Feel the crispness in the air. Fall is on our doorstep, and you know what that means:
We'll see you in the desert.
The Arizona Fall League announced its 2023 rosters Friday with several of baseball's top young talents scattered across the six rosters in the Grand Canyon State's Valley of the Sun.
Ten of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects are headed to this year's showcase circuit, with the Guardians and Tigers leading the way with two apiece:
17. Colson Montgomery, SS, White Sox (Glendale)
19. Carson Williams, SS, Rays (Peoria)
31. Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Blue Jays (Surprise)
39. Harry Ford, C, Mariners (Peoria)
54. Jackson Jobe, RHP, Tigers (Salt River)
58. Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Guardians (Peoria)
67. Jace Jung, 2B, Tigers (Salt River)
71. Kevin Alcántara, OF, Cubs (Mesa)
85. Chase DeLauter, OF, Guardians (Peoria)
89. Kevin Parada, C, Mets (Glendale)
Five Major League organizations will team up to form each of the half-dozen rosters in this year's AFL, and the assignments for those clubs are:
Glendale Desert Dogs: Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox, Twins, White Sox
Mesa Solar Sox: Astros, Athletics, Cubs, Orioles, Yankees
Peoria Javelinas: Guardians, Mariners, Marlins, Padres, Rays
Salt River Rafters: Braves, D-backs, Pirates, Rockies, Tigers
Scottsdale Scorpions: Angels, Cardinals, Giants, Phillies, Nationals
Surprise Saguaros: Blue Jays, Brewers, Rangers, Reds, Royals
The Arizona Fall League regular season begins on Monday, Oct. 2 and runs through Thursday, Nov. 9. The play-in semifinals will take place between the second- and third-place squads on Friday, Nov. 10, at Glendale's Camelback Ranch. The AFL Championship Game will be played on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Scottsdale Stadium. The AFL is expanding stadiums to add a tripleheader at Goodyear Ballpark (Spring Training home of the Guardians and Reds) on Saturday, Oct. 14, and a doubleheader at Hohokam Stadium (Spring Training home of the A's) on Saturday, Oct. 28. The AFL Home Run Derby returns to Mesa's Sloan Park on Saturday, Nov. 4 with the annual Fall Stars Game in the same place a day later.
Here are the initial AFL rosters as released Friday, broken down by each of the 30 farm systems:
Sidelined for parts of the summer with biceps issues, Tiedemann will be the most high-profile arm in the desert this year, bringing a mid-90s fastball, above-average slider and plus-plus changeup to the Saguaros staff as he makes up for lost time. Fresh off back-to-back 20-plus-homer seasons, Palmegiani will supply power as well, with Brown adding his 80-grade speed.
The best farm system in baseball is sending a trio of Top 30 guys to Arizona. The most intriguing from that group might be Baumler, who was an over-slot signing in the truncated 2020 Draft but has gone through both Tommy John and shoulder surgery since he began his pro career. He has fewer than 30 innings of pro experience, but he's healthy and can put some much-needed mileage on his arm this fall.
Williams is a gifted defender at shortstop -- he won a Minor League Gold Glove award last year -- and he also has plus power and above-average speed, having hit 23 homers and stolen 20 bags this season in 115 games, primarily at High-A Bowling Green. Keegan, a 2022 fourth-rounder, was one of Tampa Bay's breakout prospects of the season, drawing praise for a solid offensive skill set (.852 OPS across two A-ball levels) and improving defense -- both of which will be tested in Arizona at the end of his first full season.
Mata might be the most recognizable name as a former top pitching prospect who has been limited by Tommy John surgery and shoulder issues in recent years. He was back up to 97-98 mph in two recent outings for Triple-A Worcester, so the Sox will hope the velo keeps coming with Glendale. Bonaci is coming off his best Minor League offensive season, having hit .297 at High-A and Double-A, while setting a career high with 11 homers, and Hickey provides some pop too as a bat-first catcher.
