2022 Arizona Fall League Championship Game
PEORIA, Ariz. — After six weeks of scorching competition across the Valley of the Sun, one game will decide Arizona’s 2022 Fall League champion.
With a new playoff format in tow, Glendale beat Peoria Friday night to advance to the title stage on Saturday. Waiting are the Saguaros Surprise, who finished with a league best of 19-10 during the regular season; Surprise holds a clear head-to-head advantage over Glendale, having won five of six contests this year.
The championship game will air live from Scottsdale Stadium on the MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET (6 p.m. local time) with Scott Braun, Jim Callis and Dan O’Dowd on the call. Surprise is aiming for its first league crown since 2013, while Glendale is looking to crack the title column for the first time since becoming an AFL host city. (The Desert Dogs — then in Phoenix — last won gold in 2008, capping a dominant five-game championship streak.)
There are six Top 100 Prospects between the two lists, but the win-win scenarios portend the emergence of heroes of all shapes and sizes. Prospects’ individual statuses — and accomplishments throughout the season — disappear, and the instinctive desire to earn a ring emerges. (Yes, there will be jewelry for the winners.)
Surprise’s roster contains prospects from both 2022 World Series entrants, the Astros and Phillies, as well as the Pirates, Rangers and Royals. Glendale boasts talent from the Reds, Dodgers, Twins, Brewers and White Sox. Here’s a prospect from each affiliate to watch out for in the last contest of the season.
Pirates: Nick Gonzales, INF (No. 5, MLB No. 93)
Gonzales is a rare two-time Fall Star selection who continued his development and reduced .279 / .351 / .500 with the Saguaros. Plantar fasciitis kept the infielder away from the diamond for more than two months over the summer, facilitating another trip back to his home state in the AFL. The No Surprise hitter will come in hotter than Gonzales, the seventh overall pick in the 2020 draft, who clipped four hits in Thursday’s regular-season finale, tying his professional career record for hits in an outing.
Rangers: Luisangel Acuña, SS (No. 7)
The younger brother of Braves All-Star Ronald, Luisangel has shown offensive power in his own right over the past six weeks. At just 20 years old, Acuña smashed a pair of home runs and added nine interceptions to cap a year that saw him climb as high as Double-A Frisco, where he averaged more than four years younger than his competitors. After earning a Texas League title ring, the Venezuela native’s experience and power/speed mix could be the driving force behind a victory.
Royal Family: Samad Taylor, 2B/OF (No. 25)
Acquired by Kansas City at the July trade deadline as part of Whit Merrifield’s return package, Taylor was added to the Royals. list of 40 men earlier this week. He didn’t show many striking tools during his time in the Fall League, but his speed was on show in spades with nine interceptions in 10 attempts. Taylor has already shown his flair for the dramatic, smashing a resounding home run earlier in the fall when the club played at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. In a win-win scenario, his aggressiveness on the base paths could be a game-changer.
Astros: Will Wagner, 3B (unranked on Houston’s Top 30)
Wagner was an extra-base machine throughout the Fall League, with 11 of his 18 hits scoring at least two sacks. The southpaw finished first in the AFL in isolated power (.365) and second in OPS (1.145) during the regular season, collecting 15 RBIs in just 14 games. Selected in the 18th round in Liberty’s 2021 draft, Wagner climbed as high as Double-A Corpus Christi in his first full season after compiling a 124 wRC+ in his time with High-A Asheville.
Phillies: Cristian Hernandez, RHP (not ranked on Philadelphia’s Top 30)
The 22-year-old Venezuelan was named to the Fall Stars Game last week, continuing a linear progression of success since his acclimatization to humanitarian work. He peppered the strike zone with a mid-90s lead, posting just one step to his register in 11 frames for Surprise. Scheduled to serve as an opener, Hernandez allowed just one earned run in eight appearances. The Saguaros posted a league-best 4.33 team ERA during the regular season and if they are to win their first league title in nearly a decade, putting in zeros will be imperative.
Reds: Noelvi Marte, 3B/SS (No. 2, MLB No. 17)
Leading Glendale’s semi-final victory with a home run and a pair of RBIs, the 21-year-old was the centerpiece of Reds’ Trade Deadline acquisitions last season. The top-ranked prospect dealt in 2022, Marte posted an .829 OPS on two High-A saves between the Seattle and Cincinnati organizations. He nearly led the Spanish national team to the World Baseball Classic with an impressive four-game performance before heading to Arizona. With the franchise offering a plethora of talented shortstops, Marte began his transition to the hot corner during his time with Glendale.
Dodgers: Andy Pages, DE (No. 5, MLB No. 66)
Much like Marte, Pages brings percolating wood into the league’s latest contest. After a slow start after arriving in Arizona, the 21-year-old settled in to deliver eight multihit performances. The Cuban slugger smashed a home run on the final day of the regular season, tying him to lead the team with five homers. Power has been the name of the game for Pages since moving to the United States, hitting 26 jacks last year for Double-A Tulsa. This pop will make him a threat every time he enters the box.
Twins: Edouard Julien, 2B (No. 14)
Fall League breakout sensation Julien has plenty of helium after a monstrous AFL campaign that saw him cut .400/.563/.686 across 21 regular season competitions. The native of Quebec, Canada, led the league in average, field goal percentage, walks (23) and OPS, while finishing third in hits (28) and total bases (48). The Glendale catalyst at the top of the command spent the entirety of the 2022 season with Double-A Wichita, where he compiled a whopping .422 wOBA and 145 wRC+ over 113 games.
Brewers: Zavier Warren, 1B/3B (not ranked on Milwaukee’s Top 30)
Warren’s home plate discipline has only been beaten by Julien in the past six weeks. A left-handed swinger with a gifted eye, the 2020 third-round draft pick finished eighth in on-base percentage (.443), walking (22) more than he struck out (16). On October 28, the 23-year-old had a multi-hit outing against Surprise in which he had the AFL’s best four RBIs.
White Sox: Sammy Peralta, LHP (not ranked on Chicago’s Top 30)
A deceptive arm lunge makes the southpaw a candidate to make a significant impact during the title match. With Surprise offering powerhouse left-handed bats like Wagner and Trevor Hauver (Rangers), the Queens, NY native will give the Desert Dogs a neutralizing presence outside the bullpen. Selected in the 18th round in the 2019 University of Tampa draft, the 24-year-old sniffed out 14 batters out of 14 frames during the Fall Tour regular season. Peralta kicked out of the big leagues with his performance after compiling 11 K/9s in 62 innings between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.