Previewing 2022 Arizona Fall League Sleepers
Finally, the Arizona Fall League is upon us. The annual six-week showcase in the desert for prospects of all stripes begins on Monday at sites across Phoenix. As per usual, the rosters are stuffed with studs.
This year’s crop is led by a pair of fantastic Jordans—the D-backs’ Lawlar and the Cardinals’ Walker—as well as Yankees teenage talent Jasson Dominguez, who ended his season with a flourish when he hit home runs from both sides of the plate in Somerset’s Eastern League Championship Series clincher.
There are plenty of other prospects bubbling below the surface, however, who could perform their way to prominence during their AFL reps. Here are eight players we believe could fit that bill.
Jose Salas, INF, Marlins
The Marlins began the season with a pack of talented middle infielders clustered at their lower levels. By year’s end, Salas had emerged as the best of the bunch. Though there are questions about where he ends up on the diamond, there are signs of a bright offensive player. Salas split his season between Low-A Jupiter and High-A Beloit, where he put up respectable but not eye-popping numbers. He’s got gifted hands and has a knack for putting himself in strong positions to hit with a low-maintenance swing. If he reaches his ceiling, he could be an above-average hitter with the potential for 15 homers.
Carlos De La Cruz, OF/1B, Phillies
De La Cruz is a huge human with similarly massive power. He’s got elite raw power and at least plus juice in game, especially if he refines his plate discipline. De La Cruz’s exit velocity already averages nearly 91 mph and his 90th percentile figure is nearly 109 mph. He’s moved around the outfield for most of his career but was exposed to first base this season, primarily at High-A Jersey Shore. De La Cruz is a classic boom-or-bust player whose power will give him plenty of chances and could lead him to become one of the AFL’s standouts.
Mason Miller, RHP, Athletics
Above all else, Miller has a chance to go neck and neck with Milwaukee’s Abner Uribe as the AFL’s velocity king. The righthander, whom the A’s popped out of UNC-Wilmington in the third round of the 2021 draft, was limited to just 12 innings this year between High-A Lansing and Triple-A Las Vegas. When he was on the mound, though, he made his mark. In his final start of the season, he threw 12 of his 43 pitches at 100 mph or harder. Miller backs the fastball with a hard-diving slider and an emerging changeup. In the AFL, he’ll have a chance to make up for lost time while making a big impression at the same time.
Mason Auer, OF, Rays
Tampa Bay took Auer in the fifth round of the 2021 draft out of powerhouse San Jacinto (Texas) JC, where he transferred after spending time during the abbreviated pandemic season at Missouri State. This season, he showed hints of the power-speed profile coveted by clubs. His 12 triples were tied with the Dodgers’ Drew Avans for the most in the minor leagues, and he added 21 doubles, 15 home runs and 48 stolen bases for good measure. His approach improved as the season went along, especially after a move to High-A Bowling Green, where his strikeout-to-walk ratio narrowed significantly. He has sparkplug skills with significant pop as well.
Justyn-Henry Malloy, 3B/OF, Braves
Atlanta of late has done a tremendous job churning out talented players to complement its big league core. Malloy, a sixth-rounder from 2021 out of Georgia Tech, looks like the potential next in line. The 22-year-old mashed all season long, starting in High-A Rome and finishing with a cameo at Triple-A Gwinnett. He’s got quick hands, excellent barrel control and a knack for loud contact that manifested itself in 28 doubles and 17 home runs. His 97 walks also stood out and tied him with two other prospects for the seventh-most in the minor leagues.
Twins Acquire Pitching Help, Trade Luis Arraez to Marlins For Pablo Lopez And Prospects
Looking to solidify their rotation for the 2023 season, the Twins dealt off their big league roster by shipping Luis Arraez to the Marlins for a package of three players: righthander Pablo Lopez and prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio.
Alek Jacob, RHP, Padres
The Padres selected Jacob out of Gonzaga in the 16th round of the 2021 draft and watched this season as he coasted from High-A to Triple-A. He doesn’t light up the radar gun, but he still gets plenty of swings and misses thanks to a dynamic, high-70s changeup that put him on the radar of the Padres’ scouting and analytics groups. Jacob got hit around a bit in the Pacific Coast League (as so often happens) and will need to further refine his breaking ball, but his changeup’s action and separation from his fastball working in concert with a deceptive delivery could get him to the big leagues.
Warming Bernabel, 3B, Rockies
The Rockies’ system has become one of the more exciting groups in the sport, headed by dynamic Top 100 talents like shortstops Ezequiel Tovar, Adael Amador and catcher Drew Romo, plus high-end draft additions Sterlin Thompson and Gabriel Hughes and catcher Hunter Goodman, whose 299 total bases placed him second in the minor leagues. Don’t lose sight of Bernabel, though, who showed a blend of contact and impact across both Class A levels. He was one of just six minor leaguers who reached 20-plus doubles, 20-plus stolen bases and 10-plus home runs while playing in fewer than 100 games. Another member of that group, the Phillies’ Dalton Guthrie, is also slated to play in the Fall League.
Edouard Julien, 2B, Twins
Julien is the owner of one of the best batting eyes in the minor leagues. The Auburn product drew 98 walks, which placed him sixth in the minors. He also hit his way on base frequently, too, including 19 doubles, three triples and 17 home runs. The offensive skills are there. Now, it’s a matter of refining his defense enough to get his bat into the lineup on a regular basis. That will be a point of emphasis in the desert.