Oct 192014
 

Saturday Smorgasbord
Post number 2000 is a bit of a smorgasbord, which many of these weekly posts have been and probably will be this offseason. So let’s just jump into it…

AFL UPDATE
Without the daily coverage, and with less-than-stellar performances, the four-game win streak by the Mesa Solar Sox seems a bit anti-climactic to pass along. Felipe Rivero got the Jack Morris win in the 8-4 triumph, allowing three runs in two and 2/3rds innings, though Derek Self would have gotten it in a regular-season contest for his two and 1/3rd scoreless innings of relief. Tony Renda tripled in two while Pedro Severino hit a sac fly. Matt Grace also turned in an efficient outing of five outs on 14 pitches, nine for strikes.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
Michael Taylor was voted the #1 prospect in the Eastern League, which is actually a bit of a shock when you consider that the #2 prospect, Mookie Betts played 52 games for the Red Sox (losing rookie status doesn’t disqualify players from these lists). In the “chat,” others brought up that point, noting how much better Betts performed at AAA and in the majors. Josh Norris defended his decision thusly: “In reality, it’s not 1 and 2 for me, it’s 1 and 1a. The difference for me is Taylor has the potential for more power, is a true center fielder with game-changing range in the outfield and has a well above-average arm.”

A.J. Cole was “only” the #15 E.L. prospect but ranked as the #7 I.L. prospect, which is only dissonant to the folks who mistakenly believe AAA is the highest level for prospects, as opposed to a place for refinement and a holding ground for replacement-level players. While noting his propensity to give up the longball, the scouts project the turns-23-in-January righty as a No. 3 starter, praising improvements in his secondary pitches. Steve Souza was ranked #5 while former farmhands Robbie Ray and Alex Meyer were nos. 8 and 9 respectively.

TRANSACTION UPDATE
It’s not clear which Felix Taveras the Nats signed in the latest missive from BA, but the list of catchers that signed or re-signed is awfully familiar:

  • Jeff Howell
  • Devin Ivany
  • Sean McCauley
  • Andruth Ramirez

Before folks get too excited, recall that McCauley spent 2014 as a player-coach and appears headed towards the same role. Given that Ivany and Ramirez did not play this past season, it might be fair to guess that one or both will be serving in the same capacity.

MORE ON THE MINORS LAWSUIT
One of the ugly truths about the minors is how poorly these guys are paid. At some levels, the guys washing the uniforms make more than the guys wearing them. That’s not news per se, but earlier this summer, a class-action lawsuit was filed by former Giants prospect-turned-lawyer Garrett Broshuis on behalf of former minor-leaguers (a group that includes former Nats farmhands Tim Pahuta and Brett Newsome) has generated headlines and more interest in the subject. This week, Toronto Star reporter Brendan Kennedy filed this story that goes into detail about the economics of minor-league baseball, and makes some rather telling comparisons to minor-league hockey.

THE HAGERSTOWN SUNS
The Suns lost in the Sally League Finals for the second straight year but won 87 regular-season games and nearly took both halves. Despite fielding a winning team with exciting prospects, the locals voted with their feet and stayed away as attendance — which is routinely exaggerated anyway — fell to below 1,000 at 979 per date (also consider that the #13 team averaged 1,925). While the PDC was renewed, it’s doubtful this trend will reverse itself until the team is under new ownership and/or the facilities are renovated or replaced.

As you might expect from the second-best team in the league, the Suns leveraged strong pitching (4.11 R/G; Lg. Avg 4.58) and strong hitting (4.99 R/G) while committing the fewest errors (118 vs. 152). The old-for-the-level report: 22.2 vs. 21.5 for the bats, 21.8 vs. 21.8 for the arms. Expectations for this crew to match the 2013’s effort in the Carolina League will probably be high.

