Image credit: (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
Often referred to as Major League Baseball’s offseason preparation league, the Arizona Fall League has operated as a showcase for many of the top young prospects in the game. Players like Jordan Walker, Edouard Julien, Mason Miller, Emmet Sheehan and others are recent examples of players going from the AFL to the major leagues the following season.
Each year, the league is chock full of talent that could impact their organizations major league roster by early the following summer. Here are 10 players that could jump from starring in the AFL to starting roles in the majors in 2024.
Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Blue Jays: No player generated as many headlines over the early part of the AFL season like the Blue Jays lefty. After an injury-plagued 2023 campaign, Tiedemann showed the ability to exceed 70 pitches and five innings per start while making up innings in Arizona. Few pitchers in the minors can dominate like Tiedemann. If he remains healthy, he could reach the majors by mid-summer and provide a major boost to the Blue Jays rotation.
Geoff Pontes examines Ricky Tiedemann’s release point & other takeaways from his fall showing.
Chase DeLauter, OF, Guardians: A string of injuries delayed the 2022 first rounder’s professional debut. He made up for lost time hitting .366/.403/.549 over 42 games with High-A Lake County. He saw promotion to Double-A Akron over the final weeks of the season before heading out to Arizona. DeLauter hit .281/.375/.524 over 22 games with Peoria. The outfielder has a well-balanced skillset with power, feel-to-hit and speed. He’s an impactful player on both sides of the ball and could add some needed impact to the Guardians lineup in 2024.
Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Guardians: In the same way Peoria teammate and fellow Guardians farmhand Chase DeLauter could add some thump to the Cleveland lineup in 2024, so could Manzardo. Acquired from the Rays at the deadline for pitcher Aaron Civale, Manzardo is coming off a down 2023 after a breakout 2022 campaign. Manzardo enjoyed a solid AFL performance hitting .239/.316/.511 with five home runs. While his overall line leaves something to be desired, Manzardo showed higher end power than he had previously, hinting at a higher power ceiling.
Tekoah Roby, RHP, Cardinals: Acquired by the Cardinals in the Jordan Montgomery trade with the Rangers, Roby has a chance to be establish himself as a breakout star in 2024. Roby has the best pure stuff of any starter in the Cardinals organization and shows flashes of plus command at points. Health has been a nagging issue for Roby, but when he’s right he’s flashed mid-rotation or better upside. Roby pairs a mid-90s fastball that can touch 97-98 mph with one of the better curveballs in the minor leagues. He shows four pitches with the ability to control both sides of the plate. Roby is a dark horse to join the Cardinals rotation at some point during the summer of 2024.
Colson Montgomery, SS, White Sox: Injuries have slowed the ascent of Montgomery over the last year, but from a pure hitting perspective few players in the minor leagues possess Montgomery’s combination of feel to hit and power. Montgomery has dealt with back issues throughout the season, which does provide a level of long-term risk. That said, from a skill perspective Montgomery provides true future all-star upside at shortstop with strong traits on both sides of the ball. There’s an opening for Montgomery to push his way to the big leagues by next summer following the likely departure of Tim Anderson in offseason free agency. Montgomery is a true dark horse rookie of the year candidate if gets enough at-bats with the big league club.
Dishing out superlatives to the top players from the Arizona Fall League all-star game.
Sterlin Thompson, 2B/OF, Rockies: The Rockies are one of the more difficult organizations to predict when it comes to promotions. They have a tendency to slow-roll players into full-time major league roles. But few players over the last few years in the Rockies system have shown the sort of advanced bat-to-ball skills that Thompson possesses. He’s seen time at multiple spots between second base, left field and third base, providing positional versatility that could earn Thompson more playing time. His excellent bat-to-ball skills and strong swing decisions drive his profile. While he shows average power in spurts, he’s likely more of a 13-17 home run type of hitter. Thompson has the opportunity to run high batting averages in Coors with a high-contact skillset that can take advantage of the benefits of the environment. Thompson will likely open the season with Triple-A Albuquerque and could reach the majors by July.
Victor Scott II, OF, Cardinals: A fifth-round pick out of West Virginia in 2022, Scott took the minor leagues by storm, stealing 95 bases on 109 attempts. He split his season between High-A and Double-A before heading to the AFL. In addition to being a top of the scale base runner, Scott is a double-plus defender in centerfield with advanced plate skills. Scott’s offensive game centers around his ability to work deep into counts, make pitchers work and put the ball in play. He’ll bunt for hits and shows some sneaky underlying power, particularly against righthanded pitching. Scott already saw time with the big league club during spring training in 2023 covering for a cache of Cardinals players who participated in the World Baseball Classic. It’s a crowded outfield situation in St. Louis, but Scott provides a dynamic element few of the Cardinals options in centerfield can provide.
Zach Maxwell, RHP, Reds: The Reds have done as good as job as any organization of targeting high-upside college pitchers with premium stuff in the draft over the last five years. Maxwell fits squarely into that group with some of the highest octane stuff in the AFL this fall. He sits 97-98 mph and touches 100 mph at peak with elite induced vertical break numbers, pairing both premium velocity with premium movement. Maxwell pairs his four-seam with a upper-80s cutter/slider hybrid that generates high rates of swings and misses out of the zone. He is a two-pitch reliever with high-leverage upside and could provide another fearsome power arm out of the Cincinnati bullpen next season.
Emiliano Teodo, RHP, Rangers: Josh Norris recently wrote an in-depth piece about Teodo and his move from a four-seam fastball to a sinker. The change has boosted Teodo’s profile and could see him on the cusp of the major leagues heading into 2024. As Norris noted, Teodo made the switch after his July 7 start against Winston-Salem. He saw a tremendous boost in results and that momentum carried through to his stint in the AFL. Teodo didn’t allow a run over eight appearances, collecting five saves and striking out 19 batters to three walks over 11 innings of work. Teodo could fortify the middle-inning options for the defending world champions early next season.
A.J. Blubaugh, RHP, Astros: The Astros drafted Blubaugh in the seventh round of the 2022 draft out of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The righthander navigated two of the more difficult run environments in High-A Asheville and Double-A Corpus Christi in his first full professional season. He raised his profile with strong performances over six AFL appearances, peaking at 97 mph out of the bullpen while striking out 17 batters to four walks in 12 innings. Blubaugh pairs a low-90s four-seamer that has average ride and run with a low-80s sweeper, a mid-70s two-plane curveball and a low-80s changeup that has performed as his best secondary offering. The Astros have shown a history of finding diamonds in the rough and developing them into viable major league starters. Could Blubaugh be next?