With the regular season officially coming to an end, most people will shift their focus to the playoffs. However, there are a growing number of people who will instead shift their interest to the AFL.
The AFL (Arizona Fall League) gives teams a chance to get extended playing time for some of their more notable prospects. This could be for a variety of reasons such as making tweaks to their mechanics, making up for lost time due to injury, or just simply wanting to get more looks at certain prospects.
Regardless, the AFL is an extremely important time for player development and is something all dynasty players should pay attention to. This breakdown provides the most notable player from each team, the player with the most to prove, and my breakout pick for the 2023 AFL.
Glendale Desert Dogs
Most Notable Prospect: Colson Montgomery – CWS
Colson Montgomery is the most obvious name on the Desert Dogs’ roster. The first-round pick from 2021, has been considered one of the game’s top prospects since the 2022 season. Injuries limited Montgomery to just 64 games this season, likely the primary reason Chicago sent him to the AFL.
Montgomery has always put his on-base skills on full display. He is not a speedster on the bases (he has just three total stolen bases in his professional career), so for him to be fantasy-relevant, the bat is going to have to play.
Encouragingly, he has consistently posted double-digit home run rates throughout his professional career. He also has one of the smoothest and most consistent swing paths in all of Minor League baseball.
One thing I am going to be paying close attention to is Montgomery’s defense. He has exclusively played shortstop so far, although many evaluators feel there is a chance he might have to move to third base long-term. This would put even more pressure on his bat to play up.
Prospect with the most to prove: Jake Eder – CWS
Jake Eder looked to be on his way to becoming the next big pitching prospect before Tommy John surgery cut his 2021 season short and forced him to miss the entirety of the 2022 season.
After being drafted in the fourth round in 2020, Eder debuted in Double-A, striking out 34.5% of batters with a 1.77 ERA. His slider was mesmerizing to watch, and everybody was buying in. The rust was obvious in his return to the mound this year, but things have gotten worse as the season has moved along. In five starts with Chicago after the trade deadline, Eder posted an 11.42 ERA.
Even before the trade, Eder did not look as dominant as he once did. Now after the trade, many in the dynasty community are questioning whether they can count on him moving forward in an organization they do not fully trust. A strong performance in the AFL will go a long way toward assuring dynasty managers that he can be trusted moving forward.
Prospect Breakout Prediction: JT Schwartz – NYM
The Arizona Fall League feels like the most common time we see first base prospects make a name for themselves. Last year, we were all inundated with Matt Mervis hype, and this year a similar situation could happen.
JT Schwartz of the Mets is not a name many have been paying attention to. A fourth-round pick from 2021, Schwartz has been unspectacularly solid so far. This season in Double-A, Schwartz posted a 128 wRC+ thanks in large part to a .302 batting average.
The surprising part is that he only hit five home runs despite his massive 6’3” frame. Schwartz effectively pulls the baseball and hits it in the air plenty, so it is a bit puzzling as to why the power has not translated to home runs. We could see a lot of big home runs from him in the AFL.
Also, Pete Alonso is a free agent in 2025. Could the Mets already have their Alonso replacement in the Minor Leagues?
Mesa Solar Sox
Most Notable Prospect: Kevin Alcantara – CHC
One thing you should know by now is that I cannot get enough of Kevin Alcantara. After selecting him as a breakout pick entering 2023, Alcantara has consistently sat toward the top of my prospect ranking lists this season. He hit .284 on the season with 13 home runs and 15 stolen bases in just 102 games this year.
If you take away his slow start, his stats are even more impressive. From June 17 forward, Alcantara slashed .337/.425/.586 with a .249 ISO. Those are superstar-like numbers.
One thing to watch for in the AFL is whether or not he can get balls in the air more consistently. He reminds me a lot of Jordan Walker in the sense that the raw skills are eye-popping. However, a high ground ball rate could limit his success. If he starts elevating the ball more, watch out.
Prospect with the most to prove: Carter Baumler – BAL
I debated for a while between including Carter Baumler as a prospect who is going to break out or a prospect with the most to prove. I went with most to prove because he has not proven anything yet.
Injuries have prevented Baumler from ever gaining any traction since joining Baltimore’s organization back in 2020. He threw just 11.2 innings in 2022 and only 17 this season. When healthy, Baumler has four different pitches that he can attack hitters with. Albeit a small sample, he struck out over 29% of batters he faced this season with a 3.18 ERA and a 3.11 FIP.
First and foremost, Baumler needs to prove that he can stay healthy. Still only 21 years old, there is plenty to like from a raw talent standpoint. 2024 is likely to be Baumler’s last chance in a starting role before the Orioles decide he needs to move to the bullpen. This all starts with proving that he is capable of starting games in the AFL. He is the prospect I am watching the closest this October.