Yankees (Mesa): Benjamin Cowles, 2B/3B/SS; Caleb Durbin, 2B/3B; Nolberto Henriquez, RHP; Nelson Medina, OF; Kevin Stevens, RHP; Baron Stuart, RHP; Trystan Vrieling, RHP
Vrieling, ranked No. 17 on the Yankees' preseason Top 30, didn't get to make his pro debut this summer after dealing with right elbow issues in the spring, so that first look will come in Arizona instead. The 2022 third-rounder stood out for the spin rates on his low-80s curveball and mid-80s slider at Gonzaga, so it'll be interesting to see how they play after the time off against bats coming off a full campaign.
When Cleveland acquired Manzardo at the Trade Deadline, the first baseman had been out for nearly a month with a left shoulder injury. Having returned to Triple-A in late August, he's hit his stride with Columbus since that comeback with 13 of his 18 hits going for extra bases in that span. DeLauter missed much of his first full season because of a fractured left foot but was awfully productive when he did play, slashing .355/.417/.528 with five homers and 22 doubles in 57 games between High-A and Double-A. A productive AFL could fuel an even bigger breakout headed into the offseason.
Loftin has been with the big club for all of September -- playing second, third and first base -- and has been at his best protecting the plate with low chase and whiff rates. Cross, who has been out since Aug. 9 due to illness, will look to end his first full season on a brighter note after the 2022 ninth overall pick slashed just .206/.300/.383 in 94 games with High-A Quad Cities before a brief promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Jobe missed time in the first half due to lumbar spine inflammation but was mighty effective down the stretch with a 1.61 ERA, 34 strikeouts and zero walks over his final five starts (28 innings) with High-A West Michigan and Double-A Erie. His high-spin slider will be one of the best pitches in the desert. Not to be outdone, Jung (28 homers) proved his power could play immediately in pro ball, and along the same lines, keep an eye on Bigbie as he closes out a breakout season (.344/.405/.536, 18 homers) across the Minors' top three levels.
Twins (Glendale): Kala'i Rosario, OF (No. 19); Malik Barrington, RHP; Jordan Carr, LHP; Andrew Cossetti, C; Ben Ethridge, RHP; A.J. Labas, RHP; Aaron Sabato, 1B; Zach Veen, LHP
Rosario was a fifth-rounder out of the Hawaiian high school class in the 2020 Draft, and he's established his power-hitting bona fides since, coming off a year with High-A Cedar Rapids that saw him hit 21 homers and drive in 94 runs. Sabato was the club's first-rounder that year and has yet to get his bat going consistently as a pro.
Montgomery was a prime AFL candidate after a back injury kept him from making his season debut until mid-June. The 2021 22nd overall pick still holds a reputation as a shortstop with the potential to be a plus hitter with 60-grade power, and after testing those skills at Double-A late in 2023, he could be primed for takeoff in Arizona. The Fall League will also offer an opportunity for the Sox to get a closer look at Eder, who was picked up from the Marlins for Jake Burger but posted an 11.42 ERA with 22 K’s and 15 walks in 17 1/3 Double-A innings after the deal. His fastball and slider have both flashed plus.
The Angels aren't afraid to challenge their prospects, and the AFL is no exception. Placencia is just 20, an infielder who got $1.1 million to sign in July 2019. He had a solid full-season debut in 2022, but the move to High-A in 2023 didn't go as well, though he still showed excellent on-base skills and did get a taste of Double-A. Sanchez has yet to play above Single-A but put together a solid 2023 season, finishing with an .853 OPS.
Dezenzo, the Astros' 12th-round pick in 2022, has really jumped on the radar this year, going from unranked to No. 5 on their Top 30. He finished the year in Double-A and was just two homers shy of a 20-20 campaign. Corona is an outfielder who spent most of the 2023 season in Double-A and turned in a 20-30 season (22 homers, 32 steals).
