After the end of the minor league regular season, teams identify a group of prospects who will head out to Arizona for another round of action. The Arizona Fall League (AFL) was once considered a finishing school for prospects who were on the verge of the major leagues but in recent years has seen some of the top prospects in the game while trending slightly younger, especially in the Yankees’ case. The prospects that a team sends to Arizona will play for just over a month as they continue to hone their craft and move one step closer to their ultimate goal.
Last season, the Yankee hitting contingent consisted mostly of players who were coming out of the High-A level. Austin Wells, Elijah Dunham and Andres Chaparro all put together very strong campaigns with notable moments that improved their prospect stock. Wells and Dunham finished top-10 in the league in OPS, while Chaparro was on fire after a 1-for-18 start and had multiple hits registered above 110 mph on Statcast, including one checking in at 117 mph. With under a month left in the minor league season, let’s take a look at some of the Yankees prospects who might be strong candidates to go to the AFL this year.
Currently checking in as the Yankees’ second-best prospect according to MLB.com, Jasson Domínguez has put together a strong season after struggling right out of the gate. He has a 155 wRC+ in August and has dramatically lowered his strikeout rate. As a player who is on pace to start next season in Double-A, or at least be quickly promoted to that level, Domínguez fits the bill of the exact player that has been sent to the AFL by the Yankees recently.
Tyler Hardman’s 19 home runs are leading the Yankees minor league system. In 2021, Hardman led the Big-12 conference in hitting but struggled through his early professional experience. Since mid-May, Hardman has turned it on offensively. In addition, there have been positive reviews on Hardman’s ability to play third base, after he mainly played first base in college. The chance to build on his recent success with the bat, while getting more game reps at third base or first base may make Hardman a great fit for the AFL.
In addition to Dominguez and Hardman, a pair of players who were the Yankees’ topdraft pick in their respective years could make the AFL roster: in Anthony Seigler and Trey Sweeney. Seigler has had a strong bounce back season after batting a number of injuries early in his career. He has a .403 OBP this year between Low-A and High-A. Sweeney has struggled to find his consistent offensive game and the Yankees could want him to continue working on his swing and approach out in the desert.
It is a little bit harder to predict what pitchers might be going to the AFL as factors like innings limits and under the radar injuries could change the roster. Last season the Yankees sent five pitchers to the AFL, and they had experience from Low-A to Double-A during the regular season in 2021.
One arm that comes to mind is left-handed pitcher Edgar Barclay, who is putting together an impressive season for High-A Hudson Valley. Used as both a starter and long relief pitcher, Barclay has 73 strikeouts and an 0.949 WHIP in 59 innings pitched this season. He missed time in the middle of the year with a stint on the COVID IL, and will likely come in short of the 77 innings that he pitched in 2021, and well short of the 116.1 innings he threw combined in 2019 between college and his professional debut after the draft.
Another candidate who is coming back from injury and has been handled carefully by the Yankees is Yoendrys Gómez. Gómez has been on the Yankees 40-man roster for two seasons and has yet to pitch above the High-A level as he has battled injuries. Gomez made his season debut in June and his longest outing of the season was just 4.2 innings pitched. With next season being his last minor league option year, the Yankees may be looking to both showcase Gómez and see what he has against a higher level of competition.
Other pitching names that come to mind are two players who based on their injury timeline could be coming back from Tommy John surgery over the next month in Jake Agnos and Daniel Bies. Both last pitched in 2019, before going down with their injuries in April of 2021 during minor league spring training. Current Double-A Somerset reliever Aaron McGarity has also battled injuries this season and has thrown just 10.1 innings so far on the year but has a career 1.97 ERA as a professional.
The Arizona Fall League is an opportunity for players to compete in a prospect heavy environment chock full of future major leaguers. In the coming weeks, the Yankees will select the players they feel will most benefit from the experience and exposure that comes with playing in this league. Those decisions may include some of the best prospects in the system.