The Arizona Fall League gets underway on Tuesday, and the Washington Nationals have got several prospects set to participate to help aid their development.
The Washington Nationals may not be playing baseball this October, but some of their prospects will be. The Arizona Fall League has its Opening Night on Tuesday, a developmental league that continues to help young players improve.
The AFL started back in 2007 by Major League Baseball so that teams could continue to development of youngsters in the fall. With Cactus League stadiums already in place in Arizona, the location made perfect sense.
Because the league is governed by MLB, teams feel confident in being able to send their very best prospects there. It means the schedule, facilities, and treatment for injuries would all be up to standard for those playing.
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This year, the Washington Nationals are associated with the Salt River Rafters and are sending eight players to Arizona. Here are the Nats prospects that will be playing for the Rafters this fall:
- Ben Braymer, LHP
- Taylor Guilbeau, LHP
- Jordan Mills, LHP
- Luis Reyes, RHP
- Tres Barrera, C
- Carter Kieboom, SS
- Jake Noll, 3B
- Daniel Johnson, OF
The Nationals have never been shy in letting their blue-chip prospect head to the desert for fall ball before. Most recently, they sent Victor Robles in 2017, but they’ve also previously sent Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, who are about as blue-chip as they come.
While Carter Kieboom isn’t quite in the same at the same level as those three names in terms of prospect standing, he is the standout prospect there. He finished the year hitting .280 with a .801 OPS to go with 16 home runs and 69 RBI. It will be interesting to see if he plays any second base at all, as that could be his positional home in D.C. long-term.
On the other side of the ball, Ben Braymer will look to following up his strong season. An 18th rounder back in 2016 had a breakout year last season, finishing with a 9-3 record, a 2.28 ERA and 118 strikeouts to just 34 walks. His performance earned him the Nats Co-Pitcher of the Year honors this past season, so it will be worth seeing if he can maintain that impressive performance.
Outfielder Daniel Johnson is somewhat of an AFL veteran, as this will be his second successive trip to Arizona. A former Minor League Player of the Year, Johnson had another solid season with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators slashing .269/.327/.412 on the year with seven homers and 22 steals. It’s another chance for him to impress as he inches closer to the big leagues.
Tres Barrera is a more under-the-radar name to keep an eye on down in Arizona. The young catcher was a sixth-round pick out of Texas in 2016 and spent the entire 2018 season with the Potomac Nationals. He had a strong season, hitting .263 with six home runs and a .721 OPS, while also earning Carolina League All-Star honors.
Previously, Arizona Fall League games have been streamed online for fans to watch their team’s prospects. So if there’s a break in the MLB playoffs, you may have the chance to check out the future of the Washington Nationals in the desert.