Now, for the obligatory Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Wilmer Difo, 2B/SS, .280 GPA, 14HR, 49SB 1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, 2.20/3.16/1.00, 10.1 K/9, .196 OBA
2. Spencer Kieboom, C, .283 GPA, .500 SLG% 2. Austin Voth, RHP, 2.45/2.68/1.05, 1HR in 69.2IP
3. Drew Ward, 3B, .257 GPA, 42BB 3. Wander Suero, RHP, 2.13/3.16/0.97, 1.38 BB/9
4. Rafael Bautista, CF, .249 GPA, 69SB 4. Justin Thomas, LHP, 2.78/3.01/1.08, 1.39 BB/9
5. James Yezzo, 1B, .239 GPA, .991FA 5. Jake Walsh, LHP, 1.45/3.33/0.87, .152 OBA


Honorable mentions go to Carlos Lopez and David Napoli, as we hit the point where all things are not equal and performance relative to age takes greater precedence. A couple of the bats were also held back for consideration for the Potomac list. As always, if you’d like to see the entire team’s stats, just click here.

Oct 182014
 

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As some of you have noted already in the comments, the numbers haven’t been pretty thus far. According to manager Patrick Anderson (via Byron Kerr), it’s been “some pitches up to some decent hitters” (Felipe Rivero) and “balls right on the nose right at people” (Tony Renda). But it is what it is, the numbers don’t always tell you the real story, and it’s still early, right? Many of these things are true, or have a modicum of truth, but if I don’t mock the coachspeak, who will?

Now, for the numbers…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Tony Renda 7 23 1 2 2 0 0 0 1 6 .087 .125 .174 1
Spencer Kieboom 3 10 1 5 1 0 1 3 2 1 .500 .583 .900 0
Pedro Severino 3 9 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 2 .111 .200 .111 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Felipe Rivero 0 2 0 6.23 2 2 8⅔ 10 6 6 1 3 5 1.50
Derek Self 0 0 0 1.80 3 0 5 3 1 1 1 3 3 1.20
Neil Holland 0 1 0 14.73 3 0 3⅔ 7 6 6 1 3 2 2.73
Matt Grace 0 0 0 8.10 3 0 3⅓ 4 3 3 0 3 5 2.10


And now some more pics from Lee (don’t worry this isn’t in lieu of tomorrow’s scheduled post, it’s to get these pics in!)

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Oct 122014
 

SpencerKieboom101114 copy
OK, so I haven’t come up with a name for this post yet. “This Week In The Nats Minors” or “The Washington Farm Report” seem a little too been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. “Next-Gen Nats?” Um, sure, but I’ll have to change my site’s color scheme to teal, purple, and black. I’m open to suggestions… In the meantime, let’s do this weekly thing again.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
Thanks to a rainout — the first since 2011 — the Mesa Solar Sox have played just four games, losing the first three by a collective score of 30-9 before finally getting a win with a 6-3 decision last night. As you might imagine, the stats thus far aren’t pretty, so let’s hold on posting them. I am thinking another picture-gallery post midweek might be in order.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
As noted in the comments, Pedro Severino edged into BA’s Carolina League Top 20 at #18, which is actually a mild surprise given the size and talent of the league, but not undeserved. Severino’s ballyhooed defense actually fell short of the hype during last offseason, but that’s not to say he’s not a good defender. Perhaps not at the level of Sandy Leon at the same (st)age, but not far off either. Like Leon in 2011, the 21-year-old Severino’s bat came alive in 2014, particularly in the second half, and that’s what caught the attention of scouts. The hope/unknown is whether that’ll continue in 2015.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Greg Dobbs, we hardly knew ye, as the 36-y.o. who stapled a .483 OPS in 13 games with the big club and thumbtacked AAA pitchers for a .635 mark in 36 games has declared free agency.

