Opening Day is right around the corner.
The Arizona Fall League begins play next Monday, Oct. 2, and runs through the championship game on Nov. 11.
Known as a prospect finishing school, the AFL has boasted some big names in recent years like 2023 rookies Jordan Walker, Triston Casas and Jordan Lawlar as well as all-time greats like Mike Trout, Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (and yes, even Michael Jordan) since its inception in 1992.
The 2023 Fall League rosters were officially announced last week. Below are the top prospects headed to Arizona from each of the 30 farm systems:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Ricky Tiedemann, LHP (No. 1/MLB No. 31)
The 21-year-old left-hander is the top-ranked arm headed to the desert this year, and he’ll join Surprise with a good chunk of missed time to make up. Tiedemann was limited to 44 innings this season due to biceps issues but worked his way to Buffalo for his Triple-A debut last week. He touched 97.6 mph with his fastball in that 75-pitch outing and had called strike-whiff rates higher than 50 percent on both his slider and changeup, showing his stuff could be ready to dominate the AFL.
Orioles: John Rhodes, OF (No. 20)
Though he did spend the year in Double-A in 2023, Rhodes has had difficulty replicating his success from his early days at Kentucky or in the Cape Cod League in his Draft year of 2021. He did start tapping into his raw power more with Bowie this year, hitting 17 homers, and his time in the AFL should help him continue to refine his overall approach at the plate.
Rays: Carson Williams, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 19)
The AFL hands out an annual Defensive Player of the Year, and Williams -- 2022 Minor League Gold Glove winner -- has as good a shot as any Fall Leaguer to claim this year’s prize with his good range, solid hands and plus arm strength. The 20-year-old also brings plus power to the Peoria lineup, having hit 42 homers over his first two full seasons. The strikeouts will need monitoring, but the 20-year-old could be one of the toolsiest players in this year’s AFL class.
Red Sox: Brainer Bonaci, SS/2B (No. 11)
The 21-year-old switch-hitter has added muscle as he’s matured into his career, and that showed this season when he set new career highs with 11 homers, a .464 slugging percentage and an .818 OPS over 79 games between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. He has good range on the dirt and enough arm strength to feature on the left side, though he has a good amount of experience at second. Bonaci went unprotected when Rule 5-eligible last year and will be out to fight for a 40-man spot this time around with experience in Arizona.
Yankees: Trystan Vrieling, RHP (Not ranked among Yankees Top 30)
New York isn’t sending a Top 30 prospect to Arizona, but Vrieling did check in at No. 17 on the MLB Pipeline preseason ranking before right elbow issues kept him from throwing a pitch in a regular-season game. He specialized in spin at Gonzaga with promising grades on his low-80s curveball and mid-80s slider, and those will deserve close monitoring during the right-hander’s stint with Glendale. The Yanks clearly trust him to get outs against such advanced competition, even after all the lost time.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Kyle Manzardo, 1B (No. 2/MLB No. 58)
Manzardo was battling a left shoulder injury when he was traded from the Rays to the Guardians at the Trade Deadline. After returning to Triple-A ball on Aug. 24, he caught fire late for Columbus, hitting six homers with a .651 slugging percentage and .998 OPS over 17 games in September. He takes that hot bat to the Peoria roster, where he should very much be treating the AFL as a prospect finishing school. When healthy, Manzardo shows a solid approach and the capability to find the barrel -- skills that should make him an MLB option for Cleveland next spring.
Royals: Nick Loftin, UTIL (No. 5)
Loftin joins the rare club of Fall Leaguers with Major League experience, having been with Kansas City since the start of September. Entering Wednesday, he’d shown positive results (.360/.411/.500) over his first 16 games in the bigs while moving around defensively with time at first, second and third. A right meniscus injury held him out of the Triple-A Omaha lineup for six weeks in June and July, so he’ll head to Surprise looking to make up for the lost time, even on the back of a stint in The Show.
Tigers: Jackson Jobe, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 54)
Having missed much of the first half due to lumbar spine inflammation, Jobe heads to Arizona with as much helium as any other Fall Leaguer. The 21-year-old right-hander did not walk a batter in his final five starts between High-A West Michigan and Double-A Erie, posting a 1.61 ERA with 34 strikeouts in that 28-inning span. His slider continues to exhibit elite spin rates, and his low-90s cutter adds another layer of excitement. If he can keep the levels of stuff and control in the AFL, Jobe could easily carve out an even more prominent ranking among pitchers headed into 2024.
Twins: Kala’i Rosario, OF (No. 19)
The Twins’ final selection in the shortened 2020 Draft, Rosario is coming off a bit of a breakout season while winning a Midwest League title with Cedar Rapids this year. The right-handed-hitting outfielder has really started finding his power stroke, finishing the year with 21 homers and 94 RBIs, both of which led the High-A circuit.
