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Standout Performers in the Arizona Fall League

Arizona Fall League

Standout Performers in the Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League is underrated. After the last pitch of the World Series, many don’t think about baseball again until the weather starts to improve in the spring. However, for a number of top prospects, the season continues in Arizona. These players can sometimes dramatically improve their stock for the upcoming season.

Take Ronald Acuña Jr. He had a monumental season in 2018 as a teenager, producing eye-popping numbers. His season started in High-A and ended with him dominating Triple-A pitching. Some doubters, however, still wondered if his power was legit or if he may be a flash-in-the-pan. His performance in the Arizona Fall League was the cherry on top and a signal that Acuna was going to be special. He hit seven home runs and hit .325, proving that his new-founded power was legit and he was going to be a star.

Here are some standout performers for the 2019 Arizona Fall League and what to make of their future.

Greg Deichmann (OF, Oakland Athletics)

It’s fun to look at the top prospects and speculate how they are progressing. But every once in a while, a guy simply goes ballistic during the Arizona Fall League and you have to take notice. That is what Greg Deichmann of the Oakland Athletics did this year. By no means, a top 100 guy the 24-year-old brushed off a terrible 2019 season to put in one of the better performances in recent memory in Arizona. He blasted a league-high nine home runs in 23 games and had an absurd .634 slugging percentage. In a word; crazy. Rated as the #17 prospect for the A’s on, Deichmann was considered a well-rounded prospect out of high school. He was applauded for his power potential, along with a chance to be a good defensive outfielder with a strong arm. It seems he might be unlocking that potential now.

Injuries have really stunted Deichmann’s growth, however. Limited to 80 games last year, the outfielder struggled, slashing .219/.300/.375. This is the type of player to get excited about because perhaps we are finally seeing what he can do when he is healthy. The Arizona Fall League does have quality pitching so it’s worth it to take notice when a guy dominates like this. At age 24, 2020 may be the first season we see a fully healthy Deichmann and a quick rise to the big leagues is definitely in play. Keep a close eye on him going into Spring Training and hope he carries over his hot bat from the fall into the spring.

Forrest Whitley (SP, Houston Astros)

Forrest Whitley of the Houston Astros didn’t have the dominant performance that Deichmann had, but Whitley had a lot more pressure on him to perform. Heading into the 2019 season, many experts viewed the big right-hander as the best pitching prospect in the game. His season, however, was an unmitigated disaster. His command seemingly completely left him and finished with a 7.99 ERA in only 58 innings. He was sent to the Arizona Fall League to make up for the lost time and ended up starting six games.

Whitley delivered in those starts. He led the league in strikeouts, with 32, and held a very respectable 2.88 ERA. He did walk nine batters but considering how his 2019 season went that was quite an improvement. Whitley needed to put 2019 behind him, and his fall performance has to give the Astros confidence that he still could reach his ace potential. 

With this performance and his pedigree, Whitley could be up early in 2020 if he builds off his positive Fall League showing. His stuff never abandoned him; it’s simply a matter of sharpening his command and control.

Royce Lewis (SS, Minnesota Twins)

Ever since being drafted No. 1 by the Minnesota Twins in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft scouts, fans and experts have been waiting for Royce Lewis to have a true breakout. Heading into the 2019 Arizona Fall League, we had yet to see it. His 2019 was a disappointment and seemed out of place. It should be noted, though, that Lewis has been young for every level he has been at. 

Lewis might have used the 2019 Arizona Fall League as a coming-out party. He was the MVP of the league and was at the top of nearly every relevant statistic. The MVP of the Fall League in recent years has been a coronation of sorts. Keston Hiura, Ronald Acuña Jr., and Gleyber Torres make up the last three MVP’s and Lewis certainly fits into that group as a top prospect. 

Lewis, who some viewed as a surprise No. 1 pick, is considered an elite athlete. Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that his make-up and work ethic are off the charts. All that’s left for Lewis is the results. His spectacular performance in the Arizona Fall League is probably a strong indication that Lewis is well on his way to the big leagues and perhaps as early as 2020. He’s going to be fun to watch, especially with some added confidence, as he matures.

Joey Bart (C, San Francisco Giants)

Joey Bart seemed to have lost some shine after Adley Rutschman was selected No. 1 and instantly became the best catching prospect in the minor leagues. This should not have really affected the stock of Bart, but somehow it seemed to do just that. Don’t forget that the San Francisco Giants picked him second overall in 2018 and many considered him a true, elite prospect. Bart finished his 2019 season in Double-A and hit 16 home runs. 

His Arizona Fall League was a continuation of a very successful 2019 season. He hit four home runs in his first 10 games, before suffering a fracture on his thumb by a hit-by-pitch. The sample size may be small, but Bart is doing his best to rival Rutschman as the game’s best catching prospect. The 23-year-old also walked nine times and hit .333. 

Bart was always considered a good defender behind the dish, and now with the great progress he is showing with his bat, it’s only a matter of time before he makes his big league debut. 2020 seems possible now, assuming the injury doesn’t linger into next year. 

Spencer Howard (SP, Philadelphia Phillies)

Spencer Howard has been rising quickly through the Philadelphia Phillies system. In 2019, the right-hander posted a pristine 2.03 ERA, albeit in only 71 innings. He also struck out an impressive 94 batters during those frames. With the small workload, Howard was able to log six starts in the Fall League and the results were impressive. A 2.11 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 21.1 innings suggests that Howard is not just the top pitching prospect in the system, but perhaps a top pitching prospect in all of baseball. The stats are even more impressive when you look at his 0.94 WHIP and the fact he only gave up 10 hits total in his six outings.

The 23-year-old also proved to be fully healthy after suffering some injuries in 2019. He was consistently touching 98 MPH throughout the fall. Armed with a deadly slider and a promising changeup to go along with his heat, Howard is poised to make his MLB debut in 2020. His results in the fall are really not surprising. Instead, it acts as proof that Howard is healthy and ready to have a true breakout season.

Closing Thoughts

The Arizona Fall League is a great time for prospects to come together and compete one last time in the calendar year. Although it does fall into the small sample size category, many times it can provide great insight into future success. This is especially true with the stud prospects, like Bart and Lewis. Look for these standouts to build on their fall campaign and vault into the big leagues soon.


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