This year, a group of seven top St. Louis Cardinals prospects are expected to compete as members of the Mesa Solar Sox. The Solar Sox will have a decidedly-Central Division flavor this season as the Cardinals will be joined in supplying players by the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers, along with the Boston Red Sox.
While it is not expected that the players themselves will be selected until next month, the coaching staffs have. For 2007, Cardinals' minor league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins will serve as pitching coach for Mesa under manager Dave Clark from the Astros organization. Clark is the skipper of the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Double-A Texas League.
Riggins is in his 12th season as the organization's minor league pitching coordinator and 29th year overall with the Cardinals. He pitched in the system for five seasons starting in 1979 before his coaching career began in Johnson City. Since then, he has coached at all levels of the organization.
There are a total of six clubs in the AFL, each with players drawn from five MLB organizations. All teams located in the Phoenix area. Games are played six days a week, with Sundays off.
The AFL has a proven player developmental track record and has seen many future Cardinals participate, including J.D. Drew ('96), Eli Marrero ('96), Kerry Robinson (‘97-'98), the then-unknown Albert Pujols ('00) and So Taguchi ('02).
The Cards were part of the Grand Canyon Rafters in 2003, the Solar Sox in 2004, the Surprise Scorpions in 2005 and the Peoria Saguaros last fall.
Typically, Double-A prospects abound in the AFL; in addition one Single-A player can be invited. For example, last season the Cardinals sent the following players to Arizona: starting pitcher Stuart Pomeranz and relievers Dennis Dove, Eric Haberer and Mike Parisi along with shortstop Brendan Ryan (listed on the Palm Beach roster at the time) and outfielders Amaury Marti and Nick Stavinoha.
In 2005, the Cardinals sent pitcher Andy Cavazos, Cory Doyne and Chris Lambert, outfielder Cody Haerther, third baseman Travis Hanson and catcher Gabe Johnson, all from Springfield, plus Rich Scalamandre from Palm Beach.
As always, stlcardinals.scout.com will be your leader in reporting on the Arizona Fall League. So, check back for reports on the rosters, travel information plus first-hand information on the Cardinals prospects that will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox this October and November.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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