Each team's sleeper prospect in the Fall League

October 5th, 2023

Last week, we broke down the top prospect from each Major League organization heading to the Arizona Fall League. This week, we’re going to dig a little deeper.

Below is a sleeper prospect in the AFL for each team, and this is a list worth tracking. Under-the-radar prospects come out of the Fall League every year and jump on the map and into the big leagues. On this list last year, we included Edouard Julien, who is currently on the Twins’ postseason roster, Bryan Woo, who made 18 starts for the Mariners during the regular season, and Blake Sabol, who was a Rule 5 pick last December and got over 300 at-bats with the Giants.

This year, we’ve raised the degree of difficulty, selecting only players not currently on a team Top 30 list.


Blue Jays: CJ Van Eyk, RHP
A second-round pick in 2020 who signed for $1.8 million, Van Eyk missed all of the 2022 season due to Tommy John surgery and got back to the mound in fits and starts this summer, reaching Double-A by late August. He sports a full four-pitch mix with a fastball that can touch 95 mph, and he can get whiffs with a low-80s curveball and low-80s change. The mid-80s slider is in the back of the pack. The deep repertoire gives him a starting shot, but the 25-year-old needs to show consistent health ahead of a Rule 5 decision this offseason.

Orioles: Peter Van Loon, RHP
A 6-foot-5 right-hander taken by the Orioles out of UC Irvine in the 16th round of the 2021 Draft, Val Loon spent the regular season with Double-A Bowie. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, the stuff is there, with a fastball up to 98 mph, breaking stuff and a splitter that all can miss bats. He might be best suited for a bullpen role, though he did toss 3 2/3 scoreless in his first AFL start on Tuesday.

Rays: Austin Vernon, RHP
Put Vernon’s more traditional numbers at High-A Bowling Green this season (6.12 ERA, 1.63 WHIP in 82 1/3 IP) off to one side for a moment. Consider this: the 2021 10th-rounder finished fifth at High-A in swinging-strike rate at 15.2 percent among 89 pitchers with at least 80 frames. He’s touched the upper-90s with his fastball in the past and shows good sliders and changeups in flashes -- the latter of which helped make him a reverse-split maven in 2023. If he can keep the homers in check in the AFL, Vernon will solidify his place as an interesting arm in a system that knows how to get the most out of relievers.

Red Sox: Corey Rosier, OF
Acquired from the Padres as part of the Eric Hosmer trade in August 2022, Rosier stands out most with well-above-average speed that enables him to steal bases and cover ground in center field. He hit .285/.351/.431 with seven homers and 49 swipes in 116 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

Yankees: Benjamin Cowles, INF
Cowles led the Big Ten Conference with 18 homers for Maryland in 2021 before the Yankees drafted him in the 10th round. An aggressive hitter with the versatility to play all over the infield, he batted .254/.356/.393 with 10 homers and 23 steals in 106 games in High-A.


Guardians: Ryan Webb, LHP
Though he had Tommy John surgery in 2021, Webb didn't make it out of the fourth round in that year's Draft, getting selected by the Guardians out of Georgia. Featuring a low-90s fastball and a pair of solid breaking pitches, he posted a 3.29 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 82 innings in High-A.

Royals: Eric Cerantola, RHP
The 23-year-old right-hander has good raw stuff with a fastball in the mid-90s and a slider that generates a ton of swing-and-miss. Two things are worth watching during his time in the desert. First, his control improved as 2023 rolled along after early struggles, and he walked only 11 batters in his last 10 outings (34 2/3 innings) between High-A and Double-A. Second, he was being stretched out late after working as a reliever and made his last two appearances as a Northwest Arkansas starter. Cerantola takes a lot of momentum to Surprise.

Tigers: Tanner Kohlhepp, RHP
A 2021 fifth-rounder out of Notre Dame, Kohlhepp didn’t make his Minor League debut until this past June 22 at Single-A Lakeland after Tommy John surgery knocked him out for the entire 2022 season. He stuck out the season in the Florida State League, making abbreviated one-to-two-inning appearances while he regained himself on the mound. Control was an issue (25 walks in 23 2/3 IP) after the lost time, but he did show good velocity, sitting 93-95 mph and touching 98, while sprinkling in curves and changes. It’s all about tacking on innings in the desert, but keep an eye on Kohlhepp’s ability to limit walks the further he gets from TJ.

Twins: Andrew Cossetti, C
The Twins’ 11th-round pick in the 2022 Draft out of St. Joseph’s University, Cossetti began the year with full-season Fort Myers and got moved up to High-A Cedar Rapids after just 35 games. He controls the strike zone well and showed some good pop this year (.287/.426/.534). His defense has improved, especially his arm, with that being a continued focal point so he can stick behind the plate long-term.

