvis Andrus, Willie Bloomquist, Ryan Braun, Reid Brignac, Evan Longoria, Sean Burroughs, Chris Carpenter, Eric Chavez, Todd Coffey, Craig Counsell, Johnny Damon, Daniel Descalso, Chris Dickerson, Brett Gardner, Prince Fielder, Doug Fister, Sam Fuld (MVP), Josh Hamilton, Corey Hart, LaTroy Hawkins, Ryan Howard, Phil Hughes, Max Scherzer, Brandon Inge, Raul Ibanez, John Jaso, Derek Jeter, Brad Lidge, Jonathon Lucroy, Mitch Moreland, John MacDonald, Miguel Montero, David Murphy, Mike Napoli, Darren Oliver, Lyle Overbay, Brad Penny, Ryan Roberts, Francisco Rodriguez, Sean Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Kelly Shoppach, Taylor Teagarden, Chase Utley, BJ Upton, Shane Victorino, Cory Wade, Adam Wainwright, Rickie Weeks, Jack Wilson, Chris Young, Delmon Young and Ben Zobrist are all AFL alumni.
Just something to think about while you’re watching.
Tags: Arizona Fall League