5 Arizona Fall League Players to Know for 2023 Fantasy Baseball

by Matthew Rosser
5 Arizona Fall League Players to Know for 2023 Fantasy Baseball

Pop quiz hotshot:

With the World Series coming to an end earlier this month, you now have time to ____.

A) Call your mom.  She misses you

B) Drag your Fantasy Football team out of the cellar

C) Watch more baseball, but with fringe prospects and minor leaguers

If you guessed C, then you have come to the right place (even still, call your mom. She misses you).  Last Saturday, the Arizona Fall League (AFL) came to an end, but not before giving us plenty to be excited about for next year.  Typically, the AFL is a hodgepodge of mid-20-year-old guys hoping to get some shine before being Rule 5 eligible, and young top prospects trying to propel themselves through the minors. This year isn't much different from that standpoint. There may be a few guys worthy of honorable mentions, but there are 5 Arizona Fall League Players to know for 2023 Fantasy Baseball.

Just scrolling through the leaderboard, there are a number of recognizable names like Jasson Dominguez and Kumar Rocker on both sides of the ball.  For our purposes, however, we aren't going to talk about them right now.  Not because neither was electric (they weren't, but that's fine), or because typing Jasson with two S's makes my computer angry (it does), but because there is little likelihood that they make it to The Show next year.

Most of the guys listed below probably won't break camp with the team on opening day, but they should play at some point, and when they do, they will likely contribute in at least one facet. So, without further ado, let's get to the players.

5 Arizona Fall League Players to Know for 2023 Fantasy Baseball

5. Zac Veen, OF, Colorado Rockies (20 years old)

AFL 2022: 99 PA's, .333/.444/.444, 15 R, 10 RBI, 1 HR, 16 SB

Of all the names on this list, Veen may be the most well-known.  The former first round selection is currently a top 40 prospect in baseball, and the top man in the Colorado organization.  He is a bona fide demon on the basepaths, and can be penciled in for 15-20 homers in a full season as well after you factor in Coors.

He struggled in a short stint at Double-A this year, but it is nothing to be concerned about right now. Based on his pedigree, Veen would be number one with a bullet on this list, however there are a few reasons he isn't.  He will only be 21 in 2023, and the Rockies are notorious for slow-rolling prospects. Of the guys in this list, he is the least likely to debut in '23.  However, his talent is undeniable so keep an eye on him in spring training and his minor league assignments.  There is a decent chance he comes up late this year, and if he does, look for him to be flat-out felonious on the bases down the stretch.

4. Heston Kjerstad, OF, Baltimore Orioles (23 years old)

AFL 2022: 104 PA's, .357/.385/.622, 13 R, 17 RBI, 5 HR, 0 SB

Heston Kjerstad wrapped up an incredible AFL by taking home MVP honors.  The former Razorback has only logged minimal time in the minors, but he is more seasoned than the back of his baseball card may suggest.  He has real power in his bat and is poised to grow into even more.

At 23, he is older than a lot of his double-A compatriots going into 2023, and if he hits like he did this past month, he is going to skyrocket through the minor leagues.  He's a little raw right now, but the Orioles have shown a willingness to bring up guys when they can contribute, and Kjerstad will certainly be able to contribute before too long. He is Rule 5 eligible after next season, and he is a former 2nd overall pick.  He may not be up for a very long time in 2023, but he could be a four-category contributor from day one if and when Baltimore gives him a shot.

3. Jordan Walker, 3B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals (20 years old)

AFL 2022: 90 PA's, .286/.367/.558, 17 R, 16 RBI, 5 HR, 3 SB
Embed from Getty Images
Like Veen, Jordan Walker is likely a second-half call-up, but that doesn't mean he can't be crucial to your team's chances of winning.  He is a former first-round pick, and currently the No. 8 overall prospect in baseball.

Walker’s pop is the real thing.  He has 80-grade power, and hit 31 doubles to go with 19 bombs at Double-A this year.  While carrying a .306/.388/.510 slash line and 22 steals.

