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Arizona Fall League Recap: 10/13/23
Arizona Fall League breakdown from Chris and Beck for Friday, October 13.
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This week we have flipped teams. Chris has Salt River, Scottsdale, and Surprise covered for you. Beck has Peoria, Mesa, and Glendale.
Salt River took down Peoria to hand them just their second loss of the season. Peoria’s lineup looks quite unbeatable, but their pitching will certainly allow other teams to stay in games with them. Salt River’s lineup also has some studs, and saw their top eight hitters all collect hits on Friday. Let’s talk about them.
Benny Montgomery, OF, COL, 21
Montgomery has made the sheet nearly every time I have written up Salt River, and he makes it again after a two-hit night in which he scored twice and drove in one. We have mentioned Montgomery’s exit velocities in the past, which have not always been the strongest, but on Friday, he posted three hard-hit balls over 97 mpg, which included a 105.3 mph single and a 106.2 mph lineout.
Montgomery is putting together a much-needed strong performance in the AFL, which now has seen his batting average rise to .375 with an .863 OPS.
Sterlin Thompson, INF/OF, COL, 22
Thompson has continued to obliterate baseballs and looks like he may be on pace to raise his stock as much as any prospect in the Arizona Fall League. Friday night saw him get on base four times, which included a single, double, and two walks.
He has a .500 batting average with a 1.372 OPS in nearly two weeks of AFL action. I had Thompson just outside my top 100 in my last update, but it might be too low. The contact skills, plus some of the exit velocities he has posted so far certainly show this is a top 100 prospect.
Ivan Melendez, CI, ARI, 23
Melendez put four balls into play on Friday, including a single and a double, but showed strong exit velocities of 103.3, 100.4, 91.7, and 85.6 mph. He is posting a respectable average of .258 so far, with an OPS of .847.
He has some of the best power in the minors, but swing and miss will always be a concern. Melendez mashed 30 home runs in the regular season, but struck out 34.3 percent of the time.
Case Williams, RHP, COL, 21
Williams spent the entire 2023 season in Double-A Hartford, tossing 101.2 innings. Unfortunately those innings were met with a 7.08 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP with just a 16.5 percent strikeout rate.
So far this AFL, Williams has looked like a different pitcher, albeit just a six-inning sample. He has not allowed a run and only given up two hits and two walks each while striking out seven. I am not putting a ton of stock in a six-inning sample, but if Williams continues to look like a different pitcher all AFL, keep an eye on him.
Damiano Palmegiani, CI, TOR, 23
Palmegiani keeps making the list due to his strong performances day in and day out. He collected just one hit on Friday, but it was a big one, a two-run home run. Palmegiani also walked and scored twice. His average is up to .321 in the Arizona Fall League, with a 1.054 OPS and two home runs.
Beck wrote this last week:
I wrote on Tuesday that Palmegiani is an interesting name to follow as we learn more about the Blue Jays intentions with Matt Chapman. Should they forego a qualifying offer, or make a qualifying offer that is subsequently declined, Palmegiani could be in the mix for playing time at the hot corner alongside Orelvis Martinez, Davis Schneider, and Cavan Biggio.
I certainly believe it is a real possibility that he could end up getting a lot of reps in Spring Training with a chance to win a spot.
Carson Spiers, RHP, CIN, 25
Spiers is one of the few players in Arizona who has already made his MLB debut. It was a rough 13 innings with the Reds, in which Spiers allowed a 6.92 ERA but did have a 4.03 FIP, which looks much better. In 83 Double-A innings this year, he posted a 3.69 ERA with a 29 percent strikeout rate.
In his second AFL start, Spiers looked strong again, tossing four scoreless innings with one hit and walk allowed a piece whole striking out five. He has now completed seven innings of work in the Fall League, allowing just one earned run with seven strikeouts and one walk.