WINTER LEAGUE
Folks are hungry to know who’s playing winter ball. The Mexican Pacific League and the Venezuelan Winter League started up this weekend, and a scan of the rosters has turned up three pitchers:

Rafael Martin (Hermosillo, MWL)
Paolo Espino (Anzoategui, VWL)
David Ramos (Aragua, VWL)

The Dominican Winter League starts on this Friday, while the Puerto Rican and Australian winter leagues both start up on the 30th.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
The Doubledays couldn’t help but improve on 2013, which won the fewest games (26) since the ’06 Lake Monsters (23) and was dead last in pitching and third-worst in hitting. The 2014 crew, which included a sizable contingent from the ’13 GCL squad, broke the 30-win mark and performed to its pythagorean projection of 34-41 with 299 runs scored (3.99/G) and 332 allowed (4.43) with the league averaging 4.15 runs per game. After years of being among the league’s oldest teams [insert college-senior drafting remark here], the Doubledays hitters were slightly older (21.2 vs. 21.0) while the pitchers were the fourth-youngest crew in the league (20.9)

And with that I’ll leave you with the Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Raudy Read, C, .265 GPA, .462 SLG% 1. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, 0.75/3.14/0.83, .124 OBA
2. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, 1B, .250 GPA, .996FA 2. Robbie Dickey, RHP, 2.25/2.74/1.05, 1.35BB/9 allowed in 20IP
3. D.K. Carey, CF, .248 GPA, .353 OBP 3. Travis Ott, LHP, 3.05/3.98/1.24, 6.7 H/9
4. Cody Gunter, 3B, .239 GPA, 23BB in 54G 4. Mario Sanchez, RHP, 4.11/3.50/1.17, 2.8 BB/9
5. Austin Davidson, IF, .231 GPA, 4.89 RF/G (2B) 5. Chase McDowell, RHP, 4.50/3.16/1.54, 0.98 BB/9


Honorable mentions go to Matthew Page and Austen Williams, but like the GCL crew, it was not easy after the first two or three names — especially in a year where the Nats had several multiple-level pitchers. As always, folks who want to see the numbers for the full team, can find them here.

Oct 072014
 
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The weekly posting plan still remains, but with a little time to spare — and some great pics to share — I’d figure I’d do a quick post to give folks a taste of fall ball while you await the outcome of the NLDS.

The Solar Sox were eclipsed by the Desert Dogs by a score of 9-3 this afternoon. As you can see, Felipe Rivero got the start but remained in 2014 Harrisburg form with four runs allowed on seven hits and two walks. He struck out three and gave up a solo home run.

Tony Renda and Pedro Severino both started on offense, but went 0-for-3 with a walk and 0-for-2 respectively.

Matt Grace and Derek Self both appeared in relief and both struggled, with Grace giving up two runs in one inning and Self giving up a HR in two innings of work.

See you on Sunday with a summary of the week’s happenings in the minors (and some more pics, no doubt).

Oct 052014
 

Renda-Bunting-2014I had been hoping as I plugged away at this week’s column/post during my time confetti to be able to make some reference to how the parent club is doing in the playoffs. Now, I’m just hoping this will get read between wailing and second-guessing from last night’s 2-1 loss in 18 innings.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
The “other” fall baseball starts up on Tuesday, with sponsor-contrived exhibition festivities held last night (hence, the pic). It looks like there won’t be a taxi squad guy this year, as the Nationals also officially placed the seven players named in late August onto the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
The love-fest for Reynaldo Lopez continues as Baseball America named him the #2 prospect in the New York Penn League, citing what we all know now: a 96-99 FB, a killer 11-5 CV, and a devastating changeup. Also named (#13) was catcher Raudy Read, who may be more intriguing given how thin the position had gotten. The trio of Pedro Severino, Read and Reetz are all under 22 and should populate the rosters at AA, Low-A, and SS-A with a resurgent Spencer Kieboom the likely starter at High-A (though he’ll be 24).

BA loves to double-dip, which is why Lopez got the nod as the #3 prospect of the South Atlantic League, two spots behind Lucas Giolito. In a bigger market, or a true baseball town, these two would have a nickname by now (Giopez?) though I suspect they won’t be teammates again until they’re both in AA. Coming in at #14 for the Sally Top 20 was Wilmer Difo, which I suspect is a function of his age (22) as twelve of the thirteen players ranked above him were 21 or younger.

