After a one-year hiatus, the Arizona Fall League returns in 2021 with its traditional October/November schedule. Since its inception, baseball’s finishing school has sent more than 3,000 players to the big leagues, including Hall of Famers Roy Halladay, Derek Jeter and Mike Piazza as well as current stars such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer and Mike Trout.
The AFL’s six teams are loaded with talent again, featuring 17 members of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list and 105 players ranked on our organization Top 30s. Below we spotlight each organization’s best prospect who’s headed to Arizona:
Blue Jays: Gabriel Moreno, C (No. 1/MLB No. 32)
Signed for just $25,000 out of Venezuela in 2016, Moreno was establishing himself as one of the best offensive catching prospects in baseball when he broke his thumb in late June. He hit .373/.441/.651 with eight homers in 32 Double-A games before getting hurt and continued to develop behind the plate, where he shows solid arm strength.
Orioles: Kyle Stowers, OF (No. 11)
The Orioles’ second rounder in the 2019 Draft out of Stanford, Stowers had a nondescript pro debut that summer in the New York-Penn League. To say 2021 was a breakout would be an understatement, as the outfielder led the system with 27 homers and finished with an .897 OPS across three levels in a year that ended in Triple-A.
Rays: Heriberto Hernandez, OF (No. 11)
Acquired from the Rangers as the best of the three prospects in the Nathaniel Lowe trade with the Rangers in December 2020, Hernandez makes a lot of loud contact and batted .252/.381/.453 with 12 homers in 73 Low-A games before injuring the hamate in his left hand in August. He has some catching experience and solid arm strength, but his below-average speed and agility make him better suited for an outfield corner or first base.
Red Sox: Triston Casas, 1B (No. 2/MLB No. 18)
When he wasn’t busy starring for Team USA at the Olympic qualifiers and the Olympics, Casas hit .279/.394/.484 with 14 homers in 86 games, mostly in Double-A. The 2018 first-rounder from a Florida high school has big left-handed raw power as well as advanced hitting ability and a slick glove at first base.
Yankees: Austin Wells, C (No. 6)
New York’s affinity for offensive-minded catchers led it to select Wells out of Arizona with the 28th overall pick in 2020. He batted .264/.390/.476 with 16 homers and as many steals in 103 games between Low-A and High-A in his pro debut, though scouts outside the organization have less confidence than the Yankees do that he’ll remain behind the plate.
Indians: Jose Tena, INF (No. 12)
Part of Cleveland’s stockpile of sweet-swinging infielders, Tena signed for $400,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2017 and broke out this year by batting .281/.331/.467 with 16 homers and 10 steals while making his full-season debut in High-A at age 20. He has one of the best left-handed strokes and some of the best hand-eye coordination in Cleveland’s system, possesses solid speed and arm strength and provides quality middle-infield defense.
Royals: Asa Lacy, LHP (No. 2/MLB No. 66)
The top left-hander in the 2020 Draft, Lacy went fourth overall out of Texas A&M and logged a 5.19 ERA, .222 opponent average and 79 strikeouts in 52 High-A innings before getting shut down with minor shoulder issues in late July. He can display three plus pitches in his mid-90s fastball, upper-80s slider and fading changeup, and his curveball can be a solid offering as well.
Tigers: Spencer Torkelson, 1B/3B (No. 1/MLB No. 4)
The best offensive prospect to come out of the Draft in years, Torkelson went No. 1 overall out of Arizona State in 2020 and batted .267/.383/.552 with 30 homers in 121 games while advancing from High-A to Triple-A in his pro debut. His power is his most impressive tool, but he also stands out with his hitting ability and approach. The Tigers have two of the four highest-ranked prospects in the Fall League in Torkelson and outfielder Riley Greene (No. 7 on the Top 100).
Twins: Matt Wallner, OF (No. 14)
Taken in the Competitive Balance Round A of the 2019 Draft, Wallner played in just 68 games in 2021 due to a wrist injury, so he’s looking to make up for some lost at-bats in Arizona this fall. He has tremendous power (.504 SLG), with 15 homers in those 66 games in High-A, but a 33.3 percent strikeout rate shows he still needs to work on refining his approach.
