As you can see, the Beerleaguer is standing again at the top right, signifying the start of the Arizona Fall League (AFL).
The AFL, which runs until mid-November, gives players, mostly Double or Triple-A talent, a chance to accelerate their status and stay in a good groove. As usual, several top Phillies prospects are taking part as members of the Peoria Saguaros, logo pictured. Scott Mathieson, who was voted best pitcher of the 2005 AFL, is a great example of a Phillie who elevated his game in the fall and hit the ground running in Double-A the following season. For the most part, the AFL is a scouting league with few fans, and usually, a lot of hitting, so the results need to be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes, I wonder whether this league actually exists, or whether it’s fabricated by Baseball America and MiLB.com to sell copies and drive traffic during the off-season.
Mathieson was scheduled for an AFL return this fall, but suffered another injury setback and will not take part. The Phillies selected RHP Joe Bisenius, LHP J.A. Happ, LHP Josh Outman, LHP Joe Savery, C Tuffy Gosewisch, 3B Mike Costanzo, OF Greg Golson and RHP Pat Overholt, replacing Mathieson, to participate this season.
They’re all worth watching, ranging from medium-to-high-ceiling players, mostly at an age where they’re near or knocking on the door to the Majors. Happ and Bisenius, 25-year-olds who suffered injury setbacks this season, will probably be given a shot to make the club out of spring training. Both were non-roster invitees a year ago; Bisenius actually broke camp on the 25-man roster, and Happ earned a spot start on June 30.
Along with Outman and '07 first-rounder Savery, there’s plenty to watch if you subscribe to the belief that minor league pitching will play a major role next season. GM Pat Gillick said it won’t, but he’s not to be trusted, and hasn't hesitated in calling up young arms the past two seasons.
Bisenius is already off to a good start. In four innings, he’s struck out four, walked one has given up just one hit. Outman, Overholt and Savery have seen limited action thus far with nothing major to report. On a related note, Savery is maintaining a fall league blog. Read it here.
Besides the higher-ceiling pitchers, I’m watching the strikeout column of Costanzo and Golson with trepidation. So far Costanzo is 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts and a homer. Golson is tied for the league lead with three doubles and is batting .313.
The Saguaros battle Phoenix today. Follow it here. Or not.