Bryce Hubbart, LHP, CIN, 22
Spiers teammate Bryce Hubbart was the Reds’ third-round pick in the 2022 draft out of Florida State. His first full season in Single-A did not go how he would have liked, posting a 4.96 ERA with a 1.94 WHIP and a 22.1 percent walk rate. The lefty certainly has more talent than the numbers show, and that was on display Friday. Hubbart tossed three scoreless, hitless innings allowing one walk and striking out two.
Hubbart has a devastating curve and shows flashes of having an above-average changeup. If the fastball velocity can tick up, it will take Hubbart a long way.
Oliver Dunn, INF, PHI, 26
Oliver Dunn had a major breakout in 2023 in Double-A with the Phillies, hitting 21 home runs and stealing 16 bases while slashing .271/.396/.506. He was originally drafted by the Yankees in the 11th round of the 2019 draft and was a Rule 5 selection by Philadelphia.
Dunn ended Friday night’s action with three hits and an RBI and saw his Fall average rise to .450 and two stolen bases brought his total to five in five games. He has two doubles, a triple, and a home run so far. Dunn is older but a player I would watch closely.
Adrian Placencia, 2B, LAA, 20
We flip the script here and discuss one of the youngest players in the AFL, Adrian Placencia. On Friday, he collected a hit and two walks while stealing his second base of the fall. He has just two extra base hits, which include a double and a home run, but has shown good plate skills, walking as much as he has struck out. Placencia may just have a .241 batting average, but he has done some things well, considering his age.
Reggie Crawford, 1B, SF, 22
Crawford is a true two-way player who shows flashes of being a very strong arm when his fastball/slider combo are on. Command has always been a bit of an issue, but if he can harness it, there is plenty to like about Crawford being an arm.
But, Crawford was hitting on Friday night and had a big game, collecting his first Fall League home run as well as a double. He drove in four of Scottsdale’s eight runs on the day and even got on base a third time, via walk. Crawford has not had the best AFL so far, but the talent has always been there. Injuries have set him back this the Fall League is hopefully a time for him to get back on track. Friday’s performance is why I am highly interested in buying Crawford in dynasty leagues.
Another day on the sheet and another day with three tallies in the loss column for the teams I’m covering. Glendale lost a 7-8 heartbreaker in 10 innings that ended with a Robert Hassell III infield single to walk it off.
Colson Montgomery, SS, CHW, 21
A two-homer night! Montgomery has been mashing this week after failing to record a hit in his first 12 at-bats in the desert. He has eight hits in his last five games including three home runs in a 24 hour span, lifting his fall line to .250/.250/.806.
If he continues at this pace and impresses while analysts descend on Phoenix, it’s very likely the consensus will be that he’s a top-10 fantasy prospect. He’s very close for me already.
Yeiner Fernandez, C/2B, LAD, 21
Fernandez got the start at second base on Friday. He’s been bouncing all over the diamond in 2023, spending time behind the plate, as well as at shortstop, second, and third.
He went 1-4 on Friday with a single, a walk, and two runs scored. That’s typically not sheet-worthy, but Glendale managed just six hits total and Fernandez’ fall has been very strong through 2 weeks. He’s OPSing .200 points higher than his 2023 regular season ended.
Fernandez doesn’t flash huge raw tools, but he’s shown impressive performance split between rookie and A-ball leading up to last year.
The Solar Sox lost this one handily and were thoroughly outplayed in both the batter's box and on the mound. Final score reads 2-10, but even worse was that they managed only four hits all evening and just one for extra bases. Surprise jumped on them for runs in each of the first three innings and never looked back. Mesa walked 16 batters over the course of the evening.
Lazaro Armenteros, OF, OAK, 24
It’s kind of crazy to look back on the hype around Armenteros in the mid-2010’s. He was a force for the Cuban U14 team and later allegedly received a contract offer in NPB worth $15M as a 16-year-old. He eventually signed with the A’s in July of 2016 and was deemed the next big thing.
