Arizona Fall League Preview

The 2013 Arizona Fall League kicks off today, in what will be the 22nd season for the program. The Salt River Rafters, which includes top D-backs prospects, will take on the Scottsdale Scorpions at 6:35 tonight for their first game of the season. Along with D-backs prospects, the Rafters are also comprised of prospects from the Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays organizations.

This season, INF Nick Ahmed, RHP Jake Barrett, LHP Andrew Chafin, INF Michael Freeman, INF Jake Lamb, RHP Bo Schultz and RHP Matt Stites have been selected as the D-backs prospects to participate. Schultz spent part of 2013 with Reno, but the other prospects have yet to don an Aces uniform.

Ahmed joined the D-backs organization as part of the Justin Upton trade last winter, along with RHP Randall Delgado and RHP Zeke Spruill, who both spent time with Reno last season. The 23-year-old is currently ranked as the D-backs No. 13 prospect by MLB.com. He participated in the AFL last season, and was named an AFL Rising Star. A member of the Phoenix Desert Dogs, he played in 19 games for the club, batting .288 (21×73) with 3 doubles, 3 triples, a home run, 10 RBI and 13 runs scored. The shortstop is rumored to give Owings and D-backs shortstop Didi Gregorius some competition during 2014 Spring Training.

Stites, another trade acquisition for the D-backs, will also appear in the AFL. The No. 17 D-backs prospect came to Arizona in the trade that sent Ian Kennedy to the Padres. Stites participated in the AFL last season.

The D-backs No. 7 and No. 8 prospects (MLB.com), Barrett and Chafin, will join Stites as parts of the Rafters pitching staff. Barrett was named the Arizona High School Player of the Year in 2009, while at Mesa Desert Ridge HS. Chafin missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The pair both split 2013 between Class-A Advanced Visalia and Double-A Mobile.

Freeman spent the entire 2013 season with Mobile, appearing in 131 games for the BayBears. The middle infielder played in the 2010 College World Series as a member of the Clemson Tigers squad. He will be joined in the infield by Lamb, who is the D-backs No. 11 prospect. A third baseman, Lamb batted .303 (70×231) for Visalia last season.

Last season, RHP Chase Anderson, INF Tyler Bortnick, INF Matt Davidson, RHP Evan Marshall, RHP Kevin Munson, INF Chris Owings and RHP Eric Smith represented the D-backs in the AFL. Six of the seven players, including 2013 Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year and MVP Chris Owings, spent time with Reno during the past season. Owings and Davidson went on to make their Major League debuts with Arizona.

More than 2,200 of nearly 3,700 (60%) of Fall Leaguers all-time have reached the Major Leagues. The AFL has also produced: 197 MLB All-Stars, 11 MLB MVPs, 3 Cy Young Award Winners, 3 World Series MVPs, 24 MLB Rookies of the Year, 8 MLB All-Star Game MVPs, 66 MLB Silver Sluggers, 58 MLB Gold Glove Awards, 10 MLB batting champions, 14 MLB season hits leaders, 10 MLB season RBI leaders, 8 MLB season home run leaders, 12 MLB season stolen base leaders, 30 MLB managers, 39 MLB umpires and over 80 administrators serving the baseball industry (all stats provided by AFL offices).

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