2:03 AM UTC
The Arizona Fall League is a stage on which the game’s top prospects can not only hone their skills in preparation for the next level, but can also make up for lost time. That’s been the case for Kyle Manzardo and Chase DeLauter, two top Guardians prospects who didn’t share a lineup until this year but now expect to for a long time.
The Fall League has only stoked expectation for the pair, who powered Peoria to a 10-8 win over Salt River on Thursday in the regular-season finale. Manzardo, baseball’s No. 58 prospect per MLB Pipeline, homered in a four-hit effort while DeLauter (MLB No. 85) racked up three hits, two runs and an RBI to help the Javelinas advance to the postseason.
Peoria earned a spot in Friday night’s play-in game against the Scottsdale Scorpions. The winner will face the Surprise Saguaros in Saturday’s title game on national television.
Despite those stakes, it was largely another day at the office for DeLauter and Manzardo, who this fall have formed arguably the most potent 1-2 punch in Arizona in the heart of the Javelinas order.
“I love hitting behind him because he’s on base pretty much every at bat,” said Manzardo, Cleveland’s No. 2 prospect. “I’ve always got a runner on first, with the four-hole open. I’m just gonna keep trying to hit it.”
Added DeLauter, the Guardians’ fourth-ranked prospect: “The guys here are unbelievable. As Manzo said early in the season, four or five of our best hitters are on the bench every day. So it’s been great being around these guys and getting to see these guys swing.”
Their success this fall has been a positive cherry wrapping up challenging years for both players, who are making up for lost time in Arizona. Acquired in the Trade Deadline deal for Aaron Civale from the Rays, Manzardo went more than two months without homering at one point and didn’t hit his first long ball in the Guardians organization until five weeks after the deal.
But the 23-year-old is hammering the ball this fall. He put together a three-game homer streak during the second week of play, crushed a 460-foot tater on Oct. 12, and cranked a key two-run shot Thursday. Only two players in the Fall League have hit more homers — Twins prospects Kala’i Rosario (MIN No. 19) and Aaron Sabato have seven.
“I had a weird year … so I feel like I’m kind of hitting the back half of it now,” Manzardo said. “It’s fun being around these guys. I think that’s the best part about playing in November still, is being around these dudes.”
The Guardians’ first-round pick (No. 16 overall) in 2022, DeLauter didn’t debut until this June because of a broken left foot and then suffered a fractured left pinky toe. But he hit the ground running after that, reaching Double-A by season’s end and posting an impressive .355/.417/.528 slash line across 57 games overall.
“I’m just happy to be healthy,” the 22-year-old said. “That’s the biggest thing, especially moving forward and going into the offseason and obviously for next spring, it’s staying healthy. I’m grateful that I got to get out this season when I did and I’m grateful I’m still on the field now. So it’s been great.”