White Sox: Yoelqui Céspedes, OF (No. 2)
Yoenis Céspedes’ younger brother signed for $2.05 million in January before batting .285/.350/.463 with eight homers and 18 steals in 72 games between High-A and Double-A. He has well above-average raw power and arm strength and can flash plus straight-line speed, though more advanced pitchers may exploit his aggressive nature at the plate.
A’s: Logan Davidson, SS (No. 12)
Davidson was the A’s first-round pick in 2019, taken No. 29 overall. He made his full-season debut this year in Double-A and struggled, striking out an organization-leading 155 times (that’s a K rate just over 30 percent). He did draw 62 walks, but finished with just a .630 OPS for the year while seeing a lot of time at both shortstop and third base.
Angels: Jeremiah Jackson, SS (No. 5)
Despite only 218 plate appearances, mostly in Low-A, because of a quad strain, Jackson was still MLB Pipeline’s choice for Angels hitting prospect of the year thanks to his .906 OPS. The infielder managed to reach double-digits in home runs (10) and steals (15) in just 51 total games.
Astros: Korey Lee, C (No. 1)
A surprise first-round pick in 2019, Lee went 32nd overall out of California. He stands out most with his well above-average raw pop and arm strength, batted .277/.340/.438 with 11 homers in 88 games this year while rising from High-A to Triple-A and continues to make progress with his receiving.
Mariners: Zach DeLoach, OF (No. 6)
The Texas A&M product was a second-rounder in 2020 and fit right in at the Mariners’ alternate training site last summer. That carried over to his first year of pro ball as he earned a promotion from High-A to Double-A and finished with a .276/.373/.468 slash line, that included 33 doubles and 14 homers.
Rangers: Justin Foscue, 2B (No. 4/MLB No. 83)
A 2020 first-rounder from Mississippi State, Foscue missed two months of his pro debut with a left rib contusion but raked when healthy: .275/.371/.590 with 17 homers in 62 games, mostly in High-A and Double-A, including going deep in eight consecutive contests in July. He’s an offensive-minded second baseman with a profile similar to Jeff Kent’s. The Rangers are sending a second slugger on the Top 100 to Arizona, as catcher/first baseman Sam Huff (No. 91) also looks for extra at-bats after missing two months following surgery on his right knee.
Braves: Shea Langeliers, C (No. 2/MLB No. 69)
While Langeliers is currently with the Braves in Milwaukee as part of the big league club’s taxi squad, it’s expected he’ll head to Arizona from there. He’s coming off a good year showing off his power bat (22 homers) and power arm (42 percent caught stealing rate) in Double-A that resulted in a late promotion to Triple-A for the Final Stretch.
Marlins: J.J. Bleday, OF (No. 5/MLB No. 71)
Bleday went fourth overall in the 2019 Draft after leading Vanderbilt to the College World Series championship and topping NCAA Division I with 27 homers, but he’s coming off a baffling first full pro season. He entered 2021 with the reputation of an advanced hitter with power and patience, then batted just .212/.323/.373 with 12 homers in 110 Double-A games.
Mets: Brett Baty 3B/OF (No. 2/MLB No. 45)
Baty’s .309/.397/.514 slash line with High-A Brooklyn earned him a promotion to Double-A after 51 games. He more than held his own there and finished the year with an .855 OPS. Primarily a third baseman, he did see a good amount of time in left field and could continue to work on his positional flexibility this fall.
Nationals: Jackson Rutledge, RHP (No. 3)
Issues with blisters and his shoulder limited Rutledge to 36 1/3 innings in 2021 and while he missed bats (10.2 K/9) they were uneven, at best. The 6-foot-8 right-hander will work on his command (5.0 BB/9) while making up for some of those lost innings and hopefully getting himself ready for a jump to the upper levels.
