The KC Royals sent a large group of prospects, including two MLB players, down to the desert for the 2023 Arizona Fall League. Infielder Peyton Wilson and outfielder Gavin Cross are both performing well at the plate for the Surprise Saguaros. But, fans saw Eric Cerantola make his AFL debut and start Wednesday's game for Surprise.
Eric Cerantola's Arizona Fall League debut will please KC Royals fans.
Cerantola pitched three strong innings for the Saguaros, striking out four and walking one. He did allow one hit, one earned run, and hit a batter, which was his only blemish on the day. When he left the mound, Surprise and the Glendale Desert Dogs were tied 1-1.
By the end of the fourth inning, Suprise trailed 5-1 after a rough inning from the Milwaukee Breers' Justin Yeager. Cerantola left the ballpark that day with a loss, but there is plenty to be optimistic about. Cerantola threw 68% of his pitches for strikes, reinforcing that his 2023 performance was not a fluke.
Cerantola pitched in 32 games this past season across High-A and Double-A. The majority of his High-A appearances this year were in relief after a rough debut at that level in 2022. He looked very sharp in 29 appearances for the Quad Cities River Bandits, notching a 3.92 fielding independent pitching and 11.55 K/9.
That earned him a late promotion to Northwest Arkansas, where Cerantola pitched even better. The 23-year-old debuted with a four-inning save on Aug. 31, then made two fiving-inning starts for the Naturals. He was flawless in his Sept. 13 finale, pitching five innings of shutout ball with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Cerantola is not among the Royals' top 30 prospects, according to the MLB Pipeline. But a good AFL showing coupled with his 2023 performance could see him join that list ahead of the 2024 season. The Royals selected him 139th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft for a reason. If the Royals want to stretch him out again to be a starter, Cerantola could prove to be a success story for this new pitching process under new front office leadership.