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What to know about the Astros prospects in the Arizona Fall League

Houston Astros' Zach Dezenzo
Zach Dezenzo | Credit: Corpus Christi Hooks

The Houston Astros announced eight prospects will play in the Arizona Fall League this year. The AFL is an offseason league, where major-league teams send prospects to get additional game action after the season ends. Astros prospects will be on the Mesa Solar Sox, which includes players from the Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs.

Below is a preview of the prospects headed out to Arizona:

A.J. Blubaugh

Blubaugh was drafted by the Astros in the seventh round of the 2022 draft. The 23 year old had a solid first season in the minors, striking out 112 in 100 innings. He pitched most of the season in Asheville, which is an incredibly hitter-friendly environment. While his ERA was a little higher at 4.41, he finished the season strong, posting a 1.26 ERA in 14.1 innings for Double-A Corpus Christi. The right-hander will have a good opportunity to capitalize on his strong finish with the Hooks. -Jimmy Price

Kenedy Corona

Corona was acquired in the deal that sent Jake Marisnick to the New York Mets in 2019. He is listed at 5-foot-10, 184 pounds but is built really well and packs a punch in his swing. In 2023, Corona played the majority of the season for Corpus Christi and slashed .251/.331/.458 with 22 homers, 65 RBI and 32 stolen bases in 117 games. He possesses above-average speed and intriguing pop that has continued to improve as he has matured. Corona made a plethora of highlight plays in the outfield for the Hooks this season and can provide solid defense at all three outfield spots. -Jimmy Price

Zach Dezenzo

Dezenzo is probably the biggest name headed to Arizona. Selected in the 12th round of the 2022 draft, Dezenzo has made quite the climb in just one year. In 2023, his first full season, the righty hit .305 with 23 doubles, 18 homers and 61 RBI in 94 games. Dezenzo is primarily a third baseman but has played some first and second as well. This will be a good test for him as he will face some of the better competition in the minors. With a good showing in the AFL, Dezenzo could find himself in some top-100 lists come next spring. –Jimmy Price

Ray Gaither

For Gaither, a trip to the AFL is not only an opportunity to build off a strong finish in Double-A; it’s an avenue to improve his chances of being invited to major-league spring training. Gaither, a 2021 undrafted signee, totaled 30 relief appearances for the Hooks this year, posting a 3.51 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 24 walks in 33.1 innings. Across his last 12 outings, the righty struck out 14 batters in 13.1 scoreless frames. The 25 year old will need to limit walks, but a strong AFL campaign could push the Astros to invite him to major-league camp similar to Matt Ruppenthal last year. -Kenny Van Doren

Tyler Guilfoil

Guilfoil is another draftee from 2022. The righty was selected in the eighth round after a dominant college career in relief, including 80 strikeouts in 51 innings in his senior season at Kentucky. The Astros transitioned him to starting this year and saw good results. He started the year with Single-A Fayetteville and struck out 91 batters in 62.1 innings while posting a 2.74 ERA. He finished the year striking out 32 more batters in 21.2 innings for High-A Asheville, totaling 123 strikeouts in 84 innings on the season. Guilfoil has a mid-90s fastball with a low release point and a dominant changeup. -Jimmy Price

Houston Astros' Jaime Melendez

Jaime Melendez | Credit: Tammy Tucker

Jaime Melendez

Coming off an invite to major-league spring training, the last thing Melendez needed was an injury. The righty suffered lower back discomfort this season, appearing in three games for Corpus Christi in April. He struck out eight batters and issued seven walks in 9.2 innings. After not being able to pitch at more than 70%, Melendez is now healthy, looking for extra innings before an expected invite to major-league camp in 2024. -Kenny Van Doren

Miguel Palma

The Astros sending Palma to the AFL felt expected after the catcher spent nearly two months on the injured list in High-A. The righty slashed .274/.340/.409 with 13 doubles and six home runs in 61 games for the Tourists. Although noted as a strong receiver, Palma struggled to throw runners out this year, nabbing 11 in 86 chances. The Solar Sox roster one other backstop, making it difficult to put both catchers into one lineup, but it may not hurt to think of position addition. Houston sent Grae Kessinger to the AFL in 2021 to play 12 games at first base, a position he played four innings at professionally up until that point. -Kenny Van Doren

Miguel Ullola

The Astros struck gold with Ullola in his second professional season. The righty struck out 120 batters in 72 innings in his age-20 season for Single-A Fayetteville in 2022. Poised to be a quick riser, Ullola regressed in his promotion this past year. He posted a 5.86 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 90.2 innings for the Tourists. His ERA was higher at the hitter-friendly McCormick Field this year as he yielded nine home runs in 13 games. Ullola found his old ways in his first two August outings, though, striking out 19 batters in 8.2 innings with just two walks. The 21 year old will have a chance to face advanced competition in Arizona as he makes a bid to be in Corpus Christi sometime in 2024. -Kenny Van Doren

The Arizona Fall League begins Oct. 2. Who are you looking forward to watching this fall?

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