The Arizona Fall League is one of our favorite events on the baseball calendar. Many of the game’s best prospects will compete against each other for six weeks starting Oct. 2, and we can’t wait.
Since baseball’s finishing school opened in 1992, it has sent more than 3,000 players to the big leagues, including Hall of Famers Roy Halladay, Derek Jeter and Mike Piazza and current stars such as Ronald Acuña, Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, Matt Olson, Julio Rodríguez, Corey Seager and Mike Trout.
Rosters will be announced next week, which gives us time to put together a wish list of prospects we hope to see in Arizona. Farm directors take note! Our list includes one guy from each organization and just six pitchers among the 30 players mentioned.
Blue Jays: Ricky Tiedemann, LHP (No. 1/MLB No. 31)
Entering Wednesday, Tiedemann has thrown only 38 innings this season due to biceps issues, but he’s been building back up recently with a season-high 4 2/3 innings last time out for Double-A New Hampshire on Saturday. (He struck out six and didn’t allow an earned run in that outing.) While the AFL is known as a hitter’s league, Tiedemann is just the type of arm who should be heading to the showcase circuit — one with innings to make up and elite stuff, including a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and plus-plus changeup.
Orioles: Coby Mayo, 3B/1B (No. 4/MLB No. 27)
While we’d all love to see Jackson Holliday in Arizona, a four-level climb in his first full year might be enough. So then it comes to wanting to see Mayo’s power or 2023 first-rounder Enrique Bradfield’s speed on display. Mayo has proven the pop will play at the upper levels, reaching Triple-A at age 21 while mashing 27 homers. Allow us to nominate him for the AFL Home Run Derby while we’re at it.
Rays: Junior Caminero, 3B/SS (No. 1/MLB No. 6)
This is likely the last chance we’d get to see the Rays infielder on the Fall League stage, so selfishly, we hope it happens. While he’s Rule 5-eligible this offseason, Caminero is an absolute lock to be added to the 40-man, but perhaps Tampa Bay wants him exposed one more time to big-time competition before his likely MLB debut next summer. The 20-year-old has clubbed 31 homers between High-A and Double-A this season, showing impressive exit velocities to match, and owns a .330/.390/.607 line through 113 games.
Red Sox: Roman Anthony, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 35)
Anthony has a similar offensive profile to Stoneman Douglas HS (Parkland, Fla.) product Anthony Rizzo at the same stage of their careers, and he’s also a better athlete with a chance to play center field. A 2022 supplemental second-rounder who signed for an over-slot $2.5 million, he has slashed .265/.394/.465 with 14 homers and 14 steals in 101 games while advancing from Single-A to Double-A at age 19.
Yankees: Spencer Jones, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 73)
The Yankees promoted Jasson Domínguez and Everson Pereira late this season, and Jones gives them another multitooled outfielder nearly ready to help the big league club. The 2022 first-rounder from Vanderbilt is more athletic than most 6-foot-6, 235-pounders and is slashing .264/.337/.436 with 14 homers and 40 steals in 111 games between High-A and Double-A.
Guardians: Chase DeLauter, OF (No. 4/MLB No. 85)
Surgery on his left foot sidelined DeLauter for the first two months of this season, but the 2022 first-rounder from James Madison showed off a rare combination of size (6-foot-4, 235 pounds), athleticism and plate discipline once he got on the field. He has solid or better tools across the board and slashed .366/.403/.549 with four homers in 42 games in High-A.
Royals: Javier Vaz, 2B/OF (No. 13)
Kansas City hitting coordinator Drew Saylor said Vaz “has probably been the lightning rod guy in the organization this entire season” in Anne Rogers’ Royals Beat newsletter, and the AFL could be a nice reward for the 2022 15th-rounder’s breakout campaign. Vaz’s 9.4 percent strikeout and 3.2 swinging-strike rates between High-A and Double-A are both the best among Royals full-season hitters, and he’d also bring plus speed (30 steals) to the table as a potential member of the Surprise Saguaros.
Tigers: Jackson Jobe, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 54)
The 21-year-old right-hander missed time with lumbar spine inflammation in the first half but has looked nothing short of nasty since. Jobe just wrapped up a stint with High-A West Michigan in which he struck out 54 and walked only three in 40 innings, thanks to a 95-98 mph fastball, plus-plus slider and above-average changeup and cutter. While he’ll get some additional time at Double-A Erie to end the season, Jobe could use the Fall League to add more innings and put his special stuff on wider display.
