First impressions are everything, but that especially rings true in the Arizona Fall League, where some of the Minor Leagues' best converge for six weeks of prospect v. prospect battles.
Rockies outfielder Zac Veen stepped up to the challenge from the jump, earning the Fall League's first NFP Hitter of the Week Award of the season, while Mariners right-hander Bryan Woo and Tigers southpaw Joey Wentz impressed in their debuts to earn NFP Co-Pitcher of the Week honors, for games from Oct. 3 through Oct. 8.
“I’m trying to always be on that fastball and trying not to do too much,” Veen said, adding, “I never really considered myself a ‘fast’ guy, but I do take pride in my jumps and knowing the timing of the pitcher.”
Veen, 20, played the majority of the regular season for High-A Spokane, hitting .269 with an .806 OPS and a Northwest League-best 50 stolen bases in 92 games. He earned a promotion to Double-A Hartford in August that came with highs and lows, but an assignment to the Fall League allows him to continue seeing an advanced level of competition.
"It's much more refined and you've got to have a lot more discipline," Veen said on the difference in the pitching he faced at Double-A. "A lot of the guys that I played against in that league are in the Fall League and it's always good to go up against the best talent in the world."
“The fastball was moving around well,” Woo said. “I was able to command it at the top of the zone a lot. I was able to come in, and that opened up a lot of other pitches in spots for me.”
A sixth-round Draft pick in 2021, Woo didn't make his professional debut until this past June after finishing his rehab from Tommy John surgery. In 57 innings split between the ACL Mariners, Single-A Modesto and High-A Everett, he posted a 4.11 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 22 walks.
While Woo was nearly perfect, Wentz was spotless. Detroit's No. 24 prospect worked four innings on Saturday, Oct. 8, and set down all 12 batters he faced for Salt River, striking out three of them. Wentz topped out at 93.6 mph and landed 18 of 21 fastballs (86%) for strikes.
The left-hander made his Major League debut in May and ultimately started seven games for the Tigers, delivering a strong 3.03 ERA in his rookie season. Wentz found similar success with Triple-A Toledo, pitching to a 3.17 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts). He'll look to cap his season with a few more positive outings for the Rafters.
Another trio of prospects was named to the AFL's opening week honor roll.
Jorbit Vivas, ranked No. 16 in the Dodgers system, posted a .545/.643/.727 slash line while scoring a run in each of his four games for Glendale.
No. 3 Giants prospect Luis Matos led the league with 16 total bases, going yard twice and also posting a triple and a double over five games for Scottsdale.
Braves prospect Allan Winans -- another Scorpions standout -- turned in five innings of one-hit ball against Mesa in his AFL debut, punching out five along the way.