AFL Team Preview: Surprise Saguaros

A Saguaro is a cactus. A really big cactus. Like up to seventy feet tall cactus. We’ve all seen Western movies with the tall desert cactuses? That’s a saguaro. The Saguaro blossoms are the state flower of Arizona and they are under federal protection as an endangered species. The largest specimen ever measured was seventy-eight feet tall but are most common in the forty to fifty-foot range and can live over 150 years. Their range is the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, southeastern California and the far northern area of Mexico.

Playing their home games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the Saguaros won the first ever regular season title in AFL history in 1992 before losing in the championship round to Sun City. The team has bounced around some, moving to Mesa, then Maryvale, then to Peoria before settling in Surprise for the 2011 season. The “Sags” have won four division titles and two championships, the most recent coming in 2013.

The 2016 version will be managed by Kansas City’s Carlos Febles and will be rostered by the Royals, Rangers, Red Sox, Twins, and Pirates.

Players to Watch

The Saguaros have, at first look, the deepest roster in the league. The pitching will be led by Trey Ball (Red Sox), Joe Filomeno (Rangers), Stephen Gonzalves (Twins) and a pair of 100 miles per hour club members in Michael Kopech (Red Sox) and Josh Staumont (Royals).

The catching corps will be headed by minor league Gold Glover Jose Trevino of the Rangers and Mitch Garver of the Twins.

The infield, both offensively and defensively, will be the heart of the Sags lineup, headed by Baseball America’s 2016 Minor League Player of the Year recipient, Yoan Moncada of the Red Sox who will begin his transition to third base. Other stalwarts include Nick Gordon (brother of Dee) of the Twins, Andy Ibanez of the Rangers, the Pirates’ Connor Joe and the Royals’ Mauricio Ramos.

The player I’m most interested in seeing is Moncada, if for no other reason than to see just how over hyped he really is. People put together prospect lists and rankings for no other reason than financial; they sell print and online subscriptions and generate sponsor revenue through blog hits. I remember just how much hype surrounded Byron Buxton before he came here and once he got on the field it was shocking how overrated every aspect of his game was. I’ve never seen Moncada other than on TV so I really have no expectations outside of what people have said, so we’ll see just where he fits in.

The Surprise Saguaros are my pick to win the Western Division and the League Championship for 2016.

Thanks for reading.

About The Author

A former scouting intern with the Seattle Mariners, Chuck has contributed prospect related coverage for Perfect Game, SBNation, Bleacher Report and MLB.com, among others. Chuck holds Arizona Fall League media credentials and works for the Arizona Rookie League as an official scorer.