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Nick Loftin, Gavin Cross headline Royals to play in Arizona Fall League

The league is a stepping stone to the big leagues.

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MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Fall League announced roster today with eight Royals heading there for play - infielders Nick Loftin, Peyton Wilson, outfielder Gavin Cross, and pitchers Eric Cerantola, Rylan Kaufman, Jacob Wallace, Beck Way, and Angel Zerpa. The league is considered to be an opportunity for advanced prospects to get more work as a stepping stone to the big leagues or for players who missed action this summer. Royals prospects will play for the Surprise Saguaros where they will be managed by Carlos Cardoza of the Rangers. Royals minor league hitting coach Bijan Rademacher will serve on the coaching staff along with former Royals first baseman Mike Jacobs, now a coach with the Reds.

Eric Cerantola was a fifth round pick in 2021 out of Mississippi State. The 6’5’’ right-hander enjoyed his best pro season this year with a 4.04 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings, mostly in relief, for High-A Quad Cities before he pitched in three games for Northwest Arkansas. The 23-year-old throws in the mid-90s but has struggled with control throughout his career.

Gavin Cross was the ninth overall pick of the 2022 draft out of Virginia Tech. He was ranked as a consensus top 100 prospect before the season, but fell off in mid-season updates due to a poor season. He hit .206/.300/.383 with 12 home runs in 94 games for High-A Quad Cities, and was promoted to Double-A, where he played in just two games before an illness in August kept him out of action.

Rylan Kaufman was a 12th round pick in 2018 he had a 5.21 ERA across Low-A and High-A as a starter in 2022, but pitched in just 29 innings this year. Kaufman has been praise for his “astronomical spin rates” and throws in the mid-90s but also struggles with control.

Nick Loftin has already seen some action with the Royals this year, appearing in 13 games. The former first round pick out of Baylor is considered one of the top prospects in the farm system, hitting .270/.344/.444 with 14 home runs in 82 games for Triple-A Omaha. Loftin, who turns 25 years old this week, offers positional versatility in the infield and outfield and should be a strong candidate for a spot on next year’s roster.

Jacob Wallace was a third-round pick by the Rockies in 2019, but was traded to the Red Sox in 2020 for outfielder Kevin Pillar. The Royals acquired him from Boston last December for pitcher Wyatt Mills. In Double-A this year, the 25-year-old right-hander had a 4.20 ERA, although he gave up 11 unearned runs and walked 7.3 per nine-innings in his 49 13 innings of relief.

Beck Way was a fourth round pick by the Yankees in 2020 and came over last summer in the Andrew Benintendi trade. He struggled through a difficult season with Northwest Arkansas, putting up an ugly 6.67 ERA with 63 walks in 79 23 innings. He did fare much better as a reliever, holding opponents to a line of .153/.252/.235 coming out of the pen.

Peyton Wilson was a second round pick in 2021 out of Alabama and hit .286/.366/.411 with six home runs and 19 steals in 128 games or Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The second baseman is a switch hitter who can play some outfield as well and shows good athleticism despite a 5’8’’ frame. MLB Pipeline ranks the 23-year-old as the #26 prospect in the system, writing he has plus speed and a plus arm.

Angel Zerpa has spent parts of the last three seasons in the big leagues, and has flashed some impressive outings at times. He has a 4.82 ERA with just seven walks in 37 1/3 innings with the Royals this year after missing significant time with a shoulder injury. He also missed the end of last year and winter ball with a knee injury. Zerpa attacks the strike zone with a fastball/slider/sinker/change combo.

Play will begin on October 2 and run until the championship game on November 11. The league will feature nine players on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list including catcher Harry Ford of the Mariners, first basemen Tyler Locklear of the Mariners, Kyle Manzardo of the Guardians, second baseman Jace Jung of the Tigers, shortstops Carson Williams of the Rays and Colson Montgomery of the White Sox, outfielder Chase DeLauter of the Guardians, and pitchers Ricky Tiedemann of the Blue Jays, and Jackson Jobe of the Tigers.