Also see: Arizona Fall League Fantasy Baseball Players - AL
Nearly 60 percent of former Arizona Fall League participants have reached The
Show. Roughly 75 to 100 a year see major league action the following season.
Plenty of AFL alums have been named All-Stars and have even gone on to win major
MLB awards in their careers.
Needless to say, every year, the league boasts names that should be on fantasy baseball radars. The AFL has become Major League Baseball's prospect showcase.
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
A Poser for 2010 leagues?
Pay little attention to Posey's .225-2-12 line, with 18 strikeouts, in 71 Fall
League at-bats. San Fran's prized possession was reportedly fatigued. He'll
be good. Cue the hype machine. The chances of Posey, 23 in March, returning
single-year value are slim to none. The Giants would prefer to bring in a vet
for a year and allow Posey to mature.
- The Houston Astros sent Jason Castro home after the Rising Stars Game. After a successful first full pro season, the AFL was overkill (six hits, 42 ABs). He might compete for a roster spot. Castro should hit for average early on and develop some pop, but in 2010? That's asking a lot.
- Monitor Wilin Rosario of the Colorado Rockies, who's considered the best backstop in the organization. He wowed (.344-.571-.916 in 56 at-bats) in all phases despite seeing limited action.
- The Milwaukee Brewers may be souring on Angel Salome. Jonathan Lucroy's AFL showing (.310-2-10 in 58 at-bats) only helps the latter's case as the club's top backstop prospect. General manager Doug Melvin said he could see Lucroy in the bigs this coming season.
Yonder Alonso, Cincinnati Reds
Alonso is WOW. His line-drive swing is pretty easy on the eyes, and he has developed an impressive batting eye - uncommon in Cincinnati these days. He hit a mere .267 in 86 at-bats in the AFL, but he swatted a couple of homers and drove in 23. Folks talk about the 22-year-old's maturity. He may never be elite, but he's well on his way to being pretty darned good.
Chris Marrero, Washington Nationals
Country strong Chris dropped a .349-3-21 in 83 at-bats in the showcase and appears to be a willing learner. His approach is sometimes flawed, but that's a matter of consistency. The Nats are set with Adam Dunn signed through next season. As long as Marrero continues to make progress with the mitt, he should be ready in 2011. Seemingly a relatively safe keeper investment.
Ike Davis, New York Mets
The Mets are searching for a one-year stopgap at first. The lefty slugger hit .341 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 85 AFL at-bats. Davis hits the ball hard. He has terrible plate discipline and shows plenty of signs that he'll struggle against southpaws, though. Scouts pointed out that he drops his hands a good bit as he begins his swing. Boom or bust here.
- The Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman has an excuse for his subpar slugging percentage this season (.408) and in the AFL (.400 in 45 at-bats): a wrist injury. Concern about his slowly developing power is premature. Value?
- The San Francisco Giants' Thomas Neal, 22, was off to a slow pro start, but he continued his breakout year with a modest AFL effort (.384-.392-.776). He has pop and could be a solid platoon man from the right side.
Brandon Allen, of the Arizona Diamondbacks, was awful (.177-1-12, .274 slugging) in 113 at-bats. He fanned 33 times. He needs more seasoning, and the D-backs probably know it.
Josh Vitters, Chicago Cubs
The right-handed hitter is revered in many circles, but a rare pitch is one that goes uncontested when Vitters stands in. It won't necessarily lead to a ton of K's, but it makes him vulnerable. He hit .353 with three bombs and 22 ribbies in the AFL. There are questions about whether he'll stay at the hot corner, too. What if he ends up being another Jeff Francoeur?
Florida Marlins prospect Matt Dominguez has the glove of an All-Star but the wood of a Pony Leaguer. Scouts believe he can be adequate, but he has to fix a few things - beginning with a search for "quiet hands."
Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
This 19-year-old has a world of potential. The Cubs won't rush him, say they, yet he played at Double-A in 2009 and have already discussed moving Ryan Theriot to second base. He's Chicago's best prospect, hit .376 with nine steals in 12 attempts in the AFL and is expected to hit 20-plus homers a year once he matures physically. Catch a rising Starlin for the long haul.
Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals
Espinosa should force the Nats to move Ian Desmond to the keystone. He batted .345 with a homer, 14 RBIs and three steals in 87 Fall League at-bats. He spent it working on plate discipline. Espinosa is somewhat polished, but he has room to grow. He offers 20-20 potential when he makes the jump.
- Watch the Pittsburgh Pirates' Chase D'Arnaud (.296-0-6, 12 runs, 13 steals, in 81 at-bats). He's not spectacular, but he's a well-rounded gamer who could provide good value. He can play third, too.
Brandon Crawford (San Francisco Giants): fantastic glove, a build (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) that says decent power potential. Poor strike zone judgment says it may not matter. He slugged a pedestrian .455 in 77 AFL at-bats.
Chris Heisey, Cincinnati Reds
Heisey climbing but risky
Perhaps the biggest riser in the past year, Heisey continues to draw raves
for his all-around game. In 91 AFL ABs, he posted a .397 OBP and a .593 slugging
percentage, with five stolen bases. He walked 10 times against 27 whiffs, though;
that mimics the extreme drop in his walk-to-strikeout ratio after he made the
jump to Triple-A Louisville. Heisey, soon to be 25, has the look of a risky
investment if he commands plenty of attention.