Sometimes prospects respond to the challenge of a promotion. That's what happened this year with Muncy, the A's first-rounder from 2021, who slashed .302/.387/.446 in 51 games once he got nudged up to Double-A and finished the year with double-digit home runs and steals. The A's got Salinas from the Braves in the Sean Murphy deal, and he was limited by a right forearm strain. He still managed to strike out 11.7 per nine, and it will be fun to see his fastball-slider combination miss bats in Arizona.
Ford is one of the highest-profile prospects on any roster this fall, a 2023 Futures Game participant and World Baseball Classic legend who spent the year in High-A and finished with 15 homers, 24 steals and 103 walks. Bliss is another Futures Gamer, having gone as a D-backs rep before being sent to the Mariners in the Paul Sewald trade. He made it to Triple-A and turned in a 20-50 season to go along with a combined .307/.377/.524 line.
Ortiz was one of the Minors' most prolific power hitters in 2023, leading full-season qualifiers with a .619 slugging percentage while clubbing 33 homers in 109 games between Single-A and High-A. Interestingly, he was listed on the Saguaros roster as an outfielder after primarily playing first this summer. Cauley is a plus-plus runner with good defensive range up the middle, and Teodo's velocity (he's touched triple digits) is worth following on the showcase circuit.
Shoulder inflammation kept Vines off the mound until the end of June this year, though he still managed to pitch his way to the big leagues for the first time. After throwing well for Triple-A Gwinnett and showing out with Atlanta, he can make up for lost innings in the AFL. McCabe is an interesting switch-hitting corner infielder who was the club’s fourth-round pick in 2022, one who played across two levels of A ball in his first full season and showed an affinity for getting on base (80 walks, .385 OBP) and some pop (17 homers).
The No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 Draft, Berry has struggled to make his anticipated impact at the plate as a pro. He did reach Double-A in his first full season but finished with a combined .672 OPS and just nine homers; perhaps a trip to the AFL will help him find his power groove. Nuñez hasn’t hit much, but he can really run (52 steals in 2023 after 70 in ’22) and was the Futures Game MVP this summer.
Mets (Glendale): Kevin Parada, C (No. 5/MLB No. 89); Nolan Clenney, RHP; Jordan Geber, RHP; Brendan Hardy, RHP; Rowdey Jordan, OF/2B; Trey McLoughlin, RHP; JT Schwartz, 1B; Tyler Thomas, LHP; D'Andre Smith, 2B
Parada missed a little time in August due to a right ankle sprain but he might be headed to Arizona with defense on the brain. Although the 2022 11th overall pick can flash power, he is still a question to stick behind the plate coming off his first full season. Working with a Desert Dogs staff made up of pitchers from five different organizations should be a good test heading into the offseason. Despite being a first baseman, Schwartz brings a contact-over-power profile to Glendale, having hit .302 with a 16.6 percent K rate in 66 games for Double-A Binghamton.
This will offer a second AFL go-round for Hassell, who got in two games last year before breaking the hamate bone in his right hand. Once healthy, the 22-year-old outfielder didn't take off as hoped at Double-A (.225/.316/.324), but a trip to the hitter-friendly desert could generate some momentum. Adding in-game power should be a primary focus. Lipscomb, last year's third-rounder, enjoyed a solid year at High-A and Double-A and could be an option on the dirt for Washington by this time next year.
While the Angels' Nolan Schanuel might be getting most of the Florida Atlantic University product buzz these days, before he was a first-rounder this year, Rincones was the earliest pick from the school since 2018. The third-rounder showed off some pop (31 doubles, 15 homers) and surprisingly good baserunning instincts (32 steals) across two levels of A ball this year. McGowan is still putting 2022 Tommy John surgery in his rearview mirror, but he has very good stuff, particularly his fastball and slider.
Taken 27th overall last year, Brown was limited to only 63 games with High-A Wisconsin this year due to a right thumb injury and a left scapula hairline fracture -- the latter of which kept him out for much of July and August. While on the field, he used his speed to good effect with 37 steals and had a contact-first offensive profile with a 16.7 percent K rate. He heads to Arizona after a late-season cameo at Double-A Biloxi.
