"I think the Fall League is a tremendous experience because you're playing against outstanding competition," said Braves vice president and assistant general manager in charge of player development Bruce Manno. "You're selected to go there because you have a lot of ability, a lot of talent, and I think it's a great test for players to be able to go there and play against their peers that way."
La Stella, a second baseman hitting .348 with an OPS of .929 between Advanced Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi this season, had his name tossed around for promotion to the Major Leagues earlier this month when Dan Uggla's trip to the 15-day disabled list ahead of LASIK surgery left the Braves thin at second base. This fall, La Stella will get another opportunity to showcase his development.
"Tommy's always been a real good offensive player for us," Manno said. "Unfortunately, he's been hurt the last couple of years off and on and really hasn't had an opportunity to get all the at-bats we'd like him to get. He's had a really good year at Double-A, and this is just an opportunity for him to continue to play, work on some other things and just add this to the season he's already had, which has really been a good year."
Reyes and Kubitza have caught the front office's attention while manning the left side of the Lynchburg infield this season -- Reyes at shortstop, Kubitza at third. Hefflinger hit 21 home runs in 307 plate appearances with Lynchburg before being promoted to Double-A in late June. He has worked primarily as a left fielder at both stops.
The crop of Braves pitchers heading to Scottsdale includes three relievers in Simmons, Jaime and Cornely and a starter in Northcraft -- Cornely has spent all of 2013 in Lynchburg, while the other three young arms are currently with Mississippi. Simmons compiled 24 saves with a 4.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio for Class A Rome before being promoted to Mississippi in early August.
After their respective Minor League seasons end but before they report to Scottsdale, the players will spend a week or two in the Braves' instructional league, where they will receive direction on specific skills to work on in Arizona. Lynchburg hitting coach John Moses will be on the Scorpions' coaching staff, along with trainer Julio Hernandez, who is in his first year with the Braves' Gulf Coast League rookie squad.
For all players selected to rosters, the Arizona Fall League provides an invaluable opportunity to expand upon a successful year in the Minor Leagues and play out the year in a controlled environment against high-level competition.
"Sometimes for older players that go to Winter Ball, it's a little less control most of the time and you have to make sure your guys can handle it and the workload and you're not concerned about innings or at-bats," Manno said. "The Arizona Fall League really is conducive to allowing us to continue the development and kind of tack it on to after the regular season, and it works out real well."