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Live From The Arizona Fall League: 11/2/23
Chris and Beck break down everything they saw from their live looks in the Arizona Fall League.
Another day of live looks for Beck and myself as, unfortunately we only caught one game last night as all three AFL games were at 6:30 PM MST. Kind of annoying, but it is what it is. Today, two games are on tap as we are heading to Peoria right now to see Mesa take them on. Then tonight we will head to Glendale to see them face-off with Scottsdale.
No video from last night’s game yet as I have not had time to go through all my cameras film between the FPAZ conference and spending time with friends out here. But be sure to sub to YouTube for film on every player from the AFL.
Peoria (Guardians, Marlins, Mariners, Padres, Rays)
Nathan Martorella, 1B, SDP, 22
The home run drought is over. Martorella finally got one off of Malik Barrington in the top of the fourth. It was a 3-0 fastball that caught too much of the plate down-and-in, and he yanked it down the right-field line. He finished with two hits in four at-bats to go with two runs and an RBI.
Martorella faded as the year went on, posting a .660 OPS in August, followed by a .718 in September. He appeared in 138 games before coming to the AFL, so fatigue could be a very real dynamic at play.
Shane Sasaki, OF, TBR, 23
Sasaki is a burner. He profiles as a spark plug either at the top of bottom of the lineup, and he’s coming off of back-to-back productive seasons. He’s had a lackluster AFL with very little game action left, so it's safe to say he won’t be in the running for MVP honors, but I’m not changing my opinion of him based on an 80-plate appearance sample and scant in-person looks.
He showed off the wheels yesterday with a triple to left field, which doesn’t happen often, and a stolen base. I think he could be a productive big leaguer if he can maintain solid OBPs and give his 70-grade run times a chance to impact the game.
Paul McIntosh, C, MIA, 25
Unfortunately, most AFL observers think of Paul McIntosh as the catcher who plays when Harry Ford isn’t on the lineup card, and they’d be mostly right, but he’s put together a fun little AFL campaign so far. He popped his second home run in the second inning off of Josimar Cousin and raised his total slash to .250/.375/.425 through 48 plate appearances.
There isn’t much to see from a fantasy perspective, and I don’t believe that would change with any amount of production here, but he is extremely fun to watch. His 220 lb frame behind the plate is unique, and he’s shown willingness to run when he reaches. He’s tallied as many stolen bases here in 12 games as he did in 77 regular season contests.
Scottsdale (Angels, Cardinals, Giants, Nationals, Phillies)
Gabriel Rincones Jr., OF, PHI, 22
Rincones just has the look of a ballplayer and plays the game with a high intensity. He is quite aggressive on the basepaths, running on the first pitch on both his first times on base. He was successful the first time, but caught the second time as he attempted to surpass Victor Scott II, who he was tied with at 14.
Rincones holds the bat lower with his hands near his chest but does not have a ton of pre-pitch movement and drives the ball with authority to all fields. Two more hits on Thursday pushed his batting average to .295 with a .889 OPS.
He was one of the players I was most looking forward to seeing out here in Arizona, and he looked the part. Being a strong athlete with power and speed, Rincones had an underrated 2023 season in which he posted a .248/.351/.427 slash with 15 home runs and 32 stolen bases, adding 31 doubles and three triples for a total of 49 extra-base hits.
Oliver Dunn, INF, PHI, 26
I have been honest that I was not familiar with Oliver Dunn prior to the AFL, so my looks have been limited to poor AFL video from the press box and what I have found on MiLB TV. Dunn is shorter and physically maxed out but has a high motor. He has been incredible all season, and it makes sense why, considering he played with a higher intensity than anyone in the Scottsdale/Salt River game last night. He has sneaky speed, makes a ton of contact, and hits the ball hard.
On Thursday, Dunn had two more hits and is rocking a .362/.470/.652 slash line in the Arizona Fall League. During the regular season 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.
Israel Pineda, C, WSH, 23
Pineda might have been the most impressive player on the field on Thursday night in Scottsdale, as he threw out all three batters attempting to steal bases while also collecting three hits, all hard-hit line drives. It was quite a showing in what has been a bit of a disappointing AFL to this point. Pineda could get reps in Washington next year and is a player to keep an eye on.
