It was all too easy in years prior to look at the Arizona Fall League roster and ask, "Who are these people?" or "What is the Arizona Fall League?" It' can be confusing the time and place of such a league despite both answers being in its name. The truth is, most fans have spent the last few falls pretending baseball was never invented and sacrificing bald eagles to their Chip Kelly shrines.
It's been a bloody, feathery, high unpatriotic couple of autumns, thanks to the repression of the American pastime, as well as the wanton slaughter of our nation's symbol. This year, Phillies fans have more to do than defend Chip Kelly from various allegations. The guys headed to the AFL are pretty exciting! In some cases... suspiciously so...
J.P. Crawford, SS
Cody Asche, they said, was the next Chase Utley, but they were wrong. This time, though, when that anonymous collective of Utley-comparers chants in unison, they will sing Crawford's name, and I think we can say with all the premature speculation in the world that they really nailed it this time. Sure, they're 0-for-1, but why not put our complete trust in them? Chase Utley was 0-for-1 once. I assume. Or maybe he never was! It's impossible to tell.
These are the sort of expectations that it is now perfectly all right to expect from 20-year-old Crawford, who has yet to play above double A.
Andrew Knapp, C
The Eastern League's most furious slugger, Knapp has been hitting multiple home runs daily since about late May. It's all fun and games on the field, but his bashing of baseballs in the clubhouse while teammates are attempting to pack up and go home "...has become a real issue," mentioned ducking Reading manager Dusty Wathan, "but difficult to log a complaint about, given the results."
Tom Windle, LHP
Acquired in the Jimmy Rollins trade, a popular rumor is that Windle was the subject of the Arrested Development song "Mr. Wendal," and a representative of the Windle family confirmed that this was true.
"Absolutely," the man, who refused to identify himself outside of a vague familial connection on a message board that has since been shut down. "Hell, I'll give you all the gory details you need on the guy, but you've got to send me something first."
The social security numbers of myself and several loved ones later, and he was giving me exclusive confirmation that the rumor I had heard once or possibly made up myself about the Phillies prospect's relationship with a '90s rap group who once performed a song with a name close to his was 100% accurate. Good luck in Arizona, Mr. Windle!
Edubray Ramos, ???
They say Reading reliever Edubray Ramos is headed to Arizona as well, but the truth is [hoarse whisper that makes you uncomfortable] he may not even exist. I'm surprised no one else has stumbled upon this, but entering Ramos' name into Baseball Reference brings you to this screen:
Now I don't know anything about computers, but this seems to me like the work of a hacker trying to cover their tracks. They invented a person for who knows what reason, maybe some incredibly cool person was just bored. Nevertheless, they couldn't resist the temptation to make him too good, and now he's got too much attention. Nobody noticed in the everyday shuffle of a 25-man ball team that nobody could recall what Ramos looked like, but when he's the last of seven guys to show up at the airport, people are going to start asking questions.
Still think I'm crazy,
mom guys? Some pranksters once invented an entire football team and nobody caught on until it was far, far too late.
So the biggest question of the Phillies offseason just became - can their new supercomputer PHIL catch up with the cyber-terrorists responsible for Edubray Ramos, the phantom hurler?
Nick Pivetta, RHP
The Phillies got Pivetta from the Nationals for Jonathan Papelbon, knowing of his treacherous mission beforehand. You see, the Nationals have made quite the habit of brainwashing former Phillies after acquiring them and getting them to disparage their former team. The scheme was publicized by me a few years ago, and the franchise has been forced to rely on other gutless tactics ever since.
Those tactics include sending a prospect over to the Phillies via trade for Papelbon - because honestly, who would really want Papelbon when they've already got Drew Storen in the closer's role, think about it - whose sole mission is to stir up controversy and malice in a vulnerable organization still licking its wounds.
And look what Pivetta has done so far:
"I haven't had my fastball command going out there some nights," Pivetta said. "[Thursday] I was able to get ahead with my fastball and my curveball hasn't felt this great all year."
Oh, wow, Nick, you come over to the Phillies and all of the sudden all of your pitches just stop working? You haven't been doing this "traitorous worm" thing for very long, have you? How about a little subtlety to at least keep things interesting? Something tells me Pivetta is getting left at a bus stop in Arizona, even though the Phillies haven't outright announced their plans to do so. You know why? Because they know how to perform baseball espionage with a hint of nuance.
Meanwhile, in the Nationals' bullpen:
Can someone confirm Jonathan Papelbon is still alive? I'm afraid there's just a skeleton covered in cobwebs sitting in the bullpen.— Chris Cwik (@Chris_Cwik) September 3, 2015
Yacksel Rios, RHP
The only member of the Arizona Seven not currently with the Reading Fightins, Rios will spend at least part of the fall being described as such. He was born in 1993, and as the doctrines read, all Phillies prospects birthed unto that blessed year are to be treated with the reverence of the Chosen Ones, "For They Shall Be the Ones to Place a Comically Oversized Phillies Hat Back on William Penn's Head." That this ancient verse was not engraved on the Phillies Mural unveiled this season remains this city's greatest crime.
Dylan Cozens, OF
It is impossible to ignore Cozens' fiery menace upon assimilating with the rest of the group at Double A. It's no surprise that the Phillies are sending this group as a cooperative, as they appear to feed off each other with feverish hunger. Perhaps we are on the verge of seeing the majority of the current Reading team advance through the rest of farm system together and receive major league promotions simultaneously? Some would say having a team co-dependent on each other to guarantee output is a weakness, but many experts would simply call it "team chemistry."
Cozens seamlessly joined the Fightin' Phils' ranks, going 7-for-15 with two home runs after his promotion, which was due to Nick Williams hitting the DL with a concussion. However, a simple bit of research unearths a fairly alarming bit of info on the 21-year-old:
He's from Scottsdale, Arizona.
That's right. The Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Astros, and Pirates will be combining forces to make up the Glendale Desert Dogs this season, while across the way will be Cozens' hometown Scottsdale Scorpions comprised of Red Sox, Twins, Giants, Indians, and Tigers. Surely, he grew up wearing Scorpion gear, rooting for the stars of the era, deeply entrenching himself in the franchise's lore. For two magical months every year, he would get to watch the game he loved played by future legends, and also fringe players who would burn out and never see pro ball field again. That's not the sort of allegiance a man can shake off just by putting on a Desert Dog cap.
Now am I suggesting that Cozens will somehow ally himself with another team in the AFL, thusly putting his young career in jeopardy for really no reason at all? Does this suggest that I simply see betrayals everywhere, and have a set of profound trust issues brought about by troubling personal issues? I guess we'll just have to keep an eye on the 2015 AFL/maintain weekly phone conferences with a therapist to find out.