Fall is here! It’s playoff baseball time, but for all of us prospect lovers out there, it also means Arizona Fall League baseball! For those of you who don’t know, the Arizona Fall League is an off-season league operated by Major League Baseball that plays games in the fall in Arizona. Six teams are filled with many of the top prospects throughout Minor League Baseball. Each of the six teams is represented by five Major League Baseball teams. These are the teams for 2021:
Glendale Desert Dogs (White Sox, Astros, Angels, Dodgers, Cardinals)
Mesa Solar Sox (Orioles, Cubs, Marlins, Athletics, Blue Jays)
Peoria Javelinas (Braves, Phillies, Pirates, Padres, Marines)
Salt River Rafters (Diamondbacks, Rockies, Tigers, Brewers, Mets)
Scottsdale Scorpions (Red Sox, Guardians, Twins, Giants, Rays)
Surprise Saguaros (Reds, Royals, Yankees, Rangers, Nationals)
The Kansas City Royals prospects play for the Surprise Saguaros. The Royals sent eight prospects – four pitchers, one catcher, two infielders, and one outfielder. The group is a mix of top prospects, former top prospects, and some under-the-radar names.
Asa Lacy, LHP: Age 22 (Highest Level – High A)
2021 Stats: 14 G, 51 IP, 30 ER, 41 BB, 79 SO, 5.19 ERA, 1.58 WHIP
Lacy is the Royals’ prized prospect in the Arizona Fall League. His professional debut in 2021 was a mixed bag and the fall league is a chance for him to improve on some of his command and control issues. I see a lot of people out there saying it was a disappointment of a season or that he didn’t live up to expectations. Sure, you want to see better numbers out of your first-round, fourth overall pick, but Lacy is still just 22-years-old and there were good signs throughout the season. The biggest positive is that he was striking out batters 33.3% of the time. That lets you know his stuff is as elite as expected when the Royals took him in the 2020 draft. I know the expectations are high, but I still have confidence that Lacy will adjust to pro ball. He was shut down in July with a shoulder injury so he is also working his way back from that. Lacy’s debut in the Fall League was a good one. He went two innings, allowing just one hit, walking one, and striking out four. Don’t give up on Lacy just yet. The stuff is still there to become an elite starter.
Welcome to pro ball!
2020 No. 4 overall Draft pick Asa Lacy racks up 5 K’s in 2 1/3 innings for Quad Cities. pic.twitter.com/5ry36ejheI
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 6, 2021
Zach Haake, RHP: Age 25 (Highest Level – High A)
2021 Stats:- 15G, 53.2 IP, 20 ER, 23 BB, 58 SO, 3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Haake is the prospect I was most intrigued to see head to the Arizona Fall League. Haake was drafted in the sixth round of the 2018 draft and was part of the arm-heavy draft class that included the likes of Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, Jonathan Bowlan, and Austin Cox. He was stellar in his 2018 debut pitching to the tune of a 1.75 ERA between rookie and rookie advanced. He was off to a great start during the 2021 season in High-A for the Quad Cities River Bandits. He carried a 3.74 ERA while striking out 47 batters in 45.2 innings until he missed roughly six weeks with an oblique injury. The Fall League will be a great opportunity for him to bounce back. In his latest start, he went 3.1 scoreless innings. His fastball sat in the mid-90s and he was mixing his offspeed pitches very well, impressing a lot of people. Haake is a name you will want to keep on your radar in a Royals prospect system already loaded with arms.
Luca Tresh, C: Age 21 (Highest Level – Low A)
2021 Stats: 16 G, 12 H, 4 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 5 BB, .226 BA, .293 OBP, .358 SLG, .652 OPS
Tresh is a 2021 draft pick and it is rare for a player to attend the Fall League in their draft year. Tresh was taken in the 17th round and signed for above-slot money. While catching at NC State, Tresh was a bit overshadowed by his counterpart and Giants 2020 first-round prospect Patrick Bailey. He got off to a scorching hot start in the Arizona Complex League, slashing .389/.421/.722 with a 1.143 OPS. He was quickly promoted to Low-A but struggled to adjust to the competition in a small sample size. Tresh has some fun raw power and a really good arm behind the plate. The Arizona Fall League will allow him to improve his hit tool against some really good competition.
