"I think this is as strong a group we've ever sent to the Fall League," said
Diamondbacks Director of Player Development A.J. Hinch.
Here are brief bios of the seven selections:
SP Max Scherzer
Scherzer was an obvious call for the AFL, since labored contract negotiations prevented Scherzer from playing until May this year after being taken in the first round of the 2006 draft. Scherzer has been hit-and-miss at Double-A after having initially dominated Hi-A Visalia to the tune of 2-0 0.53 ERA in three starts. The AFL gives the Boras client a chance to further challenge himself against even tougher competition.
According to A.J. Hinch, Vasquez has the best curveball in the Diamondbacks' farm system. He has put it to good use this year by going 10-5 with a 3.05 ERA for the BayBears so far. This is the most surprising selection of the seven, however, since Vasquez has already logged 158 innings this year.
SP Greg Smith
We ranked Smith as the 5th best prospect in the Diamondbacks Organization just ahead of Micah Owings in our FutureBacks Fifty last offseason. Hinch pegged Smith as the Diamondbacks prospect with the best changeup before they traded for Leo Rosales. Having begun the year in extended spring training, Smith earned a promotion to Tucson at midseason. He will take this AFL opportunity to log some more innings and dazzle the organization with his pitching know-how in the hopes of landing a spot in the Diamondbacks' 2007 rotation.
RP Mark Rosen
Rosen snuck up on a lot of people this year because of his inflated ERA at Lancaster in 2006. This southpaw has proven that he can do more than get fellow lefties out; he has seven saves this year to go along with a 3.08 ERA. Rosen is being fast-tracked to the majors as the best in-house candidate to join Doug Slated as a lefty in the Diamondbacks bullpen.
Cunningham has done nothing but hit since he came over from the White Sox organization in the Danny Richar trade. His totals for the season include a .305 batting average and 51 extra base hits. Having split time at all three outfield spots this year, Cunningham will continue to get comfortable in each position.
Ford may be the best all-around defensive catcher in the Diamondbacks' system. Hinch called him the second best at calling a game only to Robbie Hammock, who's hardly a prospect anymore, and put him just a hair behind teammate Wilkin Castillo in terms of a throwing arm. Ford should work primarily on improving his hitting in the AFL.
C/IF Wilkin Castillo
The athletic Castillo has shown surprising flashes of offensive prowess this year. He has also played games at second base, third base, shortstop, and right field this year. With Ford handling most of the catching duties, look for Castillo to improve his skills as an infielder. The switch-hitting utility man has an impressive 17 stolen bases this season, but that total is marred by 14 caught stealings.