2021 Arizona Fall League Outlook Review
The Arizona Fall League ended Nov. 20 with a Mesa Solar Sox Championship against the Suprise Saguaros.
In this space, we’ll be going over the 2021 Arizona Fall League, highlighting the players who have been the most notable and the disappointments based on their performances from a fantasy baseball perspective.
Many of these prospects won’t make an impact in majors this coming season, but they are some of the best players of the next generation of prospects. Managers in the Dynasty League should make it a priority to familiarize themselves with these players.
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Below are the players who upgraded their proverbial stock:
Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox, 1B
Triston Casas was a bit of a headache for me, to be honest. He hit .372 with a .495 OBP and a .982 OPS despite a single home run in 95 appearances at home. If you read the reports, people rave about Triston Casas. That said, someone who’s supposed to have 30-40 home runs hitting a 78-stroke home run certainly raises eyebrows. He bills himself as a corner batsman and is set to make his Major League debut in 2022 for the Boston Red Sox.
Nelson Velazquez, Chicago Cubs, OF
2021 Arizona Fall League MVP Nelson Velazquez had a big breakthrough this fall. He hit 0.385, with an OBP of 0.480, an OPS of 1.191 and nine league-leading home runs. His performance likely played a role in his addition to the 40-man roster last week, ensuring he won’t be selected by another team in the Rule 5 Draft. According to the MLB Prospect Rankings, he is the # 29 hope in the Cubs system.
In 2021, Velazquez starred in both High-A and Double-A. At High-A, he hit 12 home runs, stole 12 goals in 69 games while defeating .261 with an OBP of .321 and strikeout rate of 33.7%. At Double-A, he hit eight homers, stole five goals while hitting .290 with a .358 OBP and a 25.5% strikeout rate in just 34 games.
I don’t know what his fantastic potential is, but it’s definitely a name I’ll be watching this spring and next season in the minor leagues.
#Cubs hopeful Nelson Velázquez is Arizona Fall League MVP 💪🏼
Velázquez has led the AFL in circuits and OPS. Also ranked second in average, third in percentage on base and fourth in RBI.
The last Cubs player to win this award was Kris Bryant. pic.twitter.com/rxPWtZkt5l
– Cubs Zone ™ ️ (@CubsZone) November 21, 2021
Owen White, Texas Rangers, RHP
Owen White was the 2021 Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Year. He started six games, pitched 28.1 innings, was 5-0 with a 1.91 ERA, a WHIP of 1.16 and 29 strikeouts. In 2021, White started eight games and pitched 33.1 innings in Low-A. He was 3-1 with an ERA of 3.24, a WHIP of 1.11 and a K-BB% of 31.1%. According to the MLB Prospects page, White is the # 27 prospect in the Rangers system with an ETA date of 2023. Similar to Velazquez, I’ll be keeping an eye on White but don’t know what his fantastic relevance will be.
Gabriel Moreno, Blue Jays of Toronto, C
Gabriel Moreno has also caused quite a stir recently. He had 11 doubles at the top of the Arizona Fall League in 98 home plate appearances. It hit 0.329 with an OBP of 0.410 and an OPS of 0.904. Haven’t seen him play yet, but people say he’s playing solid defense. Sometimes young receivers struggle at home plate as they get used to defense and pitching handling at the Major League level.
He is set to make his debut in 2022 and some believe he is the future receiver for the Blue Jays. In the fantasy world, the receiver is not a very relevant position beyond the very best players. I don’t know if Moreno is someone who can hit 40 home runs or steal double-digit bases. I kick position a lot, so if he’s someone who can play the majority of the time behind the plate and not destroy my batting average, I’m in it.
Nick Gonzales, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2B
Nick Gonzales hit 0.380 with an OBP of 0.483, 1.032 OPS, two homers and four interceptions in 84 home plate appearances. He had 18 home runs and seven interceptions in the High-A ball last year in 369 home plate appearances. At 22, can he quickly move from High-A to Major League?
Bryson Stott, Philadelphia Phillies, SS
Bryson Stott is another player who has had a great fall. He reached .318 with an OBP of .445, .934 OPS, two homers, five interceptions and 31 RBI in 26 games. One beat writer believed Stott’s performance would keep the Phillies out of the shortstop free agent market.
