The AFL is usually reserved for premium prospects and is called by many around the game as baseball's "finishing school," meaning that talented prospects get to work on their game and hopefully develop into solid big league players.
Many former AFL players are big league stars. Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Jimmy Rollins, and David Wright are some of the former AFLers to become pro stars.
Well, then there's Michael Dimock.
Selected in the 37th round of the 2012 draft by the Houston Astros out of Wake Forest University, Dimock was never thought of anything more than an organizational player, a guy who fills the spots on the minor league rosters.
But after a trade to the Padres in 2014, Dimock has begun to shake his organizational status and has started to pitch his way onto possibly the 25- and 40-man rosters for the 2016 season. He's certainly in conversation.
Between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso this season, Dimock turned himself into a real talent. He went 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 60 innings, posting an absurd 70-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which registers to a 2.70 FIP.
It wasn't a velocity increase or even the addition of a new pitch that turned Dimock into the pitcher he was last season. Something "just clicked" during a bullpen session and he was able to build that into sustainable success.
"Ever since then [that bullpen] I've been more focused on perfecting my craft and becoming the best player I can be," Dimock said.
If Dimock pitches well during his stint in the Arizona Fall League, he could find himself on not just the Padres' 40-man roster, but perhaps even another team's.
Dimock is Rule 5 draft eligible this offseason, which takes place during baseball's annual Winter Meetings. If the Padres opt to keep him off their 40-man roster by that point, he could be up for grabs by any team interested in his services, with just one catch, that being he'd have to remain on their active roster for the entire year in order for them to keep him.
This means that Dimock's time in the big leagues could be closer than many think. And because Dimock is a good pitcher with high strikeout totals and low walk totals, he does fit the mold of a Rule 5 pick. Not to mention, he already has a big league mustache as well.
The Arizona Fall League is a big step in the career of Michael Dimock, a former organizational player who is beginning to bloom into a prospect that could provide real big league value in the future. And that could come in 2016.