Published On: October 21st, 2009

The Arizona Fall League season began last week with 17 former Northwoods League players among the six team’s rosters. Annually, Major League teams send some of their top prospects to the AFL where the teams compete in a 40-day season that wraps up a few days before Thanksgiving. Each AFL roster consists of players from five Major League organizations. For example, the Mesa Solar Sox have players from the Marlins, Cubs, Twins, Angels, and Red Sox.

In addition to the players, 12 promising umpires tour the circuit each fall. Two of the 2009 AFL umpires started their career in the Northwoods League: Tyler Funneman in 2002 and Toby Basner in 2004.

Here’s a list of the Northwoods League alumni playing in the Arizona Fall League now.

Mesa Solar Sox
Jay Buente (RHP, AAA-Florida, Wisconsin ’04-05)
John Gaub (LHP, AAA-Chi. Cubs, St. Cloud ’04)
Dustin Richardson (LHP, MLB-Boston, Rochester ’04)
Spencer Steedley (LHP, AA-Minnesota, Madison ’06)

Phoenix Desert Dogs
Eddie Gamboa (RHP, AA-Baltimore, Eau Claire ’07)
Nevin Ashley (C, AA-Tampa Bay, Eau Claire ’06)
Cody Cipriano (2B, AA-Tampa Bay, Duluth ’05)

Peoria Javelinas
Scot Drucker (RHP, AAA-Detroit, Thunder Bay ’03)
Robbie Weinhardt (RHP, AA-Detroit, St. Cloud ’07)

Scottsdale Scorpions
Craig Baker (RHP, A-Colorado, St. Cloud ’04)
Steve Edlefsen (RHP, AAA-San Francisco, St. Cloud/Duluth ‘04/06)
Brandon Crawford (SS, AA-San Francisco, Mankato ’05)
Troy Hanzawa (SS, A-Philadelphia, La Crosse ’07)

Surprise Rafters
Brennan Garr (RHP, AA-Texas, Brainerd ’05)
Evan Reed (RHP, A-Texas, Waterloo ’05)
Daniel Descalso (2B, AAA-St. Louis, Wisconsin ’06)
Lucas Duda (OF, AA-NY Mets, Alexandria ’06)

All of these players are coming off of successful seasons at the minor league level. Offensively, Daniel Descalso emerged in the Cardinals’ organization batting a combined .299 at AA and AAA. Splitting time between first base and outfield, Lucas Duda slugged 29 doubles and hit .281 in AA for the Mets. Both Nevin Ashley and Cody Cipriano began the year in A-ball for the Rays before being promoted to AA about one-third of the way through the season. Brandon Crawford tore up A-ball to the tune of a .371 average through the first month of the season before being sent to AA where hit .258 in 108 games for the Giants’ organization. Troy Hanzawa, just two years removed from his time in the Northwoods League, batted .267 in 126 games in A-ball for the Phillies.

Dustin Richardson pitched so well in AA and AAA for the Red Sox that he earned a September call up to the big leagues. He struck out 96 in 74 inning to go along with his 2.55 ERA before making three scoreless relief appearance for Boston. Of the 11 pitchers only Scot Drucker worked as a starting pitcher during the 2009 season, making 16 starts and compiling an 8-3 record with a 4.78 ERA in AAA for the Tigers. His teammate Robbie Weinhardt carried a 1.57 ERA with 72 strikeouts and only 26 walks in 63 total innings split between A and AA with the Tigers. Jay Buente was at AAA for the Marlins for most of the season claiming a 5-1 record and a 3.39 ERA in 61 innings. Buente and Steve Edlefsen each spent two summers in the Northwoods League. Edlefsen played A-ball, AA, and AAA this year for the Giants compiling an 8-1 record and a 1.95 ERA in 69.1 total innings. Craig Baker led A-ball’s California League with 33 saves pitching in the Rockies’ organization. Evan Reed was third in that league with 25 saves pitching as a Rangers’ farm-hand. Also with the Rangers, Brennan Garr finished with a 3-3 record and a 3.82 ERA between A and AA. Moved to the bullpen in his second year with the Orioles’ organization, Eddie Gamboa compiled an astonishing 11-0 record and a 1.08 ERA between two levels of A-ball and AA. John Gaub went 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA while striking out 80 in 60 innings between AA and AAA for the Cubs. Spencer Steedley finished 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 69 total innings pitching at A-ball and AA for the Twins.

The 12 oldest Northwoods League franchises have at least one former player in the AFL this fall. Only Battle Creek, Green Bay, and the new Willmar franchise are not represented.

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