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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals early Arizona Fall League leftovers

I have received a few emails since the first wave of Arizona Fall League players were made public on Tuesday. Because some of the information and opinions may be of interest to others, I decided to share them here.

Just for completeness, eight members of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system have been invited to participate in the 2009 AFL as members of the Surprise Rafters. They are pitchers Lance Lynn, David Kopp, Adam Reifer and Mike Parisi along with catcher Bryan Anderson, infielder Daniel Descalso and outfielders Daryl Jones and Tyler Henley.

Q: Why do the Cardinals get so many players on the roster? Shouldn’t they only have five?

A: In a normal year, the rosters consisted of six players from each of five organizations plus each got an additional taxi squad player from A ball. This year to cover for the loss of Hawaii League, they each get a second A player. That makes eight per organization.

Q: You mentioned the organization being able to select players from Single A since the Hawaii league closed. However, your link to the team roster only included 25 players. If five teams feed into that roster, shouldn’t each organization only be supplying five players?

A: My article isn’t about the other organizations, but I did point out that some of the other clubs have not yet finalized all their invitees. So the team roster isn’t complete. That is why some organizations have more players listed than others. The rosters will fill out over the upcoming weeks. Players don’t report for another month.

Q: It is not at all intuitive that a team would need a 40-man roster for six weeks of play. What do the extra three players do? Why would they need such a large squad?

A: The reason the number of AFL players per organization was expanded from 5+1 to 6+1 a few years ago is because the organizations would not send top pitchers for fear of overuse. More pitchers mean shorter outings.

Starting pitchers typically don’t usually go more than three or four innings in the AFL. For example, 2008 AFL Player of the Year Tommy Hanson of the Braves made seven starts, but threw only 28 2/3 innings. As an aside, his AFL ERA was 0.63. After I saw him pitch there, I became a believer.

Another reason for larger rosters is that guys get hurt during the AFL season and it is not like the regular season where there is a lower level farm team with ready replacements already in game shape one day away. At least that is the case until/if they get the Hawaii-replacement A-level fall league in place in 2010.

Q: You mentioned that even though the Cardinals’ AFL allocation appears to be complete, you wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of these first eight players don’t actually suit up. Who and why?

Obviously Daryl Jones, Bryan Anderson and Mike Parisi are just a few days into their respective rehabs, so they would need to finish the regular season without any setbacks.

I like the choices of Tyler Henley and Daniel Descalso and I hope Adam Reifer is ready to hitch it up. Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch reports that Henley will be on the Rafters’ taxi squad. That means he can only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays unless an opening is created by the injury or departure of another.

As an aside, I wonder if those angry that Descalso is stuck behind Jarrett Hoffpauir with Memphis are the same ones who were ready to give Hoff the second base job in St. Louis based on an OBP of over .400 between Springfield and Memphis in 2007? He hasn’t been back near that lofty territory since. So far, Descalso has one standout half-season, in Double-A. Let’s see if he can do better in Arizona than Hoff did in 2007 (.236/.358/.255).

David Kopp is another good selection – if he is healthy. That is far from a sure thing. When he was bumped back down to Palm Beach from Springfield, there were whispers that the right-hander’s velocity isn’t back to where it was before his shoulder problems resurfaced. Unless Kopp is right, sending him to Arizona seems questionable.

Lance Lynn has earned an AFL spot based on his fine season with Palm Beach, then Springfield. However, this is just his first year of full-season ball and he has already thrown 130 innings.

Given, the Double-A Cards’ regular season runs through September 7, Lynn would have four more regular turns plus at least one and likely more additional starts in the playoffs. Springfield is already in the post-season based on their first-half title.

Assuming Lynn will continue to average six innings per start, five-plus more outings would add at least 30 more innings to his 22-year-old arm’s running total.

What may be fatigue is already showing. Lynn picked up his 11th win Tuesday, going six innings and allowing just one run on three hits. However, his walk rate has been increasing. Lynn issued four free passes Tuesday and has given out 14 in his last 16 2/3 innings and three starts.

Let’s put those pre-AFL 160 innings into context.

With that total last season, Lynn would have led the entire Cardinals minor league system in innings pitched. Only three pitchers even had as many as 140 – P.J. Walters, Jess Todd and Brandon Dickson.

When Tony La Russa was referenced in a recent Post-Dispatch blurb about the instructional league cancellation saying he was concerned about sending players to fall ball after a long regular season, it seemed out of context for instructs, but it surely could apply here to Lynn.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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