TRANSACTION STUFF
So far, it’s quiet, which is the norm. Thus far, two players have been re-signed for next year — IF Cutter Dykstra and RHP Sam Runion. As much as we’d like to read into that, Occam’s Razor suggests it’s simply that both the organization and the player are content to continue with the 2014 arrangement for 2015.

2014 AFFILIATE SHUFFLE
Thankfully, the Nats affiliates will remain the same for another two years, which is hardly a shock — even with the rumblings in Hagerstown and Fredericksburg, which continues to be more talk than walk. It does however mean that they’ll be seeing some new opponents, as the Rockies join the Eastern League and the Cubs join the Carolina League, replacing the Twins and Rangers, respectively. Jamestown will be moving to Morgantown, which will require some new scheduling for Auburn and longer bus rides for everyone.

THE GCL NATIONALS
Let’s face it: No matter what this team did in 2014, it would be a disappointment compared to 2013. It also bears repeating that folks shouldn’t get too high or too low about performance in the short-season leagues (and yes, I’ve been guilty of that “crime”). So even though the team reverted to the mean — 25-35, .417 — there’s still some kids to get excited about (ok, that sounds a little creepy).
Offensively, the team was pretty much league average (4.32 vs. 4.37) but the pitching was second-worst in the league, giving up nearly a run more per game (5.32 vs. 4.37).

Without further ado…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Jakson Reetz, C, .285 GPA, 26BB in 43G 1. Jean Ramirez, RHP, 3.41/3.60/1.45, 0HR allowed in 36⅔ IP
2. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B, .250 GPA, .934FA 2. Luis Reyes, RHP, 4.42/3.86/1.42, 2.95 BB/9
3. Aldrem Corredor, LF, .256 GPA, .411 OBP 3. Yorlin Reynoso, LHP, 3.38/3.97/1.75, 73.8 LOB%
4. Thomas Alvarez, 2B, .253 GPA, 4.65 RF/G 4. Maximo Valerio, RHP, 5.23/4.28/1.45, 7.3 K/9
5. “Fred” Aguero, IF, .249 GPA, .400 SLG 5. Jose Morales, RHP, 4.68/4.58/1.68, 3.03 BB/9


I’d give an honorable mention to Edwin Lora who batted .293 and stole 13 bases, but worry about the lack of doubles (just eight out of 53 hits). It was a stretch to name five pitchers, as it seemed like the best you could say for most of these guys is that they were still teenagers. Folks who are interested in seeing the entire team’s stats, should click here.

Aug 262014
 

While it seems later than in years past, the Arizona Fall League rosters were revealed today, the final Tuesday in August as they were last year. The following Nats farmhands will be headed southwest to help fill out the Mesa Solar Sox roster:

• LHP Matt Grace

• RHP Neil Holland

• C Spencer Kieboom

• 2B Tony Renda

• LHP Felipe Rivero

• RHP Derek Self

• C Pedro Severino

Like last year’s contingent, none of the pitchers are Rule 5 eligible for the first time this December, which seemed to be de rigeur until the past couple of AFL seasons. But more encouraging — no returnees.

The catching tandem of Kieboom and Severino should also prove to be interesting, particularly as both backstops have made strides on offense this season (Severino may be one of the most improved hitters on the Potomac team) and will get some extra time with the coaches to fine-tune their defense.

Having been hurt for most of 2014, it’ll also be interesting to see how Felipe Rivero will fare in the (usually) pitcher-unfriendly league, especially after having made two decent starts to distract from the death spiral that has been the Senators since the All-Star Break.

It’s also possible that one more National may be named as a “Taxi Squad” member — eligible to play twice a week — which has included players such as Steve Souza, Jason Martinson, Zach Walters, and Bryce Whatshisname.

