SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The 2023 Arizona Fall League season came to a close with Saturday night's Championship Game at Scottsdale Stadium, which resulted in the Surprise Saguaros' second consecutive title in a 6-5 victory over the Peoria Javelinas. The contest featured a number of stellar performances from many of the game's promising young prospects, a sign of the bright futures that lay ahead of these blossoming stars.
Here are eight prospects who stood out in the Fall League finisher, concluding the elite prospect circuit's 31st season:
Damiano Palmegiani, 3B (TOR No. 18)
Palmegiani reached base and scored three times for Surprise, patiently working a pair of walks on six pitches each and tagging a sharp opposite-field single in the fifth. He scored on a Liam Hicks (Rangers) single that got Surprise on the board in the third inning, crossing the plate once more two innings later and a third time on Wes Clarke's (Brewers) double in the sixth. Palmegiani also flashed the leather on a miraculous diving stop at the hot corner to take an extra-base hit away from Paul McIntosh (Marlins) in the seventh.
Kyle Manzardo, 1B (CLE No. 2, MLB No. 58)
Manzardo, who homered twice to lead Peoria in its nine-run comeback victory over Scottsdale in the play-in semifinal on Friday, didn't miss a beat in the finale, reaching base three times, including a pair of walks to wrap up a stellar fall campaign. His opposite-field two-run single in the ninth cut Peoria's deficit to one in a four-run rally that fell just short. Manzardo held a sterling .905 OPS through the Fall League regular season, with six homers (eight including the postseason).
Nasim Nuñez, 2B (MIA No. 17)
Nuñez has flashed his elite speed all fall, doing so once more in the championship by stealing third base in the opening frame for his 15th of the campaign -- he wasn't caught once in 21 games this season. Nuñez singled off Angel Zerpa (Royals) in the first and scored in the fourth, dashing home after an excellent read on a pitch in the dirt that just barely skipped away from Hicks behind the plate. He added a second base hit on an infield single in the sixth when he beat out a ground ball to first base.
Angel Zerpa, LHP (KC)
Zerpa saved his best Fall League start for last, twirling three scoreless innings of one-hit ball while punching out six Peoria batters and landing 31 of his 45 pitches for strikes. His only blemish was a Nasim Nuñez single in first before he retired the final eight men he faced. He ended his evening by striking out the side in the third. It's a strong finish to a tough 2023 season for Zerpa, who dealt with a left shoulder injury that kept him out until June before he appeared in 15 games for the Royals between August and September.
Jacob Berry, 3B (MIA No. 4)
Berry, not primarily known for his glove on the infield, certainly stood out defensively for the Javelinas with a pair of web gems at third base. Ranging into foul territory down the left on a Peyton Wilson (Royals) pop up, Berry went up against the barrier to make a terrific catch. He then turned a slick double play on a diving stop in the fifth with the bases loaded, tagging third base with his glove before climbing to his feet and making a strong throw to the plate to cut down a Surprise run. The 2022 first-rounder (sixth overall) also scorched a double in the seventh off Zach Maxwell (Reds).
Abimelec Ortiz, OF (TEX No. 14)
Ortiz delivered arguably the game's most important hit in the fifth, a two-run single that drove in Hicks and Will Robertson (Blue Jays) to expand Surprise's lead from two runs to four. He went hitless in his other three at-bats, but the night capped a strong overall performance for Ortiz in the fall, as the slugger hit .314/.460/.600 in 50 plate appearances entering the title game.
Wes Clarke, 1B (MIL)
Clarke provided much-needed insurance with a sixth-inning double that extended Surprise's lead to five runs before the Javelinas' four-run ninth. He also walked, reached on a hit-by-pitch and scored a run on a passed ball in the fifth inning.
Liam Hicks, C (TEX)
The AFL's batting champ delivered another strong effort for the Saguaros, going 1-for-4 with an RBI single and a walk. Hicks' clutch RBI opened the scoring in the bottom half of the third, as he plated Palmegiani on a base hit to right off Braden Nett (Padres). Hicks hit an impressive .449/.553/.522 during the 30-game regular season for Surprise and finished with the league's highest batting average.