The Nationals’ opening day roster is chock full of Arizona Fall League participants.
According to an Arizona Fall League news release, 53 percent of MLB opening day rosters (including disabled lists) played in the AFL. That is, 452 of the 854 players listed on the the 30 Major League Baseball opening day rosters played in the AFL. The Nationals and Padres have the most, with 20 former AFL players on each of their rosters. The Orioles have 19 players on their team who spent time in the AFL.
Nationals director of player development Mark Scialabba said the organization’s involvement in the Arizona Fall League has been a key asset in seeing how prospects match up against other team’s best talent.
“The AFL has provided many of our major league players, as well as several of our major and minor league staff members, a challenging, but controlled environment to accelerate their development,” Scialabba said. “Every year, several of our minor league players are fortunate enough to compete with and against some of the most talented players from each MLB organization.
“It is really a testament to our organization’s mission, under Mike (Rizzo’s) leadership, to continue to build the major league team through scouting and player development.”
Six players on 2014 major league rosters played in the 2013 Arizona Fall League, including catcher Adrian Nieto, the former Nationals backstop who made the opening day roster for the Chicago White Sox. Nieto was a Rule 5 draft pickup for Chicago in the offseason.
Right-hander Aaron Barrett made his major league debut this season with the Nationals. Barrett is one of 13 players who previously played in the AFL to make their MLB debuts in 2014. Barrett played in the Arizona Fall League in 2012.
The Nationals have taken their participation in the Arizona Fall League very seriously each season and players that have played for them in the fall league have been able to advance their stock because they played so well against top competition. Barrett is a good example of this.
Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper both played in the Arizona Fall League. Matt Skole, Brian Goodwin, Sammy Solis, Matt Purke and Steven Souza Jr. have also done very well playing in the AFL. Manager Matt Williams managed some of these future Nationals last season as well in the fall league. The Nationals’ participating ballclub in Arizona has also done a good job of reaching the championship in each of the last two seasons.