Twins: Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 48)
Brooks Lee would be a fine choice, but we’re really intrigued to see what Rodriguez can do in using the AFL as a stepping stone to the upper levels. He has also missed time due to injury, so this is a perfect way for him to make up for some lost ABs while prepping for Double-A. He has a .942 OPS since Aug. 1 and we want to see if he can carry that hot bat with him to Arizona.
White Sox: Colson Montgomery, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 17)
After oblique and back injuries couched Montgomery for most of the first three months of the season, he has slashed .262/.448/.451 with six homers in 48 games between High-A and Double-A. An Indiana prep product who went in first round of the 2021 Draft, he earns repeated Corey Seager comparisons as a 6-foot-4 lefty-hitting shortstop with huge offensive upside.
Angels: Nolan Schanuel, 1B (No. 1/MLB No. 99)
It’s a wish list, right? Sure, it might seem unlikely to send a guy in the big leagues to the Fall League, but we didn’t get enough time with him in the Minors, so we’re hoping to manifest this into existence. The Angels’ first-round pick from this past Draft continues to hold his own at the highest level with more walks than strikeouts (.416 OBP), but some time in Arizona could help him find his power stroke.
Astros: Jacob Melton, OF (No. 1)
The Astros were surprised that Melton was available late in the second round of the 2022 Draft after showing at least solid tools across the board and winning Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year honors at Oregon State. He’s slashing .240/.330/.456 with 21 homers and 44 steals in 95 games between High-A and Double-A.
A’s: Jacob Wilson, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 76)
We know the No. 6 overall pick in the 2023 Draft is comfortable in Arizona after slashing .361/.419/.558 with a 4.4 percent strikeout rate in three years at Grand Canyon University. He’s largely carried that over to his pro debut, and after reaching High-A and posting a .333/.391/.475 slash line in 26 games, the AFL should get the shortstop ready for Double-A and a continued fast track to the big leagues.
Mariners: Harry Ford, C (No. 2/MLB No. 39)
Coin flip here between Ford and top M’s prospect Cole Young. (Mariners, if you’re reading this, send them both!) Ford has really figured things out at the plate late in the year as Everett rolled into the Northwest League playoffs, posting a .300/.436/.550 line since Aug. 1. And getting time behind the plate with more advanced pitchers will be very beneficial as he readies for the jump to Double-A in 2024.
Rangers: Jack Leiter, RHP (No. 5)
Leiter has struggled in two Double-A seasons since going No. 2 overall in the 2021 Draft, including posting a 5.17 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings this year, which included six weeks on the developmental list to make some mechanical adjustments. At his best, the Vanderbilt product can miss bats with a 93-98 mph fastball with elite metrics as well as with a mid-80s slider.
Braves: Spencer Schwellenbach, RHP (No. 3)
The Braves have been understandably cautious with Schwellenbach this season, his first action in pro ball since he needed Tommy John surgery soon after joining the organization as its second-round pick in 2021. But he also missed a month of the summer, landing on the injured list not long after his Futures Game appearance with shoulder inflammation and costing him starts with High-A Rome. He finished the year with 11 shoutout innings over two starts and could be one of the more intriguing arms to watch in the AFL.
Marlins: Jacob Berry, 3B/1B (No. 5)
Berry offered perhaps the best combination of hitting ability, power and patience in the 2022 college class, which is why the Marlins drafted him sixth overall out of Louisiana State. He has struggled in pro ball, however, and has slashed .233/.284/.338 with nine homers in 107 games between High-A and Double-A this season.
Mets: Drew Gilbert, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 52)
The 2022 28th overall pick has done plenty of moving around in his opening full season — first from High-A to Double-A and then from the Astros to the Mets in the Justin Verlander blockbuster — so adding another AFL team on top may be asking a lot. But New York acquired Gilbert in part because he could help the Major League team in short order, meaning a Fall League test could help that timeline further. Gilbert has been stellar since the trade, slashing .327/.421/.555 with six homers in 31 games for Double-A Binghamton.
Nationals: Brady House, 3B (No. 3/MLB No. 40)
This time last year, we were wondering how much House’s 2022 back issues explained his performance. Now, we have a better answer — a good amount. The 2021 first-rounder climbed three levels as a healthy and productive infielder for the Nats, slashing .306/.361/.489 with 11 homers in 85 games. He earned a Futures Game appearance along the way, and the Fall League would provide another opportunity to show just how loud his raw power can play against good competition.
Phillies: Justin Crawford, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 77)
We knew the Philles’ first-rounder from 2022 had speed that would show up on both sides of the ball during his full-season debut and Crawford stole 47 bases while playing an outstanding defensive center field. Yes, he still needs to grow into a little more impact, but he’s already ahead of the curve, earning a promotion to High-A as a teenager and slashing a combined .331/.390/.465. He’s excelled against older competition, so the AFL won’t faze him one bit.
