When the Los Angeles Dodgers announced their contingent of Arizona Fall League participants, we highlighted Ronan Kopp, the team's 16th-best prospect (per MLB Pipeline) and a strikeout compiler in search of consistency.
Turns out, we might've overlooked another, less-heralded pitching prospect who just might be able to harness something in the minors' top prospect-filled pressure cooker.
The Arizona Fall League is typically used as a fertile ground to get upper-crust young players extended reps against top talent. If you want to approximate a 162-game season, there's likely no better place to do so than a league where every night is a minor-league All-Star Game. Iron sharpens iron, after all.
The AFL also allows teams to raise the level of competition for players who might need a push to reach their considerable ceilings. If an uber-talented prospect is falling a tick or two short, a team might prefer to challenge them with exposure to a barrage of stars, rather than bury them in instructional league work.
That's the case with 2021 Dodgers seventh-rounder Ryan Sublette, who struck out 60 men in 47.1 innings of relief work (and one start) this season with Double-A Tulsa. Only problem? He walked 46 for a ghastly 1.77 WHIP.
In Sublette's early days in the desert, he's been pinpointed by Baseball America editor Josh Norris as an untouched source of filth who might be a tweak or two away from rising through the ranks as a bullpen weapon. The funky right-hander is certainly a pitcher to keep an eye on if he can ever shake off his most prominent bugaboo (though, yes, he walked five men through his first 3.1 innings in the AFL).
Dodgers pitching prospect Ryan Sublette showcasing unique skills in AFL
The Tulsa pitching staff was impressive in 2023, to say the absolute least. In fact, they sported a rotation with the highest average fastball velocity in organized baseball, posting the best collective ERA in the Double-A Texas League through mid-June ... by a run and a half. As the year dragged on, the Drillers rotation graduated Emmet Sheehan and Kyle Hurt to the bigs ... which wasn't an issue, considering they ran six top prospects deep with Nick Nastrini, Landon Knack, River Ryan and Nick Frasso still in tow.
That pomp and circumstance might've obscured their bullpen a bit, but Sublette's unique angles and top-tier stuff haven't gotten lost in the AFL's shuffle just yet. It's easy to get hidden when you walk a batter an inning and your teammates are throwing well-manicured flames. But perhaps all that pitching iron preemptively sharpened him and readied him for a Fall League showcase.
However this autumn turns out, BA's editors were on the case, with plenty of time left on the 25-year-old Sublette's development clock.