If the extra minor league baseball action that just concluded in Arizona Saturday night is any indication, the Blue Jays farm system might have some exciting upside. Top Blue Jays prospect Ricky Tiedemann, ranked 31st overall by MLB Pipeline, was named the 2023 Arizona Fall League’s Pitcher of the Year. Corner infielder Damiano Palmegiani went 1-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored in the Fall League championship to help his team to a 6-5 win.
As per MLB, “The Arizona Fall League (AFL) is designed to serve as the ‘finishing school’ of the minor leagues for players, coaches, umpires and aspiring employees.” It can also be described as a All-Star Futures game every game, as MLB teams send 6-7 of their top 22 ~ 23-year old prospects to fill out the rosters of six teams that compete for the Fall League title.
They play a 30 game schedule from early October through mid-November for a chance to showcase their talents, accelerate their development, and in some cases prepare for the jump to “The Show” in the upcoming season. As per Minor League Baseball, 10 of baseball's Top 100 prospects who went on to make their MLB debuts in 2023 played in the AFL last year.
The Blue Jays sent a total of eight of their prospects to play for the Surprise Saguaros this year, who won the fall league championship after a thrilling 6-5 win on Saturday.
Tiedemann, Palmegiani, Dasan Brown, Will Robertson and CJ Van Eyk all played in the Fall Stars game this year, the AFL’s version of the Futures Game. Palmegiani banged out 22 home runs to finish second in the AFL’s Home Run Derby.
For some, like Tiedemann, it offers a chance to get more work in after a minor league season that was shortened by injuries. The promising southpaw only pitched 44 innings in the regular season due to both shoulder and forearm biceps injuries, so the AFL provided him with a chance to put in more work against some good prospects.
He was able to build up his overall 2023 innings, and whiffed 23 over 18 innings while sporting a 2.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and a .190 average against in four starts, routinely hitting 96-97 mph with his heater. He also showed an ability to pitch five innings and exceed 70 pitches after never reaching five full innings in the regular season, and only throwing more than 70 pitches twice.
“I think the main goal out here is to get deeper into games and add innings towards my year,” Tiedemann told MLB Pipeline’s Sam Dykstra in October. “Finish out the year and put myself in a better position for next season.” After finishing with the 3rd lowest ERA for a full-time starter in the AFL this fall, it appears like “mission accomplished.”
For others, like Palmegiani, it could vault them right into consideration to win a job with the big league club in 2024 after a standout performance. Palmegiani sparkled in the Championship game, scoring three runs in the 6-5 win, and flashing some serious leather. While he was already on the radar as the 18th-ranked prospect in Toronto’s farm system, with a potential opening at 3B if Matt Chapman signs as a free agent with another team, he may just have pushed his way deeper into the mix.
After playing for both Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo this year, and banging out a combined 23 home runs and 93 RBI with an OPS of .842, the slugger hit six home runs in Arizona this fall. He also raised his stock on defence; his scouting grade in the field was 40, but that will likely go higher to at least a 45 grade defender after his fall league play.
He’ll turn 24 next January, and doesn’t need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft until after next season, but like Tiedemann, there’s a good chance Blue Jays fans will be hearing much more of Palmegiani in the upcoming season. Born in Venezuela, he was raised in British Columbia and signed with Toronto after being drafted in the 14th round in 2021; he also played for Canada in the World Baseball Classic this past spring.
After his Saguaros won the AFL Championship game, Palmegiani said, "I wish all these guys the best in their careers and we're going to be seeing all of them in the big leagues soon." Words that should help warm Blue Jays’ fans hearts as the ‘hot stove’ season kicks into high gear!