Which Orioles Prospects Will Play in Arizona Fall League?
By Arrick Joel
As the offseason gets underway, the Arizona Fall League is set to host a group of Orioles prospects
With the MLB Postseason in motion, fans of the Baltimore Orioles can only watch in anticipation, picturing a day in the near future when their team will be battling it out for a chance at a World Series title. In the meantime, O’s fans have an opportunity to watch some of the team’s highest-ranked prospects, who may play a role on those future World Series contending teams, in the Arizona Fall League.
Set to return after the lost 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AFL is an offseason prospect league hosted by Major League Baseball which aims to help further develop and showcase some of Minor League Baseball’s brightest stars. The league’s six teams, each of which roster talent from five different minor league systems, will face off with one another up until the league’s championship game on November 20th.
This year’s Mesa Solar Sox roster includes eight Orioles prospects, namely Kyle Stowers and Yusniel Diaz. Behind first-round picks Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad, Stowers and Diaz round out the top four outfield prospects in MLB Pipeline’s rankings of the top 30 prospects in the Orioles’ system. Other O’s prospects set to appear on the Solar Sox roster include pitchers Cameron Bishop, Logan Gillaspie, Connor Loeprich, Nick Vespi, catcher Ramon Rodriguez, and second baseman Greg Cullen.
Stowers had a breakout season during his time at A+ Aberdeen, AA Bowie, and AAA Norfolk in 2021, slashing a combined .278/.383/.514 with 27 home runs across the three levels. With the season he just had fresh in mind, it will be interesting to see if he can continue his offensive onslaught during AFL play.
A player Orioles fans will hope to see figure something out in Mesa is Diaz, who struggled mightily throughout an injury-plagued 2021 campaign in which he slashed just .161/.233/.265 combined across AA Bowie and AAA Norfolk. His success is particularly critical for Baltimore as Diaz was touted as the centerpiece of the prospect package the Orioles received from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Manny Machado.
While prospect leagues aren’t always the most thrilling for fans of varying levels of interest, getting a first look at some of the new rule changes MLB is experimenting with at the AFL should absolutely garner intrigue from even the most casual fan. As reported by Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, rule changes will include a pitch clock, limiting defensive shifting, larger bases, and an automated system for calling balls and strikes.
The exciting 2021 Arizona Fall League season begins on Wednesday, October 13th.