The Arizona Fall League has returned for the 2021 season, and the Detroit Tigers have some interesting options to send to minor-league baseball’s annual proving grounds.
The Tigers have continued to play solid baseball deep into September, and they’ve done so with a roster stretched to its limits. Free agents like Wily Peralta, Dustin Garneau, and Drew Hutchison have played surprisingly large roles in the team’s continued success, and they are a testament to the importance of scouting the minor leagues.
And there’s no better place to scout minor-leaguers than the Arizona Fall League. For those unfamiliar, the Arizona Fall League (AFL) is an annual tournament of sorts in the greater Phoenix area. Each MLB club sends seven minor leaguers (four pitchers and three position players) to the league, and they combine to form six 35-man teams.
Prior to 2019 there were specific rules about which players could be sent to the AFL — generally speaking, they had to have reached the Double-A level and they couldn’t be on the reserve list for a Winter League club. But now anyone not on the 40-man roster is eligible to be sent to Arizona, which makes projecting the rosters a little harder.
"Major League Baseball has informed clubs that all players in the upcoming Arizona Fall League must be vaccinated, according to sources. The decision is baseball’s first mandatory vaccination decree affecting players."
Rogelio and I like to think we follow the Tigers minor-league system as closely as anyone, but we don’t keep vaccination records. So we’ll just stick to guessing based on the typical categories of players sent to the AFL.
There are three kinds of player typically sent to the Arizona Fall League:
- top prospects getting a last coat of polish against solid competition
- those who missed time during the season with injuries
- fringe-prospects getting a change to perform in front of other organizations
Recent Tigers attendees in Arizona include Alex Lange and Derek Hill in 2019, and Spencer Turnbull in both 2016 and 2017. Future Tigers infielder Zack Short was teammates with Lange and Hill on the Mesa Solar Sox, and the Tigers likely targeted Victor Reyes in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft after seeing him hit .316 with five extra-base hits and 12 steals in the AFL that fall.
So, let’s take a look at who might head to the AFL this year.