The Arizona Fall League Hot Sheet is here! Josh Norris ranks the 10 hottest prospects from the previous week. This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did through Oct. 9.
This simply recognizes what the hottest prospects in the minors did in the past week—it’s not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.
1. Jackson Merrill, SS, Padres
Why He’s Here: .400/.480/.550 (8-for-20), 5 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Merrill has been one of the most impressive players in the first week of the AFL, just as he was in spring training and the regular season. The Padres’ first-rounder from 2021 has used a picturesque swing to make lots of loud contact that sends balls to all sectors of the outfield. Behind the scenes, Merrill’s makeup and leadership qualities earn high praise as well. He could shoot up the rankings with a strong AFL campaign that reinforces what he did in his limited in-season action.
2. Zac Veen, OF, Rockies
Team: Salt River
Why He’s Here: .500/.588/.833 (6-for-12), 3 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 1 SO, 4-for-5 SB
The Scoop: Veen has long had a rep as one of the most exciting prospects in the sport. He has power and speed in spades and has shown off both of those skills with Salt River. After stealing 55 bases in a regular season split between High-A and Double-A, Veen has already swiped four more bags in the AFL. That total has him tied at the top with Glendale’s Terrell Tatum (White Sox).
3. Johan Rojas, OF, Phillies
Why He’s Here: .467/.556/.600 (7-for-15), 4 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 BB, 1 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Rojas is an early candidate for most electric player in the Fall League. His combination of twitchiness, contact and blazing speed have made him a menace in the batter’s box and on the basepaths. He’s working on making higher-quality contact instead of relying on his quickness to beat out grounders. He’s also played a standout center field, including a jaw-dropping catch that could stick as the best of the fall.
4. Nick Gonzales, 2B, Pirates
Why He’s Here: .429/.471/.714 (6-for-14), 3 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Gonzales’ year was interrupted by injuries, so he’s back for a return trip to the AFL. In the first week, he’s shown off the same type of hitter-ish traits that have been the hallmark of his career, including a particular aptitude for lashing line drives into the opposite gap. The Pirates’ system is already plenty deep, but consistent performances like what Gonzales has shown in the first week with Surprise would give the system—and Gonzales’ prospect status—even more of a boost.
5. Bryan Woo, RHP, Mariners
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO, 0 HR
The Scoop: As is often the case in the early days of the AFL, the pitching around the league has been a bit spotty. Woo does not fit in that box. One of the Mariners’ latest intriguing arms opened the season with a stellar outing in which he did not allow a hit or a walk (he did hit a batter) and struck out five. He brought his fastball into the upper 90s and pounded the strike zone with an easy, repeatable delivery that portends even more success as he moves up the ladder.
6. Jorbit Vivas, 2B, Dodgers
Why He’s Here: .467/.579/.600 (7-for-15), 4 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Vivas has earned a rep as one of the most discerning hitters in the minors, and he’s lived up to that billing early on. The Dodgers middle infielder has worked deep counts and made lots of contact, leading to an average and on-base percentage that each rank among the AFL’s best in the first week of the season. He’s firmly in the mix as one of the next up in the Dodgers’ neverending wave of prospects.
7. Colt Keith, 3B, Tigers
Team: Salt River
Why He’s Here: .455/.588/.545 (5-for-11), 4 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBIs, 5 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Keith is no stranger to the desert sun, having played his college ball at nearby Arizona State. Back in friendly confines, Keith has settled in nicely. He’s shown a mix of contact and plate discipline from the left side, which has helped him find his way to second on the early on-base percentage leaderboard. His .588 mark trails only Braves prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy, who has drawn an incredible eight walks against just two strikeouts.
8. Tyler Hardman, 3B, Yankees
Why He’s Here: .500/.556/.688 (8-for-16), 6 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Hardman earned plaudits during the regular season for his slick fielding at the hot corner and his ability to make hard contact. Both of those traits have shown up in Mesa. He’s converted several tricky plays at third base and has hits in half his at-bats, leaving him tied with Zac Veen as the early leader in the AFL’s batting race.
9. Luisangel Acuña, SS/2B, Rangers
Why He’s Here: .353/.353/.824 (6-for-17), 4 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 0 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Acuña is incredibly aggressive in the box, and when he connects there’s usually plenty of impact. The noticeably stronger Rangers prospect has been swinging early and often in the AFL, and the results have been plenty of hard contact. His two home runs are tied for the league lead, as are his four extra-base hits. His 14 total bases are just two behind Luis Matos for tops in the AFL as well.
10. Luis Matos, OF, Giants
Why He’s Here: .318/.348/.727 (7-for-22), 4 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: Matos’ regular season was full of frustration and disappointment thanks to injuries and poor performance. In the first week of the AFL, he looks rejuvenated. A smoother bat path has helped his quick, powerful stroke produce loud contact and four extra-base hits, including two home runs, which ties him for the best in the AFL. A solid six weeks in the desert would do wonders to reapply some of the shine he lost during the regular year.