The Arizona Fall League begins its 25th season of play in October at ballparks all over the Valley.
Once again, members of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league system will play for the Salt River Rafters, along with players from the Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers organizations.
Seven D-back farmhands have been selected to play this year: right-handed pitcher Jorge Despaigne, right-hander Joey Krehbiel, left-hander Gabe Speier, left-hander Jared Miller, first baseman Kevin Cron, third baseman Dawel Lugo and second baseman Jamie Westbrook.
Despaigne, a 25-year-old Cuban native, is pitching in the Dominican Summer League for the D-backs, and has posted impressive numbers. He’s 3-0 with a 3.19 ERA in 31 innings, with 39 strikeouts and 10 walks. Opposing hitters are batting just .155 against him this season. The D-backs signed Despaigne to a minor-league contract in July.
Krehbiel, 23, was originally a 12th-round pick of the Angels in 2011. He was dealt to the D-backs, along with outfielder Zach Borenstein in the trade that sent pitcher Joe Thatcher and outfielder Tony Campana to Los Angeles in 2014. At Mobile this season, Krehbiel has posted a 1-1 record and a 2.80 ERA in 51 relief appearances.
Speier, the nephew of former Major Leaguer (and D-backs coach) Chris Speier, is a 21-year-old relief pitcher who is currently with the the Mobile BayBears of the Double-A Southern League. Speier has pitched for four different D-backs affiliates this year (also at Visalia, Kane County and the Arizona Rookie League) and has compiled a 4-2 record with a 2.35 ERA in 38 relief appearances. He has struck out 49 batters while walking 20 and has seven saves.
Miller, an 11th-round pick of Arizona in 2014, has quickly worked his way up the chain, and has pitched with four different Arizona affiliates this season: Reno, Mobile, Visalia and Kane County. In 44 relief appearances, the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Miller has posted a 2.20 ERA, a sterling 0.93 WHIP, 80 strikeouts and has converted five of six save opportunities.
Cron was a 14th-round draft pick of the D-backs in 2014, and has been a consistent power threat with 64 home runs in 313 minor league games. This year, Cron has 25 home runs for Mobile, which leads the Southern League.
Lugo is considered the 12th-best prospect in the Arizona organization by MLB.com. In stints at Visalia and Mobile this year, Lugo has posted a .311/.338/.493 slash line and has shown some home run pop, too, with 17 long balls in 473 at-bats. The Diamondbacks acquired Lugo from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Cliff Pennington deal in August of 2015.
Westbrook is rated as the D-backs’ 22nd-best prospect. A fifth-round pick out of Basha High in Gilbert in 2013, Westbrook has been a steady performer in the Arizona chain. This season at Double-A Mobile, the 21-year-old has posted a .267/.318/.355 line with five homers and 36 RBI. Those numbers are down from his stellar 2015 stats that included 17 homers, 72 RBI and a .319/.357/.510 slash line with Visalia in the hitter-friendly California League.
The Rafters, managed by Tony Diaz, will start their 31-game schedule Oct. 11 against the Peoria Javelinas at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.