Prospect Breakout Prediction: Tyler Guilfoil – HOU
The Astros finding undervalued pitching prospects? Wow, who would have thought? After closing for Kentucky during his college days, the Astros selected Tyler Guilfoil in the eighth round of last year’s draft. Since then, he has looked dominant on the mound.
After striking out 50% of batters with a 0.52 ERA in 17.1 innings last year, Guilfoil has looked almost as amazing this year. In 84 innings pitched between Low-A and High-A, Guilfoil posted a 3.21 ERA while striking out over 34% of batters he faced. He did spend some time working out of the bullpen but also pitched five innings three separate times.
There is relief risk in Guilfoil’s profile which is why it will be nice to get an extended look at him in the AFL. His fastball/slider combination can be lethal to right-handed batters and his changeup works nicely to lefties.
Already being part of an excellent developmental organization, a strong showing in the AFL could bring Guilfoil’s value to new heights. He has the pure stuff to break out and I think we see that this October.
Most Notable Prospect: Kyle Manzardo – CLE
Kyle Manzardo was an off-season darling of the dynasty community this past year. The hype surrounding Manzardo even crept into the redraft community. Injuries, personal issues, and poor luck really put a damper on what was supposed to be Manzardo’s big season. He was sent to Cleveland at the deadline and has looked much more like the hitter we saw in 2022.
Since joining Cleveland’s Triple-A team, Manzardo has hit six home runs while keeping his walk rate north of 12%. Since Manzardo only appeared in 93 games this year, Cleveland likely just is looking for him to get more swings in before looking ahead to 2024. If Manzardo has a strong showing in the AFL, he could be the Guardians’ first baseman on Opening Day in 2024.
Prospect with the most to prove: Jacob Berry – MIA
When looking back on the 2022 draft, the selection of Jacob Berry at sixth overall instantly sticks out. The Marlins selected Berry right ahead of Cade Horton and Brooks Lee. Comparing Berry to other prospects is unfair, but he has been a major disappointment so far.
This season, Berry hit .233 with nine home runs and ten stolen bases between High-A and Double-A. A poor fielder, Berry’s bat needs to be elite for him to find his way onto the Marlins’ Major League roster.
After a disappointing season, there is plenty left for Berry to prove. Designated hitters with no power are rare. Berry needs to show that he has the ability to hit 20+ home runs in a season and that starts in the AFL.
Prospect Breakout Prediction: Jakob Marsee – SDP
So, why is nobody talking about Jakob Marsee? The Padres’ sixth-round pick from the 2022 draft has done nothing but his since being drafted. In a small 31-game sample in 2022, Marsee showed off his blazing speed by stealing 15 bases. He also walked over 20% of the time helping to fuel a 133 wRC+.
This season has been even better as Marsee played well at both High-A and Double-A. He hit 16 home runs with 46 stolen bases and an OBP of .413.
After tweeting about it, turns out some other smart minds in the industry have brought up his name, but he still feels incredibly underrated. The power projects closer to a 15-home-run bat than a 30-home-run bat, but the speed is legit.
Especially in an OBP league, Marsee should be universally ranked. He has a super smooth swing path and the ability to drive balls to all fields. With a strong showing in the AFL, Marsee could suddenly become a top-100 prospect everywhere.
Salt River Rafters
Most Notable Prospect: Jackson Jobe – DET
There might not be a more notable prospect in the AFL than Jackson Jobe. Injuries prevented Jobe from making his 2023 debut until June 17th, but he was well worth the wait. In 16 starts, Jobe posted a 2.81 ERA while striking out 32.6% of batters.
More notable than his strikeout rate was the walk rate. He was incredible walking only 2.3% of batters this season. Across his last five starts (including one at Double-A), Jobe posted a 1.61 ERA and has quickly moved himself into baseball’s top tier of pitching prospects.
The shortened season is really the only reason that Jobe is heading to Arizona this fall. The best part about this for fantasy managers is that it increases his innings total heading into next year. Teams are always careful with their young arms so the more innings Jobe has under his belt this season, the longer his leash will be next season.
Prospect with the most to prove: Benny Montgomery – COL
When it comes to drafting hitters, the Rockies have a type. They love the projectable frames that carry high risk. As dynasty players, we recognize the upside and fall in love with the potential of them playing in Coors Field.
This is the case for Benny Montgomery who is 6’4” and comes with 70-grade speed. Unfortunately for Montgomery, not everything has worked out so far. He has struggled to hit for consistent power while posting high strikeout rates at each level he reaches.
The biggest issue has been an incredibly high ground ball rate. Montgomery has plenty of raw power, but it has not translated into game power yet. He needs to prove two things in the AFL. First, he can keep the strikeout rate in check. Second and most importantly, he needs to hit more fly balls. The potential is still there, but his value in the dynasty community has been fading fast.