Phillies: Bryson Stott, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 97)
A participant in the 2021 Futures Game, Stott began the year in High-A and finished it in Triple-A and hit pretty much everywhere he went, slugging .548 in High-A and hitting over .300 in Double-A and in his brief Triple-A stay, finishing with a .299/.390/.486 line. He spent the bulk of his time defensively at shortstop, but he did make starts at second and third in 2021.
Brewers: Joe Gray Jr., OF (No. 9)
Gray really struggled over his first two summers of pro ball in 2018-19, both spent at rookie levels. He clearly figured some things out for his full-season debut, with an OPS of 1.039 in 51 Low-A games that led to a promotion. While he scuffled more up a level, he still managed to be one of 16 players to reach the 20-20 plateau.
Cardinals: Nolan Gorman, 2B/3B (No. 1/MLB No. 24)
Drafted as a third baseman out of the Arizona high school ranks, Gorman saw more time at second base in 2021 with a Nolan Arenado-sized obstacle in his way in St. Louis. The 21-year-old is knocking on the door and can use his time at home in the AFL to build off a year that saw him hit 25 homers across Double-A and Triple-A.
Cubs: Caleb Kilian, RHP (No. 14)
The best pitching prospect acquired by the Cubs in all of the midseason trades, Kilian came from the Giants as part of the Kris Bryant deal. He’ll flash a plus fastball and curveball at times and just led the Minors in K/BB ratio (8.6) while recording a 2.42 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A.
Pirates: Nick Gonzales, 2B (No. 4/MLB No. 62)
A broken pinky limited the 2020 first-rounder to 80 games in High-A, but he was one of the Minors’ best hitters in the second half of 2021, allowing him to finish the year with an impressive .950 OPS. Had he not gotten hurt, he likely would’ve earned a promotion to Double-A this year and his time in the AFL should prepare him for that leap.
Reds: Michael Siani, OF (No. 11)
An elbow issue at the end of last year required some lengthy rehab for Siani, limiting him a bit (97 games played) and forcing him into the DH role more than he would have liked, especially since his defense is perhaps his best tool. He struggled to find a groove for most of the year with High-A Dayton and the hope is added reps this fall might get him ready for a jump to Double-A in 2022.
D-backs: Slade Cecconi, RHP (No. 7)
A 2020 supplemental first-rounder out of Miami, Cecconi logged a 4.12 ERA with a 63/20 K/BB ratio in 59 High-A innings in his pro debut before getting shut down with a sore elbow at the end of July. He pitches off a lively fastball that reaches 98 mph and backs it up with one of the best sliders in Arizona’s system.
Dodgers: Bobby Miller, RHP (No. 4/MLB No. 78)
Miller dominated on tight pitch counts in his pro debut this summer, posting a 2.40 ERA, .192 opponent average and 70/13 K/BB ratio in 56 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A. The 2020 first-rounder from Louisville can carry mid-90s fastball velocity deep into games, uncork some well above-average sliders and also miss bats with a curveball, cutter and changeup.
Giants: Marco Luciano, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 5)
The second-highest rated prospect in the AFL behind only Tigers corner infielder Spencer Torkelson, Luciano has exceeded expectations since signing for $2.6 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. He has some of the best bat speed and power in the Minors — he hit .258/.344/.471 with 19 homers in 106 games between Low-A and High-A at age 19 — not to mention a plus arm and a high baseball IQ.
Padres: CJ Abrams, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 6)
Abrams was making a very solid jump to Double-A for his first full season this year, but the No. 6 pick saw his season end in early July when he both fractured his tibia and sprained his MCL. Seeing him recover quickly enough to compete in the AFL was one of the most exciting reveals from the roster release and seeing how he is able to move around the diamond will be one of the bigger storylines of the fall.
Rockies: Ryan Vilade, OF (No. 5)
A 2021 Futures Gamer, Vilade hit well enough in Triple-A to earn his first call up to the big leagues in September, though the power that started to show up in 2019 didn’t arrive as some had expected. If he can unlock more of the hitter he was from July 1 on (.293/.343/.434 including his six at-bat big league debut) this fall, he could be ready to impact the Major League lineup on a more consistent basis.