Domonic Brown, Philadelphia
Goal No. 1: Fill out. The 6-foot-5, 204-pounder began the AFL on a tear but tailed off to .229 with two dingers and 18 RBIs in 118 AFL at-bats; he was caught stealing on both of his attempts, too. Tired? He has a funny trot and doesn't look the part, but scouts say he "projects" well. The swing is flawed but pretty, and the power is intermittent but raw.
Jose Tabata, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Bucs are bringing along another outfield prospect at a relative snail's
pace. Andrew McCutchen's debut says "right track."
Tabata, 21, hit .392 with a homer, 21 RBIs and four steals in 120 at-bats after
a quality minor league campaign. He's projected to add 20-homer power someday.
As long as Tabata remains on this slope, he should debut this summer, liberally.
Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins
The Fish shut down Stanton about two weeks into his AFL stint because of a sore back, although he was hitting nearly .500. Everyone drools because of his mammoth-like power, especially because he's only 20. His swing isn't the soundest mechanically, so it'll be interesting to see if that's exploited. He remains a highly touted yet risky long-term investment.
Jonathan Gaston (Houston Astros) led all Class A batters with 35 homers this past season. He swatted three and drove in 19 in 92 at-bats in the Fall League. Strikeouts: 38. Batting average: .239. Work to be done....
- The Arizona Diamondbacks' Cole Gillespie, in 72 AFL ABs, hit .333 with a dinger and a pair of swipes. He has a modest all-around game that could lead to at-bats with a good spring; the fifth outfielder in Arizona never seems far from PT.
- Although the Los Angeles Dodgers' Andrew Lambo (.330-2-18 in 91 at-bats) continues to hit well at his stops, he lacks some discipline and isn't very athletic. He has the makings of little more than a steady player.
- The Milwaukee Brewers added Lorenzo Cain's blazing speed to the 40-man. It wasn't on display until the AFL (eight swipes) thanks to a knee injury. His batting eye screams Michael Bourn, but Carlos Gomez has similar problems. Still, Cain will be just a pinch runner without improvement.
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Strasburg showed maturity in AFL
A couple of minor injuries kept the 2009 No. 1 overall pick from playing in
the league's two nationally televised contests. Expect the Nats to remain extremely
cautious. Strasburg could hang in the bigs in 2010, but the buildup will probably
outweigh your return in anything beyond keeper leagues. Scouts loved that the
fireballer learned, adjusted and bounced back from adversity quickly in the
Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves
The 2009 No. 7 pick's breaking ball needs work, but he's quite deceptive. Minor (one earned run, zero walks, 17 K's in 14 innings) will encounter adversity as he ascends the ladder, but the Braves are patient, which bodes well for the potential mid-rotation southpaw's future. Baltimore Orioles lefty Brian Matusz, anyone?
Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds
The No. 8 selection this year was masterful in the AFL: a 1.37 ERA, a .256 opponents' average and a 15-to-3 K/BB in 19 2/3 innings. His velocity doesn't knock your socks off, though; command is his calling card. He can make an impact at some point this season because of his maturity, but he probably won't be more than a No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the long term.
Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Donnie Veal tossed up a 2.14 ERA with 22 K's and seven walks in 21 AFL innings. He's becoming a power pitcher, with the Bucs' blessing. They could be onto something: He has great stuff and improved his control a great deal.
Andrew Cashner (Chicago Cubs) struck out 19 in 19 2/3 innings but yielded 10 earned runs. The club's top 2008 pick hasn't advanced quickly and is the subject of trade rumors, but there's still upside. The Cubs view him as a starter despite noise about changing his role.
Aaron Miller struck out 13 but walked 11 in 15 1/3 innings. The Los Angeles Dodgers may still have themselves a find in the 6-foot-7, 205-pounder. The lefty is a project.
- The Florida Marlins are overhauling Andrew Miller's mechanics, which is a desperate maneuver but perhaps necessary given his injury problems. AFL results: 5.28 ERA, 11 walks, 13 K's. Stay tuned....
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
Like Strasburg, Storen seems immune to self-loathing after mistakes. Some believe Storen (one earned run, 16 hits, three walks, 13 K's in 13 2/3 innings in the AFL) is readier to contribute; he signed right away, and he's a reliever. The righty could easily make the 25-man out of ST. And he's certainly the closer - of the future. The future might be late 2010.
- The Atlanta Braves' Craig
Kimbrel gives out free passes. That didn't change in the AFL (16 in
the 10 1/3 innings). His stuff is so electric (18 AFL K's, 103 in 60 minor
league innings), though. Folks monitor him as future closer material.
- Philadelphia Phillies righty Scott
Mathieson has had three elbow surgeries, two of them TJs. The Phils
remain hopeful because his arm remains life. He struck out 15 and walked eight
in 12 2/3 innings. His future should lie in the bullpen....
Also see: Arizona Fall
League Fantasy Baseball Players - AL
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.