Previewing Arizona Fall League Offensive Data Standouts

Image credit: Niko Kavadas (Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images)

Every fall a new crop of top prospects heads to the greater Phoenix area to participate in the Arizona Fall League. The AFL every season showcases some of the game’s brightest future stars. Historically the list of high-profile alumni is lengthy, particularly in regards to position players. The dry, arid desert conditions and lack of quality pitching each year culminate to create an offensive friendly environment, particularly beneficial to power hitters. 

Looking at this year’s crop of AFL-bound sluggers there are several hitters with the skills to flourish in the offensively slanted environments. Today we’ll look at the best sluggers, contact hitters and on-base machines.


This group includes some of the hitters with the highest exit velocities bound for the AFL. These players all showcased outstanding high-end batted ball data during the MiLB regular season. By way of sourced data we can more clearly see who’s likely to light up the Trackman this Fall. 

Joshua Mears, OF, Padres: While the slugger’s contact issues plagued him throughout the season, few players have the ability to hit tape-measure home runs like Mears. His top 10% of batted balls in play averaged 109 mph this season. 

Carlos De La Cruz, OF, Phillies: The 6-foot-8 slugger stands out on a baseball field and his ability to put a charge into contact speaks for itself. In a standout season that saw De La Cruz reach Double-A for the first time, the top 10% of his balls in play averaged above 108 mph.

Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals: Arguably the top prospect in this year’s Fall League, Walker is a well-rounded hitter capable of impacting the game in a variety of ways. His true standout skill, however, is his power, as Walker’s top 10% of balls in play averaged nearly 108 mph in 2022. 

Deyvison De Los Santos, 3B, D-backs: The youngest position player in the Arizona Fall League this season, De Los Santos consistently produced through his 2022 season. His tool set is centered around his plus power tool. The slugger averaged above 107 mph on the top 10% of his balls in play this season. 

Rece Hinds, 3B, Reds: Dating back to his prep days Hinds has displayed jaw-dropping raw power. Contact has been a problem for Hinds, but he’s consistently displayed the ability to make high-end hard contact. The top 10% of his balls in play this season averaged nearly 107 mph. 


Contact Quality 

This group has the highest rate of balls hit above 95 mph with launch angles that are considered optimal. This is often discussed in the public space as barrel rate. These are the players making the highest rate of the highest quality contact. 

Edouard Julien, 2B, Twins: One of the data standouts heading into the Fall League, Julien not only displays some of the best plate approach in the league but has a knack for the barrel. His rate of quality contact was the highest of any player to earn an invite to the AFL. 

Colt Keith, 3B, Tigers: Injuries cut Keith’s season short in 2022, but when he was healthy the Tigers infielder looked on the verge of a breakout. His ability to make hard contact at optimal launch angles is among the best in the league. Over 20% of his balls in play were hit 95-plus mph and between 10-30 degrees of launch angle. 

Tyler Hardman, 1B, Yankees: Dating back to his days at Oklahoma, Hardman has always possessed the ability to find the barrel. In 2022 Hardman hit 22 home runs, in large part due to his ability to consistently find the barrel. Over 20% of Hardman’s balls in play this season were hit 95-plus mph and in optimal launch angle ranges. 

Niko Kavadas, 1B, Red Sox: After setting the college baseball world ablaze in his final season at Notre Dame, Kavadas climbed three levels of the minors this season. His on-base ability and power are standout skills, but it’s Kavadas’ ability to find the barrel that is the nucleus of his success. Kavadas hit over 20% of his balls in-play 95-plus mph with optimal launch angle ranges. 


This group is the most likely to take home the Arizona Fall League batting title. This group is also the least likely to swing and miss in any given at-bat. While contact and bat-to-ball skills don’t correlate as well as hard contact or contact quality to production, they’re still valuable skills.

Jackson Merrill, SS, Padres: A 2021 first-round pick, Merrill earned the AFL invite at 19 years old after starting just 55 games between the complex and Low-A Lake Elsinore. Over his truncated 2022 season, Merrill made contact at a rate of 84.5%. His zone-contact rate is even more impressive as he made contact with 90% of pitches he saw in-zone.  

J.C. Correa, C, Astros: There’s no hitter in the Arizona Fall League that gets the bat on the ball at the rate Correa does. The Astros converted Correa to catcher this season after he spent his 2021 season moving around the infield. He makes contact at a rate of 87.7% and zone contact at a rate of 92%. These are easily the best contact rates among AFL-bound hitters.

Spencer Packard, OF, Mariners: A 2021 ninth-rounder out of Campbell, Packard impressed with his advanced hit tool and approach in his full-season debut in 2022. In 69 games with High-A Everett, Packard hit .282/.397/.490 with 12 home runs. An excellent bat-to-ball hitter, Packard made contact with 84.5% of the pitches he swung at and 91% of the pitches he swung at in-zone.  

Tanner Morris, 2B, Blue Jays: After an impressive start over the first 43 games of the season with Double-A New Hampshire, Morris struggled upon promotion to Triple-A Buffalo and dealt with multiple stints on the injury list. An excellent contact hitter, Morris got the bat on the ball at a rate of 82.2% this season with an in-zone contact rate of 86%. While Morris lacks impact, he is an advanced hitter with a patient approach and the ability to consistently make contact. 

Jorbit Vivas, 2B, Dodgers: A diminutive infielder with advanced hittability, Vivas has produced consecutive offensive seasons that were at least 25% better than the league average of players in the same league. A large part of this is Vivas’ innate ability to make contact and control the zone. He struck out less than he walked in 2022 and ran a contact rate of 83.2% and a zone-contact rate of 89%. 


On-Base Ability 

Why are these guys interesting? To steal a cliche from Moneyball, because they get on base. This group of hitters is among the most patient in the league. These players expand the zone at some of the lowest rates in the league. 

Trevor Hauver, 2B, Rangers: Acquired from the Yankees in the Joey Gallo trade, Hauver hit just .220 in 2022, but his on-base ability led to a gaudy 20.8% walk rate in 2022. Hauver was unlucky on balls in play this season (.260 BABIP), but showcased advanced plate discipline, only swinging at pitches outside the zone 14% of the time. That was the second lowest chase rate among players to receive an AFL invitation after only the Twins’ Edouard Julien

Tyler Black, 2B, Brewers: Dating back to his collegiate days at Wright State, Black has always displayed a refined approach at the plate. Limited to just 64 games in 2022, Black spent his entire first full professional season with High-A Wisconsin where he hit .281/.406/.424. Black walked more than he struck out and walked in 15.9% of his plate appearances. 

Justyn-Henry Malloy, 3B, Braves: One of the most exciting breakouts of 2022, Malloy climbed all the way to Triple-A by season’s end, showcasing a refined approach at the plate. Malloy hit .289/.408/.454 and walked in 16.4% of his plate appearances this season. His chase rate of 18% is among the lowest for players who received an AFL invite. 

Tyler Gentry, OF, Royals: Few hitters came out of the gates as hot as Gentry did in 2022. Arguably the best hitter in the Midwest League over the first half of the season, Gentry saw a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas where he continued to hit. His advanced plate approach is the foundation of his offensive game as Gentry swung at pitches outside the zone on just 19% of his swings this season. 

Aaron Zavala, OF, Rangers: Zavala, who split his season between High-A Down East and Double-A Frisco, showcased his well-balanced skill set, hitting for average, power and getting on base. The latter is arguably Zavala’s carrying tool as he walked in 17.3% of his plate appearances in 2022. That was heavily driven by his 20% chase rate, as he manages the strike zone as well as any AFL-bound hitter. 

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