We are obviously focused pretty much entirely on the Red Sox and their current playoff run, as it should be. But this is also a very exciting time in the world of prospects with the onset of the Arizona Fall League, whose rosters were announced on Wednesday. After a pandemic-related absence last year, the AFL is back this year as a place for minor leaguers to get some more work before winter leagues and workouts get underway.
This year, the league is going to run from October 13 through November 20, with six teams comprising of prospects from around the league. Red Sox prospects this year will be playing for Scottsdale along with prospects from the Giants, Guardians, Rays, and Twins organizations. Boston will be sending eight players to the league,about whom we have more details below.
Triston Casas, 1B
The organization’s top prospect (in my opinion, at least) will be headlining the group of Red Sox prospects heading down to the desert. It was a strange year for the first baseman, one that had a bit of a stop-and-go feel to it due to his participation in Olympic qualifying and the actual Games. But even when his season felt underwhelming at times, he actually did have a very good year hitting in affiliated ball. Spending most of the year at Double-A Portland and finishing up at Triple-A Worcester, Casas hit .279/.394/.484 on the season. He should be in play at the big-league level at some point next season.
Jeter Downs, MIF
Downs entered the season as the clear-cut number two prospect in the organization, but 2021 was a really tough year for the infielder and he now finds himself at a bit of a crossroads. It was a bit of a jump for him this year as he had previously only spent a brief time as high as Double-A, and he really struggled to ever get going. The talent is still there, but given this year’s struggles and the fact that two organizations have already traded him, it’s fair to have some questions about his future. Downs spent all year at Triple-A and hit just .190/.272/.333 with major strikeout issues all season. He’ll be looking to get himself some positive momentum to head into the offseason with, because next year will be a huge one.
Connor Seabold, RHP
Seabold is a pretty classic kind of AFL selection as he simply needs the work. He came into this season hoping to serve as rotation depth for the big-league club, but while he made his major-league debut in 2021 he didn’t get a chance to really establish himself in that way. The righty suffered through some injury issues early in the season and was limited to just 62 2⁄3 innings this year, including his major-league outing. He’s still very much in the future rotation plans, but they just want him to get some more work in before this season is done.
Josh Winckowski, RHP
I am not really sure what to make of Winckowski, who came over this past offseason as part of the return for Andrew Benintendi. I saw him once this year at Portland, and nothing really looked bad, but nothing really stood out all that much either. He was just pretty okay across the board, which isn’t a bad thing but also is the kind of player I have a hard time betting on. Of course, it was one in-person viewing, and I know people who are much higher on him. The righty spent most of his year at Double-A before making a pair of starts late for Worcester, and pitched to a 3.94 ERA over 112 innings with 101 strikeouts and 33 walks. I’ll be interested to see how he performs against some top-flight talent in Arizona.
Connor Wong, C/UTIL
This is a really interesting one in that he was just on the Wildcard Game roster. I’m honestly not sure if this is showing their cards that he won’t be on the ALDS roster, or if it just means he’ll be heading down to Arizona whenever the team gets knocked out and/or he’s taken off the roster. My guess is the latter, but who knows. Wong is a lot like Seabold in the sense that he just missed a bunch of time this year, both with injuries and serving on the big-league taxi squad, and he could just use the at bats.
Brendan Cellucci, LHP
Cellucci is a former 12th round pick and a pure reliever who spent this year at High-A. He’s someone whose spin rate data and the like make him a sleeper for some, though the command issues are enough to mostly scare me off. There’s potential for impact here, though, as he’s got the classic fastball/breaking ball combo you look for in relief. He pitched to a 5.30 ERA over 37 1⁄3 innings this year, striking out 59 and walking 28.
Kole Cottam, C
Cottam didn’t get a whole lot of attention, from me and otherwise, this season despite putting up strong numbers. Splitting his time between High-A and Double-A, Cottam hit .278/.371/.500. He’s a bat-first catcher whose ceiling is probably as a backup, but he’s been able to hit in each of his two full professional seasons.
A.J. Politi, RHP
Politi came into this season with some deep sleeper hype, but he was never really able to put it together at Double-A. Starting the season in Portland’s rotation, he eventually moved to the bullpen where his stuff is probably better suited. On the year he pitched to a 6.36 ERA over 75 innings, striking out 89 and walking 38.