He is a legitimate five-category stud in the making. His age may compel St. Louis to keep him in the minors, but there is an outside shot he breaks camp this year.

I think there is a real chance he turns in a 30 HR+SB season if he comes up in June, and that could easily be 20-20 with a decent average if he makes it on the roster earlier. To be clear: If he plays more than four months, Jordan Walker will be a Rookie of the Year Finalist.  Even if they slow-roll him and wait until roster expansion, he will be impactful from the first day he is on the roster.

Writer’s Note: An earlier version of this article had a stats error for Walker’s home run total. This has been corrected.

2. Edouard Julien, 2B, Minnesota Twins (23 years old)

AFL 2022: 96 PA's, .400/.563/.686, 24 R, 17 RBI, 5 HR, 6 SB

I've been high on Edouard Julien since he hit 17 homers for my beloved Auburn Tigers as a freshman in 2018.  He put together a solid two-year career on the Plains before getting drafted in the teen rounds by Minnesota in 2019.

He kind of fell off of my radar for a few years, but he showed up in a big way this past year.  Not because he has an insane ceiling, but because he has an otherworldly floor.

At every stop, both amateur and professional, Julien has been a prolific walker.  His professional walk rate is 21%. That is not a typo. He has walked twenty-one percent of his career. It also isn't a fluke, as he regularly has an on-base percentage roughly 150 points higher than his batting average. He can stuff a stat line, he can play 6 positions, and he is physically ready.

Julien may start out in the minors, but expect him to make the roster, probably as an injury fill-in/utility bat as soon as the need arises.  Once he is up and playing, his ability to get on base will be hard to deny, and he fits the Twins' lineup perfectly.

He has both above-average power and baserunning ability and can put up a 10-15 season with ease.  Given enough time, those numbers could easily be 15-20.

He doesn't hurt in average either, as he profiles to be a .245-.260 hitter.  With his walk rate, Julien is a run machine who pulls his weight across the other categories.

The most untrustworthy thing about Julien is his team's value of him, but I think he can force their hand. I love this guy, I think he is RC Cola Mookie Betts at worst. I will be scooping him up the second there is any hubbub or injury trouble in Minneapolis.

1. Matt Mervis, 1B, Chicago Cubs (24 years old)

AFL 2022: 68 PA's, .262/.364/.590, 12 R, 12 RBI, 6 HR, 2 SB

Close your eyes, and think back to August 2021. The Cubs were quite bad, and had started their rebuild. They shipped stalwart first baseman Anthony Rizzo off to The Bronx earlier that year.

Enter: Frank Schwindel. The 29-year-old "Quad-A" player had only logged nine games prior to August 2021 and had been largely unimpressive.  Then, all at once, the calendar turned and the roster opened up.  As the weather got hotter, so did Frank, hitting 13 home runs through the remainder of the season.

Matt Mervis could be the Schwindel of 2023.  He plays the same position, which has been a revolving door since Rizzo left. While he's a good bit younger than Schwindel was, Mervis could provide a similar boost in power if the Cubs give him the opportunity.

I'm not sure he'll be the four-category contributor that Schwindel was for those two months, but Mervis is no slouch. He slashed .297/.383/.593 over 57 games at Triple-A and hit 29 home runs across all levels in 2022.

He has a pretty good shot at breaking camp with the club. If he does, you could reasonably get .260/.330/.500 with 25+ bombs for cheap.  Look for him to climb up draft boards come March. You can do a lot worse with a 20th-round pick than grabbing what could be Diet Pete Alonso.


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3 comments

steve November 18, 2022 - 12:02 pm

The gooseegg for Walker’s HR total is incorrect; he smacked 5 in the AFL

Reply
Eric November 18, 2022 - 2:00 pm

Good

Reply
handhalfaway November 18, 2022 - 2:00 pm

Wow the level of detail is fantastic. this guy knows his stuff

Reply

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