Ranking the 5 best Fall League contingents

September 20th, 2022

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Summer may be over, but that just means Fall is right around the corner. Yes, Fall with a capital F. The Arizona Fall League released its six-team rosters last week, making Friday afternoon feel like a September version of Christmas morning.

As we often say in these parts, the AFL is one of the best times of the year in all of prospectdom because of the way it concentrates some of the best young talents in the game in the Phoenix metropolitan area for six weeks.

But every farm system’s Fall League contingent isn’t the same in terms of talent level. Some organizations prioritize getting previously injured Minor Leaguers extra at-bats/innings. Others want their big names sharpening their tools before impending Major League debuts. That calculus means some groups are just more exciting than others.

These are the five Fall League delegations I’m most excited to see this autumn:

St. Louis Cardinals (Salt River): The Cards are one of two systems sending three Top 100 prospects in No. 6 Jordan Walker, No. 54 Masyn Winn and No. 95 Tink Hence. Walker (our top-ranked AFL prospect) played the entire season at Double-A Springfield, where he hit .306 with an .898 OPS in 119 games, so he might be an MVP candidate. He’ll continue his move to the outfield to get out of Nolan Arenado’s shadow, making his defensive development a must-follow in Arizona. Winn has headline-grabbing tools, as he showed with his triple-digit arm at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, and Hence might be the most intriguing of this year’s pitching crop with three above-average pitches that’ll play anywhere despite his having no experience above Single-A.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Surprise): The Bucs are the other organization with three Top 100 prospects -- No. 20 Henry Davis, No. 47 Quinn Priester and No. 97 Nick Gonzales, all three of whom dealt with injuries in 2022. Davis, the 2021 No. 1 overall pick, might have some of the best power in this year’s Fall League, while Gonzales, who missed a lot of time with a heel issue, already has AFL experience after hitting .380 in 19 games last year. The modern AFL isn’t known for a ton of pitching, but Priester -- with his plus fastball and plus curveball -- could be a star on the mound.

Cincinnati Reds (Glendale): I didn’t intend on an NL Central theme, but it has worked out that way. Particularly, I’m fascinated by the Cincy shortstop depth chart in the Minors, and the Reds are sending two of their best from the position in No. 18 overall prospect Noelvi Marte and No. 76 Matt McLain. Acquired from the Mariners in the Luis Castillo blockbuster, Marte has spent the last week representing Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers so he could arrive in Arizona still hot from that experience. McLain, a 2021 first-rounder, showed power and patience following an aggressive assignment to Double-A, and he should take off more in the AFL with that experience under his belt.

Oakland Athletics (Mesa): The A’s have seven members of their top-30 going to Arizona. No. 98 overall prospect Zack Gelof is the biggest name of the bunch as an infielder with good power and promising athleticism that plays at third and second. Keep an eye on pitchers J.T. Ginn (No. 10), Ryan Cusick (No. 14), Mason Miller (No. 21) and Colin Peluse (No. 25) too. Should those arms prove healthy and productive, Oakland’s system could take a promising jump heading into 2023.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Salt River): You can always sense that the AFL means a touch more to D-backs prospects playing in their potential future backyard, and Arizona didn’t disappoint with a solid group this year, headlined by No. 3 prospect Jordan Lawlar and No. 6 Deyvison De Los Santos. Last year’s sixth overall pick, Lawlar climbed three levels in his first full season, and he has the five above-average tools to transition to prospect graduating school. De Los Santos’ plus-plus raw power rivals that of anyone in the Minors, and a productive autumn could strengthen his Top 100 case.