White Sox: Adisyn Coffey, RHP
A two-way player at Arizona State, San Jacinto (Texas) JC and Wabash Valley (Ill.) CC, Coffey was a below-slot third-rounder in 2020 who had Tommy John surgery after the Draft. Now a full-time reliever with a 93-96 mph fastball and mid-80s slider, he logged a 4.82 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings between High-A and Double-A.


Angels: Eric Torres, LHP
In 2022, Torres was the reliever on our first team for the Prospect Team of the Year. In 2023, an inability to find the strike zone (combined 11 BB/9!) at the upper levels derailed the lefty reliever. It’s average stuff with a funky lower slot, but the fastball and slider still missed a fair amount of bats. The success he had in ’22 was in Double-A, so the hope is his stint in the AFL can help him rediscover his command and allow him to continue his climb to the big leagues as a left-handed reliever.

Astros: A.J. Blubaugh, RHP
The Horizon League Reliever of the Year in both 2021 and '22 while pitching at Milwaukee, Blubaugh has become a starter since turning pro as a seventh-round pick last year. Armed with a 92-96 mph fastball and solid slider, he compiled a 4.41 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 100 innings between High-A and Double-A.

A’s: Stevie Emanuels, RHP
Primarily a reliever at the University of Washington (he did get a chance to start during the shortened 2020 season), Emanuels was the A’s fifth-rounder in that summer’s truncated Draft. He did get some opportunities to start in 2021 and '22, but a move back to the bullpen full-time this year has been successful for the 6-foot-5 right-hander. Though he missed the first two months of the season, he did make it to Double-A for the first time, finishing with a 2.04 ERA, 12.9 K/9 rate and .193 BAA.

Mariners: Troy Taylor, RHP
While Taylor served as a starter in the 2021 Draft League, his time in the pen for UC Irvine in 2022 got him drafted in Round 12 of the 2022 Draft. It’s looking like his stuff is going to play, using a fastball that touched 98-99 mph and a power slider to strike out 12.3 per nine across two levels of A ball. His strike-throwing ability improved markedly over the course of the year (1.85 BB/9 from July 1 on), so he has a solid up arrow next to his name entering Fall League play.

Rangers: Justin Slaten, RHP
Slaten owns a 94-98 mph fastball and a mid-80s slider, and he did a better job of harnessing them as a full-time reliever this year. A 2019 third-round pick from New Mexico -- the second-highest drafted pitcher in school history -- he recorded a 2.87 ERA, .206 opponent average and 86/20 K/BB ratio between Double-A and Triple-A.


Braves: Tyler Tolve, C
Tolve is a Georgia native who went to Kennesaw State before staying “home” by joining the Braves as their 17th-round pick in 2021. After a strong first full season with High-A Rome, his climb to Double-A was slowed by a right quad strain. But when he’s healthy, he’s an intriguing left-handed-hitting catcher who has been athletic enough to play other positions in the past.

Mets: Brendan Hardy, RHP
The 23-year-old right-hander climbed three levels from Single-A to Double-A after a late start to the season and put up solid numbers across the board: 1.80 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 54 strikeouts, .184 average-against in 35 innings. Hardy lacks velocity with a 90-92 mph fastball but can make it play up with good extension from his 6-foot-4 frame. His standout pitch is a 79-81 mph sweeper that helps generate K’s and should be something he leans on against advanced AFL competition ahead of Rule 5 eligibility this winter.

Nationals: Holden Powell, RHP
A third-round pick out of UCLA in 2020, Powell looked like a potential quick-moving reliever as he entered pro ball, but a pair of surgeries, including one on his shoulder in late 2021, have slowed that progress. He reached Triple-A last month and sat 94-96 mph with his four-seam fastball while also leaning heavily on a mid-80s slider. Those two pitches and his newly established health give him a shot at reaching Washington next summer or could make him a Rule 5 option this winter when he becomes first eligible.

Marlins: Ike Buxton, RHP
A catcher-turned-pitcher who divided his college career between Boise State and Lipscomb, Buxton was a 15th-round pick in 2022. Pitching heavily off his 93-97 mph power sinker and flashing a solid slider, he posted a 2.45 ERA with a .188 opponent average and 73 strikeouts in 77 innings while rising from Single-A to Double-A.

