No. 24 prospect pitches way onto All-AFL Team

Detroit Tigers

Now, it really feels like the offseason in the United States.

The Arizona Fall League came to a close Saturday when Surprise walked off with a 7-6, 11-inning win over Glendale in the Championship Game. That thrilling contest wrapped up another fun six-week campaign in the desert in which many of the game’s top prospects spread out across six teams to compete one last time before the winter frost set in.

Below, we recognize the best of those performers with the 2022 MLB Pipeline All-AFL Team. The Cardinals, Twins and Yankees each have two players on the 12-man squad. Salt River has the most representation among Fall League clubs themselves with four, and Mesa (three), Glendale (two), Scottsdale (two) and Surprise (one) follow.

Selections were made solely based on on-field production during the 2022 season without regard for prospect ranking or eligibility.

This is our 2022 All-Arizona Fall League Team:

C: Stephen Scott, Scottsdale (unranked among BOS Top 30)
The 2019 10th-rounder out of Vanderbilt made the full-time move back to catcher this season, so you might have expected there to be a heavier emphasis on his defense with the Scorpions. Instead, he showed he can swing it a bit too with a .298/.394/.614 line over 15 games. Five of his seven extra-base hits left the yard, putting him in a five-way tie for third on the AFL HR leaderboard. That’s a solid showing for a player who went deep 10 times in 96 games at High-A and Double-A during the regular season.
Honorable mention: Henry Davis (PIT), Jeferson Quero (MIL)

1B: T.J. Rumfield, Mesa (unranked among NYY Top 30)
The first of two unranked corner infielders from the New York system on this list, Rumfield finished tied atop the AFL batting leaderboard with a .400 average and ranked third among qualifiers in OBP (.477) and third in OPS (1.059). The left-handed slugger was more approach over power (one homer, 11/9 K/BB) in his 17 games with the Solar Sox — even more notable given his position — but his work at the dish popped enough to hold off some good competition at the cold corner.
Honorable mention: Matt Mervis (CHC), Grant Lavigne (COL)

2B: Edouard Julien, Glendale (MIN No. 14)
Speaking of approach vs. power, Julien was known best for his Double-A-best .441 OBP during the regular season for Wichita before showing he can mix in some pop too with Glendale. He was one of the five players with five homers and also led AFL qualifiers with a 1.249 OPS while finishing second with a .686 slugging percentage over 21 games. Julien still stuck to his strengths, tying Rumfield with his .400 average and leading the circuit with a .563 OBP and 23 walks, but the increase in power helped him secure Breakout Player of the Year.
Honorable mention: Nick Yorke (BOS)

3B: Tyler Hardman, Mesa (unranked among NYY Top 30)
“He hits the ball hard, man,” was a common phrase in the Valley of the Sun this fall. Hardman tied with Matt Mervis as the AFL home run leaders with six blasts apiece, and he also finished second with 13 total extra-base hits and 51 total bases. Playing at the tail end of his first full season, the 2021 fifth-rounder out of Oklahoma finished with a .325/.373/.662 line over 20 games.
Honorable mention: Colt Keith (DET)

SS: Austin Martin, Glendale (MIN No. 12)
The 2020 fifth-overall pick was sent to the Fall League to make up for time lost to a torn UCL in his left elbow and to help him lay the groundwork to break through Double-A after spending two seasons at the level. A .373/.454/.482 line and 7/8 K/BB ratio through 21 games should help in both regards. Martin’s .373 average and 10 steals both ranked third in the AFL and played back into his profile as a hitter who can put the ball in play and keep the carousel turning on the basepaths.
Honorable mention: Ronny Simon (TB)

OF: Heston Kjerstad, Scottsdale (BAL No. 9)
The 2020 second-overall pick was named Fall League MVP after leading the circuit in hits (35), doubles (nine), extra-base hits (15) and total bases (61). He also put up a .357/.385/.622 line and homered five times in his 22 games with the Scorpions. That’s all the more impressive considering Kjerstad missed all of 2021 as he recovered from myocarditis. The return of his slugging ability — after he hit just five homers in 65 A-ball games over the summer — was one of the talking points of the fall.

OF: Zac Veen, Salt River (COL No. 1, MLB No. 23)
The Rockies’ top prospect was a menace on the basepaths all autumn, leading the AFL with 16 steals — the eighth-highest total in league history and most since Junior Lake swiped 18 bags in 2011. Of course, in order to steal a player has to be on base, and Veen accomplished that by walking almost twice as often as he struck out (15 free passes, eight punchouts) and finishing with a .444 OBP in 99 plate appearances, seventh-best in the circuit. The 20-year-old was named AFL Offensive Player of the Year.

OF: Jordan Walker, Salt River (STL No. 1, MLB No. 6)
As the top-ranked prospect in this year’s AFL, Walker headed to Arizona with a lot of hype and still managed to meet it. The 20-year-old hit .286/.367/.558 over his 90 plate appearances with the Rafters. Like many others on this list, he also finished with five homers, putting him in a tie for third in the category, and his 11 extra-base hits total placed him third there too. Walker accomplished all of this at the plate while continuing his full-time transition to the outfield, where he showed off a stellar arm.
Honorable mention: Andy Pages (LAD), Zach Britton (TOR)

DH: Will Wagner, Surprise (unranked among HOU Top 30)
There were certainly some big boppers in this year’s Fall League. On an efficiency basis, none was more prone to slugging than Wagner. The 2021 18th-rounder — and son of legendary closer Billy Wagner — went for extra bases on 11 of his 18 hits for Surprise, leading to a league-best .712 slugging percentage and a 1.145 OPS that only trailed Julien’s 1.249 among qualifiers.

SP: Joey Wentz, Salt River (DET No. 24)
The 25-year-old southpaw was the only qualified AFL pitcher to finish with a 0.00 ERA. He threw three separate scoreless four-inning starts for the Rafters, striking out 14 and scattering only two hits over his 12 frames. Wentz posted a 3.03 ERA in seven starts for Detroit’s Major League club in the summer, and after shoulder issues plagued part of his 2022, he was able to use the Fall League as an audition to rejoin the rotation next spring.

SP: Connor Thomas, Salt River (STL No. 24)
A lefty with an upper-80s sinker and plus slider, Thomas was known more for his ground-ball tendencies at Triple-A Memphis, where he had a 5.47 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 135 innings this year. The 24-year-old worked more with a cutter in the AFL and got a lot more swings and misses as a result. He led the Fall League with 34 strikeouts — nine more than any other pitcher — and finished with a 1.75 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 25 2/3 frames.
Honorable mention: Mason Miller (OAK)

RP: Evan Reifert, Mesa (unranked among TB Top 30)
There wasn’t an easier call on this list. Reifert faced 40 batters for Mesa. He struck out 25 (62.5 percent) of them. Driving home how untouchable he was, the right-hander allowed only one hit over 11 2/3 scoreless innings all autumn, and it came in his final outing on Nov. 10. Acquired from the Brewers last offseason, Reifert throws in the mid-90s with his heater but especially thrives with a mid-80s, high-spin slider that kept AFL batters off-balance every time he took the mound.
Honorable mention: Matt Ruppenthal (HOU)

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