The Arizona Fall League annually provides a place to see the best prospects in baseball all playing in the same place. This season, the league's 25th, which begins on Oct. 11 and runs through the championship game on Nov. 19, is once again pulling out all the stops.
The preliminary rosters, announced on Wednesday, are packed with future stars, sent by all 30 organizations to fill the AFL's six teams. There are a total of 21 players on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list scheduled to compete in Arizona this fall, though the rosters will change and be amended as organizations finalize who they are sending.
That crop is headlined by Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, whom Boston will call up on Friday for the stretch run. Primarily a second baseman over his first year-plus in pro ball, Moncada has been getting time at third base late in the Double-A Eastern League season, so it should surprise no one to see the Cuban import get more looks at the hot corner in the AFL.
2016 Arizona Fall League rosters
Click on the AFL team name to see complete roster.
Austin Meadows is another Top 10 overall prospect headed to the Fall League, ranked No. 9 overall. Braves infielder Ozzie Albies (No. 14) will be there as well, along with No. 20 prospect Gleyber Torres, the key player the Yankees got from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Torres be joined in Arizona by his former organization-mates Ian Happ (No. 24) and Eloy Jimenez (No. 26), who had his coming out party at the Futures Game in July.
For Meadows, this will be a repeat trip to the AFL. The Pirates outfielder was there a year ago and hit just just .169 in 65 at-bats. Meadows missed time this season, first following a fractured orbital bone suffered in Spring Training, then with a right hamstring issue later in the year.
"I'm looking forward to it," Meadows said. "Last year was good for me, a good learning experience. I'm excited to meet some new guys and improve my game. I kind of figured -- missing about a month earlier this year, and also with the eye injury earlier in the year -- I'd have a shot going back and making up some time."
"That was probably the best competition I had faced," Meadows said about his 2015 AFL experience. "Everyone you face is going to be good. You have to be mentally prepared for that. You can't take any plays off, any at-bats off. You can never really be satisfied. That's what baseball can do to you. Once you get satisfied, it can bite you in the butt. That's definitely what I learned."
That will certainly be the case again this fall with so much Top 100 talent on hand. Four of baseball's top 20 prospects -- and 12 of the top 50 -- are slated to play: Moncada (No. 1, 2B/3B, BOS); Meadows (No. 9, OF, PIT); Albies (No. 14, 2B, ATL), Torres (No. 20, SS, NYY), Happ (No. 24, 2B, CHC); Jimenez (No. 26, OF, CHC); Bradley Zimmer (No. 28, OF, CLE); Francis Martes (No. 33, RHP, HOU); Cody Bellinger (No. 35, 1B/OF, LAD); Brent Honeywell (No. 43, RHP, TB); Franklin Barreto (No. 47, SS/2B, OAK); Alex Verdugo (No. 50, OF, LAD).
"It's been a long season this year for me," said Atlanta's Albies, who will get the chance to continue his transition to second base with the Salt River Rafters. "But this is what I love to do. I'm just going to do the same in the Fall League. I'm going out to play with the best Minor League guys. I'm going to do my best, as always.
"I will play the same, or harder, in the Fall League. This is what I do. I play with energy every day. I'm just going to do my best to let the Braves see what they have for the next year."
Including the Top 100 players on the preliminary rosters, there are 88 prospects on their respective team Top 30 lists heading to Arizona. The A's, Tigers and Red Sox are all planning to send five of their Top 30 prospects to the AFL.
Meadows is one of 16 former first-round picks slated to attend. Collins, taken No. 10 overall by the White Sox this past June, is the only 2016 first-rounder on a roster thus far.
While the vast majority of players are hoping to use the AFL as a stepping stone to the big leagues, there are some who already have some big league service time. Eight have already played in the Majors, with JaCoby Jones the most recent to debut. Greg Bird, who played at the highest level in 2015, but missed the '16 season with a right shoulder injury, is the second former AFL MVP Award winner -- he won the award in 2014 -- to return to the league. The other? Former Yankee Eric Duncan.
Both Albies and Meadows are among the many prospects at the upper levels of their respective systems hoping the AFL can serve as the springboard to the big leagues that it has been for nearly 60 percent of all participants over the years. Meadows is just 21, but he's already in Triple-A. A crowded big league outfield does pose a problem, but he's hopeful he can reach Pittsburgh in 2017.
"I think this next year, that's the goal, to help the team out at some point," Meadows said. "It's really an exciting time for them right now. I'm excited to be a part of that team whenever the time comes. For now, I'm just taking care of what I can now, improving my game here, at instructs and in the AFL, and come into 2017 ready to help the team whenever that may be."
Albies, still just 19, is hoping he'll get the chance to get his feet wet when rosters expand in September, but even if he doesn't, his mindset will be the same.
"If I don't get the callup, I'll keep playing hard and open the new season in the new stadium with the Braves," Albies said. "I will work harder in the offseason to have a great Spring Training again, to make things finally happen.
"I am patient, I am patient. I'm playing this game for me and my family. I have my goals and I want to reach my goals. I'm not going to step back. I'm going to go aggressively for it."