SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The 2023 Arizona Fall League season concluded with Saturday night’s championship game at Scottsdale Stadium, which resulted in the Surprise Saguaros’ second straight title in a 6-5 victory over the Peoria Javelinas . The competition featured a number of outstanding performances from many of the game’s promising young prospects, a sign of the bright future that awaits these burgeoning stars.
Here are eight prospects who stood out in the Fall League Finals, concluding the 31st season of the Elite Prospects Circuit:
Damiano Palmegiani, 3B (TOR n°18)
Palmegiani reached base and scored three times for Surprise, patiently issuing two walks on six pitches each and scoring an opposite-field single in the fifth. He scored on a single by Liam Hicks (Rangers) that put Surprise on the board in the third inning, crossing the plate again two innings later and a third time on Wes Clarke’s (Brewers) double in the sixth. Palmegiani also flashed the leather on a miraculous diving stop at the hot corner to take an extra base hit from Paul McIntosh (Marlins) in the seventh.
Kyle Manzardo, 1B (CLE #2, MLB #58)
Manzardo, who hit two homers to lead Peoria in its nine-run win over Scottsdale in the play-in semifinal Friday, didn’t miss a beat in the finale, reaching base three times, including two walks to conclude a stellar fall campaign. His two-run opposite-field single in the ninth cut Peoria’s deficit to one in a four-run rally that narrowly fell short. Manzardo held an excellent .905 OPS throughout the Fall League regular season, with six home runs (eight including the playoffs).
Nasim Nuñez, 2B (MIA #17)
Nuñez displayed his elite speed throughout the fall, doing so once again in the championship by stealing third base in the first period for his 15th of the campaign – he was not caught just once in 21 games this season. Nuñez struck out Angel Zerpa (Royals) first and scored in the fourth, coming home after a great read on a pitch in the dirt that barely eluded Hicks behind the plate. He added a hit to second base on an infield single in the sixth when he beat out a ground ball to first base.
Angel Zerpa, LHP (KC)
Zerpa saved his best Fall League start for last, turning three scoreless innings with one hit while striking out six Peoria batters and hitting 31 of his 45 pitches for strikes. His only blemish was a leadoff single by Nasim Nuñez before retiring the last eight men he faced. He finished his night by striking out the team in the third. It’s a great end to a difficult 2023 season for Zerpa, who suffered a left shoulder injury that kept him out until June before playing 15 games for the Royals between August and September .
Jacob Berry, 3B (MIA #4)
Berry, not primarily known for his infield glove, certainly stood out defensively for the Javelinas with a pair of canvas gems at third base. Heading into foul territory to the left on a pop-up from Peyton Wilson (Royals), Berry ran into the fence to make a great catch. He then made a nifty double play on a diving stop in the fifth with the bases loaded, scoring third with his glove before getting up and making a powerful throw to the plate to cut down a surprise run. The 2022 first-rounder (sixth overall) also hit a double in the seventh against Zach Maxwell (Reds).
Abimelec Ortiz, OF (TEX n°14)
Ortiz had arguably the most important hit of the game in the fifth, a two-run single that allowed Hicks and Will Robertson (Blue Jays) to extend Surprise’s lead from two to four. He went hitless in his other three at-bats, but the night capped a strong overall performance for Ortiz in the fall, as the slugger hit .314/.460/.600 in 50 plate appearances before the title match.
Wes Clarke, 1B (MIL)
Clarke provided some much-needed insurance with a sixth-inning double that extended Surprise’s lead to five runs before the Javelinas’ four-run ninth. He also walked, reached on a hit by pitch and scored a run on a passed ball in the fifth inning.
Liam Hicks, C (TEX)
The AFL batting champion delivered another strong effort for the Saguaros, going 1 for 4 with an RBI single and a walk. Hicks’ clutch RBI opened the scoring in the bottom half of the third, as he put Palmegiani on a base hit just past Braden Nett (Padres). Hicks hit an impressive .449/.553/.522 during the 30-game regular season for Surprise and finished with the highest batting average in the league.