The Arizona Fall League is a great chance for young baseball players to get some extra game action against serious talent. It allows teams to see more from a few select names.
Each team sends a handful of prospects to the league. This gives them the ability to scout what they have and maybe to see what other teams have as well.
The Boston Red Sox sent three hitters and five pitchers to the AFL. With the season now over, let's take a short look at how each performed.
How 8 Red Sox prospects performed in the 2023 AFL
Nathan Hickey was one of the most intriguing players to get sent to Arizona, in my opinion. Hickey was the top-catching prospect in the system before Kyle Teel came along (and perhaps the emergence of Johanfran Garcia).
The only thing keeping Hickey back even slightly is his defense. Offensively, the 23-year-old is a superstar. But there are serious questions surrounding his ability to stick at catcher. Would he get more catching practice in the AFL? Or would the Red Sox use this as a chance to try him out in the outfield?
Hickey played exclusively catcher. Does that mean Boston is still committed to Hickey as a backstop?
The left-handed hitter slashed .182/.357/.200 with one double in the AFL. He drove in one run and scored five more. Hickey drew 15 walks compared to 24 strikeouts in 70 plate appearances.
Honestly, the offense wasn't the focus here. It was just good to see Hickey sticking at catcher for the time being.
Corey Rosier had a breakout year in the Red Sox system, even making his way to Triple-A. He possesses a combination of good contact, an ability to get on, great defense, and elite speed.
Rosier slashed .258/.355/.344 with four doubles and two triples in the AFL. The left-handed hitting outfielder drove in eight runs, scored 14 more, and stole eight bases. He walked 13 times compared to 19 strikeouts in 107 plate appearances.
Corey Rosier continues to position himself nicely to start 2024 in Triple-A as outfield depth for the Majors.
Tyler McDonough wasn't even supposed to go to the AFL. An ugly-looking situation (that we still don't know the details of) with Brainer Bonaci led to McDonough's name being called, though.
The switch-hitting utility took advantage of this new opportunity. McDonough slashed .254/.366/.424 with four doubles and two home runs in the AFL. He drove in six runs, scored 11 more, and stole five bases. The 24-year-old walked 11 times compared to 17 strikeouts in 71 plate appearances.
McDonough appeared in games at shortstop, second base, and in the outfield. His versatility adds value, but it's the outfield where his glove truly shines.
Christopher Troye had a rough outing early in the AFL season, and he'll tell you that himself. The righty reliever allowed five earned runs on four hits and two walks without recording an out.
Troye dominated the rest of the way, though. He allowed just one run in his other 8 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old posted a 6.23 ERA and 1.85 WHIP over eight appearances. He struck out 11 batters compared to six walks in 8 2/3 innings.
Troye's overall numbers don't jump out at you. But take away that one rough appearance, and he was lights out. The Boston Red Sox have to be ecstatic with what they've seen from him in 2024. His stock keeps rising.
Zach Penrod looks to be an incredible find. The 26-year-old was plucked from independent ball to dominate (in a small sample size) High-A hitting.
Penrod continued that dominance in the AFL. The left-handed pitcher posted a 1.29 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 14 innings. He struck out 14 batters compared to eight walks.
The Red Sox have to be thrilled with this find. A 26-year-old putting up fantastic numbers in barely 20 innings in High-A isn't going to convince everyone, though. Cooking in the AFL helps.
Wyatt Olds had a strange year. The right-handed pitcher started the year with serious command issues. He was allowing a ton of free passes and hitting an eye-popping number of batters. A trip to the FCL seemed to clean things up nicely for Olds, though.
While things weren't perfect, the 24-year-old took steps in the right direction as the season went on. Naturally, it made sense for the Red Sox to see if he could continue his improvements in the AFL.
Olds posted a 4.09 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in eight appearances. He struck out 12 batters in 11 innings. Most importantly, Olds only walked three batters and hit one. Again, the improvements are there.
Bryan Mata came into the 2023 campaign with his hype back. However, things went off the rails quickly. The 24-year-old had control problems, and injuries led to him pitching just 27 innings.
Mata is still an intriguing prospect with electric stuff, though. And with El Idolo out of options, the Red Sox wanted to give him more time to see if they had something.
Mata posted an 8.00 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in nine innings. However, the righty did strike out 11 batters compared to just two walks. That's a big positive to build off of.
Felix Cepeda had a phenomenal season that ended with him becoming Greenville's closer as they won the SAL championship (High-A). The right-handed reliever earned his way into the spotlight.
Cepeda posted a 6.75 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in eight appearances. The 23-year-old struck out six batters compared to three walks in eight innings.
While they aren't the most encouraging numbers, it's important to note that Cepeda set a new career-high with 53 innings pitched this season. Adding more in the AFL shows the Red Sox love what they saw this year, but it's also safe to assume he's ready to rest his arm.
Overall, each Boston Red Sox prospect had positives in their 2023 AFL seasons. Tyler McDonough, Christopher Troye, and Zach Penrod stood out as the biggest needle movers.
How did the organization feel about their performances, though? Was there anything that particularly interested them (or another team)? We might not see the effects of the Arizona Fall League until next season but don't be surprised if this puts some players in a more favorable light.