White Sox: Colson Montgomery, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 17)
The highest-ranked Fall Leaguer in this year’s class, Montgomery didn’t make his season debut until June 19 because of a back injury, and that missed time made him a perfect AFL candidate. The 2021 22nd overall pick already draws plus grades for his hit and power tools from the left side, and after taking a 37-game spin at Double-A Birmingham, the AFL pitching shouldn’t be much more challenging than what he’s seen. Now that Montgomery’s fully in the swing of things, expect a standout performance in Glendale.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Adrian Placencia, 2B (No. 10)
The Angels are no strangers to pushing prospects aggressively, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone they’re sending Placencia, who turned 20 just this past June, to the Fall League. The 2023 season was a bit of a struggle offensively for the switch-hitting infielder, though he did reach double digits in home runs and swiped more than 20 bags while touching Double-A for the first time.
Astros: Zach Dezenzo, 3B/2B (No. 5)
Dezenzo wasn’t even on the Astros’ Top 30 at the start of the 2023 season and now he’s in the top five. Taken in Round 12 of the 2022 Draft out of Ohio State, he destroyed South Atlantic League pitching at the start of his first full season, with a 1.102 OPS in 31 games leading to a promotion to Double-A. He wasn’t as dominant there, but he still finished the year with 18 homers, 22 steals and an impressive combined 141 wRC+.
A’s: Max Muncy, SS (No. 8)
After the A’s took him near the end of the first round of the 2021 Draft, Muncy’s first full season, across two levels of A ball as a teenager, was uneven, though he did have 19 homers and 19 steals. Things started to click for him when he got to Double-A this year, and he hit .302/.387/.446 in 51 games at the level, leading some to believe the best is yet to come for the middle infielder.
Mariners: Harry Ford, C (No. 2/MLB No. 39)
Sir Harry will be coming off another terrific international competition performance, hitting well for Great Britain in the European Championships before heading to the AFL. He also had an OPS over 1.000 in August as the 20-year old finished strongly in the High-A Northwest League and his time in Arizona should help get him ready on both sides of the ball for the upper levels following a year that saw him land third among all Minor League hitters with 103 walks.
Rangers: Cameron Cauley, SS/2B (No. 13)
Cauley enjoys plus-plus speed and put that to good use with back-to-back seasons with 35-plus steals in both 2022 and 2023. The 2021 third-rounder took a nice jump in power too, going from two homers last season to 12 this year between Single-A and High-A. Beyond speed, his best grades come on the defensive side at both short and second, though throwing questions may land at the latter long-term.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: David McCabe, 3B (No. 16)
Shout out to Darius Vines, who is a higher-ranked prospect currently on the Salt River roster, but with him currently in the big leagues, we’ll go with the Canadian switch-hitting corner infielder with pop. He’s much better from the left side, hitting 16 of his 17 homers this season that way, and he finished with 80 walks and a .386 OBP across two levels of A ball in his first full season of pro ball.
Marlins: Jacob Berry, 3B/1B (No. 4)
Berry was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 Draft as an impressive switch-hitting corner infield type who would be able to hit his way to the big leagues quickly. He did make it to Double-A and, to his credit, hit better there than he did in High-A. There’s been a surprising lack of impact (nine homers), but Berry did dig himself out of a big hole from his early-season struggles (.492 OPS through May) to salvage the year.
Mets: Kevin Parada, C (No. 5/MLB No. 89)
The 2022 11th overall pick will end his first full season with extended time in Arizona, which should provide him with additional opportunities to work defensively behind the plate. Parada still exhibits the potential for plus power, and that makes him a notable performer at a premium position. But his glovework and arm still need improving for him to reach his lofty ceiling, and working with a large and diverse Glendale pitching staff should help in that regard.
Nationals: Robert Hassell III, OF (No. 8)
Hassell gets a second crack at the AFL after a broken hamate ended his first stint last fall early. The 2020 eighth overall pick should use his time with Scottsdale to work on ending 2023 on a brighter note after hitting just .225/.316/.324 in 106 games with Double-A Harrisburg this summer. Power should be a point of emphasis after he hit just eight homers, although the after-effects of the hamate injury could be partly to blame. Still, the Nats boast a burgeoning outfield corps in the Minor League levels, and Hassell can’t afford to lose much more ground on his way to the capital.
