The Arizona Fall League is a place where prospects can be sent to get a little more work than they do in the course of the regular minor league season. It's a weird mix of players from all levels, some of whom aren't any kind of prospects at all. But it's baseball and it's in the fall, and sometimes it's interesting to see who is in favor.
The Orioles announced on Tuesday who will be sent to the AFL from the organization. All of the O's players will be playing for the Surprise Saguros, which will have Double-A Bowie manager Gary Kendall as its manager, and Alan Mills as its pitching coach. Other players on the team will be from the Boston, Texas, Cleveland, and Milwaukee organizations.
Position players: Henry Urrutia, Dariel Alvarez, Jonathan Schoop; Michael Ohlman (taxi squad)
Pitchers: Eduardo Rodriguez, Jason Gurka, Branden Kline, Tim Berry
AFL action begins on October 8, so this will not affect anyone's possible September call-up status. Urrutia has already appeared for the O's this season and Schoop has been mentioned as a player who will be seriously considered.
Urrutia and Alvarez are both recent Cuban signees who could use any at-bats against American professional competition, so their inclusion is not a surprise. Schoop missed time with a stress fracture in a lower back, and could also use the extra work for that reason.
Ohlman being on the taxi squad means he can only play twice a week, but it'll still be an opportunity for him to be exposed to some players at higher levels, and also give the Orioles more of a chance to evaluate him. He's batted .308/.409/.524 in 93 games for High-A Frederick this season.
Rodriguez struggled early at Double-A but has had three excellent starts in a row. It's no surprise either that the O's would like to keep him sharp against some potentially top competition. Berry, Gurka, and Kline probably don't matter at all and are just a reflection of the fact that they had to send somebody.
To get an idea of the AFL and how much it matters, or doesn't, here's a list of the players the Orioles sent two years ago: Steve Johnson, Cole McCurry; Xavier Avery, Joe Mahoney, Casey Lambert; Brian Ward, Sean Gleason. Most of those are names that didn't matter and were never going to matter. Neither Avery nor Johnson were launched into stardom in the AFL, but you never know who might get enough polish with the extra work to make their way higher up.