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Benny Montgomery and Sterlin Thompson Earn Spots on 2023 All-Arizona Fall League Team

November 15, 2023

The Surprise Saguaros won their second straight Arizona Fall League title on Saturday, with their 6-5 victory closing the book on the AFL’s 31st season. As has been the case for the past three decades, the Fall League has been a place to catch the best prospects in action, and

The Surprise Saguaros won their second straight Arizona Fall League title on Saturday, with their 6-5 victory closing the book on the AFL’s 31st season. As has been the case for the past three decades, the Fall League has been a place to catch the best prospects in action, and for many to put their names on the map.

Below is the 2023 MLB Pipeline All-AFL Team, based solely on performance during the six-week circuit. A Top 25 Prospects list -- that has more to do with future value -- will come later this week. Not shockingly, Surprise has the most representation among Fall League clubs, with five participants on the 12-player squad. No Major League organization dominated the list, with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Rockies each placing two prospects on the team.

C: Liam Hicks, Surprise (unranked among TEX Top 30)
The Rangers’ ninth-rounder in the 2021 Draft, Hicks led the AFL both in batting average (.449) and on-base percentage (.553) as Surprise won its second straight title. It’s contact and discipline over power, but that .449 average was the third-highest in AFL history, trailing only Ken Harvey’s .479 (2002) and Vance Wilson's .474 (1997).

Honorable mention: Dominic Keegan (TB)

1B: Kyle Manzardo, Peoria (CLE No. 2, MLB No. 58)
This was a close one between Manzardo and Wes Clarke, with Manzardo’s two-homer game to send Peoria to the championship game a big factor. The first baseman who came to the Guardians in the Aaron Civale trade has a hit-over-power profile, but he may have started to answer the questions about his pop by hitting six homers (not including the two in the semifinal) and slugging .565. He finished third in the AFL with 52 total bases.

Honorable mention: Wes Clarke (MIL)

2B: James Triantos, Mesa (CHC No. 9)
Everyone knew about Triantos’ contact skills. He only struck out 10.6 percent of the time in High-A in 2023, after all. What was in question was the impact, and we might have seen the first answer about what might be coming as he moves up. Triantos was named the AFL Offensive Player of the Year after finishing second in the league with his .417 average with a lot more impact. He topped the circuit in triples, was second in SLG (.679), OPS (1.144), hits (35) and total bases (57), while finishing third in OBP (.495).

Honorable mention: Oliver Dunn (PHI), Caleb Durbin (NYY)

3B: Damiano Palmegiani, Surprise (TOR No. 18)

Palmegiani has a power-over-hit profile and it’s well-earned after hitting 47 homers over the last two seasons as he’s climbed the Blue Jays’ organizational ladder. He certainly added to his reputation this fall, finishing as the runner-up in the Home Run Derby and leading all third basemen with six homers and a .575 SLG for the title-winning Saguaros. He finished in the Top 10 among all hitters in total bases, extra-base hits, SLG and OPS.

Honorable mention: David McCabe (ATL), Bryan Ramos (CWS)

SS: Eric Brown Jr., Surprise (MIL No. 10)
Injuries cost Brown large chunks of his first full season after the Brewers made him their first-round pick in 2022, but he came into the AFL with a reputation of making contact, running well and playing defense. He helped cement that evaluation by slashing .297/.390/.462 with eight steals over 25 games for Surprise. He also showed off consistently plus glovework at the premium position, including a couple of sparkling plays on the Fall Stars Game stage.

Honorable mention: Benjamin Cowles (NYY), Colson Montgomery (CWS)

OF: Jakob Marsee, Peoria (SD No. 12)
All Marsee did was lead the AFL in OPS (1.215), SLG (.707), total bases (65), extra-base hits (18) and hits (36) while finishing second in walks and OBP and third in average and stolen bases. No wonder he was chosen as this year’s Most Valuable Player. This should ready him for the upper levels following a first full season that saw him reach Double-A and finish with 16 homers, 46 steals and more walks than strikeouts.

OF: Benny Montgomery, Salt River (COL No. 8)
Montgomery’s raw tools were what made him the No. 8 pick in the 2021 Draft. He’s shown glimpses of them as a pro, though his 2022 was interrupted by a quad injury and there’s still swing-and-miss to his game. The tools were sharper this fall, though, as he trailed only Marsee among outfielders with his .936 OPS. He finished with a .333/.436/.500 line to go along with three homers, 14 RBIs and 10 steals in 19 games for Salt River.

OF: Sterlin Thompson, Salt River (COL No. 6)
Evaluators have loved Thompson’s left-handed swing since his college days, and he was showing it off early in his first full season of pro ball in 2023 before he was sidelined by injury. He was back at 100 percent this fall, finishing with a .935 OPS (.338/.460/.475). While he didn’t homer, he did have nine extra-base hits and drove in 13 runs over 21 games while swiping seven bags.

Honorable mention: Chase DeLauter (CLE), Will Robertson (TOR), Abimelec Ortiz (TEX), Gabriel Rincones Jr. (PHI), Kevin Alcántara (CHI), Victor Scott II (STL)

DH: Oliver Dunn, Scottsdale (MIL No. 23)
Dunn played so well this fall that he caught the eye of the Brewers, who acquired him from the Phillies on Tuesday in return for a pair of prospects. He was the AFL Breakout Player of the Year after finishing fourth in the league with his 1.071 OPS. His 12 extra-base hits led to his .616 SLG, third best in the league, while he went a perfect 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts.

SP: Ricky Tiedemann, Surprise (TOR No. 1, MLB No. 31)
The left-hander was the top-ranked pitching prospect in the AFL and lived up to advanced billing. He was named the AFL Pitcher of the Year after striking out 23 in his 18 innings (four starts) of work. He finished with a 2.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and .190 batting average against.

SP: Davis Daniel, Scottsdale (Unranked on LAA Top 30)
Daniel has some big league time under his belt already and he pitched like he belongs there this fall. The right-hander led the circuit with a .152 BAA and 0.79 WHIP, while landing third on the ERA list (1.89). Over 19 innings, he allowed just 10 hits and five walks while striking out 25.
Honorable mention: Zach Penrod (BOS), Ryan Webb (CLE)

RP: Emiliano Teodo, Surprise (TEX No. 22)
Using a triple-digits fastball and nasty high-spin slider, Teodo earned AFL Reliever of the Year honors. He saved five games and didn’t give up a run over 11 innings. In his eight appearances, the right-hander yielded just three hits (.086 BAA) and three walks (0.55 WHIP) while striking out 19.

Honorable mention: Jack Perkins (OAK), Ronan Kopp (LAD), Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa (TEX)

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for Follow him on Facebook and listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.