Brewers: Jeferson Quero, C (No. 2/MLB No. 32)
Quero was a 2022 AFL standout for his defense, and he’s continued that momentum by jumping into the Top 100 this season with a solid performance at Double-A Biloxi. We don’t generally call for Fall League repeats, but the 20-year-old did miss time in July and August for a left hand injury and could use a return to Arizona to get some more at-bats. Surprise pitchers could also be grateful to have Quero behind the dish, making his return a win-win.
Cardinals: Cooper Hjerpe, LHP (No. 7)
The 2022 22nd overall pick underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his left elbow two months into the season, but he has returned with a pair of relief appearances for High-A Peoria in September. Hjerpe could use the AFL to continue to build back up and enter his second offseason with some momentum. His four-pitch mix, headlined by a deceitful fastball and above-average sweeper, could certainly handle the level of competition in the Fall League, even in shorter stints.
Cubs: Matt Shaw, SS/2B (No. 6/MLB No. 97)
Shaw had a decorated college career before the Cubs drafted him 13th overall this July, winning the Cape Cod League batting title (.360) and MVP award in 2022 before setting Maryland’s career home run record (53) en route to Big Ten Conference Player of the Year accolades this spring. He combines aggressiveness and discipline at the plate and has raced to Double-A while slashing .366/.418/.642 with seven homers and 13 steals in his first 33 pro games.
Pirates: Termarr Johnson, 2B (No. 2/MLB No. 22)
It was a little bit of a weird first full season for the No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 Draft. He didn’t get started with Single-A Bradenton until April 21 because of a hamstring strain and there was a little too much swing-and-miss in his game (nearly 26 percent K rate), though it should be noted that dropped to 20.5 percent from July 1 on, even with a promotion to High-A. He also is one of five Minor Leaguers to draw over 100 walks and the pop (18 homers) is there. We’d love to see how all that looks against more advanced competition.
Reds: Edwin Arroyo, SS (No. 3/MLB No. 57)
The youth movement in Cincinnati has been impressive and Arroyo is no doubt eager to join them. The 21-year-old shortstop shook off a very rough start to his first full season in the organization (.197/.247/.329 combined in April and May) to post a .272/.354/.474 line for the remainder of the year.
D-backs: Deyvison De Los Santos, 3B/1B (No. 5)
De Los Santos was sent aggressively to the AFL as a 19-year-old last year and struggled with a .614 OPS. He similarly got off to a rough start back at Double-A Amarillo this summer, took time off to work on his swing in early July and has hit .312 with 11 homers and an .898 OPS in 46 games since. A Fall League return would offer him a chance to reverse last year’s narrative and lock in these latest improvements with more looks at the dish. Bonus: De Los Santos is Rule 5-eligible, and while he’s basically a 40-man lock, such players are consistent AFL features.
Dodgers: Dalton Rushing, C/1B (No. 1/MLB No. 43)
Though Rushing stands out most with his power, he also offers plate discipline, arm strength and surprising quickness for a 6-foot-1, 220-pound catcher. The Dodgers’ top pick (second round) in 2022 after starring at Louisville, he slashed .228/.404/.452 with 15 homers in 89 games in High-A.
Giants: Wade Meckler, OF (No. 11)
Since the Giants drafted him in the eighth round out of Oregon State in 2022, Meckler has slashed .380/.473/.529 in 96 Minor League games and got 56 at-bats with the big league club this summer, slashing .232/.328/.250. He makes repeated contact with ease from the left side of the plate and also offers plus speed and solid defense on the outfield corners.
Padres: Jairo Iriarte, RHP (No. 6)
The Padres sent Iriarte to the Double-A San Antonio bullpen after his promotion in mid-July, and while he’s been bulking his workload back up as a starter recently, he still sits on only 85 1/3 innings entering Wednesday, six fewer than he threw last season. The 21-year-old right-hander has the plus fastball and promising change to handle an assignment to the Peoria Javelina with ease and would be one of the AFL’s must-follow arms should he receive one.
Rockies: Yanquiel Fernandez, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 49)
We’d love for the Rockies to send both Adael Amador and Fernandez, who somehow still feels a bit like an under-the-radar guy even though he went to the Futures Game and is in the Top 100. The jump to Double-A for the 20-year-old outfielder has been a little bumpy, but he still has 24 homers and 90 RBIs for the year, with a stint in the AFL a good way to right the ship and prep him for a return to Hartford or even a bump up.