Phillies: Jordi Martinez, LHP
A starter for the early part of his Phillies career, Martinez has found more success with a move to the bullpen full-time in 2023. He pitched his way from High-A to Double-A, striking out 10.8 per nine in the process. His fastball averaged around 95 mph, and was up to 97 mph, in Reading this year and he combines it with a nasty upper-80s slider that misses a ton of bats.


Brewers: Wes Clarke, 1B/C
The Double-A Biloxi lineup was loaded this season with Jackson Chourio, Jeferson Quero and Tyler Black highlighting the roster at various points, but none of them slugged quite like Clarke. The right-handed hitter led the Southern League (a circuit that saw offense dip in the first half when a pretacked ball was used) with 26 homers in 118 games and finished fourth among qualifiers with an .889 OPS. Strikeouts (29.2 percent K rate) might be an issue in the desert, but given the AFL’s hitter-friendly environment, don’t be surprised if Clarke ranks among the HR leaders there, too.

Cardinals: Andre Granillo, RHP
The 2021 14th-rounder has already carved out an impressive place for himself within the Cardinals system relative to his Draft position as a classic two-pitch reliever. Granillo can sit 94-96 mph with his four-seamer and tunnels a low-80s slider really well off it to get strikeouts. His 30.1 percent K rate was second-best among Cardinals Minor Leaguers with at least 60 innings this summer. Control will be a focus after walking 38 in 68 1/3 frames at Double-A and Triple-A, but Granillo already showed his stuff works in the Fall League with five K’s over two innings in his debut Tuesday.

Cubs: Jose Romero, RHP
Signed for just $10,000 out of Venezuela in 2020, Romero has become one of the better relief prospects in the Cubs system. He compiled a 2.77 ERA, .193 opponent average and 68 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings in Single-A while displaying a 93-95 mph fastball and solid slider.

Pirates: Alessandro Ercolani, RHP
This could be more than just the human interest story of Ercolani wanting to become the first big leaguer from the tiny country of San Marino (It’s not a part of Italy!). He has a fastball that can touch 95-96 and a solid slider to go along with it. He needs to work on his command (he walked four in his AFL debut) and his offspeed stuff, but he can miss bats.

Reds: Jacob Hurtubise, OF
After four years at Army, Hurtubise signed with the Reds as a nondrafted free agent following the shortened 2020 Draft. He has 70-grade speed and hasn’t been afraid to use it, with a career-high 45 steals in a breakout season in 2023. Now 25, Hurtubise hit a combined .330/.479/.483 this past season and walked more than he struck out while leading the Minors in OBP.


D-backs: Caleb Roberts, C/OF 
Roberts finished third in the Texas League with a .523 slugging percentage and fifth with a .906 OPS, but he achieved those playing in one of the Minors’ most hitter-friendly environments in Amarillo. He slugged .677 in Sod Poodles home games, compared to .360 on the road. The 2021 fifth-rounder’s power gains were still impressive, and the advanced competition of the AFL (at times a hitter’s paradise itself) should provide another litmus test for the lefty slugger’s bat.

Dodgers: Ben Casparius, RHP
Casparius trusts his plus 82-85 mph slider more than his low-90s fastball, and he may be better off moving from the rotation to the bullpen in the long run. A 2021 fifth-round pick from Connecticut, he compiled a 5.27 ERA with 120 strikeouts in 107 2/3 innings between High-A and Double-A.

Giants: Hayden Wynja, LHP
After bouncing from Purdue to Lincoln Trial (Ill.) CC to South Florida to Murray State, Wynja signed with the Giants as a nondrafted free agent in 2022. A 6-foot-9 lefty with deceptive angle, a low-90s fastball and a quality slider, he recorded a 4.16 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 97 1/3 innings between Single-A and High-A.

Padres: Cole Paplham, RHP
Much was made about Ethan Salas and Robby Snelling climbing from Single-A to Double-A in their first full seasons. Well, Paplham did the same, albeit older as a 23-year-old who signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of New Orleans. The 6-foot-3 right-hander moved quickly on the strength of his 95-97 mph fastball and 85-87 mph sweeping slider -- the latter of which was a huge bat-misser in 2023. Paplham already has the makings of a developmental win for San Diego, and if the stuff holds up in the AFL, he’ll be an even more prominent arm in the system heading into ’24.

Rockies: Juan Mejia, RHP
The sleeper tag may have been ripped off when he recorded all four of his outs via strikeout in his AFL debut on Monday, but that’s OK. The right-handed reliever is coming off a year that saw him reach Double-A for the first time while finishing with a 13.2 K/9 rate across two levels. He goes right after hitters with a fastball that can touch 98 mph and a slider that keeps getting better.