Arizona Fall League Recap: Hitter Edition

Recap of hitting performances at the Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League is perfect for the fantasy baseball community. All fantasy players love to overreact to small samples. When players hit a 450-foot home run on Opening Day, they are destined for a strong season. A seven-inning shutout performance will generate hype for a pitching prospect who was struggling to post solid numbers in the Minors. The Arizona Fall League is a dynasty manager’s chance to overreact. These prospects generate about 50-100 plate appearances, but a strong (or weak) showing in the AFL could completely alter a player’s dynasty value. Before the start of the AFL, I released a preview which you can check out here. Instead of just one broad recap article, the dynasty team split this work into two to provide even more detail. My colleague Steve will be recapping the pitcher side of things. Today, I will summarize the hitter performances from the AFL.


Glendale Desert Dogs

Most Notable Prospect’s Arizona Fall League Performance

Colson MontgomeryChicago White Sox, SS/3B

Montgomery has put together some impressive showings at the AFL. He has also exclusively played shortstop which is important when assessing his long-term fantasy value. His most impressive showing came when the lights were the brightest at the Fall League All-Star Game. He hit a home run and brought home MVP honors. You can check out the full at-bat here:

Montgomery’s power is effortless. He has quick hands and his large frame creates plenty of raw pop. He seemed to be overly aggressive at times with an over-eagerness to pull the ball. Montgomery is striking out nearly 30% of the time especially struggling with pitches down and away. This is an area of weakness and something to keep an eye on.

Most Impressive Arizona Fall League Performance

Kala’i Rosario- Minnesota Twins, OF

Rosario is going to get all of the attention on this Glendale roster. Not only is he tied with Aaron Sabato for the most home runs on the team, but he has also won the Arizona Fall League home run derby. Performances like this (especially with the group of analysts at FPAZ in attendance) create significant buzz and alter the fantasy value of prospects entering next season.

The thing about Rosario’s performance is that we have seen this all before. For those who have been following Rosario, you know he has always shown off massive power. He hit 21 home runs this year in High-A. The issue is strikeouts. There are massive holes in his swing and he is striking out 31.9% of the time in the AFL. I would be more impressed if he was showing off this level of power while striking out less. If I owned Rosario in dynasty, I would be selling high.


Most Disappointing Arizona Fall League Performance

Kevin ParadaNew York Mets, C

Overall, Parada’s 2023 season was a bit disappointing. His 105 wRC+ was far below the expectation levels entering the season and there was nothing overly impressive about his performance. I continued to rank him inside of my top 70 prospects throughout the season based on the belief in his overall talent as well as his smooth swing path which should fuel his hit tool.

Unfortunately, the Arizona Fall League has been more of the same. Parada is striking out a ton (38%) with a batting average below the Mendoza Line. Despite being drafted out of college, Parada’s hit tool clearly has a long way to go. There might be more risk here than originally believed.


Mesa Solar Sox

Most Notable Prospect’s Arizona Fall League Performance

Kevin Alcantara- Chicago Cubs, OF

Alcantara’s raw athleticism has been on full display. Nearly every analyst who has traveled out to Arizona has mentioned how big he is and how impressive his toolset is. He has put his power on full display with five home runs and a slugging percentage of .532. His ISO is an incredible .278 and his dynasty value is trending straight up.

I have long been a fan of Alcantara and have written about him plenty, so I won’t go into too much detail again. I will say that the risks in his profile remain the same. He strikes out too much and his swing can get a bit choppy at times leading to high ground ball rates. His home run totals in the AFL are an encouraging sign of his ability to get the ball in the air consistently. He is one of the few players with a top-30 fantasy upside.


Most Impressive Arizona Fall League Performance

James TriantosChicago Cubs, 2B/3B/OF

Alcantara has been impressive, but Triantos has been one of the best players in the AFL. I am going to pat myself on the back for this one as Triantos has consistently ranked inside of my top 40 prospects throughout the 2023 season. His combination of contact skills and speed have always been impressive and his frame has suggested more power is coming. So far, he is slashing .425/.505/.700 with nine stolen bases. His walk rate is almost as high as his 14.7% strikeout rate and he has looked unstoppable.

Even more notable for fantasy managers is his usage all over the diamond. Triantos has spent time at third, second, and in the outfield. Those who have gotten live looks at him say he has looked the part no matter where he is defensively. This versatility should help him advance through the Minor Leagues quickly. In addition, this could provide additional fantasy value through multi-positional eligibility.


Most Disappointing Arizona Fall League Performance

Brett HarrisOakland Athletics, 3B

After posting a 113 wRC+ with strong contact skills and sneaky speed, Harris was on sleeper watch for many dynasty leagues. The biggest issue that I have had with him is an incredibly high ground ball rate. This has prevented Harris from ever getting to any significant power while also lowering his long-term average outlook.

The Arizona Fall League has been a major disappointment for Harris. He has hit zero home runs and is batting just .213 overall. His only extra-base hit was a double and his ISO is just .021. The only bright side? He is walking over 22% of the time. Third basemen in fantasy need to hit for power to be fantasy-relevant. Harris is proving that this is not a part of his game making him not an impactful fantasy asset.


