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ABL in AFL: alumni headed to Arizona
Eight ABL-ers named to preliminary prospect league rosters
08/31/2016 10:27 PM ET
 

Touted as one of MLB's prospect paradises, the Arizona Fall League showcases some baseball's best current minor leaguers and future Major League studs. The month-long season is viewed as a key stop on the pathway to the majors, and once agan the Australian Baseball League is well-represented in the AFL, with eight players named to the preliminary rosters

Anthony Alford - Mesa Solar Sox (Canberra 2014/15)

The Toronto Blue Jays' No. 3 prospect and the No. 94-ranked prospect overall in MLB, Alford's career has skyrocketed since his unremarkable season with the Cavalry two years ago. Arguably one of the most athletic players to ever grace The Fort's outfield, Alford hit just .207 for Canberra, but went on to have a breakout year in the 2015 minor league season. He's struggled with injuries this year and has hit just .240 in High-A, so continuing his season in Arizona is a great opportunity for the 22-year-old outfielder. 

Nick Ciuffo - Peoria Javelinas (Brisbane 2015/16) 

The Tampa Bay Rays are sending two of their top catching prospects to the AFL this year, including Ciuffo, the organisation's No. 25-ranked prospect according to the latest MLB Pipeline rankings. Though the 21-year-old South Carolinian left Brisbane with an injury prior to the Bandits' Claxton Shield victory, he still contributed to the run along the way by hitting .259 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 22 games. Ciuffo has spent most of hte 2016 minor league season with High-A Charlotte, and has a .251 overall batting average. 

Justin O'Conner - Peoria Javelinas (Brisbane 2013/14)

MLB Pipeline ranks O'Conner as the Rays' No. 28-ranked prospect, though his career has been slowed by a series of injuries since he hit .200 in 32 games for the Bandits in 2013/14. The 24-year-old reached as high as Triple-A last minor league season, but has spent significant time on the disabled list in Double-A this year. Recently, he's performed well in his rehab assignments to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, hitting over .300, and can make productive use of his AFL time to mend further and get back on track. 

Justin Williams - Peoria Javelinas (Brisbane 2015/16) 

Williams was a key contributor to Brisbane's utter dominance of ABL play in the 2015/16 season, hitting .342 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in 47 games and mashing a series of unforgettable home runs. Just 21 years old, the lefthanded-hitting outfielder translated his strong ABL campaign into a solid 2016 minor league year. After beginning 2016 in High-A, Williams earned a promotion to Double-A and is hitting .298 overall between the two levels. The Rays' No.15-ranked prospect, Williams has a chance to add to his rising prospect stock in the AFL this October. 

Brandon Dixon - Peoria Javelinas (Adelaide 2014/15) 

2016 marks the second AFL stint for Dixon, who played for the Glendale Desert Dogs in 2015 as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organisation. The Dodgers traded him to the Cincinnati Reds last December, and he's spent the entire 2016 minor league season with Double-A Pensacola, where he's hitting .265 in 113 games. In the 2014/15 ABL season, Dixon hit .289 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs for the Bite, helping Adelaide reach the ABLCS. 

Travis Demeritte - Salt River Rafters (Adelaide 2015/16)

Demeritte was one of the highest-ranked prospects in the ABL in 2015/16 and showed significant run production and power numbers, driving in 36 runs and hitting nine home runs in 56 games despite hitting just .216. He began the 2016 minor league season in the Texas Rangers' system before being traded to the Atlanta Braves at the July 31 trade deadline. Now the No. 9-ranked prospect in the Braves' organisation, Demeritte is hitting .262 with 28 home runs and 69 RBIs overall with two different teams in High-A. 

Jamie Westbrook - Salt River Rafters (Sydney 2015/16)

Arizona native Westbrook will have the opportunity to play near where he grew up when he takes the field for the Salt River Rafters. The Arizona Diamondbacks' No. 22-ranked prospect, Westbrook hit a solid .299 in 26 games for the Blue Sox in the 2015/16 ABL season before leaving early due to injury. He made the jump up to Double-A for the 2016 minor league season, and has put together a solid campaign, with a .267 batting average in 119 games, striking out just 57 times in his 424 at bats so far. 

Mitch Walding - Scottsdale Scorpions (Canberra 2014/15) 

Two years removed from his stint in Canberra, Walding turned a breakout beginning in High-A into his first career promotion to Double-A this minor league season. He began 2016 in Clearwater, where he hit .280 in 100 games, and was promoted to Double-A at the end of July, where he has a .238 batting average in 21 games. Walding played third base for the Cavalry in 2014/15 and hit .233 in 40 games in the capital.

Also worth noting: Seattle Mariners prospect and South Africa native Dylan Unsworth, who tossed a gem for his home country in the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Sydney last February, is also slated to play in the AFL this year, for the Peoria Javelinas. 

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.