Arizona Fall League: Top Prospects Shine on Opening Day
The Arizona Fall League kicked off its 26th season on Tuesday. For those unfamiliar, the AFL is a short-season league that takes place after all Minor League seasons have concluded and are owned and operated by Major League Baseball. For years, it has attracted top prospects from all around the league to come and fine-tune their craft and gain more experience.
Since 1992, over 2,600 players that took part in the AFL went on to become big leaguers. Future All-Stars and even Hall of Famers once played in the AFL as well. In fact, some of the biggest stars still playing in the postseason such as Kris Bryant, Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge are AFL alumni.
Monday kicked off a new season, and with it a new set of top prospects to watch.
Braves’ Top Pitching Prospects Help Peoria Top Glendale 3-0
In the season opener, the Peoria Javelinas shut down the Glendale Desert Dogs 3-0. Braves pitching prospects, Max Fried (No. 9) and Touki Toussaint (No. 14) combined for 11 strikeouts in five innings. Fried struck out the first four batters he faced and threw 35 of his 53 pitches for strikes.
On offense, Braves No. 1 prospect, Ronald Acuna, and Red Sox No. 2 prospect, Michael Chavis, helped give Peoria the early lead. Acuna, who was recently named MLB Pipeline’s Hitter of the Year, was 2-for-4. His third inning line-drive single set Chavis up for the big two-out, two-run double that put the Javelinas on the board. Chavis also finished 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.
Five Doubles Put Salt River Over Surprise 4-3
Game two featured a ton of offense as both teams combined for 23 hits. For the Salt River Rafters, 11 of those hits split the gaps, helping them push four runs across and top the Surprise Saguaros. One of those doubles, the one that brought home two and put Salt River on top, came from Diamondbacks farmhand Michael Perez. Perez hasn’t cracked the D-Backs’ Top 30 but had a nice year, slashing .284/.370/.446 across Double-A and Triple-A.
Brewers prospects Corey Ray (No. 2) and Lucas Erceg (No. 10) combined to go 3-4 with three doubles, two from Erceg, with two runs scored.
Twins farmhand, Chris Paul, had a nice day at the plate for Surprise, finishing 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Twins No. 8 prospect, Tyler Jay, picked up where he left off at the end of the season with a perfect inning and two strikeouts in his AFL debut.
Yankees Farmhands Push Scottsdale over Mesa 7-4
The best pitching performance on Opening Day came from Yankees No. 4 prospect Justus Sheffield. Sheffield missed almost two months of the season with an oblique injury, so the Yankees sent him to the AFL to make up for lost time. He did that and more on Monday night, hurling five shutout innings, allowing just one hit and struck out six.
The Yankees’ stacked system was on display on offense as well with Billy McKinney (No. 23) and Thairo Estrada (No. 17) leading the pack. McKinney’s third inning, three-run homer to right field helped put the Scorpions up for good, while Estrada finished 2-for-4 with a RBI.
Mesa’s offense was highlighted by a huge day at the plate from Tigers farmhand Kody Eaves. The second baseman was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with a pair of doubles and a run scored. Astros No. 1 prospect Kyle Tucker had a nice day as well with an RBI single and a walk in the losing effort.