Nov 182013
 

2013-AFL-Final
One last look before we close the books, beginning with the stats…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Brian Goodwin 19 81 9 24 4 1 2 12 4 22 .296 .333 .411 3
Matt Skole 15 49 8 9 1 1 3 7 15 18 .184 .375 .457 0
Adrian Nieto 13 48 6 13 1 1 0 6 6 10 .271 .345 .393 0
Steve Souza Jr. 11 42 8 15 2 0 1 8 5 11 .357 .426 .379 10

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Sammy Solis 5 2 0 2.29 7 7 29 32 9 7 1 7 29 1.34
Matt Purke 3 1 0 3.91 6 6 23 20 11 10 0 9 17 1.26
Robert Benincasa 0 0 0 4.50 9 0 9 11 4 4 1 4 7 1.67
Richie Mirowski 0 0 1 1.29 9 0 12 8 3 3 0 2 10 0.83


Now for the thoughts…

• The trade for Denard Span a year ago always seemed like a stopgap measure to give Brian Goodwin time to develop, which he seems to be doing, albeit not as quickly as folks seem to think he should be. My inclination is to attribute the recent rumors that Span is on the block to posturing by the market for the free-agent OFs of uber-agent Scott Boras, with whom the Nats have been cozy. In any case, Goodwin seems on track for a AAA year and a possible callup in 2014.

• Let’s not forget two things about Matt Skole: (1) He’s coming off same-year surgery (2) he has very little experience at the AA level (seven PAs in 2013, 74 last AFL season). Yes, his numbers were disappointing compared to his rating as a prospect and the success he had last fall, but he still hit for power and drew walks. The strikeouts? He’s averaged nearly a K per game for nearly professional 200 games. I don’t think there’s that much call for alarm.

• With Sandy Leon’s offense seemingly gone AWOL, Adrian Nieto assumes the mantle of the catching prospect closest to the majors. Nieto’s 2013 was an offensive breakthrough season and it carried over into the AFL. The question is whether the defense can be tightened up enough to justify the bat. Let’s hope that the success he had against LHPs — who stifled him in the regular season (.608 OPS vs. .872) — continues next season.

• Perhaps nobody’s stock rose higher and faster than Steve Souza Jr. His inclusion was curious, given that he was due to be a free agent, though it wasn’t clear if (A) his suspension had disrupted things (B) this was a signal that he intended to re-sign. Now, with hindsight being 20/20, it’s clear that they just wanted to make sure he was healthy before adding what’s been missing from the Washington 40-man for quite some time: a power-hitting OF from the right side who’s not a defensive liability.

• I had missed the fact that Solis is Rule 5 eligible when the rosters were revealed, and after his AFL stint, he may have just pitched his way onto the 40-man if for no other reason that the Nats have kind of signaled that they’re hungry for LHPs, albeit in relief. He turns 26 next August, so there’s always the question as to whether they convert him to relief. Best guess: he’ll be given every chance to succeed as a starter, especially with the option of converting other LHPs elsewhere in the system.

• Matt Purke made six starts — three really good, three not so good. That they came in that order is cause for concern. We can only hope that it’s more attributable to either fatigue or perhaps being a bit overmatched than the shoulder issues that have dogged him for quite some time. The party line will be the former, but it’s really hard not to infer the latter.

• Robert Benincasa did more or less what you ought to expect out of a young (23), two-level (Low- and High-A) reliever in the AFL: some good outings, some bad. Sight unseen, it’s almost impossible to speculate what that means for his 2014 — especially when there is no precedent to refer to. He’s the first reliever assigned to the AFL that didn’t pitch in AA under the current regim, er front office.

• As a 45th-Round Draft pick (which, under the current CBA, would mean he’d be a NDFA) Richie Mirowski is always going to fly under the radar. Given that he spent most of the season at High-A, no one would have been surprised if he’d gotten knocked around — the AFL is notoriously hitter-friendly, after all. Instead, he pitched rather well, allowing no baserunners in five of nine appearances and going multiple innings three times.

Nov 172013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-30
After leading the Eastern Division of the Arizona Fall League for all but one day, the Mesa Solar Sox saw their bid for the 2013 AFL Championship denied with a 2-0 defeat to the Surprise Saguaros.