Peoria Javelinas

Most Notable Prospect’s Arizona Fall League Performance

Kyle ManzardoCleveland Guardians, 1B

The Arizona Fall League has been Manzardo’s chance to prove that the 2023 season was not indicative of his true talent level. Manzardo battled injuries and off-the-field issues throughout the season resulting in a disappointing season. So far in the AFL, Manzardo has been phenomenal. He has crushed five home runs with a .291 ISO.

Considering he is a player known for hitting a ton of line drives, it is a bit strange to see his BABIP continue to sit well below the league average. I would not pay much attention to his average, but take this performance as a sign that he is back. We could see him crack the Guardians’ Opening Day roster and he is a player that needs to be on fantasy manager’s radars.


Most Impressive Arizona Fall League Performance

Jakob MarseeSan Diego Padres, OF

Picking one player from this loaded Peoria squad was difficult. Ultimately, I landed on Jakob Marsee. Marsee was my breakout pick for this squad prior to the start of action and that has been a slam dunk. Marsee has shown off his speed (14 stolen bases), power (four home runs), and incredible hit tool (.378 average). Perhaps most impressive has been the power he has shown off against left-handed pitching. Here is his double from the AFL All-Star Game:

Marsee has captured the attention of the entire dynasty community at this point. He has the potential to be a five-category fantasy contributor even if the power is inflated a bit by his playing locations. The risk here is relatively low considering his plus contact and plate discipline skills. The upside is a 20/35 player with a .280 batting average. Seems like a good idea to invest in Marsee for dynasty leagues.


Most Disappointing Arizona Fall League Performance

Nathan MartorellaSan Diego Padres, 1B

The Padres were sending three very notable hitters to the Arizona Fall League. Marsee has seen his value increase, Graham Pauley has been impressive and remained a highly regarded prospect, and Martorella has been a bit of a disappointment. After hitting 19 home runs between High-A and Double-A, many were excited to see what he could do in the AFL. So far, he is slashing just .236/.344/.345.

The lack of home runs has been the biggest disappointment. He is another player with a history of struggling to get balls in the air consistently which could be part of his issue in the AFL. There might not be as much upside here as many initially believed and his value has trended down after struggling in the AFL.


Salt River Rafters

Most Notable Prospect’s Arizona Fall League Performance

Ivan MelendezArizona Diamondbacks, 1B

Melendez came on strong during the second half of 2023. He crushed 12 home runs in his final 38 games bringing his season total to 30. The Arizona Fall League felt like the perfect place for Melendez to put his power on full display.

Melendez’s power output in Arizona has been a bit disappointing. He has just two home runs and a .405 slugging percentage. So far, he has split time between first base and third base although I remain confident in his long-term home being on the right side of the diamond. He committed six errors in just 11 games at third base which will put even more pressure on his bat to play. The best part of Melendez’s AFL performance has been the reduction in his strikeout rate. This rate was above 34% this season so seeing him lower it below 26% is encouraging. Do not worry too much about Melendez’s power but rather be encouraged by the strides he is working to take in his plate discipline.


Most Impressive Arizona Fall League Performance

Benny Montgomery– Colorado Rockies, OF

Salt River was one of the more difficult teams to pick a standout performer from. Benny Montgomery is the choice as he has hit .343/.447/.486 so far. At 6’4″ and 200 pounds, Montgomery has as much raw talent as any player in the Minor Leagues. His projectable frame makes it easy to dream of what could be if he ever makes it to Coors Field. The biggest thing holding him back has been a high ground ball rate which has prevented his batting average and home run totals from ever being impressive. Hopefully, the AFL is a sign of things to come from Montgomery.

Baseball America released a piece a few days ago featuring Montgomery. Montgomery managed to cut his chase rate more than any other prospect this season. His strikeout rate was still very high and this did not change in the AFL. There are plenty of holes remaining in his swing, but his plate discipline has taken a significant step forward as evidenced by his 15.3% walk rate. There is still a lot of projection left in Montgomery’s profile, but signs are pointing toward a bright future.


Most Disappointing Arizona Fall League Performance

Jace JungDetroit Tigers, 2B/3B

Jung is playing a new position in the Arizona Fall League. He primarily worked at third base which is new and is likely where a lot of his attention was focused on. That being said, a move to third base is concerning for a dynasty outlook. The offensive bar is significantly higher at third base which puts even more pressure on his bat to produce.

Offensive production has not been there for Jung so far in the AFL. So far, he is slashing just .244/.446/.366. The bright spot in that slash line is the OBP as Jung is walking 25% of the time. A high strikeout rate has limited his batting average and the one home run is a bit disappointing. After hitting 28 home runs in the Minor Leagues this past season, the real disappointment comes from the potential position move. A power-hitting second baseman has far more fantasy value than a slugging third baseman. Maybe this move will open more doors for Jung to get playing time at the Major League level. Perhaps this is just a temporary move and nothing permanent. However, this is certainly worth keeping an eye on in 2024.


