Luke Erickson: Thoughts on that other fall baseball

With the minor league season winding down - Labor Day is the last day - thoughts start to turn to the Arizona Fall League.

In theory, the AFL, which runs from Oct. 10-Nov. 18 this season, is a finishing school for the top prospects. In practice, it’s not quite that.

That’s not to say that top prospects don’t appear; they do, but not exclusively. Pitchers, for example, have a tendency to fit into one of three categories: injured, Rule 5 draft-eligible, marginal.

Consequently, the offensive numbers that are often put up by players (albeit in roughly 20 games) should be taken with grain (silo) of salt. Last year’s OPS leader at 1.158 (Gleyber Torres) is at .726 in the high Single-A Florida State League (league average is .682) this season, for example.

Position players are also supplied by five different organizations per team. If, for example, none of the five teams have a true prospect at given position, you’ll see roster-fillers, just as you do elsewhere in the minors (take a look at how many Double-A guys are in their 30s this season).

For those wondering, the Nationals will be supplying players to the Mesa Solar Sox this fall along with the Cubs, Tigers, Astros and Athletics. We’re about two weeks away from the formal announcement, but we can take an educated guess at some of the players who might go - barring injury, of course, is the default caveat.

Victor Robles: It would be a mild surprise if the Nats don’t send him because he will be highly sought after by the scouts and fans.

Seth Romero: The long layoff between the premature end to his college season and his pro debut means his innings total is low. Plus, with a history of lax conditioning, I’d even bet on him going to fall instructional league, too.

Raudy Read: Catcher is a notoriously thin position in the minors, and defense isn’t as prioritized as it used to be, so it’s almost obligatory to list him as a possibility.

Rafael Bautista: This is a longer shot, but with Andrew Stevenson passing him by on the depth chart and a long layoff due to injury, the Nats may want to have him get some more at-bats before 2018 spring training.

Daniel Johnson: A longer shot than Bautista, but fits the mold of the taxi squad player that’s been used on high Single-A type players such as Drew Ward (2015) and Jason Martinson (2012)

Andrew Lee: While he’s yet to pitch above low Single-A, he’s recovering from a second Tommy John surgery just like Wirkin “For the Weekend” Estevez in 2015.

Phillips Valdez: Has a low innings total and fits the mold of a marginal pitcher, not to mention the Nats seem hell-bent on giving their Dominican-born pitchers every possible opportunity, almost as if they fear they’ll give up on another Felipe Rivero.

Luke Erickson blogs about the Nationals’ minor league affiliates for NationalsProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter: @nats_prospects. His thoughts on the Nationals’ farm system will appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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