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Arizona Fall League Starts On Tuesday

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The Arizona Fall League (AFL) begins on Tuesday and runs through mid-November. If you are not familiar with the AFL, 2006 is the 15th year of its existence. It gives Major League organizations the opportunity to give their top minor-league players a chance to play against other top talent. Most players are from AAA and AA teams. Organizations are able to get a better perspective on who should actually be considered "Major League" material. Coaches and trainers' abilities are also evaluated. In fact, former Brewers, Pat Listach (Mesa) and Randy Ready (Peoria Saguaros), are managing teams this year.Many Major League All-Stars have played in the league and each year. Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Piazza, and Roy Halladay have all participated. Current Brewers who have played in the Fall include Geoff Jenkins, Jeff Cirillo, Dana Eveland, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Tony Gwynn Jr., Bill Hall, Corey Hart, Dennis Sarfate, and Derrick Turnbow. J.J. Hardy actually participated in three AFL's; probably mainly because he missed so much time during his minor league seasons.

If you are a Brewers fan (and he/she who reads Brew Crew Ball isn't?), you should keep your eye on the Scottsdale Scorpions. That is the team where Milwaukee's seven players are assigned. Here's a little insight on each one:

Ryan Braun (3B - 1st Round 2005, 5th overall, 22 years old) - One of the top prospects participating in the AFL this year. After initially struggling after being promoted from Brevard County (A+) to Huntsville (AA) in 2006, Ryan did not disappoint. He looks to not only improve on his overall 2006 totals of .291/.359/.516, 22 HR, 77 RBI, 26 SB. Ryan played in the 2006 Futures Game in Pittsburgh and received the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League player of the year award. He should start at Nashville (AAA) in 2007 with designs on being called up during the year.

Vinny Rottino (Util - Free Agent 2003, 26 years old) - A Racine native, Vinny played most of 2006 at Nashville (AAA) before being promoted to Milwaukee. His .316/.380/.442, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 12 SB season with the Sounds did nothing to harm his status in the organization. His age is working against him as far as "prospect" status, but if he could commit to a single position (catcher?), he may force Milwaukee to make room for him in 2007.

Steve Moss (OF - 29th Round 2001, 22 years old) - Steve played all of 2006 at Huntsville (AA). His .242/.341/.345 season was disappointing and Milwaukee may be trying to gauge Moss' level as a prospect. Steve is a free swinging outfielder with 136 strikeouts this past season, which is a lot for a player with such a low slugging percentage. How well Moss does in the AFL could dictate his future in the organization.

Steve Bray (RP - 2005 Rule 5 Draft, 25 years old) - Steve split time in 2006 between Huntsville (AA) and Nashville (AAA). His overall season was quite impressive, 85 IP, 68 hits, 11 BB, 75 K, 2.35 ERA. Opposing hitters only managed a .245 OBP. Again, Bray may be being evaluated as to his position in the organization in the future, but he could earn a bullpen spot with Milwaukee in 2007.

Manny Parra (P - 26th Round 2000 Draft, 23 years old) - As a left-handed starter, Manny's 2006 season was split between Brevard County (A+) and Huntsville (AA). His season was actually mediocre, but pitched better as the year progressed, 86 IP, 73 H, 40 BB, 90 K, 2.95 ERA. After coming back from surgery, the Brewers are giving Parra additional work against top talent and Manny could pitch at Nashville in 2007 if everything goes well.

Dennis Sarfate (P - 9th Round 2000 Draft, 25 years old) - Dennis has had control problems throughout his career. However, he was impressive enough in 2006 that the Brewers promoted him to the major league club in September. While he pitched well in Milwaukee, Sarfate's Nashville numbers, 125 IP, 125 H, 78 BB, 117 K, 3.67 ERA, were one of the reasons the Sounds made the post-season. At 25 years of age and because of his base runner totals, Dennis needs to make improvements this Fall, and Milwaukee is giving him the opportunity.

Alec Zumwalt (RP - Free Agent 2005, 25 years old) - Zumwalt was actually traded to the Brewers as the player-to-be-named-later in the Kolb/Capellan deal with the Braves. Up until this point, Alec has been a career minor-leaguer and split time in 2006 with Huntsville (AA) and Nashville (AAA). While Alec's 3.49 overall ERA is good, just like Parra and Sarfate, Milwaukee may be using the AFL to evaluate Zumwalt's worth and future with the team.

I'll be posting updates, with a major emphasis on the Brewers' players.

Like Jeff says, "Go Brewers!"