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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 AFL.
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?
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.
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.
About Nicholas Minnix
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. Follow @NicholasMinnix
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