The Arizona Fall League will get started in less than two weeks, kicking off on October 2nd and it will last for five weeks with the championship game taking place on November 11th. The Cincinnati Reds will be a part of the Surprise Saguaros this season, sharing a club with the Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, and Kansas City Royals. Cincinnati is sending eight players to Arizona this year to participate in the league – three position players and five pitchers.
The three position players that the Reds will be sending to Arizona will be Jacob Hurtubise, Austin Callahan, and Michael Trautwein. The pitchers will be left-handers Bryce Hubbart and Jayvien Sandridge, and right-handers Zach Maxwell, Andrew Moore, and Carson Spiers.
It’s an interesting group this year. Starting with the position guys, you’ve got Jacob Hurtubise who had a big breakout season between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. Michael Trautwein had easily the best season of his 3-year professional career (though in his first year he only played in 14 games). Austin Callahan had a strong first half, but he did slump down the stretch and it really pulled down his overall numbers.
The pitching group has a guy with big league experience in starter Carson Spiers, and then four intriguing relievers. Jayvien Sandridge was the only reliever who reached Double-A among the group. Andrew Moore missed much of the season, but saw his non-rehab time in Dayton. Zach Maxwell split time between Daytona and Dayton, while Bryce Hubbart saw all of his time on the mound with Daytona.
There have been a few breakouts this year within the farm system, but it’s probably the one from Jacob Hurtubise that’s the most surprising. He had never homered anywhere in his life until the final game of the 2022 season in Chattanooga. Not in little league, not in high school, not in college, and not in his first 164 professional games after being drafted. He finally picked up that home run to end the 2022 season. In 2023 he’s hit seven more – six of which have gone over the fence – and while that on it’s own doesn’t warrant the “breakout” term, when combined with all of the other stuff, it’s there.
Hurtubise is in Triple-A, so there are still three games remaining for him this season, but between Double-A and Triple-A he’s hitting .327/.478/.485 with 11 doubles, 10 triples, 7 home runs, 40 stolen bases, 76 walks, and just 62 strikeouts in 116 games played. His offseason work with Driveline to try and improve his bat speed seems to be paying off in a big way for him.
Michael Trautwein struggled to hit in his first two seasons. He also didn’t spend a ton of time on the field – playing in just 55 games between 2021’s draft and the end of the 2022 season. In 2023 he played in 87 games – the first 38 with Dayton and then 49 with Double-A Chattanooga. The additional playing time, health, and reps helped the catcher/outfielder (mostly catcher, but did get some limited time in the outfield over the last two years) put together his best offensive year.
Between the two stops, Trautwein hit .248/.360/.384. In 307 plate appearances he had 13 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs, 38 walks, and 80 strikeouts. His .743 OPS easily bested the .490 mark he had the year prior in limited action (116 plate appearances) between Single-A Daytona and High-A Dayton. Behind the plate he threw out 30% of attempted base stealers during the 2023 season.
Austin Callahan began his year in Dayton with the Dragons. He remained there through the first week of August before he was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. Through the first 95 games of the season, Callahan was hitting .262/.327/.439 with 34 doubles, 4 triples, and 7 home runs. Over the final 31 games of the season, though, he went into a big slump where he hit .169/.183/.218 with just four extra-base hits and just two walks to go against 42 strikeouts. That slump dropped the 22-year-old’s season line down to .240/.294/.385.
Carson Spiers made it to the big leagues this year. He was the 23,709th player to do so. That would be a solid, but nowhere near sellout crowd at Great American Ball Park on a Tuesday night in mid-April, just to put into perspective how few big leaguers there have been.
Spiers began the year in Double-A and he pitched out of the bullpen for his first 14 games before making a spot start on June 8th. He then pitched two games out of the bullpen again before making three starts leading into the All-Star break. When he returned in the second half he was back in the bullpen, but he threw 3.0 and 5.0 innings in those games before he moved back into the rotation on July 28th. That’s where he’d been since, except for his final appearance of the season when he threw 3.0 innings for the Reds against the Mets five days ago.
For Spiers, something seemed to really click in early July From the 6th of July through the end of August, he threw 45.0 innings with the Lookouts and posted a 2.40 ERA while allowing 33 hits, walking 17, and striking out 61 batters. He allowed just two home runs in that time frame and held hitters to a .203/.286/.301 line over those two months. Over his 83.0 innings with Chattanooga he posted a 3.69 ERA with 106 strikeouts. He threw 10.0 innings with the Reds and allowed 10 earned runs.
Jayvien Sandridge (pictured above) posted a 1.46 ERA in 2022 with Daytona in the first half, but struggled in Dayton in the second half with a 5.63 ERA. In 2023 he returned to Dayton to start the year in the Dragons bullpen. He spent nearly the entire season there, pitching in 36 games with a 3.81 ERA in 59.0 innings. Control was an issue as he walked 47 batters, but he also missed a ton of bats as he racked up 84 strikeouts. He got a late-season promotion to Double-A Chattanooga where he allowed one earned run in 4.0 innings. He walked four and struck out seven in that time. Sandridge threw a perfect inning with two strikeouts in the Lookouts playoff opener.
Zach Maxwell split his season between Single-A Daytona and High-A Dayton. In his first full season after being drafted in the 6th round in 2022, Maxwell racked up a whole lot of strikeouts, but also walked his fair share of guys. He threw 61.1 innings out of the bullpen in 34 games while posting a 4.11 ERA. The big righty struck out 96 batters and had 38 walks during the year while giving up 47 hits.
Andrew Moore missed the first half of the season. He began his rehab in Arizona the second week of July and stayed there for the month, throwing four 1-inning outings where three of them were perfect and another one was hitless. When August began he joined the Dayton Dragons bullpen and remained with them for the final five weeks of the season. In his limited action he posted a 5.52 ERA in Dayton with 10 walks and 20 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.
Bryce Hubbart, the 3rd round pick from 2022, missed time during the 2023 season. The lefty didn’t pitch in April before showing up in Daytona in early May. He then missed five weeks between early July and August before he returned to finish out the season with the Tortugas.
The lefty made seven starts and nine relief appearances during the season. In his 45.1 innings he posted a 4.96 ERA. Control was a big issue for Hubbart as he walked 49 batters – more than a batter per inning. He added in 51 strikeouts and he gave up just three home runs during the season.
There are plenty of reasons why teams send players out to Arizona to play in the fall league. Some guys get the chance to make up for missed time during the season. Others are there to try and work on a specific thing, or try a new position out (like Noelvi Marte last season). Some guys are there to allow the team to get one more look before they have to decide whether to protect or not protect them in November from the Rule 5 draft. And there are some guys who head there as a bit of a “finishing school” before the organization hopes to get them up to the big leagues at some point next season. The Reds group this year seems like a mix of a lot of that.