Major League Baseball’s premier prospect showcase, the Arizona Fall League, begins its 20th season on Tuesday, October 4. Seven St. Louis Cardinals farmhands are among the initial rosters announced Tuesday.
They include, from:
Memphis: Right-handed reliever David Kopp
Springfield: First baseman Matt Adams, shortstop Ryan Jackson
Palm Beach: Right-handed reliever Keith Butler, left-handed reliever Justin Wright, left-handed starting pitcher Tyler Lyons
Quad Cities: Outfielder Oscar Taveras
All seven will suit up with the Peoria Javelinas. The club’s pitching coach will be Batavia Muckdogs pitching coach Arthur “Ace” Adams. Peoria will be managed by Pedro Lopez, skipper of the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League and will be staffed with players from the Brewers, Mariners and Padres organizations, along with the Cardinals and Mets.
The six-team circuit will feature action each Monday through Saturday afternoons (and occasionally evenings) through November 19. Games are held in six spring training stadiums around the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Matt Adams has been designated as the Cardinals’ priority player, assuring him of regular playing time. Lyons will be the Cardinals’ member of the Javelinas’ rotation. None of these players are designated as taxi squad players, meaning ones restricted to Wednesday and Saturday play only.
We’re excited about this group of players, and feel it’s one of the best groups that we’ve sent out to Arizona in years,” said Cardinals farm director John Vuch. “It will give us a great opportunity to see some guys who had great years in 2011 compete against some excellent competition in an ‘All-Star caliber’ league.”
Kopp, 25, began the season on the disabled list and struggled in nine starts upon rejoining Springfield’s rotation. After being removed from the Cardinals’ 40-man roster, the right-handed moved into the bullpen and his career took off. After 14 relief outings with Springfield during which he allowed just five earned runs in 18 innings, Kopp was promoted to Memphis. He has fanned six and walked just one in six Triple-A innings.
Adams, the 2011 Texas League Player of the Year, is a legitimate Triple Crown contender, being first in the league with 98 RBI, second with 31 home runs and fifth in batting at .310. Adams, who turns 23 on Wednesday, is also second in slugging at .583 and fourth in OPS at .951.
Jackson, 23, was a mid- and post-season Texas League All-Star as well as their Player of the Week for the July 25-31 period. The shortstop was also the Cardinals organization’s Player of the Month in April. Jackson has 11 home runs and 71 RBI with a slash line of .280/.337/.419.
Butler, a 22-year-old right-hander, was in Quad Cities’ bullpen to start 2011. There, he allowed just two runs in 15 1/3 innings, striking out 16 while walking just five. Moved up to Palm Beach, Butler did not miss a beat, with a 1.31 ERA and 48 strikeouts compared to 16 walks in 34 1/3 Florida State League frames.
Wright, 22, began the season with Quad Cities, where his ERA was 1.26 and his strikeout to walk ratio was 54:9 in 35 2/3 innings. Since joining Palm Beach, the left-hander has yet to be scored upon in 13 innings over 12 appearances. Wright has fanned 14 FSL batters but has issued nine free passes.
After 21 relief appearances, Lyons, 23, was moved into Palm Beach’s rotation in late June. In his 11 starts, the right-hander has a 6-2 record with a 4.03 ERA. He has fanned 50 and walked 17 in 60 1/3 innings. Overall, Lyons has thrown 89 innings so far this season.
Taveras, 19, will be the second-youngest player in the AFL after Washington’s top pick in 2010, Bryce Harper. The left-handed hitter missed time due to hamstring problems so is short of the minimum at-bats to qualify among the Midwest League leaders. Otherwise, his .387 average would lead the league by 55 points. Taveras would also top the MWL in OBP (.444), SLG (.589) and of course, OPS (1.033). Hailing from the Dominican Republic means that Taveras required special permission to play in the AFL.
As always, I will be reporting from Arizona on the Cardinals prospects competing in this year’s AFL and plan to attend the league’s Rising Stars Game on November 5.
Link to Peoria Javelinas roster
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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