Phillies: Gabriel Rincones Jr., OF (No. 9)
Rincones went from the junior college ranks to starring at Florida Atlantic in 2022, allowing him to land in the third round of the 2022 Draft. He split his first full season of pro ball between both levels of A ball and finished with 15 homers and 31 doubles, with more power to come, to go along with a surprising 32 steals. The AFL should serve as a good stepping stone to the upper levels of the Phillies’ system.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Eric Brown Jr., SS (No. 10)
The 2022 27th overall pick met expectations with a healthy 16.7 percent K rate and 37 steals at High-A Wisconsin but was limited to only 63 games due to a right thumb injury and a left scapula hairline fracture. His above-average speed plays well at shortstop, and he’s gotten some looks at second base early in his pro career, giving him the versatility that could lead to more at-bats with Surprise.
Cardinals: Victor Scott II, OF (No. 4)
Scott was the breakout prospect of the St. Louis system this season after tying for the Minor League lead with 94 steals in 132 games between High-A and Double-A, and he showed a better-than-expected bat in pro ball too with a combined .303/.369/.425 line at the pair of stops. The 2022 fifth-rounder plays a mean center field with 80-grade speed that helps him track down balls between the gaps. Without an injury to make up or a 40-man spot to play for just yet, this is the dessert reward to Scott’s main course of a regular season, but don’t be surprised if he turns some heads from the Scottsdale lineup all the same.
Cubs: Kevin Alcántara, OF (No. 4/MLB No. 71)
While he missed time with a leg injury, Alcántara did still reach double digits in both homers and steals in 2023. He also got nudged up to Double-A in time to help Tennessee win the Southern League title. He’s a 6-foot-6 bucket of tools the Cubs got from the Yankees in the Anthony Rizzo trade and could be one of the most dynamic prospects in the Fall League this year.
Pirates: Jack Brannigan, 3B (No. 23)
The Pirates’ third-rounder in 2022 out of Notre Dame, Brannigan took a big step forward this year, his first focusing on hitting only after serving as a reliever in college as well. There are some nice tools here that helped him nearly produce a 20-20 season in his first full year of pro ball. His athleticism plays on both sides of the ball and the Pirates started giving him reps at shortstop, something that could be interesting to see more of in the future.
Reds: Carson Spiers, RHP (Not ranked among Reds Top 30)
Spiers was an undrafted free agent who signed after the shortened 2020 Draft and in many ways he and the organization are playing with house money, with him far exceeding expectations by reaching the big leagues this year. He’s pitched in a variety of roles and he’ll keep getting innings with hopes of carving out a swingman type of career.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Ivan Melendez, 3B/1B (No. 8)
The 2022 Golden Spikes winner made sure his power played in pro ball with 30 homers in only 96 games between High-A Hillsboro and Double-A Amarillo. That plus pop comes with a lot of contact issues too -- Melendez struck out at least one-third of the time at both stops -- so it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep the K’s relatively in check with Salt River. Don’t be shocked if Melendez ranks among the AFL homer leaders throughout the six-week season.
Dodgers: Ronan Kopp, LHP (No. 16)
Kopp was a junior college standout who used the 2021 Draft Combine to really improve his stock, allowing him to land in Round 12 to the Dodgers that summer. He’s been missing bats since, striking out 14.5 per nine in his career to date, including 13.3 per nine in High-A this year. The stuff will no doubt play, but the 6-foot-7 lefty will need to work on his strike-throwing (6.2 BB/9) as he moves up the ladder.
Giants: Reggie Crawford, LHP/1B (No. 8)
Crawford could lay claim to being the most fascinating prospect in the Fall League thanks to the fact he’s still a two-way guy and his lack of overall track record in college or as a pro, with Tommy John surgery being a big reason why. Crawford made it back to the mound this year, but will actually be only swinging the bat this fall, with most of his ABs likely to come as a designated hitter. He has raw power to spare but has only 40 professional plate appearances under his belt.
Padres: Nathan Martorella, 1B (No. 10)
You could go with any one of Martorella, Graham Pauley or Jakob Marsee -- currently ranked at spots 10-12 on our Padres Top 30 -- in this spot and not be wrong. For his part, Martorella proved he can reach base at a solid clip with a .371 OBP over 112 games at High-A Fort Wayne and showed solid power in his first full season with 19 homers in 135 contests total between Fort Wayne and Double-A San Antonio. Elevating the ball should be a point of emphasis to get that pop to play even more after 50 percent of his batted balls were on the ground.
Rockies: Sterlin Thompson, 3B (No. 6)
Even though he missed a month, Thompson hit well enough during his full-season debut to earn a bump from High-A Spokane to Double-A Hartford after 60 games. A .919 OPS probably had something to do with that, and though he wasn’t as solid up a level, he still finished the year with 14 homers and 17 steals while reacclimating himself to playing on the dirt after spending most of his time at the University of Florida in the outfield.