Scott led the Minors with 95 steals in his first full season and adds 80-grade speed to the Scorpions lineup. A better-than-expected bat fueled his rise up the Cards ranks and he will be tested in the AFL. Roby (shoulder) and Hjerpe (elbow) will be making up for lost time as they try to prove themselves in a system that saw its starting pitcher depth improved by Deadline deals. Expect major gas from Nunez out of the Scottsdale bullpen too.
Alcántara is a 6-foot-6 toolshed who can do a lot of things really well. He missed a few weeks with a leg injury but still managed to reach double digits in homers and steals while playing mostly at High-A and not turning 21 until July. Triantos hasn't tapped into much power as a pro, but he has impressive contact skills (14.1 percent K rate thus far). He missed a bunch of time this year following knee surgery and his AFL time will get him ready to hit the upper levels running in 2024.
Brannigan was a two-way player in college and has opened a lot of eyes as a full-time hitter in his first full season as a pro, finishing a homer shy of a 20-20 year and showing enough athleticism to perhaps get a longer look at shortstop. Bowen was an over-slot 11th-round pick in 2019 who still needs to work on his approach, but he has an intriguing power-speed combination that did lead to a 20-20 campaign for him this year as he touched Double-A for the first time.
Reds (Surprise): Austin Callahan, 3B; Bryce Hubbart, LHP; Zach Maxwell, RHP; Andrew Moore, RHP; Jayvien Sandridge, LHP; Carson Spiers, RHP; Michael Trautwein, LHP
It will be interesting to see whether Hubbart, the club's third-rounder out of Florida State in 2022, can right the ship after a very uneven first full year of pro ball that included a late start to the season, a month on the injured list and difficulty finding the strike zone. Signed as a non-drafted free agent in June 2020, Spiers has already exceeded expectations by making his big league debut this year. He took a big step forward in learning how to use his arsenal while filling multiple roles. He's headed to Arizona to build out his innings count with the hopes of potentially being a swingman-type who can impact the big league staff more in 2024.
Melendez was the only member of this year's Minor League 30-homer club to accomplish the feat in 100 or fewer games after he went deep 30 times in 96 contests between High-A Hillsboro and Double-A Amarillo. He'll need to make more contact to tap into that incredible raw power though after fanning 34.3 percent of the time in 2023. Vukovich shows good pop as well and adds athleticism to hold onto his spot in Arizona's Top 10. He'll head to Triple-A Reno next season.
While Kopp, a Draft League product in 2021, has struggled with his command as a pro (6.2 BB/9), there's no question he has swing-and-miss stuff, with a 13.3 K/9 rate this year in High-A to go along with a .184 average-against. Vogel hasn't been able to figure things out offensively since the Dodgers went over slot to sign him in the third round of the 2020 Draft, but he does have premium speed that plays on the basepaths and in the outfield.
There might not be a more fascinating prospect in the AFL this year than Crawford, the Giants' first-round pick in 2022. He missed his last year of college because of Tommy John surgery but came back this year to pitch 19 innings and show off premium stuff. He's also a two-way guy who picked up 17 at-bats this past summer and will be hitter-only -- likely as a DH -- this fall. A stress reaction in his back has severely limited Bednar since the Giants took him in Round 1 in 2021, but he's hoping a return trip to the AFL can help him head in the right direction.
San Diego's 2022 Draft class may have unearthed some true gems with Martorella (fifth round), Marsee (sixth) and Pauley (13th) all reaching Double-A by the end of their first full seasons. Pauley was a breakout star this summer, beating expectations with a .308/.393/.538 line, 23 homers and 22 steals between Single-A, High-A and Double-A while never appearing to slow down. While all three could be fatigued after a long campaign, any production they show in Peoria will be fuel for their continued rises.
This is an intriguing group of bats led by Thompson, who posted a .863 OPS to go along with 14 homers and 17 steals while reaching Double-A in his first full season of pro ball despite missing a month due to injury. Montgomery was the club's first-rounder in 2021 and has a good power-speed combination, while Romo is an outstanding defensive catcher who is still figuring things out offensively.