HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — First pitch for Major League Baseball’s annual Arizona Fall League (AFL) is set for this evening. Seven players from each MLB team’s farm system will play in a month-long mini season. The Los Angeles Angels’ delegation to the desert includes three former Rocket City Trash Pandas and four other players that could be playing in Madison as soon as next season.
Bryce Teodosio leads a trio of Angels’ prospects to have suited up at some point this year for the Trash Pandas, including infielder Kyren Paris and right-handed pitcher Ivan Armstrong.
Teodosio was a feature of the Pandas’ loaded lineup. The second-year pro played in nearly 80% of the team’s games this season. He played all three outfield positions at times, but overwhelmingly was the team’s sure-handed center fielder, finishing with a .988 fielding percentage, the best of his professional career thus far. While he didn’t hit particularly well on the year, few of his 71 hits were likely as memorable as his inside-the-park home run in a 7-2 win over Montgomery to clinch North Division’s first half in June. That round-tripper scored the go-ahead run to put the Pandas up 2-1 in the 7th.
In 14 games with the Pandas towards the final third of the year, Paris hit .359 with a .510 slugging (SLG) and 1.131 on-base plus slugging (OPS). Five of his 14 hits went for extra bases. Despite being only 20 years old, Paris has been quickly moving around the Angels’ system. He’s played in three levels of the minors in each of his two full seasons as a pro.
Of the three Panda players, Armstrong spent the fewest time in Rocket City, throwing only eight innings over six games. He finished with a 10.13 earned run average (ERA) after allowing nine runs (all of which were earned) on 12 hits, six walks and four hit batsmen. He did strike out eight.
Shortstop Werner Blakely, the Angels’ No. 15 overall prospect according to MLB and righties Kelvin Caceres, Jack Kochanowicz and Connor Van Scoyoc round out the group. The latter quartet’s participation in this league could indicate the Angels’ intentions to elevate them up the ranks from High-A Tri-City or Single-A Inland Empire.
With the trip to the Phoenix metro area, the Angels’ septuplet get to extend their time playing in warm weather. They will play as the Scottsdale Scorpions alongside representatives from the Giants, Orioles, Red Sox and Braves. Home games will be at Scottsdale Stadium, the Giants’ spring ball site and, as of this summer, the Pac-12 baseball tournament.
The AFL is a month-long developmental league for minor league baseball players and one of the more intriguing competition formats in American professional sports. It’s a rare situation where teams combine. The sets of players from each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams join with four other MLB clubs to form five AFL teams.
They play 32 games in 38 days beginning October 3 and continuing until November 10. The top four of the six-team league will play in a four-team playoff tournament, with semifinals November 11 at Peoria Sports Complex - Spring Training home stadium for the Padres and Mariners - and a championship game between the semi final winners the following day at Scottsdale Stadium.
A full, league-wide schedule can be found here.
It’s a chance for all competition-related aspects of professional baseball to get offseason reps, including umpires, operations staff and even new rules. According to MLB.com, this year will feature four rule changes.
New Rules for AFL
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.