Pineda is one of the few players who has made the majors to head out to Arizona for more reps. Injuries limited Pineda to 41 games this season, in which he slashed .176/.229/.268 with three home runs after having 14 Major League plate appearances in 2022.
Reggie Crawford, 1B, SF, 22
Crawford is a physical specimen and honestly has some resemblance of Juan Soto both in appearance and stance. No, he does not have the plate discipline of Soto, but Crawford certainly looks the part.
He smoked a line drive to left-centerfield for his only hit of the game, which was a double, but had another hard-hit ball that resulted in a lineout.
Crawford is an impressive two-way player who has dealt with injuries throughout his young career since being drafted. As a pitcher, he shows an impressive fastball/slider combo, and even though his command has been up and down, he might make it work on the mound. The questions remain as to whether he will be a relief pitcher and a hitter, or one or the other.
Thad Ward, RHP, WSH, 26
After going to the Arizona Fall League in 2022 and having a good showing, Ward was not put on the 40-man roster by the Red Sox and selected first overall in the Rule-5 draft. His results in Washington in 2023 did not quite live up to billing as the first overall Rule 5 pick, but injuries did factor in. He finished the MLB season with a 6.37 ERA in 35.1 innings.
For the second straight start, Ward was sharp, throwing five innings with zero earned runs and seven strikeouts. Ward walked just one batter and threw strikes at a 68 percent rate. It will be interesting to see how Washington uses Ward next year, but I believe it’s a real possibility he could be a starter and a good one at that.
Salt River (Braves, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Rockies, Tigers)
Jase Bowen, OF, PIT, 23
I’ve been keeping the book for every game I’ve attended out here. This one was a mess, especially because Jase Bowen notched a little-league home run when Victor Scott misplayed a relatively routine line drive to center that skipped to the base of the wall.
Bowen has been awesome for Salt River in the leadoff role, swatting four home runs and stealing three bags while slashing .307/.371/.534.
Jack Brannigan, SS, PIT, 22
Brannigan has been one of the most impressive players I’ve seen in Arizona. He’s stood out primarily on defense, where he’s getting a lot of run at shortstop after spending the majority of his time at third base during the regular season. I think he could be a plus defender up the middle with more game reps. He’s been fluid moving to either side and has more than enough arm to make all of the throws required.
He hit a towering opposite-field home run for his only hit of the night on Thursday, giving him three in 20 AFL games. He hasn’t been nearly as productive in the AFL as he was in the regular season, where he compiled a .275/.390/524 line with 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases, but I don’t really care. I just want to see him clean up some of the whiff issues and progress to AA and beyond in 2024.
Wilmer Flores, RHP, DET, 22
Last night was my first time seeing Wilmer in person, and my immediate takeaway was that he didn’t look nearly as big as I thought he would. That doesn’t matter much at all, but hey, these are my thoughts.
He tossed four innings and got roughed up. He was almost exclusively breaking ball and off-speed in the 70 pitches he threw, and it didn’t fool many hitters. Scottsdale hit .375 off of him in the outing, and he struck out just 3 of 18 batters faced. He was lucky to escape with just one earned run.
Mesa (A’s, Astros, Cubs, Orioles, Yankees)
The Mesa lineup struck out 14 times on Thursday, collecting just two hits and two runs, while Astros Tyler Guilfoil had his best start of the AFL.
Tyler Guilfoil, RHP, HOU, 23
Guilfoil was an eight-round draft selection out of the University of Kentucky in 2022 after a strong collegiate career as a reliever. While throwing just 17 innings in 2022 after being drafted, Guifoil tossed 84 this year, with 13 of his 24 outings being starts, posting a 3.21 ERA while boasting an impressive 34.7 percent strikeout rate.
He leads with a fastball up in the zone and throws a cutter to complement it. Guilfoil also throws a changeup to both righties and lefties to keep hitters guessing.
While he struggled out of the gate in his first several starts of the Arizona Fall League, he got back on track in a big way on Thursday, tossing four innings of one-run ball while punching out five batters and walking two. The start lowered his ERA down to 7.98, and Guifoil spoke to MLB Pipeline about how the start was a confidence boost after struggling in this hitting-friendly environment.
John Rhodes, OF, BAL, 23
Rhodes was the only Mesa hitter not to strike out in a game where the team had 14 and just two hits and contributed the only runs to the team. After Brett Harris walked in the second inning, Rhodes followed it up with a big home run to the opposite field off Angel Zerpa.
