More than half of big leaguers played in AFL
Arizona Fall League vets crack Opening Day rosters across Major League Baseball
More than half of the players on Opening Day rosters or disabled lists have some ties to the Arizona Fall League, a huge number for the postseason showcase league for upper-division prospects.
In all, there are 854 big league players who are either on the 25-man roster or on the disabled list to start the season, and 452 of them played in the Arizona Fall League at some point. That works out to 53 percent of the Major League workforce, and 19 of those players are on their first Opening Day roster.
Some of those players -- Arizona shortstop Chris Owings and Cubs third baseman Mike Olt among them -- have played in the Majors before, just never to start the season. The same is true of Baltimore infielder Jonathan Schoop, who broke camp despite having just five games of big league experience.
Schoop, a 22-year-old signed out of Curacao, starred for the Mesa Solar Sox in the AFL last season, and he parlayed a hot Spring Training into an Opening Day gig as Baltimore's starting second baseman. Schoop batted .256 for Triple-A Norfolk last season and was ranked as the Orioles' fifth-best prospect by MLB.com, and now he's getting a chance to prove he belongs in the Majors.
The White Sox have two players -- Marcus Semien and Adrian Nieto -- with recent ties to the Arizona Fall League. Semien, the team's fourth-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, played for the Glendale Desert Dogs last fall, and the infielder has logged a .274 batting average in 304 Minor League games.
Nieto, who played for the Solar Sox last fall, is a catcher who was chosen by the White Sox in the Rule 5 Draft and who found a way to stick on the big league roster. Nieto was selected from the Braves organization, and he made the Majors despite having never played above Class A before this season.
There are a few other interesting names among the AFL alumni. Nick Castellanos, who played in the Arizona Fall League in 2012, is getting a look at third base for the Tigers, and Ryan Goins, another 2012 AFL player, is playing at second base in the early going for the Blue Jays.
Outfielder Stefen Romero, the Mariners' No. 15 prospect on the MLB.com list, is another recent AFL graduate to make it to the Majors, as is reliever Jeurys Familia of the Mets. Familia pitched in the Majors in 2012 but missed most of the year after recovering from elbow surgery. He re-established himself last year in the AFL though, and then made the Mets' Opening Day roster.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.