Prospect Breakout Prediction: Justice Bigbie – DET
Earlier in this article, I picked JT Schwartz to break out. This pick is almost a way of me hedging my bets on players with very similar archetypes. Bigbie is not a great defender, but you cannot deny the success he has had offensively.
After starting the season in High-A, Bigbie ended up finishing the year in Triple-A. Between three levels, he hit 19 home runs with an average of well over .300.
The biggest question that I have heading into the AFL is whether or not the batting average will stick. Bigbie drives the ball to all fields with a ton of line drives helping fuel his high BABIPs. That being said, a .381 BABIP is not sustainable for anybody, so I am curious how far his average falls.
Regardless, he has proven to be more than capable offensively, and the AFL will act as a showcase to all of the dynasty managers paying attention.
Most Notable Prospect: Tekoah Roby – STL
Outside of the previously mentioned Jackson Jobe, there might not be another pitching prospect with as much helium as Tekoah Roby. Roby has been sensational since coming over to St. Louis in a trade deadline deal. I talked about Roby some in the final pitcher performance report which you can check out here.
In a similar fashion to Jobe, the Cardinals are likely just sending Roby to Arizona to increase his innings total. He pitched just 58.1 innings this year so any increase to that would be welcomed. I am curious to watch his fastball velocity while in Arizona. If this stays up as it has shown flashes of doing, the sky really could be the limit for this exciting arm.
Prospect with the most to prove: Robert Hassell II – WSH
The fall from glory has not been graceful for Robert Hassell II. Once a universal top-ten prospect, Hassell has struggled since his trade to Washington. Since coming over in the Juan Soto deal, Hassell has never been able to put things together. His average has come crashing down, the stolen bases have slowed, and dynasty managers are still waiting to see any semblance of a power breakout.
Hassell was praised early on in his professional career for his hit tool and speed. With both showing decline over the past season, he needs to prove that he can bounce back in the AFL.
The key to unlocking more power is going to be hitting fewer ground balls although Hassell needs to take things one step at a time. If he is ever going to regain dynasty relevance, things will need to start in the AFL.
Prospect Breakout Prediction: Gabriel Rincones Jr. – PHI
Gabriel Rincones Jr.’s strong debut season has yet to garner much attention from those in the dynasty community. That being said, there are several underlying reasons why he is poised to break out in the AFL.
For one, Rincones provides an excellent blend of raw power and speed. This season, he hit 15 home runs and stole 32 bases. He stands at 6’3” and if he can learn to pull the ball more consistently, the home run totals could really take off.
On top of the potential for more power, it is important to remember that this was Rincones’ first taste of professional baseball. Even though he is 22 years old, Rincones is still adjusting and developing. His timeline is a bit delayed, but a strong showing in the AFL could land him on dynasty manager’s radars.
Most Notable Prospect: Abimelic Ortiz – TEX
Abimelic Ortiz put together one of the most impressive offensive seasons in 2023. Between Low-A and High-A, Ortiz crushed 33 home runs with a combined batting average of .294. As a first base only prospect, Ortiz’s bat needs to play and he proved this year that it should. The raw power is immense and makes dreaming about a 40-home run season easy to do.
The one complaint and potential red flag in Ortiz’s profile is a high strikeout rate. Suspect contact skills can get prospects in trouble as they progress through the system. I am going to be watching to see if Ortiz can keep his strikeout rates in check during the AFL.
Prospect with the most to prove: Gavin Cross – KC
Another first-round pick from 2022 with plenty to prove is Gavin Cross. The Royals selected Cross ninth overall and looked like they hit a home run with the pick early on.
In 2022, Cross crushed eight home runs in just 29 games leading many to believe the Royals had a future star on their hands. Cross’ speed was just the icing on the cake and helped him fly up FYPD boards last season.
Unfortunately for Cross, things have not gone his way this year. High strikeout rates helped fuel an average that barely sat above the Mendoza Line. He hit just 12 home runs this year with the only bright spot being 23 stolen bases.
Low batting averages are not always the end of the world for players with big-time power and speed. Cross however needs to prove that he can hit enough home runs to still be fantasy-relevant. Lowering his strikeout rate would help with that and is something to watch for during the AFL this season.
Prospect Breakout Prediction: Mitch Bratt – TEX
The Rangers have made a habit out of drafting and developing high school pitchers. In 2021, they selected Mitch Bratt in the fifth round. Although the velocity has not developed past the low 90s, he effectively commands a sinker to keep the ball on the ground and limit damage. Bratt was excellent in 2022 with Low-A pitching 80.2 innings with a 2.45 ERA.
This season was more of the same as Bratt continued to post high strikeout rates with very few walks. The stuff is not overpowering, but the ability to command his arsenal is rare for his age.
There is a good chance Bratt cements himself as a well-known commodity in the dynasty community during the AFL. He already has shown the ability to post high strikeout rates with excellent control and command. Still only 20 years old, if he shows any increase in velocity, he will really skyrocket up prospect lists.