For nine Seattle Mariners prospects, there will be October baseball. The Arizona Fall League (AFL), which blends prospects from all 30 teams across the league, will provide an extended opportunity for several M’s farmhands to build on their seasons or make up for time missed due to injury. The AFL games aren’t televised, except for the Fall Stars Game and the championship game (both airing on MLB Network), but you can follow them on Gameday from the AFL site. After a long layoff due to the pandemic, the AFL is incorporating some fun new features this year, including an inaugural home run derby the day before the Fall Stars Game and a Chase Field Tripleheader on October 15 where all six AFL teams will play at the Diamondbacks’ home field.
This year’s AFL will feature some of the changes that have become customary in the minors, like pitch clocks, larger bases, and the banning of the shift. A new feature will be the ABS Challenge at Salt River and Chase Fields, where batters, pitchers, and catchers can challenge a pitch called immediately and have it reviewed by the ABS (“robot umps”) system; each team gets three challenges, and they retain successful challenges, similar to challenges in MLB.
AFL games begin October 3 and run through November 12. The Home Run Derby will be on November 5, the Fall Stars game on November 6, and the Championship game November 12. If you’re able to and interested in attending some games, you should! Tickets are affordable ($10 adult, $8 seniors, kids 12 and under free and allow you to sit anywhere in the park), the players are generally fairly accessible, and “off season” in the Phoenix Valley is both less crowded/expensive than spring training and very pleasant, weather-wise.
The AFL, sometimes jokingly called “prospect graduate school,” often features some of the top upcoming talents in the game; this year, there will be 16 Top-100 players gracing AFL rosters, including former Mariners top prospect Noelvi Marte (18), perennial Kate favorite Robert Hassell III (23), John favorite Zac Veen (24), and standout Cardinals prospect Jordan Walker (6), the highest-rated prospect on MLB Pipeline who will take part in the AFL.
Seattle’s prospects play on the Peoria Javelinas, based out of the M’s and Padres joint facility. They’ll be joined by prospects from the Padres, Guardians, Mets, and Nationals. They’ll also have a couple familiar faces present in pitching coach Alon Leichman and trainer Dan Laberry. A quick breakdown of Seattle’s prospects follows below:
RHP Ty Adcock
It took until mid-July for Adcock to begin throwing in games this year following Tommy John surgery. The 25-year-old righty has an upper-90s heater and made six appearances with Low-A Modesto this season and is in need of reps in a major way. The eight innings he threw this summer were encouraging, but also the first of his pro career due to COVID and injuries despite being drafted back in 2019.
Ty Adcock throws a scoreless 8th inning. pic.twitter.com/6Md35oCX5k— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) September 1, 2022
LHP Jorge Benitez
Seattle’s system isn’t flush on lefties with quality arms, so Benitez stands out. The 23-year-old southpaw had a brilliant season between Modesto and High-A Everett, striking out 62 in just 48.2 innings across 36 games. He typically received high-leverage work for Modesto, and quickly earned a similar role in Everett as well. It’s a longshot given his low level thus far, but as a grounder-earning lefty who misses bats, Benitez may be getting shopped for a trade as he is Rule-5 eligible this winter. Benitez throws a fastball and a couple different breakers, including this big sweeping slider:
Jorge Benitez records the last 4 outs for his 11th save. pic.twitter.com/8IEkFMfmoq— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July 27, 2022
LHP Adam Macko
Perhaps the most talented southpaw in Seattle’s system right now, Macko missed most of this season with injury. That’s unfortunately becoming a trend for the intriguing lefty, who has gotten up to 98 on his fastball and features one of the most devastating breaking balls in the system. The 21-year-old was impressive in Everett but has not thrown in a game since late May. A healthy Macko in the Fall League has perhaps the most to gain in terms of prospect profile, but that’s a big question mark.
RHP Juan Then
Speaking of pitchers with tons of talent and troubled health histories, Then is a veteran of the Fall League, having appeared there both in 2019 and 2021. Much like Adcock, Then missed most of the season while recovering from injury, though Then appears to have also received some tweaks to his motion. A healthy Then debuted in the Arizona Complex League (ACL) in early July and has been in Double-A Arkansas since, slinging sliders and two-seamers.
RHP Bryan Woo
The fireballing 2021 6th rounder also got a late start to 2022, albeit an expected one as he was drafted already in rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery. His first pro campaign was encouraging, spinning 57.0 innings all the way up to High-A Everett with 84 strikeouts to just 16 walks. Woo’s command left him at times, and he needs refinement on his secondaries, but he’s exactly the type of player who can benefit from reps in Arizona against quality competition.
Bryan Woo equals his career best with strikeout #8. pic.twitter.com/JhWAZIgZno— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July 27, 2022
INF Jose Caballero
Another veteran of the AFL, Caballero had a solid season in Double-A Arkansas after missing time out of the gate due to injury. He lacks the pop to be a true threat at the dish, but his foot speed and selective eye at the plate have long been standout traits. At age-26, it’s tricky to gauge the utility-man’s trajectory, but the return from Arizona for Mike Leake is still pushing.
1B/cOF Robert Perez Jr.
The kid they call Bobby Bombs gets to keep blasting. These final three players were all well recapped by Nick Vitalis in our High-A Everett season review earlier today, so I will simply direct you there for the most part, dear reader. Suffice to say: Perez needs to hit A LOT to handle what is mostly a RHH 1B profile. This year at least, he did just that, with 27 big flies in 468 plate appearances.
Robert Perez jr. literally "Left the building" last night with a MASSIVE 107 MPH ball that exits the park— Brent Parsons (@Over_the_Plate) June 27, 2022
Bobby Bombs #GoNuts@SSN_Mariners @CastMarinheiro @LookoutLanding @MarinersONtap @BaseballFarm @baseballpro @ProspectsWorldW @Gillogly @RobertPerezJr_ @RyanDivish pic.twitter.com/Zgx0XcvQW4
OF Spencer Packard
Advanced college bat. Dominated at Everett. Aspiring Seth Smith impersonator. Corner outfield profile only. Between RPJ hitting big boy bombs from the right side and Packard from the left, the Javelinas lineup could have some serious thump.
Spencer Packard blasts a leadoff HR! pic.twitter.com/VJVycniERL— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) June 12, 2022
OF Alberto Rodríguez
Finished hot after disappointing start. Struck out more unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), and struggled to hit for enough power. Only 21 years old, however, so 1, 3, and 5 years younger than his offensive compatriots here and should be evaluated as such. The AFL will present an opportunity for best friends and former teammates Alberto Rodríguez and Noelvi Marte to play in the same league again after Marte was traded to the Midwest League as a member of the Reds organization.