Six months removed from Spring Training at Camelback Ranch-Glendale, 14 top Dodgers and White Sox prospects are back in Arizona participating in the Arizona Fall League (AFL).
Known throughout professional baseball as a finishing school for Major League Baseball’s elite prospects, the Arizona Fall League is a six-team league owned and operated by MLB. It plays six days per week (Monday-Saturday) from the second week of October until the Saturday before Thanksgiving at six Spring Training stadiums in the Phoenix metropolitan area -- Mesa HoHoKam Stadium (Mesa Solar Sox), Peoria Sports Complex (Peoria Javelinas), Phoenix Municipal Stadium (Phoenix Desert Dogs), Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Salt River Rafters), Scottsdale Stadium (Scottsdale Scorpions) and Surprise Stadium (Surprise Saguaros).
Also known as a showcase league, the AFL affords players the opportunity to display their skills for baseball scouts, general managers and farm directors. For baseball fans, it’s a 40-day Valley of the Sun homestand, featuring baseball’s best young players.
On average, 40 percent of this year’s Fall Leaguers will reach the Major Leagues in 2013.
The Dodgers contingent: LHP Eric Eadington, C Gorman Erickson, LHP Onelki Garcia, RHP Red Patterson, OF Joc Pederson, LHP Chris Reed, RHP Andres Santiago and IF Rafael Ynoa.
The White Sox cadre: RHP Andre Rienzo, LHP Santos Rodriguez, IF Carlos Sanchez, RHP Salvador Sanchez, RHP Taylor Thompson, OF Trayce Thompson and 1B Andy Wilkins.
Splashes: Wilkins and Ynoa have made the biggest splash in the league’s early going.
Wilkins, a sweet-swinging lefty, has been an offensive leader for the defending champion Rafters. The 22-year-old Broken Arrow, Okla., native -- who spent the 2012 season at Double-A Birmingham, where he belted seven homers and accumulated 69 RBIs -- ranks among league leaders with a batting average that is flirting with .400. He also is challenging for the loop lead in slugging percentage. His signature moment was a 10th-inning, walk-off home run vs. Mesa on Oct. 22.
“It’s been great to be here,” Wilkins said. “Things are going well. It makes for a long season, but I’m excited for this opportunity. You learn a lot, especially with the level of players here. You don’t get to do that often.”
Ynoa, a Dominican Republic-born middle infielder, has been leading the league in total bases and triples. As Mesa’s offensive catalyst, he started an 11-game hitting streak on Opening Day (Oct. 9). The 25-year-old also authored one of baseball’s most exciting plays, an inside-the-park home run, on Oct. 24. He’s among the league leaders in batting, hits, slugging percentage, triples and total bases.
“You get to play with a lot of great talent here in the Fall League,” Ynoa said. “It’s a great mix of guys on and off the field. I’m glad to have the opportunity to play here.”
Ynoa hit .278 with 23 stolen bases this summer at Double-A Chattanooga.