Here's a look at Thursday’s top performers in the Arizona Fall League from each team's Top 30 Prospects list.
Pirates: Nick Gonzales, 2B (MLB No. 62), Peoria Javelinas
Gonzales reached base four times with two singles and two walks in Peoria’s loss, driving in a run with one of his base knocks. The slugging second baseman, who has cracked three doubles through six contests in Arizona, is looking to build off an impressive 2021 campaign in which he shook off a finger injury and went on a hot streak that lasted from mid-July to the end of the season. In his debut year, Gonzales mashed 18 homers and 45 extra-base hits in 80 games, slashing .302/.385/.565 with a .950 OPS for High-A Greensboro. To start his time in the Fall League, the 2020 Draft’s seventh overall pick has posted a .292 average and an .810 OPS while getting some reps in at shortstop. More »
Marlins: JJ Bleday, OF (MLB No. 71), Mesa Solar Sox
Bleday led the way in Mesa's come-from-behind 7-6 victory with a three-hit game and two RBIs. Bleday cashed in two runs in the top of the ninth with a single and scored the go-ahead run on a bases-loaded walk. The Vanderbilt product, who was touted as one of the best college bats in the 2019 Draft, endured a tough regular season with a .212 average and a .695 OPS in 110 games for Double-A Pensacola. Through five AFL games, the lefty slugger has found his contact stroke and on-base skills, batting .333 while posting a .478 OBP. With only one double, Bleday’s slugging percentage lags behind at .389, but he has plenty of time to regain the power stroke that made him the fourth overall selection in the 2019 Draft.
Braves: Victor Vodnik, RHP (No. 20), Peoria Javelinas
After allowing six earned runs in three innings in his Fall League debut, Vodnik bounced back with four scoreless innings, allowing three hits, fanning four and walking three. The right-hander tossed 34 of his 64 pitches for strikes, showing the control issues that plagued him during the 2021 Minor League regular season. In 33.2 innings and 11 starts for the Double-A South champion Mississippi Braves, Vodnik posted a 5.35 ERA with 41 strikeouts to 22 walks. Vodnik’s fastball can reach up to 99 mph, providing him with a put away pitch that led to his 10.96 K/9 this season.
Cardinals: Juan Yepez, OF (No. 27), Glendale Desert Dogs
Yepez impressed all season at the plate and has continued his hot hitting in Arizona as a stalwart in Glendale’s lineup. The right-hander went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored in the Desert Dogs’ 10-5 win, boosting his average to .333 through six Fall League games. Both of Yepez’s RBIs came on his first-inning double, his third of the season, to kick off the scoring for Glendale. Yepez has totaled four extra-base hits in six games, showing off the over-the-fence and gap power that led him to hit careeer highs of 27 homers and 29 doubles in the regular season. More »
Nationals: Jackson Cluff, SS (No. 19), Surprise Saguaros
Cluff reached base four times in five plate appearances and drilled his first Fall League homer, a two-run blast in the second inning that put Surprise up 3-0. The 24-year-old went 2-for-3 with four runs scored, three RBIs and two walks during his productive day in the batter’s box. Cluff is one of seven Saguaros rocking an OPS over 1.000 through the first seven games of the season, posting a slash line of .308/.412/.615 with a 1.027 OPS in 17 plate appearances to begin his time in Arizona.
Rangers: Ezequiel Duran, 3B (No. 7), Surprise Saguaros
Duran hit out of the nine-hole for the Saguaros but was the main driver of the offense in Surprise's 17-2 rout of Scottsdale. The 22-year-old knocked a home run, two doubles, drove in five runs and scored three in a breakout performance. Duran’s first home run in the Fall League was a two-run tater in the fourth, and he tacked on RBIs with a ground-rule double in the seventh and a two-run double in the eighth. Duran boosted his average to .385 and his OPS to 1.308 through his first four AFL games.
Yankees: Austin Wells, C (No. 6), Surprise Saguaros
Wells has come out of the Fall League gates on fire, going 9-for-18 with five extra-base hits in his first five games. The slugging catcher whacked his first home run in Surprise’s 17-2 win, going 3-for-4 with his third double, three runs, a walk and a strikeout. Wells’ three-hit day came on the heels of a four-hit, four-RBI game Monday, and the lefty has posted a slash line of .500/.550/.944 for a 1.494 OPS. Wells flashed his in-game power with 16 homers and 44 extra-base hits in 103 games during the regular season and is already turning heads in Arizona. More »