AFL announces All-Prospect Team
Nats boast three of 22 stars, including top pick Strasburg
The Arizona Fall League announced its 2009 All-Prospect Team on Wednesday, featuring an impressive assortment of recent first-round Draft picks and up-and-coming prospects.
The one constant among the group? All enjoyed outstanding fall campaigns in the elite "finishing school" for top-level Minor Leaguers.
It will surprise few to see the names Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen on the list of 22 players named to the team.
The Washington Nationals' top two picks in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the two pitchers teamed up for the first time -- but likely not the last -- on the staff of the Phoenix Desert Dogs.
For Strasburg, the No. 1 pick out of San Diego State, it marked his unofficial professional debut, and he made the most of it, leading the league in wins while going 4-1 with a 4.26 ERA, striking out 23 and walking seven in 19 innings. Strasburg earned one of only two starting pitching slots.
Storen, taken with the No. 10 overall Draft pick out of Stanford, had already pitched at three levels in the Minors in 2009, combining between Class A Hagerstown, advanced A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg to post a 1.95 ERA and 11 saves, while fanning 49 and walking eight in 37 innings. With Phoenix, Storen led the league in ERA (0.66) and saves (four) to nab one of the two reliever spots.
"It was a great honor just being asked to participate in the league," said Storen. "Then being asked to play in the Rising Stars Game was great. To carry that over to be put on this list is exciting. There were a lot of great guys out there, and it will be fun to see how they do in their careers."
2009 AFL Top Prospects team
|OF||Jordan Danks||White Sox|
"Those two guys are just a small bite of the talent we have in the organization," Storen said. "It's going to be exciting to watch. You can't put a price on what Espinosa can do out there. He makes all the plays and makes my job as a pitcher much easier."
Arizona Fall League MVP Grant Desme of the Oakland Athletics joined his Phoenix Desert Dogs teammates on the All-Prospect Team, hitting .315 with a league-high 11 homers and 27 RBIs, second in the league. Desme, an outfielder, was the lone 30-30 man in the Minors in 2009, combining between Class A Kane County and Advanced A Stockton to hit 31 homers and steal 40 bases.
Also on the All-Prospect Team was another AFL award winner, Los Angeles Dodgers first-base prospect Russ Mitchell, who was honored with the Dernell Stenson Award for character and leadership. Mitchell was one of two first basemen on the team after hitting .319 with 25 RBIs.
Among the other six outfielders named to the squad was Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Jose Tabata, who hit .392 with 21 RBIs and a league-leading 47 hits. Along with Tabata were Bryan Petersen (Marlins), Chris Heisey (Reds), Jordan Danks (White Sox) and Domonic Brown (Phillies).
Highlighting the infielders on the squad was Cubs shortstop prospect Starlin Castro, who batted .376 and tied for third in the league with nine stolen bases. Other infielders on the team were third basemen Mike Moustakas (Royals) and Josh Vitters (Cubs), second basemen Jemile Weeks (A's) and Scott Sizemore (Tigers) and first baseman Ike Davis (Mets).
The two catchers on the squad were top Giants prospect Buster Posey, who made his big league debut at the end of the 2009 season, and Nevin Ashley, who hit .366 in fall ball after earning the Rays' award for Best Defensive Player of '09.
Among the other league leaders who made the squad were Indians catcher/designated hitter Matt McBride, who led the league with a .511 on-base percentage, hitting .378 with four home runs and 18 RBIs. McBride was one of two DHs on the squad, joined by Brandon Laird (Yankees).
Joining Tabata among Pittsburgh's prospects honored was left-handed starter Donnie Veal, who shared the starting pitcher honors with Strasburg. Veal, who was the Pirates' Rule 5 Draft pick a year ago but missed much of the regular season due to injury, was 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA and struck out 22 while walking seven in 21 innings.
Rounding out the pitchers on the staff was reliever Tanner Scheppers, the Rangers' supplemental first-round Draft pick this past spring.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.