Many Arizona Fall League participants see Major League Baseball action the following season. Fantasy baseball players must identify noteworthy AFL prospects. Which can help their fantasy baseball teams? Rising MLB youngsters often make fantasy baseball noise.
Austin Romine, C, New York Yankees
The Yanks might have their most well-rounded catching prospect compete with Jesus Montero and others for their catching gig, now that the team wants Jorge Posada to be their main DH. Romine has been working on correcting some defensive lapses, but his offensive stock is intact. He'll likely debut sometime in 2011, even if he doesn't win a spot this spring.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
If Twins call on Revere, run
Maybe his busy baseball year caused him to hit just .178 with no homers in his 73 AFL at-bats, but Hosmer's monster minor league year - a LASIK surgery success story - boosted his stock. His plate abilities - including an oppo-field penchant - have been likened to those of Joey Votto. Expect at least a September taste for Hosmer, widely considered the best first base prospect, but don't put it past KC to bring the 21-year-old up earlier.
Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners
Even while trying to grow at the keystone, Ackley topped the league's batting average leader board for most of the season and is developing more extra-base power. His BA profile is polished. He aims to earn a spot on the club in spring training, but his debut probably won't come that soon. Whenever he arrives, expect a waiver wire rush.
Grant Green, SS, Oakland Athletics
Green's AFL statistics were ugly, and he failed to build on his impressive showing in the hitter-friendly California League. The organization sees the 23-year-old as another Michael Young. Oakland has been conservative with most of its recent prospects, so 2012 is the soonest you should expect him.
Eduardo Escobar, 2B, Chicago White Sox
The 21-year-old switch hitter ranked among the AFL's batting average leaders and showed increased pop. The natural second baseman made the switch to the keystone; this versatility makes him a likely candidate for a 40-man roster spot and spring training invitation. Sleeper alert.
- The leathery smooth Jose Iglesias (Boston Red Sox) wowed in the field, but his "bat" makes him an almost null fantasy option for whenever he debuts - probably within the next couple of years.
- A second-rounder in 2009, the Cleveland Indians' Jason Kipnis also looks to be on the fast track after .300-plus batting averages at high Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron last year. He's competing for organizational depth chart position at second base with Cord Phelps, another solid batting average prospect.
- The contact-friendly Johnny Giavotella is surging in the Kansas City Royals' system. The Texas League leader in hits (168) and runs (92) at one point also topped the AFL's batting average board.
Ben Revere, OF, Minnesota Twins
His batting average mold is nearly MLB-ready. He spent the AFL putting in more work on his defense. Revere's speed would play well for fantasy leagues. If the Twins can find room for him next year on their roster, you should, too, for your stolen base arsenal.
Michael Taylor, OF, Oakland Athletics
Taylor tanked in 2010 but showed some signs of life in fall ball with 15 RBIs in 100 at-bats. He still has some kinks to work out in his swing and mental approach; where'd the power go? His natural gifts preserve his long-term power-speed intrigue, though, so don't dismiss him yet.
Engel Beltre, OF, Texas Rangers
Despite carrying more tools than a Home Depot, Beltre has yet to organize ... well, his belt. More of the same in the AFL: Beltre doesn't walk much and tries to hit everything. His selection will probably hinder his timetable, which probably puts him at a 2012 debut, at soonest.
Former Louisiana State football star Jared Mitchell is working his way back from a season-ending ankle injury he suffered in March. He slumped a little bit, but the athletic Chicago White Sox prospect still deserves dynasty league attention.
Rzepczynski gets grounders
- Adam Loewen, the next Rick Ankiel: The former pitcher and 2010 Eastern League All-Star continued his successful transition. The Toronto Blue Jays might not have a place for him, though. Don't lose track.
- The New York Yankees moved former third baseman Brandon Laird, a solid contact bat, to the outfield. If the Yanks trade him or leave him unprotected for this year's Rule 5 Draft, his road to a big-league roster would shorten.
- The Boston Red Sox's Juan Carlos Linares has power potential. The Cuban defector is 26, so maybe he could help soon, but there isn't a spot for him right now.
- More Cuban flavor: Leslie Anderson, 29, is a rising farm commodity and could find a Tampa Bay Rays roster spot. A chance at the first base or outfield gig? A long shot, but the talented Anderson might arrive soon if he impresses. Watch him.
Mike Montgomery, SP, Kansas City Royals
His delivery still needs some work, and he didn't pitch much in 'Zona; he had a rough appearance in the Rising Stars Game. However, the lefty boasts frontline potential and fanned 11 in his 10 1/3 innings. He's one of the highest rated pitching prospects and seems likely to debut within the next couple of years.
Marc Rzepczynski, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
"Scrabble" posted a 1.16 ERA in 31 innings. Despite his control and injury issues, he remains a sleeper if given a rotation job, thanks to his standout grounder inducement.
Manny Banuelos, SP, New York Yankees
The southpaw's heat touches the mid-90s but sits a little lower in his smooth delivery. His stuff looked hittable, though, and the 19-year-old probably won't make a big-league impact until 2012, at the soonest.
Eric Hurley, SP, Texas Rangers
A onetime highly regarded prospect derailed by injuries, the Rangers' righty rediscovered his stuff and dominated the hitter-friendly desert ball: 3-0, 1.82 ERA in six starts. The 25-year-old is an AL-only sleeper candidate if he can continue his progress and finagle a rotation spot.
Daniel Duffy, SP, Kansas City Royals
The lefty was roughed up for a 10.97 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. Duffy, who took a few months away from baseball to contemplate his future, has been an erratic prospect. His personally draining season puts doubt in his long-term worth.
- A chance at saves? The Baltimore Orioles' Kam Mickolio looked rejuvenated: 0.75 ERA, 18 K's, two walks in 12 relief innings. Don't rely solely on last year's stats; he's still a sleeper.
- Boston Red Sox starter Casey Kelly struggled with a 6.75 ERA in 16 frames, but the former shortstop is still working out the kinks with his transition to full-time pitching. He's a high-upside commodity.
- Chance Ruffin (Detroit Tigers), a closer prospect, saw his first stint of professional ball under his belt with a 4.32 ERA and seven K's in 8 1/3 frames. Think long term here.
- Reliever Josh Lueke's off-field problems can't take away from his talent. The Seattle Mariners might've been using his AFL work to showcase him for a trade.
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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