Arizona Fall League announces Award winners for 2022 season

November 15th, 2022

Scottsdale, Arizona – After the completion of the final week of play, the Arizona Fall League has announced its seasonal award winners for the 2022 season and the Week Six Hitter and Pitcher of the Week.

  • Joe Black MVP Award: Scottsdale Scorpions OF Heston Kjerstad (BAL)

Joe Black is a revered figure in baseball history and the first African American pitcher to win a World Series game. Named in Black’s honor, the AFL’s 2022 Joe Black MVP Award was presented to Heston Kjerstad of the Scottsdale Scorpions. The Baltimore Orioles’ ninth-ranked prospect finished his AFL campaign with the league lead in total bases (61), hits (35) and doubles (9). Kjerstad carried a .357/.385/.622 slash line in the Fall League, hitting five home runs and posting an OPS of 1.007.

  • Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award: Mesa Solar Sox OF Lawrence Butler (OAK)

This award has been given out annually since 2004 to honor the memory of Dernell Stenson after his tragic passing during the 2003 AFL season. This special honor is presented to a player that exemplifies unselfishness, hard work and leadership – much like Stenson demonstrated during his time in the Fall League. Lawrence Butler exhibited these qualities during the 2022 season, opening the eyes of fans, teammates, coaches and staff, making him this year’s well-deserved Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award recipient.

  • Offensive Player of the Year Presented by Louisville Slugger: Salt River Rafters OF Zac Veen (COL)

Standing in the AFL’s top 10 in almost every offensive statistical category, Zac Veen carved out a solid all-around season in the AFL. The lefty slugger not only slashed an impressive .333/.444/.444, but also collected a league-leading 16 stolen bases. Veen’s impressive skillset showed over his 21 games played, making him the AFL’s 2022 Louisville Slugger Offensive Player of the Year.

  • Pitcher of the Year: Salt River Rafters LHP Connor Thomas (STL)

The St. Louis Cardinals’ left-hander had a breakout season in the AFL during his 25 2/3 innings campaign for the Salt River Rafters. Thomas worked a four-pitch mix that he effectively threw for strikes, leading him to the league strikeout title (34). Thomas held a 1.75 ERA after six starts and was highlighted as the National League starting pitcher for the 16th annual Fall Stars Game.

  • Reliever of the Year**:** Mesa Solar Sox RHP Evan Reifert (TB)

Evan Reifert finished his 2022 overall season with a dominant streak in the AFL. The Tampa Bay Rays’ right-hander managed to throw 10 2/3 innings of hitless work through his first seven appearances in the Fall League. It was only until his final outing that Reifert gave a up a hit to end his incredible streak. In 11 2/3 innings pitched, Reifert racked up 25 strikeouts and held opponents to a .025 batting average against.

  • Breakout Player of the Year: Glendale Desert Dogs INF Edouard Julien (MIN)

Coming in as the Twins’ 14th-ranked prospect, infielder Edouard Julien made the most of his Fall League time as he finished the AFL season tied for the batting title with a .400 average and led the league in runs scored.  Julien helped carry his Glendale Desert Dogs to the AFL Championship Game and propelled himself into the eyes of many fans and impressed many MLB writers.

  • Defensive Player of the Year: Scottsdale Scorpions OF Luis Matos (SF)

As one of the premier defenders in High-A this season, Matos brought his superb skills to the Arizona Fall League. The 20-year-old form Venezuela put together a perfect defensive resume with zero errors committed and two outfield assists, covering the spacious outfield of Scottsdale Stadium during home games. Matos was versatile in the AFL, recording innings at every outfield position for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

  • 2022 Arizona Fall League Champions: Surprise Saguaros

Congratulations to the 2022 Arizona Fall League Champion Surprise Saguaros. In one of the most electrifying games in AFL history, the Desert Dogs and Saguaros needed 11 innings to determine a league champion. While the Saguaros didn’t have the lead for most of the game, resilience was in their bones. Heading into the bottom of the 11th inning, Will Wagner drove in a tying run, leaving the door open for Astros teammate Scott Schreiber to be the hero. With no outs, the righty slugger drilled a ball into the left-center-field gap to send the Saguaros home with the title.

  • Week Six Player of the Week: Glendale Desert Dogs OF Jose Ramos (LAD)

In the final week of play, Jose Ramos stepped up and helped lead the Desert Dogs to a playoff berth. The righty slugger recorded five hits in three regular-season games, including a triple and two home runs. On the week, Ramos sported a .454 batting average with 13 total bases and five RBI. He finished his AFL season with a slash of .275/.326/.463 and 16 RBI.

  • Week Six Pitcher of the Week: Glendale Desert Dogs RHP Emmet Sheehan (LAD)

For the second consecutive week, Emmet Sheehan put together a dominant performance against the Peoria Javelinas. In five innings pitched, Sheehan allowed only one hit while fanning 10 hitters en route to his third win of the season (tied for the league lead). Sheehan finished his Fall League campaign with a 3.54 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 20 1/3 innings pitched.