Rhodes is well-built, standing at 6’0”/200 pounds, and has shown the ability to hit the ball hard throughout his career, but it has not always translated to game power. The 2021 third-rounder gets lost in the fold of all the elite in Baltimore but has pretty big power that he showed in Double-A this year, hitting 17 home runs and posting 42 extra-base hits.
Surprise (Blue Jays, Brewers, Rangers, Reds, Royals)
Eric Cerantola, KC, RHP, 23
The Royals relief pitching prospect, Eric Cerantola, has looked great in the Arizona Fall League, and Thursday was no exception. He came in and pitched the fifth and sixth innings and struck out five of the seven batters he faced while walking just one. He improved his ERA to 3.75 across 12 Arizona Fall League innings with 18 strikeouts.
Cerantola had a solid year, moving to mostly pitching out of the bullpen in which he had a 3.66 ERA across 76 innings between High-A and Double-A, with 99 strikeouts.
Wes Clarke, 1B, MIL, 23
As a South Carolina Gamecock, Wes Clarke’s Arizona Fall League dominance has made me proud that he is getting more recognition. On Thursday, he mashed his fifth AFL home run and was selected to participate in the home run derby on Saturday. Clarke is rocking a .292 average and a 1.017 OPS.
Clarke continues to mash in the AFL after a strong 2023 season that flew under the radar, after he hit 26 home runs with a .392 OBP. He stands a good chance to be in the Brewers lineup as soon as 2024 due to their major question marks in the corner infield.
Cam Cauley, MI, TEX, 20
Cauley blasted his third home run of what has been a slow fall league to this point. Cauley had a two home runs game several weeks ago and mashed another on Thursday night, but his AFL slash line currently sits at .175/.257/.365, but he has shown the ability to get to some solid exit velocities.
The former third-round pick in 2022 spent time between Single-A and High-A, slashing .245/.333/.411 with 12 home runs and 36 stolen bases. He accounted for three of Surprise’s runs on Thursday with two RBI and a run scored.
Emiliano Teodo, RHP, TEX, 22
Another day, another Emiliano Teodo save. After being a starter throughout the season, Teodo has looked incredible in the closer role and has locked down five saves through 11 innings pitched with 18 strikeouts to three walks. The hitters have just a .086 batting average against to give him a 0.55 WHIP.
Teodo comes out with an explosive fastball that I clocked as high as 101 mph this year, and on Thursday, we saw it top at 100.3. Easily the most fun pitcher I saw live all season. The sinker has a ton of bore to it, making it incredibly hard to hit paired with the velocity. Teodo also mixes a changeup that has been up to 94 but can dial it back with a mid-80s slider. The stuff is insane, and you would love to see him get a chance to be a starter, but if not, Teodo could easily be a closer with a Major League team.
Glendale (Dodgers, Mets, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox)
Bryan Ramos, 3B, CHW, 21
Back-to-back days with a home run for Bryan Ramos, this one a walk-off grand slam with Glendale down to their final out. He finished 1-4 with four RBI, two runs, and a walk.
I’m a fan of everything he does. He’s athletic, has a great swing, and hits the ball very hard. He’ll feature in my season-end top 100 and has a chance to make an impact at the big league level next year after closing the season with 77 games at AA.
Jacob Burke, OF, CHW, 22
Burke followed his 3-5 performance on Wednesday with a solo home run in a 1-4 effort on Thursday. Unfortunately, he paired it with a trio of strikeouts as he’s continued to whiff more in the AFL than he did in the regular season. He’s a name I would watch in very deep leagues, but I’m probably not investing in leagues where fewer than 400 prospects are rostered.
Kala’i Rosario, OF, MIN, 21
Not a remark on his performance (with which I have been enamored), but the PA announcer kept pronouncing his name Kah-Loo-E on Wednesday night. If that pronunciation is correct, and I don’t believe it is, I will be calling him Banjo Kalooie from here on out.
He’s tied with Aaron Sabato for the league lead in home runs after belting his seventh on Thursday. Both guys will feature in tomorrow’s home run derby, and both could take it home. I’m moving Kala’i up in my rankings based on what I’ve seen in Arizona.