In 2021, Stott played 80 Double-A games before being promoted to Triple-A for 10 games. In those 80 Double-A games, Stott hit 0.301, an OBP of 0.368, with 10 homers and six interceptions. He had a strikeout rate of 22.2%, a walk rate of 10% and an ISO of 0.179. Steamer screened him for 288 home plate appearances with eight homers, four interceptions and an average of .257 in 2022. In a full season, he’s on track for 16 homers and eight interceptions. He’s someone I would line up late in a Draft Champions format, or a possible waiver thread added in the middle of the infield in a 15-team league – if he gets regular playing time.
Bryson Stott has reached base in all 26 Arizona Fall League games he’s played.
– MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) 22 November 2021
Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers, 1B / 3B
Spencer Torkelson sprained his ankle after playing just seven games and was sent home earlier. In the seven games he played, he reached 0.450. He is Detroit’s top prospect (No.4 overall) according to MLB.com’s Prospect Rankings and is set to make his first-base debut sometime in 2022. Steamer predicted Torkelson will hit 0.259 with an OBP of 0.341, 29 home runs, five interceptions. in 525 plate appearances. Despite the limited drop, he is expected to be a fantastic and useful contributor in 2022.
Marco Luciano, San Francisco Giants, SS
Marco Luciano had a disappointing fall league in Arizona. He touched .253 with an OBP of .356, .730 OPS and three homers in 86 home plate appearances. Strikeouts, one of his biggest concerns in his minor league stats, were also a concern here. He was No. 7 in the Arizona Fall League with 28 strikeouts. It’s disappointing because if you search for him on YouTube you’ll find some towering home runs, and he’s an electric player when he’s on. The downside is also significant at this point in his playing career. The belief is that overall prospect No.5 will make his Major League debut in 2023.
CJ Abrams, San Diego Padres, 2B / SS
I was interested to see what CJ Abrams would do in the Arizona Fall League after fracturing his left shin and spraining the MCL earlier this season. Unfortunately, he injured his shoulder while slipping into a base during the fall training league. We’ll get our next look at prospect # 6 in 2022 in Spring Training.
Nolan Gorman, Saint Louis Cardinals, 2B
Nolan Gorman has only appeared in six games in the Arizona Fall League with a hamstring injury. In those six games, he hit .375 with an OBP of .565 and hit a home run. He’s gone from third to second since the Cardinals now have Nolan Arenado for the foreseeable future. I wonder if he will end up being a Max Muncy type player.
Gorman stole seven goals in the minor leagues, but that was in 119 games. A lack of elite speed at an intermediate position on the pitch can be difficult for a fantastic line-up composition. So far the transition to second base has been positive, however, if the National League ever adds a designated hitter, one has to wonder if guys like Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado will have some time at DH allowing Gorman to occasionally playing a corner infield position.
MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres, LHP
MacKenzie Gore had a disappointing fall league in Arizona. He pitched just 11.1 innings, allowed nine runs (earned eight), struck out eight batters and walked six. In 2020, he was the highest ranked pitcher prospect. He’s been added to the Padres’ 40-man roster, and we’ll see what 2022 brings to MacKenzie Gore.
Bobby Miller, Los Angeles Dodgers, RHP
Bobby Miller pitched 10 innings, struck out 10, walked seven, allowing 11 earned runs. He’s a well-known prospect who is set to make his debut in 2022. I’ve had issues with the Dodgers pitching roster outside of Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw (when he’s in good health). You never know how they’re going to be used and often young pitchers like this end up being better in real life than the fantastic options, especially early in their careers.
Prospects No.4 (Spencer Torkelson) and No.6 (CJ Abrams) didn’t play much to pull something insightful out of the fall. Marco Luciano, No. 5 prospect, suffered a disappointing fall. Triston Casas, Gabriel Moreno, Nick Gonzales, Nelson Velazquez and Owen White have won one of the Arizona Fall League’s biggest buzzes heading into spring.
Outside of Torkelson, it’s unclear when most of these top performing players will make their major league debuts, as most could spend the majority (if not all) of the season in the minor leagues in 2022.