The big news: Byron Buxton is back on a roster. But he's still not expected to play for another month-plus.
Along with Addison Russell, Archie Bradley and Mark Appel, baseball's top overall prospect was one of 22 top-100 prospects named to one of the six Arizona Fall League team rosters Tuesday.
Buxton has battled several injuries in his second full season in the Twins system. First, a left wrist issue kept him from making his 2014 debut until May 4 with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. He reinjured the same wrist on a headfirst slide into a base in his fifth game with the club and didn't return until July 6. On Aug. 11, the 20-year-old center fielder made his debut with Double-A New Britain, only to suffer a concussion on a collision with right fielder Mike Kvasnicka.
The Twins announced within the week that they were shutting down their top prospect for the remainder of the Minor League regular season. With only 31 games under Buxton's belt in 2014, the organization left the door open for him to make up for lost time in the AFL, where he played in 12 games in 2013.
"Only if he's ready," Twins general manager Terry Ryan told MLB.com. "I don't want to get premature on how he'll recover and feel two weeks from now. First things first, we need to go through the Major League protocol for concussion symptoms. But he's in Fort Myers, which is convenient, so we can ramp him up there. The fall league starts Oct. 7, so it makes some sense that might be a good progression."
With Tuesday's announcement that Buxton was indeed added to the Salt River roster, that would seem to indicate that Minnesota is hopeful the five-tool outfielder will be adequately recovered from his concussion to compete at 100 percent in Arizona.
Buxton isn't the only big-name prospect heading to the Grand Canyon State to attempt to extend seasons beset by injuries or ineffectiveness.
Russell, MLB.com's No. 6 prospect, has been limited to only 62 games this season after a torn hamstring kept him out for two months from April to June. The 20-year-old shortstop is about to enter his first offseason in the Cubs system after he was included in the July trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to the A's. He's been impressive since the swap with a .297/.339/.560 line, 12 homers and 35 RBIs in 44 games with the Cubs' Double-A affiliate in Tennessee. He'll be the biggest name on a Mesa squad that will feature Angels, A's, Blue Jays, Cubs and Nationals prospects.
On the pitching side, D-backs top prospect Archie Bradley (elbow) and 2013 first overall pick Mark Appel (ineffectiveness) will both join Buxton on what could be a loaded Salt River team after each tossed fewer than 100 innings. For Appel in particular, this represents an opportunity to end a sour 2014 on a much sweeter note after he's posted a 7.64 ERA across two levels in his first full season in the Astros' system.
But the AFL isn't just about getting previously injured prospects some makeup at-bats or innings. It's also a chance for organizations to pit their best farmhands against those from other clubs as a way to test and showcase their top talents.
Dodgers top prospect Corey Seager perfectly fits this category. The 20-year-old shortstop has destroyed all comers, putting up a .344/.394/.592 line with 19 homers and 91 RBIs in 112 games at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga this season. As such, he's climbed to No. 16 in MLB.com's updated prospect rankings and could go even higher entering the 2015 season if he can carry that success into a prosperous AFL campaign.
Florida State League Player of the Year and Pirates No. 3 prospect Josh Bell (.325 average in 108 games), who is listed on Scottsdale's roster as an infielder despite playing the outfield all season, and Mariners No. 3 prospect D.J. Peterson (28 homers, 104 RBIs in 117 games) also fit the category.
Here are some of the other notable names that were named to AFL rosters Tuesday:
MLB.com Top-100 Prospects listed on AFL rosters
|Rank||Player||POS||MLB ORG||AFL Club|
|1||Byron Buxton||OF||MIN||Salt River|
|7||Archie Bradley||RHP||ARI||Salt River|
|44||Mark Appel||RHP||HOU||Salt River|
|64||Eddie Rosario||IF||MIN||Salt River|