After a one year hiatus, the Arizona Fall League is back! The Milwaukee Brewers have a very strong contingent they’re sending this year.
Known as a finishing school for prospects, the Arizona Fall League plays annually down in Phoenix among several spring training complexes where prospects from a variety of levels go to play against higher competition and receive more pointed instruction.
Six teams are formed using prospects from each organization. Five organizations use their players to make up a roster. This year, the Brewers prospects will be on the Salt River Rafters, with prospects from the Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, New York Mets, and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The AFL starts on October 13th and ends on November 20th with the championship game.
The Brewers are sending nine total prospects, and five from MLB Pipeline’s Brewers Top 30 to the Arizona Fall League in 2021: Joey Wiemer, Joe Gray, Antoine Kelly, Mario Feliciano, and Abner Uribe.
The big names from the Brewers farm system that are going to Arizona this year are Joey Wiemer, Joe Gray Jr, Antoine Kelly, and Mario Feliciano. Wiemer and Gray are outfielders and both had breakout seasons in 2021. Going to the AFL will give them a chance to face some higher competition and see if their breakouts are truly legit.
Antoine Kelly missed the first half of the season recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and was perhaps a little rusty when he did come back. The AFL will be an opportunity for him to shake some more of that rust and get some more innings under his belt.
*UPDATE* The Brewers are now announcing that Kelly will not be heading to the AFL. The initial report that he was participating is erroneous.
Feliciano also missed time this year with a shoulder injury he suffered in May. He missed out on a lot of at-bats this season with that injury and the Brewers are going to want to get him those ABs and the AFL is a great way to do it. He’s 22 years old and with Manny Pina becoming a free agent this winter, Milwaukee will want to know if Feliciano is ready for a big league role.
The other Top 30 prospect among this group is Abner Uribe. Uribe spent the year in Low-A Carolina, and missed the final few weeks with an injury, but he can throw 103 MPH. Can he control it? Not really. If he can learn some command of that fastball, he can be an effective bullpen option for the Brewers down the road.
The four non-Top 30 Brewers prospects going to the AFL in 2021 are all pitchers: Taylor Floyd, J.T. Hintzen, Justin Jarvis, and Lun Zhao
Taylor Floyd and J.T. Hintzen were the Brewers 10th round picks in 2019 and 2018 respectively. Floyd put up good numbers in High-A, posting a 3.33 ERA in 33 appearances covering 48.2 IP with 72 strikeouts. He also earned two saves and performed well in a late-season promotion to Double-A.
Hintzen spent all of 2021 in Double-A and had a 3.86 ERA in 58 IP out of the bullpen with 79 strikeouts and 18 walks. Both are potential relief options for the Brewers down the road.
Justin Jarvis was a 5th round pick out of high school in 2018. He had a solid season at then-Low-A Wisconsin in 2019, posting a 3.50 ERA. But in now-High-A Wisconsin in 2021, Jarvis posted a 5.40 ERA in 17 starts. He had some command issues, and missed about a month with an injury. The AFL will be a good opportunity for him to get those innings he missed and work on some things.
Lun Zhao is a 20 year old righty the Brewers signed out of China a few years ago. He made six appearances in 2018 in Rookie ball and did well, posting a 1.08 ERA in 8.1 IP. Then he underwent Tommy John surgery and just came back later this season. Zhao, in another six appearances in Rookie ball, had a 1.04 ERA in 8.2 IP this time around.
Zhao has just 17 professional innings under his belt, but with 19 Ks, four walks, and a 1.06 overall ERA. He’s an intriguing young arm, and the AFL is perhaps an aggressive assignment, but one that will help him accumulate more innings and experience.
While most eyes will be on the Brewers postseason run this fall, the Arizona Fall League will have some interesting players that could be a part of future Brewers postseason runs.