The Twins recently announced their contingent of players to participate in the 2013 Arizona Fall League that begins play on October 8 and ends play about mid November. This season the Twins will be part of the Glendale Desert Dogs and the team will be managed by New Britain Rock Cats manager Jeff Smith. Their pitching coach will be Tom Browning who pitched for the Cincinnati Reds for a long time and the hitting coach will be Johnny Washington who never played in the majors but spent a number of years in the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. The AFL team rosters are usually made up of players from five or six different big league teams and this years Desert Dogs team is made up of players from the Twins, Dodgers, Marlins, Reds, and White Sox. This year the Twins will be sending outfielder Byron Buxton, infielders Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler along with pitchers Trevor May, Alex Meyer, A.J. Achter, and Zach Jones.
The AFL started play in 1992 and will be playing their 22nd season this year. The league was started by MLB in order to create “an easily accessed offseason league. A concern was that some of the best ball players left to play winter ball out of the country, such as in the Caribbean and there was no way to monitor them. If Major League Baseball created a league that it could govern and monitor, it would be better organized. If a player was injured, proper care and treatment would be on hand. With the Arizona Fall League, managers, coaches, scouts and league officials could participate.”
Since the AFL started play in 1992 the Minnesota Twins have sent 125 players to play ball in the desert. Of these 125 players 74 of them (59.2%) have gone on to wear a Twins uniform at one time or another and several others went on to wear big league uniforms for other teams. 14 players (7 hitters and 7 pitchers) on todays Twins team have participated in the AFL at one time or another.
The eligibility rules to play in the AFL are simple.
- The roster size is 30 players per team.
- Each Major League organization is required to provide six players subject to the following requirements:
- All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible, provided the players are on at least a Double-A level roster no later than Aug. 1.
- One player below the Double-A level is allowed per Major League team.
- One foreign player is allowed, as long as the player does not reside in a country that participates in winter ball, as part of the Caribbean Confederation or the Australian winter league.
- No players with more than one year of credited Major League service as of August 31 are eligible, except a team may select one player picked in the most recently concluded Major League Rule 5 Draft.
- To be eligible, players on Minor League disabled lists must be activated at least 45 days before the conclusion of their respective seasons.
Players that get picked to participate in the AFL are usually the “cream of the crop” and stand a good chance of making it to the big leagues. Naturally there are no guarantee’s but your odds are pretty good as the Twins 59.2% success rate shows us. I have spent some time in Arizona over the years and have gone to a few of these AFL games and they are fun to attend. Since there are only a couple of hundred people at each game, you can sit pretty much where ever you wish and ticket prices are very reasonable. I would say there are probably as many scouts and various officials from major league team attending each game as there are fans. When I was there I was able to interact with some scouts and actually chat with the pitchers in the bullpen as the game was taking place. It is a very relaxed atmosphere. Arizona is a great place to be in the fall and all the ballparks are relatively close together so you can watch the teams of your choice at home and away. If you get a chance to take in some of these AFL games, I would highly recommend them if you are a baseball fan because the players you will see could and probably will be on a major league team in the very near future.
Good luck to these future Twins and the Glendale Desert Dogs this season.