Steven Souza Jr. was the only National in the starting lineup. The 24-year-old, who was recently added to the Washington 40-man roster, batted fifth and played centerfield. He singled to lead off the 2nd inning but was caught stealing by Ranger backstop Jorge Alfaro, who gunned him down with a reported pop time of 1.78 seconds.

Souza would line out sharply in his second at-bat, but strike out in his final two plate appearances to finish the game at 1-for-4. Defensively, the Nats 2007 3rd-Rd. pick played centerfield, where he had two putouts and an assist, as Alfaro struck again with an RBI single but was gunned down on the 8-2-6 relay.

Brian Goodwin and Adrian also appeared in the game, with Goodwin grounding out to second in the top of the 8th and Nieto catching the bottom half of the inning, but had no putouts or assists.

Mesa finishes 2013 with a record of 19-12 with a Opening Day tie.

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Sad-SpicklesWith the completion of the AFL schedule, the 2013 minor-league season — the fourth this site has covered, if you can believe that — now really comes to a close. A shoutout to Lee Magenheim, our photographer in Arizona, who’s provided the AFL pictures for the past two seasons and has plans to do it again in 2014.

Nov 152013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-27Mesa’s 2013 Arizona Fall League season began and ended in Glendale, and Sammy Solis was on the hill for both the 1st and title-clinching 19th wins as the Solar Sox scorched the Desert Dogs, 9-3 to earn a berth in the AFL Championship game.

The 25-y.o. southpaw allowed one run on six hits over five innings to notch his league-leading fifth win. He walked none and struck out four, throwing 68 pitches, 49 for strikes. His 29 K’s also led the circuit.

Brian Goodwin and Adrian Nieto were also in the starting lineup for Mesa.

Goodwin was the DH and went 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored, as the 23-y.o. North Carolina native came in from second base on an infield single that the shortstop knocked down just past the infield grass. He also walked and struck out twice.

Nieto caught and batted seventh. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and made seven putouts and one assist on a dropped third strike.

Mesa finishes the season at 19-11-1, winning their last six games consecutively to edge Salt River, which fell a half-game short at 19-12 and were winners of seven straight. Surprise was the AFL West title winner with a mark of 18-12-1.

The Solar Sox will face off against the Saguaros, who will send Baltimore prospect Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound in tomorrow’s AFL Championship game. Matt Purke, who has not pitched since last Saturday, is among the possibilities for Mesa, which has not yet announced its starting pitcher.

Nov 142013
 

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Steven Souza Jr. homers off Alex Meyer in the 2nd inning to give Mesa the early 2-0 lead (Photo Credit: Lee Magenheim)

The race for the Arizona Fall League East Divison title will come down to the final day of the season, as Mesa edged Glendale, 3-2 and Salt River paddled Scottsdale, 8-5.

Steve Souza’s two-run blast was the catalyst for the victory and came off former teammate Alex Meyer in their first matchup as opponents, as the two never faced each other this season in the Eastern League. It was the sole hit for the 24-y.o. who finished the game at 1-for-4 with a strikeout and extended his hit streak to seven games.

Matt Skole also appeared in the game, playing third base where he had a putout and two assists. He would score what would prove to be the decisive run a fourth-inning triple that the Desert Dogs misplayed into a Little League HR with an error. Skole also singled in the 2nd inning to go 2-for-3 for the game with a walk and a strikeout.

Richie Mirowski gave up the first Glendale run in the 5th on a double, wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly but struck out two of the final three batters he faced. It was just the third run he’s allowed in nine appearances this fall.

The win, which was Mesa’s fifth straight, improved the Solar Sox to 18-11-1 but just a 1/2 game better than the 18-12 Rafters. In head-to-head play, Salt River has defeated Mesa four times in six games. An 11-inning-tie between the Solar Sox and the Desert Dogs on Opening Day is what separates the top two teams in the AFL East.

As speculated earlier this week, Sammy Solis will be given the start today as Mesa visits Glendale for the season finale. A Solar Sox win or a Rafters loss will clinch a spot in the AFL Championship game, which will be held Saturday in Scottsdale against the AFL West-winning Surprise Sagauros.