Scottsdale Scorpions

Most Notable Prospect’s Arizona Fall League Performance

Robert Hassell IIIWashington Nationals, OF

Hassell is no longer viewed as a top-50 prospect in baseball, but he is still the most notable name on Scottsdale’s roster. The Nationals’ outfielder has put together a solid AFL performance. He is slashing .290/.365/.355. The slugging percentage still leaves plenty to be desired, but it is nice to see Hassell hitting again. The power has always been a projection but back when things were going well, Hassell projected to have an above-average hit tool. Getting back to this is his best chance to reach the Major Leagues and hold any fantasy relevance.

Hassell has also added five stolen bases. He projects to be a 15-20 base stealer at the Major League level which gives him an additional boost. Hassell might never be the player many projected him to become however his AFL performance is still encouraging. He is still only 22 years old with time to continue developing. My biggest takeaway from the AFL is to not completely write him off just yet.


Most Impressive Arizona Fall League Performance

Victor Scott IISt. Louis Cardinals, OF

Nobody is surprised by Scott’s speed. His stolen base total is up to 16 in the Arizona Fall League which is a continuation of what he was doing throughout the Minor League season. Scott stole an incredible 95 bases between High-A and Double-A and could be a threat to lead the league in steals once he gets promoted.

What has been most impressive about Scott’s AFL performance has been his power. So far, he has three home runs which is a third of his entire season total from 2023. There are no concerns over his hit tool (Scott is walking more than he is striking out) and any power from his profile is a bonus. We have seen elite speed profiles like this before from prospects like Esteury Ruiz. The difference with Scott is that the hit tool is even better and provides a bit of a safer floor.


Most Disappointing Arizona Fall League Performance

Sonny DiChiaraLos Angeles Angels, 1B

Reggie Crawford was considered for this slot, but he is still learning how to hit against professional pitching. He is more of a pitcher than a hitter which is why I went with DiChiara. I know there is some love for him in the fantasy community, but I have been thoroughly unimpressed. His .182/.258/.291 slash line leaves plenty to be desired. This is supposed to be a bat-first profile and the bat has not shown up.

The biggest struggle for DiChiara since joining the Angels organization has been his strikeout rate. The AFL has been more of the same so far. His strikeout rate sits at 43.5% and he is walking at just 4.8%. There are not only contact concerns but major plate discipline concerns as well. His value is trending in the wrong direction for dynasty leagues.


Surprise Saguaros

Most Notable Prospect’s Arizona Fall League Performance

Abimelec OrtizTexas Rangers, 1B/OF

The most notable hitter on Surprise’s roster is Abimelec Ortiz. Perhaps most notably, Ortiz has gotten some time in right field out in Arizona. He played a handful of games out there during the Minor League season but still profiles to land at first base long term. The team’s willingness to play him in the outfield is something to monitor.

Ortiz only played in 10 games for Surprise but made his presence felt. He hit .321/.476/.464 with one home run. The sample size was extremely small but it was encouraging to see him strike out less than 17% of the time. Strikeouts have been the biggest question mark surrounding Ortiz and something worth keeping an eye on next season.


Most Impressive Arizona Fall League Performance

Wes ClarkeMilwaukee Brewers, 1B/C

Clarke was not on many fantasy radars entering the Arizona Fall League, but he sure is now. Clarke spent the entire 2023 season repeating Double-A where he hit 26 home runs with a .241 batting average. A high strikeout rate and extreme fly ball tendencies led to the low batting average which has been a theme throughout his professional career. A former 10th-round pick at 24 years old is not the kind of player you expect to break out at the AFL.

Well, Clarke has been putting on a hitting clinic so far. He is slashing .294/.435/.574 with a team-leading five home runs. He has exclusively played first base which is likely to be his defensive home for the future although putting more pressure on his bat to play. His strikeout rate remains high and it is fair to attribute much of his success to a .395 BABIP. His strong performance should not land him on many dynasty radars, but his success is still impressive nonetheless.


Most Disappointing Arizona Fall League Performance

Cameron CauleyTexas Rangers, 2B/SS

Sample sizes in the Arizona Fall League are small. Sometimes looking to see how a player is performing takes more than just looking at his home run totals or his batting average. Cauley is up to three home runs and three stolen bases. Neither number jumps off of the page, but both are solid numbers for the 19 games he has played. The reason why this performance has been so disappointing is his strikeout rate. Cauley is striking out 45.2% of the time so far. This has led to a .188 batting average.

Cauley is a toolsy athlete with tons of speed. FanGraphs goes as far as to give him 80-grade speed. When a young player like him heads to the AFL, the biggest thing to watch for is subtle improvements. Strikeouts at his age are fine, but this has become a concerning trend likely to impact him throughout his professional career. The AFL has not seemed to change anything in his long-term projection.


Photos by Caitlin Connor/Unsplash and Winston Chen/Unsplash | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)

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