Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Arizona dreaming

Byron Buxton at the Futures Game.  The 19-year-old will
play in the Arizona Fall League this year.
Any news involving Byron Buxton gets my attention, and so the announcement Tuesday that he will be among the seven Twins farmhands playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League caught my attention.

The MLB.com piece on the league rosters leads with Buxton, the consensus top prospect in the game. It also deems the AFL to be at a level between Double A and Triple A.

If so, that means Buxton, currently ripping it up in high A ball, is again being challenged -- which figures. He should be on the fast track.

But if he's being challenged with this assignment, what about Max Kepler, who missed the first half of the season with injury and has been somewhat less than dominant in low A? He too is going to the AFL. He's a good prospect, and he has some time to make up, but this is much faster company than he's used to.

It's interesting, too, that Kepler is listed on the roster as an infielder. In his case, that means first base. It hardly precludes some outfield time, but it makes me suspect (especially since the Desert Dogs manager will be Jeff Smith, the manager of the Twins Double-A affiliate) that the Twins want Kepler to focus on first base. (It may also be that there remains some concern about his elbow.)

Trevor May has
averaged more than
a strikeout an inning
this year in Double A.
Also on the roster: Eddie Rosario. Latin players aren't often assigned to the AFL; they more often play winter ball in their homeland (as will be the case with Miguel Sano in the Dominican). Rosario starred last winter in the Puerto Rican winter league. But he was also playing mostly outfield, and the Twins have had him playing second base. It may be that this assignment is rooted in the master plan of Rosario at the keystone.

Then there's the pitchers. The AFL teams are formed out of five different organizations, and typically each team sends one starting pitcher. The Twins are sending two starters: Alex Meyer, who missed much of the summer with a shoulder strain, and Trevor May. Meyer has innings to make up, so sending him is no surprise; May, on the other hand, is on his way to a 150-inning season. They are two of the organization's more prominent pitching prospects, and they're at an advanced level. The Twins would dearly love to see one of them emerge for next year's rotation.

Buxton, Meyer, Rosario, May and Kepler were all generally rated among the organization's top 10 prospects coming into 2013.

The Twins are also sending a pair of relievers, Zach Jones and A.J. Achter, each of whom have had strong seasons. (Achter has split the 2013 season between Double A and Triple A; Jones has been in high A.) As relievers, neither is ever likely to be prominent on prospect lists, but they are legit major-league possibilities.

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