While baseball in the major leagues will have wound down by October 10th and the minor league season will be well over by then, there will still be plenty to get excited about the Arizona Fall League will begin play on that date.
Each year, the Arizona Fall League is put on by Major League Baseball as an off-season league to give minor league players a chance for some more innings against live competition, in particular for those players without other winter league options available to them. Generally speaking, teams send around six players to the league for varying reasons (more innings/at-bats, sort of an extended rehab, helping to fill AFL roster spots, etc) and there are specific eligibility rules that players must meet to be able to play. Fortunately, there is a handy website that details those rules right here.
Today, the rosters for all of the AFL teams were released and there is lots of prospect candy for all of us to enjoy.
All told, there are four players from MLB Pipeline’s top 20 prospects in baseball that will be in attendance with the Nationals’ OF Victor Robles, the Braves’ OF Ronald Acuna, the Astros’ OF Kyle Tucker, and the Indians’ C Francisco Mejia. All four are dynamic, young position players who have hit the cover off the ball in the minors and alone would make following the AFL worthwhile.
However, there are eleven top 100 prospects (again, according to Pipeline so make of that what you will) and the majority of them are position prospects. The Mariners’ Kyle Lewis, who missed significant time due to an knee injury after the 2016 draft and is in need of innings, will be playing along with the Padres’ Luis Urias, the Brewers’ Corey Ray, the Dodgers’ Yusniel Diaz, and the Yankees’ Estevan Florial (who was profiled by yours truly here) are all top 100 players who will get the chance to continue to show their worth in the AFL.
In terms of top end pitching talent, there is certainly less of that in this year’s crop than in some years, but the Pirates’ Mitch Keller is a top 25 prospect in all of baseball and the Yankees’ Justus Sheffield and his heavy fastball and power slider will be fun to see in action.
There are more interesting guys in the AFL than just top 100 prospects. Some of which include an entire contingent of Braves including LHP Max Fried, RHP Touki Toussaint, C Alex Jackson, and 3B Austin Riley as well as the Cardinals’ RHP Sandy Alcantara, the Padres Andres Munoz, the Yankees’ RHP Dillon Tate, the Twins’ LHP Tyler Jay, the Blue Jays’ SS Lourdes Gurriel and C Max Pentecost, the Rays’ Brandon Lowe, and the Cardinals’ RHP Jordan Hicks are all guys to keep an eye on.
This isn’t an exhaustive list as there are tons of very talented players that will be in attendance, so consider this a quick preview. Plus, one of the best parts about the Arizona Fall League are the surprises that come out of the league. Just because a player doesn’t have a “prospect pedigree” doesn’t mean he can’t break out and the AFL is a great stage for that to happen.