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Orioles sending Stewart, five more to Arizona Fall League

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Donnie Hart went from an anonymous reliever sent to the 2015 AFL to a 2016 big leaguer. Can any of this year’s crop do something similar?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball announced the rosters of prospects headed to this year’s edition of the Arizona Fall League on Wednesday afternoon. Six Orioles minor leaguers will be headed to play with the Peoria Javelinas, including last year’s first round pick, outfielder D.J. Stewart.

The other five players are: Fireballing lefty reliever Tanner Scott, righty relievers Jesus Liranzo and Jimmy Yacabonis, catcher Austin Wynns, and shortstop Adrian Marin. They will be playing alongside prospects from the Rays, Reds, Mariners, and Padres on the Peoria squad. Sometimes the team assignments change from year to year, but last year’s O’s went to Peoria with most of those same other teams.

Marin is headed to the AFL for the second straight year. The Orioles are giving him every chance for the bat to come around enough to at least be a utility infielder, it seems. Marin, drafted in the third round in 2012, is Rule 5 eligible this offseason. In 115 games for Bowie this year, he’s batted .231/.281/.310, so, that speaks for itself.

Stewart is the most interesting name of the bunch, and the one it would be the best to see succeed against AFL competition. The pitchers he’ll face are going to be a mix of several different minor league levels, but he’ll see a lot of competition that’s tougher than anything he’s faced in Low-A or High-A to date. Stewart has played better since a Frederick promotion.

A strong AFL might improve Stewart’s prospect stock - and more importantly, give the Orioles more hope of actually bringing an outfielder up through the farm.

If you follow the Orioles farm system, you probably know about Scott already. He can top 100mph, which is great, and he can strike out a lot of people (78 in 62.1 innings across two levels this year) but he also walks an unholy amount of batters. Like 54 walks out of 278 batters faced this season. That’s a real number - almost one in five batters he faced were walked.

Scott is also returning to the AFL ranks this year. Every chance he can try to work on his command is important. In last year’s AFL, Scott walked “only” five batters in nine innings.

The other players may seem more like afterthoughts, but you never know who the organization might want to give more of a chance and who might make something of that chance.

For instance, one reliever on last year’s AFL roster was Donnie Hart, who parlayed that experience (and he didn’t even do great in the AFL) into an improved 2016 and, when the Orioles were desperate for a lefty reliever, a big league call-up. Hart has pitched in ten MLB games without allowing an earned run.

Maybe Yacabonis could be this year’s version of Hart. Yacabonis is 24 and has pitched for Bowie this year, which makes him a bit old in prospect terms, plus the fact that he’s a reliever means his ceiling is only so high. But the 2013 13th round pick held the Eastern League to a 1.91 ERA in 32 relief appearances this year, with 44 strikeouts against only 13 walks.

Liranzo has been a fast riser this season. Although he had never pitched in a US-based league before this season, the Orioles liked what they saw so much that, after the 21-year-old lasered through Delmarva (46 strikeouts in 34.1 innings with a 1.46 ERA) they jumped him right up to Bowie, where he’s only allowed four hits in 15 innings pitched. Not as command-challenged as Scott (22 walks in 49.1 innings) - as if anyone could be - but that’s what he needs to work on, too.

The O’s can send one more pitcher out to Arizona but did not immediately announce the last name.

The quality of prospects in the AFL varies from year to year. This season, 21 of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects are headed to the AFL. Last year, only nine did so, while the year before that, there were 20 of the top 100 sent to Arizona. Not every player faced will be a top prospect, but there’s some quality competition out there against whom the minor leagues can gain experience.

This year, the league starts play on October 11 and plays games Monday-Saturday through the championship on November 19, with the “Fall Stars” game being played on November 5.