The Arizona Fall League will kick off on October 7, as the Twins are sending seven prospects to the prestigious fall league. With Rochester Red Wings Manager Stan Cliburn leading the team, pitchers Tim Lahey, Robert Delaney, Anthony Slama, and Jeff Manship will join position players Danny Valencia, Steven Tolleson, and Dustin Martin on the Phoenix Desert Dogs. The Desert Dogs are made up of prospects from the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies.
Playing their home games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the Desert Dogs will host Mesa to open the 2008 season on October 7. Here is a quick look at each prospect going to the Arizona Fall League:
Rob Delaney, Relief Pitcher
Delaney is one of the top relief pitchers in the Twins organization, and has been stellar since being signed as a non-drafted free agent out of St. John's University. Delaney played with Fort Myers and New Britain during the 2008 season, posting a combined 1.23 earned run average in 46 appearances. In 2007, he was the MiLB Class-A Relief Pitcher of the Year, and was a 2008 Baseball America All-Star. Opponents batted only .189 against him this past season, and he notched 18 saves.
Anthony Slama, Relief Pitcher
Slama was absolutely dominant for the Fort Myers Miracle this past season, as he teamed with Delaney to be the best late inning one-two punch in the Florida State League. The young right-hander struck out an incredible 110 batters in only 71 innings of work in 2008, and some have whispered that he could be promoted all the way to the big leagues by next season. A steal in the 39th round in the 2006 draft, Slama was named a Florida State League All-Star in 2008, and will likely be in New Britain to open the 2009 season.
Jeff Manship, Starting Pitcher
Manship has the best curveball in the Minnesota Twins farm system, and he will look to use that in Arizona this fall. The Notre Dame product has been one of the top starting pitchers in the Twins organization for two years now, and will look to raise his stock against some of the best prospects in all of Minor League Baseball. After being a mid-season All-Star in the Florida State League, Manship was promoted to New Britain, but he did not fair as well in the Eastern League. Still, he will look to use Arizona to get himself used to pitching against top prospects, and will help him when he returns to New Britain in 2009.
Tim Lahey, Relief Pitcher
A 2007 Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star, Lahey is coming off a very rough season in the International League in 2008. Lahey appeared in 48 games for the Red Wings this past season, but posted an earned run average well over 5.00. He has great stuff, is a big guy, and is on the radar for plenty of other organizations. Some have questioned whether he is being sent to Arizona to be showcased, which would make sense. Still, he could be a quality option out of the bullpen for the Twins down the road, and it will be interesting to see how he does in Arizona in 2008.
Danny Valencia, Third Baseman
Valencia is the top third base prospect in the Twins organization, and he has another great season at the plate in 2008. The consensus pick as the Twins best position player, Valencia has many Twins fans excited about the fact that he could be the team's starting third baseman next season. He hits to all fields, has great power, and is really becoming fluid over at the hot corner. If he continues to hit the way he has thus far in his career, the Twins have found a gem in the 19th round.
Steven Tolleson, Infielder
Tolly had a breakout season in New Britain during the 2008 season, and really put himself on the map. He batted .300 for the Twins Double-A affiliate, and was named Eastern League Player of the Week in May. Tolleson also was named a mid-season All-Star, and is one of the better middle infield prospects in the entire Twins organization. Tolleson is also very good on the basepaths, as he has swiped 39 bags in the past two years combined. He is a top-of-the-order type player, and will likely play shortstop and second base for the Desert Dogs.
Dustin Martin, Outfielder
Martin is considered by many to be a five-tool prospect, and he should be a starting outfielder for the Rochester Red Wings in 2009. He can hit to all fields, can hit for power, runs like the wind, and is a plus-outfielder. Martin came over to the Twins organization in the Luis Castillo trade along with Drew Butera, and has since developed into one of the top outfield prospects in the Twins organization. In 2008, Martin swiped 22 bags, batted .290, and hit ten home runs for the New Britain Rock Cats. Martin could eventualy be a starting outfielder at the big league level if he continues to develop at this pace.