It hasn’t come together in the way everyone hoped it would for Lazarito, but he’s still fresh off of what could be considered a breakout campaign. During the regular season, Lazaro slashed .252/.383/.496 primarily at AA with 20 home runs but an untenable 33.3% K rate in 462 plate appearances.
He finished yesterday’s game with a single, a walk, and a run scored in a very quiet night for Mesa offensively. He’s had a rough go through his first six games, tallying just three hits in 15 at-bats to pair with seven strikeouts in 21 plate appearances.
Connor Pavolony, C, BAL, 23
Pavolony was a seventh round pick in the 2021 draft out of Tennessee. He doesn’t have much to show offensively in his professional tenure, compiling a .172/.328/.281 slash over 412 plate appearances.
There isn’t really any fantasy intrigue with Pavolony, but he is a gamer and I respect him for that. He played the final six weeks of his collegiate career with a broken hand after being hit by a 95 mph fastball. He returned the next weekend to belt two home runs in a weekend series against Texas A&M.
There’s no particular reason for me to be writing about Pavolony, but Mesa truly didn’t give me much to write about. He was 0-4 with three strikeouts against Surprise yesterday.
Benjamin Cowles, 3B/SS, NYY, 23
Cowles, like Pavolony, didn’t do anything spectacular last night to put him on the sheet. He did have one of Mesa’s four hits on the evening in the form of a second inning line drive single.
Cowles was a late round pick out of Maryland in 2021 after putting together a career year that concluded with 18 home runs and a 1.047 OPS. He’s yet to compile a similar season as a professional, which is what some teams feared – his final year at Maryland looked like an aberration from the norm, and scouts weren’t sure which version of Cowles they were getting.
It is amazing to me that Peoria ever loses a game with a lineup that includes Jakob Marsee, Chase DeLauter, Kyle Manzardo, Tyler Locklear, Carson Williams, and Harry Ford. Yet here we are as the Javelinas fall to Salt River by a final score of 8-11. The pitching for Peoria trails their offense by a significant margin, but I wouldn’t bet on any other team to take down the AFL championship this year.
Christian Cairo, 3B, CLE, 22
Entering Cairo’s name in the search bar of the Dugout yielded nothing, so it’s my distinct pleasure to write about him for the first time here. He was originally a fourth round selection in the 2019 draft as a Florida prep prospect, and unfortunately was part of the minor league cohort that missed an entire year of game action due to the coronavirus pandemic. My hypothesis is that the lost development time was particularly impactful on prep and international prospects. Cairo was one of a vast many who hasn’t quite found their footing after coming back.
He finished 2023 with just 229 plate appearances and a .239/.376/.351 slash. His pre-draft billing was that he was an advanced bat and defender who may never hit for much power given his frame, and we’re seeing glimpses of that profile come true in the AFL.
Cairo finished the evening 3-4 with two singles and a three run homer, lifting his AFL line to .353/.421/.950 through 17 at-bats.
Kyle Manzardo, 1B, CLE, 23
Manzardo just continues to hit and remind folks why he’s a premier fantasy prospect. He collected two doubles, one of which left the bat at 109.9 mph. His fall OPS is now over 1.000.
I think there is a very strong possibility Manzardo is the opening day first baseman in Cleveland. A strong fall would make me a lot more confident, as would some love looks against left-handed pitching to determine how much of an issue platoon splits figure to be moving forward. He hit just .159/.267/.327 against lefties in 131 plate appearances this year.
Jakob Marsee, OF, SDP, 22
Marsee tallied a hit and a walk in a ho-hum evening. He’s still the AFL OPS leader through 10 fall league contests, but guys like James Triantos and Sterlin Thompson are chasing him down.
If you’re new to the sheet, Marsee started the AFL on fire. His surface performance during the year and especially during the AFL have been superlative and it’s leading to a lot of helium. His batted ball data, in particular his exit velocities, don’t necessarily support that performance translating as he ascends. It’s an odd conundrum for fantasy analysts. I expect most of the industry to be higher on Marsee than I am once the dust settles