Previously announced were the managers for the six AFL clubs as well as the team affiliations. Brian Rupp will lead the 2009 Rafters. During the regular season, he is the skipper of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Kansas City Royals' A-Advanced club. In 2008, Rupp's Burlington Bees took the Midwest League title.
Cardinals fans may remember Rupp as he spent seven seasons in the organization after having been drafted in the 43rd round in 1992. Among his accomplishments as a minor leaguer were two batting championships and a career batting average of .295.
Rupp then became a manager in the Cardinals system with Peoria in 1999. He moved to hitting coach at Arkansas the next season before managing at New Jersey (2001) and Johnson City (2002).
Joining the Cardinals players on the Rafters will be peers from the Royals, New York Mets, New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. Affiliations are rotated yearly. The six-team league is organized into two divisions, American and National, with the Rafters a member of the latter.
MLB's premier prospect showcase begins play a week later than last year, on Tuesday, October 13. It ends with the championship game between the two divisional winners on Saturday, November 21. In between is the league's all-star game, called the Rising Stars Showcase. It will be held on Saturday, November 7, a contest I plan to attend.
All AFL teams play in MLB spring training parks located in the Phoenix area. Games are held six days a week, with Sundays off. The full schedule can be accessed here and a partial roster here.
Cardinals AFL player capusules
The Cardinals are clearly using the AFL as vehicle for several players who missed considerable action in 2009 to get additional playing time in preparation for 2010. The rehabbers include Kopp, Parisi, Anderson and Jones.
As such, consider the initial eight names to be tentative as at least one of the Cardinals' contingent may still be replaced before the AFL season begins depending on rehab progress.
Parisi is an AFL returnee, having pitched there in 2006 while Anderson is also considered an AFL alum as he played some games against Fall Leaguers in the fall of 2007 during his time as a member of Team USA.
With the demise of the A-level Hawaii Winter League, each organization can add two players from that level in 2009, instead of one as in previous yeas. The Cardinals selected Palm Beachers Kopp and Reifer in addition to the standard six from their Double-A and Triple-A rosters.
Bryan Anderson first returned to action with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals one week ago on a rehab assignment. This was a surprise since the St .Louis Post-Dispatch had reported that his early July surgery on his left shoulder was season-ending. He had been injured in a home-plate collision in late June.
In 163 at-bats over 53 games with Memphis, the 22-year-old posted a disappointing line of .245/.293/.399. Prior to the season, Anderson was our third-ranked Cardinals prospect.
Three days short of a year after his August 20, 2008 Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, right-hander Mike Parisi started and pitched one scoreless inning for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in his first rehab outing.
The 26-year-old made his MLB debut with St. Louis last season but was removed from the organization's 40-man roster over the winter and assigned to Triple-A Memphis. In Arizona, Parisi will be looking to show he is back and ready to compete for a spot at the back of a Major League rotation in 2010, either with the Cardinals or another organization.
This Monday, Springfield Cardinals outfielder Daryl Jones was activated off the club's seven-day disabled list. The Texas League All-Star had been out since participating in the Futures Game in St. Louis on July 12.
Jones had missed six weeks with a left quadriceps injury aggravated when he tried to return too quickly for that Futures Game appearance. In 71 games prior to his most recent DL stint, the 22-year-old was batting .283 with two home runs and 27 RBI.
Jones was the Cardinals organization Player of the Year in 2008 and our fifth-ranked Cardinals prospect over the winter.
Second baseman Daniel Descalso got out of the blocks fast in 2009 as he was our Scout.com Cardinals Player of the Month for April. On July 3, the left-handed hitter was promoted to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds after putting up a most impressive line of .323/.396/.531 for Springfield.
The 22-year-old was taken in the third round of the 2007 draft from UCal-Davis and posted an OPS of just .698 last season, mostly with Palm Beach. Since joining Memphis, Descalso is adjusting to the higher level of competition with a .254/.327/.328 line in 134 at-bats over 41 Pacific Coast League games.
Outfielder Tyler Henley has been one of the quiet, but effective standouts for Double-A Springfield all season long.
The 24-year-old, the Cardinals' eighth-round pick in 2007 from Rice, has put up a line of .317/.379/.505 in his initial Double-A action. Henley has 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 388 at-bats over 110 Texas League contests in 2009.
Reliever Adam Reifer had a breakout 2008 season after which he was named our Scout.com Minor League Rookie Reliever of the Year based on his 22 saves and 41 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings with Batavia. The now-23-year-old placed 22nd on our Scout.com Cardinals Top Prospect List.
Assigned to Palm Beach in 2009, the right-hander has had a mixed season. He has 19 saves and 46 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. Reifer has also walked 20, has a 3-7 record and an ERA of 4.74.
David Kopp, a Cardinals' second-round pick from Clemson, has seemingly spent as much time on the disabled list as in uniform since draft day, 2007. Still, based on his high potential, Kopp ranked 34th among our Top Prospects coming into the season.
Unfortunately, the 23-year-old hasn't yet been able put his health problems fully behind him in 2009. The right-hander missed about a month due to inflammation in his pitching shoulder, surgically repaired last season.
Starting in late May, Kopp had five starts with Double-A Springfield, posting a 1-1 record with a 6.43 ERA before being returned to Palm Beach as he came off the DL on July 13. In the Florida State League, Kopp has a 5-3 record with a 3.12 ERA this season.
Right-hander Lance Lynn was taken 39th overall in the 2008 draft from Ole Miss. He is excelling at the Double-A level in just his first year in full-season ball. After five appearances to start the season with Palm Beach, Lynn was promoted to Springfield on May 2.
Since then, the 22-year-old has taken the Texas League by storm with a 10-4 record and a 2.99 ERA, the latter fourth-best in the league. Lynn has fanned 88 but walked 45 in 114 1/3 innings this season. Given his heavy workload, one would think Lynn's AFL action will be carefully monitored.
The Cardinal Nation has the AFL covered!
Subscribers should look for a follow-on article on the Cardinals AFL history to be posted in the next few days.
As every year, The Cardinal Nation, stlcardinals.scout.com, will be your leader in independent first-hand reporting on and from the Arizona Fall League. So, be looking for our eyewitness reports on the Cardinals prospects that will be playing for the Surprise Rafters this October and November.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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