The Arizona Fall League is one of the joys of living in this state. When the rest of the country is bundled up in its winter wear, we can enjoy some of the top prospects in baseball for less than the price of a movie ticket (AFL tickets are $9, sit wherever you want). The SnakePit has been going since back in 2011, but last year, the league was canceled as a result of the pandemic situation. Normal service has been resumed this year, however, with the schedule of games kicking off on Wednesday 13 October. Games run six days a week (Sundays are off days) until the Championship on Saturday 20 November, with the ‘Fall Stars’ game a week previously.
There are six teams in the league, with each comprised of prospects from five MLB franchises, who typically send seven players. These are often those who would benefit from some extra work, for example, if they missed most of the minor-league season due to injury. Below, you’ll find information on the Diamondbacks who will be taking part this year.
Dominic Canzone, OF
An 8th-round pick in the 2019 draft, Canzone split time this year between High-A Hillsboro and Double-A Amarillo. While hitting a respectable .263 for the Hops, it was after his promotion on July 26, than Canzone really took off. He went 8-for-18 over his first five games as a Sod Poodle, and over 35 appearances there, went .354/.425/.592 for a 1.017 OPS. He picked up Double-A Central Player of the Week honors for September 6-12, after going (11-for-24 with seven extra-base hits, including four home runs and eight RBI. He did seem to miss some time, with only 79 games, so fits right into that AFL profile mentioned above.
Slade Cecconi, RHP
The same goes for Cecconi, who last pitched in July - and that came after a delayed start to his season, due to a wrist injury. He made eleven starts for Hillsboro, going 4-2 with a 4.27 ERA. He’s ranked as Arizona’s #7 prospect by MLB.com, and the starting pitcher has a fastball capable of touching 98 mph. His slider and curve are also regarded as plus pitches. Cecconi was chosen in the Competitive Balance round of the 2020 draft by the D-backs, going #33 overall and getting a bonus just shy of $2.4 million. He could have been an Oriole, as they picked him in the 38th round of the 2018 draft, but he opted to attend the University of Miami instead.
Keegan Curtis, RHP
Curtis is the relief prospect we got back from the Yankees in exchange for Tim Locastro, who promptly got broken after 23 PAs in pinstripes. No take-backs! It wasn’t the best of years for Curtis. who managed only 27.1 innings of work, with a 4.28 ERA between AA and AAA levels for both organizations. After four scoreless innings with Amarillo, he was promoted to Reno - and won’t be the last prospect to struggle in that environment. He gave up 12 hits in 7.2 innings, with as many walks as strikeouts (5), and missed about seven weeks, not pitching for Reno between August 9 and September 25. He is Arizona’s #28 prospect, per MLB.com.
Cooper Hummel, C
The 26-year-old catcher came over from the Brewers in the Eduardo Escobar trade, and promptly delivered a 1.004 OPS for the Aces thereafter. But he had been hitting in the less friendly AAA-East before the deal, putting up a .942 OPS for Nashville there. If Daulton Varsho transitions to a full-time outfielder, the switch-hitting Hummel could end up as a partner with Carson Kelly next season. His platoon splits were virtually even this year (.980 vs. 971). He says, “I started switch-hitting in fourth grade because I had a hitting coach tell me that being a switch-hitting catcher was the second-best way to get drafted.” Reached the Little League World Series in 2007 (the year Chandler made it), with Lake Oswego.
Buddy Kennedy, INF
A 2017 5th-round pick out of high school (the second ever from Millville High), Kennedy was promoted from Hillsboro to Amarillo in late June. Despite his delayed arrival, he still finished second on the Sod Poodles for homers, cracking 17 in just 66 games. His .919 OPS was best there (min 150 PA). His strong performance is of particular interest, since Kennedy played most of the time at third-base, a spot where the Diamondbacks seem to need help at the major-league level (he also started games at second and first base). He is also young, having only turned 23 on Tuesday - sharing a birthday with my father. For now, though, he may be most famous for this swim-slide into second-base during spring training last year!
Mitchell Stumpo, RHP
Definitely one of the more striking stories this year, Stumpo was an undrafted free-agent signed after team scout Kash Beauchamp saw him at a showcase in Florida [Zach Buchanan has a great article with all the details]. This year, however, the reliever received not one but three promotions, starting off the year in A-ball, and ending it in AAA, one step short of the majors. This will happen when you have a 2.63 ERA, and strike out 66 batters in 51.1 innings. Even Reno couldn’t faze him: small sample size, but six innings of three-hit, one-run ball there. With the 2022 Diamondbacks bullpen hanging a “Help wanted” sign, I’d expect we see the 25-year-old at Chase Field before too much longer.
Shumpei Yoshikawa, RHP
Like a number of the players above, 2021 was an abbreviated season for Yoshikawa, who didn’t make his first appearance until July 9. I’ve not been able to find out why, but it was presumably an injury, going off his bouncing around on apparent rehab - his first four outings came for four different affiliates! Yoshikawa eventually settled in at Hillsboro, but had a 6.20 ERA over six starts. The long ball was an issue, allowing five in 20.1 innings, but did strike out 29 batters. He signed with the D-backs in August 2018, after the then 23-year-old amateur player went undrafted in Japan, a signing which did raise some eyebrows. He had a 3.75 ERA in 2019, his first pro year, also at High-A.