Each year, teams send prospects to the Arizona Fall League to compete against other top prospects. After a one-year hiatus, the AFL will return to action this year, with former first-round pick Asa Lacy headlining a list of Royals that will look to develop their game.
Lacy was selected fourth overall in the 2020 draft out of Texas A&M, but the lefty had mixed results in his first full season this year. He posted a 5.19 ERA in 52 innings for High-A Quad Cities with 79 strikeouts and 41 walks with just 41 hits allowed. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #66 prospect in baseball.
Outfielder Seuly Matias will bring his light-tower power to Arizona as he tries to get his career back on track. After suffering a hand injury in 2019, the former Baseball Prospectus Top 100 prospect hit .213/.302/.504 with 10 home runs in 36 games for Quad Cities before hitting .193 with seven home runs in 23 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Third baseman Jake Means, brother of Orioles pitcher John Means, will also participate after hitting .222/.343/.429 with 16 home runs in 97 games between Low-A Columbia and Quad Cities. Utility man Nathan Eaton will head to Arizona after hitting .243/.344/.371 with six home runs and 23 steals in 75 games for Quad Cities. The league will also feature catcher Luca Tresh, who was a 17th-round pick by the Royals out of North Carolina State last summer, hitting .143 in 10 games for Columbia.
In addition to Lacy, the Royals will send two other pitchers to the AFL - righties Zach Haake and Stephen Woods, Jr. The 24-year old Haake posted a 3.74 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings as a starter for Quad Cities. Woods was acquired from the Rays in a trade in 2020, and struggled this year with a 7.42 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 45 walks in 47 1⁄3 innings for Northwest Arkansas.
The league will feature many of the top prospects in the game, including former #1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson of the Tigers. The AFL will use some experimental rules this year, including a pitch timer, restrictions on defensive shifts, larger bases, an automated strike zone, and an electronic communication system for pitchers and catchers.
Royals prospects will play on the Surprise Saguaros, who will be managed by Scott Thorman, who managed the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in the Royals’ organization. Games begin on October 13, with the AFL Championship Game scheduled for November 20. An All-Star Game will be played on November 13 to air on MLB Network.