Here’s what to know for Opening Day in the Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League is turning 30!

Baseball’s finishing school, which debuted in 1992, is opening season No. 30 on Monday. Created by baseball legend Roland Hemond, the AFL has sent thousands of players to the big leagues. Around 60 percent of all Fall Leaguers have at least touched the Majors, with an alumni list headlined by Roy Halladay, Derek Jeter and Mike Piazza, who are all enshrined in Cooperstown. The league has churned out hundreds of All-Stars, over 20 MVPs, dozens of Silver Slugger, Gold Glove Awards and Rookies of the Year and several Cy Young Award winners.

Every organization has sent at least seven prospects to the AFL, where they’ll play a 30-game regular season from Oct. 3 through Nov. 12 at six Cactus League stadiums. The franchises and their big league feeder clubs: Glendale Desert Dogs (Brewers, Dodgers, Reds, Twins, White Sox), Mesa Solar Sox (Athletics, Cubs, Marlins, Rays, Yankees), Peoria Javelinas (Guardians, Mariners, Mets, Nationals, Padres), Salt River Rafters (Blue Jays, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Tigers), Scottsdale Scorpions (Angels, Braves, Giants, Orioles, Red Sox) and Surprise Saguaros (Astros, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Royals).

In addition to games at each of these venues, this year’s Fall League will also have a tripleheader at Chase Field, home of the D-backs, on Saturday, Oct. 15. For the first time, there will be the AFL Home Run Derby on Saturday, Nov. 5, followed the next day by the annual Fall Stars Game, both held at Sloan Park in Mesa.

The following Friday, Nov. 11, the Peoria Sports Complex will host a play-in semifinal matchup, a new wrinkle into the schedule, before the league’s Championship Game on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Scottsdale Stadium. The Fall Stars and Championship Games will be broadcast on MLB Network.

As usual, AFL rosters are chock full of talent. There are 16 players from MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 playing this fall, including five in the top 25 alone. Salt River will be the home for Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker (No. 6), D-backs shortstop Jordan Lawlar (No. 13) and Rockies outfielder Zac Veen (No. 24). Glendale will have Reds shortstop Noelvi Marte (No. 18), Surprise will have Pirates catcher Henry Davis (No. 20) and Peoria will be the home for Nationals outfielder Robert Hassell III (No. 23). A total of 94 players ranked on our organizational Top 30 lists will play in Arizona.

For complete coverage of the AFL, visit the official league site at www.mlb.com/afl.

Top 100 prospects in the Fall League:

  1. Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals (Salt River)
  2. Jordan Lawlar, SS, D-backs (Salt River)
  3. Noelvi Marte, SS, Reds (Glendale)
  4. Henry Davis, C, Pirates (Surprise)
  5. Robert Hassell III, OF, Nationals (Peoria)
  6. Zac Veen, OF, Rockies (Salt River)
  7. Jasson Domínguez, OF, Yankees (Mesa)
  8. Quinn Priester, RHP, Pirates (Surprise)
  9. Brennen Davis, OF, Cubs (Mesa)
  10. Masyn Winn, SS, Cardinals (Salt River)
  11. Andy Pages, OF, Dodgers (Glendale)
  12. Matt McLain, SS, Reds (Glendale)
  13. Jackson Merrill, SS, Padres (Peoria)
  14. Tink Hence, RHP, Cardinals (Salt River)
  15. Nick Gonzales, 2B, Pirates (Surprise)
  16. Zack Gelof, 3B, Athletics (Mesa)

MLB also announced that after testing this season in the Minor Leagues, the following new playing rules will be implemented in the Arizona Fall League: pitch timer, restriction on defensive positioning, larger bases and the Automatic Ball-Strike System (“ABS”) Challenge. This Challenge System, which allows hitters, pitchers, and catchers to challenge an umpire’s call at the plate with the ABS System, only will be tested at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and Chase Field.

Below is a summary of new playing rules that will be used during the Arizona Fall League:

PITCH TIMER: After successful testing in MiLB that reduced game times on average by 26 minutes, the Major League rule recently approved by the Competition Committee will be implemented to enforce time limits between delivery of pitches, inning breaks, and pitching changes.
DEFENSIVE POSITIONING: As recently approved by the Major League Competition Committee, the defensive team must have a minimum of four players on the infield, each of whom must have both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield, and two infielders must be positioned entirely on each side of second base.
LARGER BASES: To reduce player injuries and collisions – and create shorter distances between bases to impact the success rate of stolen base attempts – the size of first, second, and third base will be increased from 15 inches square to 18 inches square.
ABS CHALLENGE: The Automatic Ball-Strike (“ABS”) Challenge System that began in the Florida State League in 2022 will be implemented on the experimental level at the Arizona Fall League for games played at Salt River Fields and Chase Field. Batters, Pitchers, and Catchers will have the opportunity to challenge an umpire’s ball or strike call if they feel it is incorrect. All challenges will be evaluated by the ABS system to determine the outcome. Both teams are allowed three challenges and will be awarded their challenge back if correct.
Opening Day probable starters:
Peoria (Bryan Woo, Mariners) at Glendale (Emmet Sheehan, Dodgers), 3:35 p.m. ET
Surprise (Quinn Priester, Pirates) at Salt River (Connor Thomas, Cardinals), 3:35 p.m. ET
Mesa (Holt Jones, Marlins) at Scottsdale (Connor Van Scoyoc, Angels), 9:35 p.m. ET

Dates To Remember
Oct. 3: Opening Day
Oct. 15: Chase Field tripleheader starting at 2:35 p.m. ET
Nov. 5: Home Run Derby, Sloan Park, 9:35 p.m. ET
Nov. 6: Fall Stars Game, Sloan Park, 7 p.m. ET
Nov. 12: Championship Game, Scottsdale Stadium, 7 p.m. ET