Wentz turning heads in AFL

Detroit Tigers

Here’s a look at Saturday’s top performers from the Arizona Fall League and beyond, including five players from team’s Top 30 Prospects lists.

Guardians: Angel Martinez, INF (No. 11), Peoria
Cleveland’s system is, in many ways, defined by its enviable middle infield depth. The 20-year-old Martinez is a big part of that, and he’s showing why in the AFL after reaching Double-A this summer. On Saturday he clocked his first home run of the fall league, a three-run shot in the Javelinas’ 10-6 loss to Scottsdale. It came batting left-handed for the switch-hitting Martinez, who has shown more power potential from that side of the plate so far in his career.

Marlins: Justin Fall, LHP (Unranked), Mesa
The Arizona State product was a 17th-round Draft pick of the Marlins in 2021, and he pitched like he was at home in the first game of Saturday’s AFL tripleheader at Chase Field. The tall southpaw logged five scoreless innings in Mesa’s 1-1 tie with Glendale, striking out four while allowing only five baserunners. Command was an asset for Fall; he threw 41 of his 65 pitches for strikes in one of the better starts of the fall league to date. More »

Reds: Elly De La Cruz (No. 1), Tigers del Licey (winter ball)
The Reds’ top prospect seemingly has little to prove after a breakout 2022, which saw him hit .304 with 28 home runs and 47 steals across two levels and reach Double-A as a 20-year-old. But he’s not done showcasing in 2022. De La Cruz enjoyed an ultra-productive winter ball debut, arriving with a four-hit, four-RBI day for Tigers del Licey in the Dominican Republic. De La Cruz doubled, tripled, stole two bases and walked twice while playing second base. It’s a position he’s aiming to work at more given the enviable shortstop depth in Cincinnati’s system.

Rockies: Zac Veen, OF (No.1), Salt River
Colorado’s first-round pick in 2020 and top prospect slumped after a promotion to Double-A this season, but he’s on a tear at the plate so far in the fall league. The latest example came Saturday, when Veen socked a two-run double as part of a three-hit game in Salt River’s 4-1 victory over Surprise. Veen is now hitting .500 (13-for-26) with three extra-base hits, eight RBIs and seven walks through eight games. He’s locked in, and showing the offensive ceiling that has the Rockies believing he can be a cornerstone bat for years to come.

Padres: Jackson Merrill, SS (No.1), Peoria
It feels like the Padres’ top prospect finds himself in these roundups every night. That’s because he’s having an excellent fall league, and it continued Saturday. Merrill’s latest multi-hit game included an RBI triple in the Javelinas’ 10-6 loss to Scottsdale. It pulled Merrill into a tie for the AFL hits lead with 15; he’s now hitting a cool .366 with a .905 OPS through 10 games.

Tigers: Joey Wentz, LHP (No. 24), Salt River
A former first-round pick, Wentz had a strong showing in the Tigers rotation down the stretch, pitching to a 1.73 ERA in five September starts. He’s following that up with a strong fall league. After throwing four scoreless innings in his AFL debut, Wentz logged four scoreless again Saturday in Salt River’s win over Surprise, striking out eight. Wentz allowed only one hit and walked two. It’s exactly the type of performance the Tigers hoped to see from their No. 24 prospect, after he missed several months this summer due to injury and was limited to only seven starts in the big leagues.

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