Seuly Matias, OF: Age 23 (Highest Level – AA)
2021 Stats: 64 G, 50 H, 10 2B, 3 3B, 18 HR, 47 RBI, 24 BB, .213 BA, .309 OBP, .511 SLG, .819 OPS
Every year seems to be the curious case of Seuly Matias where there is hope that this might be the year where he takes that next step as a hitter and hits his ceiling. When spring training rolls around, you are guaranteed at least one video of Matias hitting a home run over 500 feet. There is no question that the incredible 70-grade raw power is real. You look at the physicality of Matias and you just want his hit tool to pan out. He spent most of 2021 in Double-A where it was a lot of the same story. He popped 7 home runs (18 total) but struck out 37.6% of the time. The strikeouts are what will hamper Matias as he moves along in his career. When you see those 500 foot home runs, you can’t help but keep pulling for him.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) March 2, 2021
Nathan Eaton, 2B: Age 24 (Highest Level – High A)
2021 Stats: 75 G, 66 H, 14 2B, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 39 BB, 23 SB, .243 BA, .350 OBP, .368 SLG, .718 OPS
Nathan Eaton adds to the already big list of Royals middle infield prospects. Eaton was taken in the 21st round of the 2018 MLB draft and has never really been mentioned as a top prospect for the Royals. There aren’t too many stats that stand out to you when you take a deeper dive on Eaton, but he did steal 23 bags this year and walked 12.1% of the time. The one stat that stood out was his career .349 OBP. He probably has the ceiling of a utility infielder so the Royals will take a look and see what he has against some top prospect competition in the Arizona Fall League.
Stephen Woods Jr., RHP: Age 26 (Highest Level – AA)
2021 Stats: 22 G, 39 ER, 45 BB, 48 SO, 7.42 ERA, 2.20 WHIP
It seems like forever ago that the Royals took Stephen Woods, Jr. in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. Ultimately, the Royals decided not to keep Woods, Jr. and returned him to the Rays, eventually trading for him to keep the rights to him. Before the 2021 season, Woods, Jr. had dominated the minor leagues but he struggled this year compiling a 7.42 ERA and 2.20 WHIP. Most of the struggles have been related to command issues which could be seen in his 18.8% walk rate and 6.42 BB/9 this season. The bright side is that he has been known to be up to 99 mph with his cutter (sits in the mid-90s) and pairs it with a plus breaking ball. If he can just gain a little bit more consistency with his control, there could be a serviceable reliever in there.
Fire us up! 😤
Two runners on and Stephen Woods Jr. strikes out back-to-back hitters to get out of the inning!
— NW Arkansas Naturals (@nwanaturals) July 8, 2021
Jake Means, 3B: Age 25 (Highest Level – High A)
2021 Stats: 97 G, 76 H, 19 2B, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 59 BB, .222 BA, .343 OBP, .429 SLG, .722 OPS
Does the name Means ring a bell? Jake is the younger brother of Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher John Means. He was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2019 MLB draft and primarily played corner infield. He flashed some decent power this year, hitting 16 home runs and slugging .458 between Low and High-A. He gets on base at a decent clip, walking 59 times in 97 games. The Arizona Fall League should be a nice test for the 25-year-old who I expect will start next season in Double-A.
Mitchell Ellis, RHP: Age 26 (Highest Level – High A)
2021 Stats: 30 G, 54 IP, 29 ER, 21 BB, 62 SO, 4.83 ERA, 1.46 WHIP
Mitch Ellis seemed to be a late addition to the Arizona Fall League for the Royals. The right hundred signed out of Australia in February 2020. At the time, he was pitching for the Melbourne Aces in the Australian Baseball League. The 26-year-old spent most of the 2021 season pitching for the Quad Cities River Bandits in High-A. He compiled a 4.83 ERA in 54 innings while striking out 62 batters in 54 innings between Low and High-A. He served mostly in a relief role and that probably is where his ceiling is at.