photo: Jordan Hicks (Jeff Curry/Imagn)
The St. Louis Cardinals today (Tuesday, September 28) announced eight players have been selected to participate in the 2021 Arizona Fall League (AFL) season. The list of players is highlighted by Major League reliever Jordan Hicks and outfielder Lars Nootbaar, top 10 prospects Nolan Gorman and Zack Thompson, and minor leaguers Brendan Donovan, Andre Pallante, Jake Walsh and Juan Yepez. All eight players will play for the Glendale Desert Dogs, whose roster consists of players from the Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.
Additionally, Palm Beach pitching coach Dean Kiekhefer and Springfield athletic trainer Chris Whitman have been assigned to serve in those same positions for Glendale. The Desert Dogs will play their home games at Camelback Ranch, the spring training home of the White Sox and Dodgers, in Glendale, Arizona.
The six-team AFL will begin its 29th season on Wednesday, October 13, with each team playing a 30-game schedule. The League’s annual Fall Stars Game will be played on Saturday, November 13, while the AFL Championship Game is scheduled for Saturday, November 20, both of which will air live on MLB Network as well as streaming on MLB.com and in the MLB app.
— MLB's Arizona Fall League (@MLBazFallLeague) September 22, 2021
Recent Cardinals to participate in the Arizona Fall League include Kodi Whitley (2019), Tommy Edman (2018), Jordan Hicks (2017), Andrew Knizner (2017), Edmundo Sosa (2017), Harrison Bader (2016), and Paul DeJong (2016).
A brief description of this year’s player selections and the full 2021 AFL schedule follow below. League information, including scores, standings and statistics, can be found at mlb.com/AFL.
INF Brendan Donovan .311/.404/.464/.869, 20 2B, 12 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB (30 G in AAA, 50 G in AA, 25 G in A+)
- Ranked as the 15th best prospect in the Cardinals organization by Baseball America.
- Selected in the 7thround of the 2018 MLB Draft from the University of South Alabama.
- Hit for a .313 average and .946 OPS in 30 games played at Triple-A Memphis this season.
INF Nolan Gorman .280/.333/.484/.817, 19 2B, 25 HR, 75 RBI (74 G in AAA, 43 G in AA)
- Ranked as the number one prospect in the Cardinals organization by MLB Pipeline and 25thoverall in MLB.
- Selected in the 1stround (19th overall) of the 2018 MLB Draft out of Sandra Day O’Connor HS in Phoenix, Ariz.
- Named the starting third baseman and batted third for the National League in the 2021 MLB Futures Game.
- Since being promoted to Memphis on June 29, has started 65 of 74 games at second base.
RHP Jordan Hicks 0-0, 10.0 IP, 5.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10 SO, 10 BB (10 G in MLB)
- Limited to 10 games with Cardinals after landing on the Injured List on May 4 with right elbow inflammation.
- Began a rehab assignment with the Memphis Redbirds on September 25.
- Underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2019; did not play in 2020 season.
OF Lars Nootbaar .230/.310/.430/.740, 5 HR, 14 RBI (54 G, 21 GS in MLB)
- Made his Major League debut on June 22 at Detroit. Has been on the MLB roster since July 30.
- Selected in the 8thround of the 2018 MLB Draft from the University of Southern California.
- Hit .308 with 6 HR, 19 RBI and a .900 OPS in 35 games for Triple-A Memphis this year.
RHP Andre Pallante 4-7, 94.1 IP, 3.82 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 84 SO, 43 BB (21 GS in AA)
- Selected in the 4thround of the 2019 MLB Draft from the University of California-Irvine.
- Led all Springfield starting pitchers with a 3.82 ERA across 94.1 innings pitched.
- Promoted from Springfield to Memphis on September 20.
LHP Zack Thompson (23.335) 2-10, 93.0 IP, 7.06 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 82 SO, 57 BB (22 G, 19 GS in AAA)
- Ranked as the 8th best prospect in the Cardinals organization by MLB Pipeline.
- Selected in the 1stround (19th overall) of the 2019 MLB Draft from the University of Kentucky.
- Started his first full minor league season in Triple-A Memphis at age 23.
RHP Jake Walsh 2-1, 18.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 25 SO, 5 BB (13 G in AA)
- Ranked as the 23rd best prospect in the Cardinals organization by Baseball America.
- Selected in the 16thround of the 2017 MLB Draft from Florida Southern College.
- Named Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month in May.
- Was on the Injured List from June 19 through September 3.
INF/OF Juan Yepez .279/.376/.575/.951, 27 2B, 26 HR, 74 RBI (89 G in AAA, 19 G in AA)
- Acquired by the Cardinals from the Atlanta Braves in May 2017 in exchange for Matt Adams and cash.
- Named Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month in August.
- Among qualified Triple-A players, ranks 2ndin slugging percentage (.643) since July 6.
Brian Walton’s take
Excellent selections, all.
It will be interesting to see if Thompson or Pallante will be starting for the Desert Dogs, but roles can and do evolve during the AFL campaign. Also, will Hicks close or just throw an inning a week, for example?
Also to watch is who will be the Cardinals priority player – the one who will receive four or five starts per week. The likely choice will be Gorman, though Nootbaar should play often as well.
Donovan and Yepez emerged as top prospect hitters this season, finishing with Memphis and Walsh began and finished 2021 strongly, but missed most of the year in between. That injury recovery makes him a prime AFL selection along with Hicks.
Current TCN Top Prospect Rankings
MLB closer Hicks will be joined by six members of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 20 prospects on the 2021 Glendale Desert Dogs.
- Hicks – graduated
- Gorman – no. 1
- Thompson – no. 6
- Pallante – no. 12
- Yepez – no. 14
- Nootbaar – no. 15
- Donovan – no. 17
- Walsh – unranked
Every morning through the entire Arizona Fall League season, The Cardinal Nation will run free recaps of the prior day’s game and top performers. In addition, Brian Walton will again report directly from the AFL with news from and about the eight Cardinals participants. For the full details, with depth you won’t find elsewhere, join The Cardinal Nation today!
To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.
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