The Arizona Fall League receives most of the hype in the months between the end of the World Series and Spring Training. Major League Baseball's Winter Leagues ditch the snow while keeping the heat on scouting reports and rumors, though.
The four-team Hawaii Winter Baseball league is a prospect-laden gauntlet - mainly for talent in the low minor league levels as a complement to the Arizona Fall League, which features high-level youngsters. This was the final year of MLB's contract with Hawaii, and this setup might be moved to Arizona as a more proximal companion to the AFL.
The top names that showcased their skills in the final year by the beach won't necessarily make an impact next year but should be noted in your future plans.
- San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (Waikiki), the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, drove in 15 runs with a .338 average in 74 at-bats. He made the most of his time there - his only dinger was a three-run blast to help win the championship game, and he even took a brief hiatus to work on his defense. He should be selected or scooped up in all deep dynasty leagues for when he succeeds current San Fran starter Bengie Molina.
- The Houston Astros' 2008 first-round pick, catcher Jason Castro (North Shore), continued his sharp rise through the system with a .324 average in 74 at-bats. There's a chance he could be with the big club in 2010.
- Cincinnati Reds first baseman Yonder Alonso (Waikiki) has raw power but posted a solid overall line (.308, four homers and 21 RBIs in 104 at-bats). The nearly 22-year-old has only 19 at-bats in the minors, but his overall skills at the plate could hasten his MLB arrival.
- Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Mark Hallberg (West Oahu) surfaced out of nowhere as the league's Most Valuable Player. He raked at .362 with three homers and 21 ribbies in 116 at-bats. The 23-year-old Florida State alum has hit .313 at low Single-A and .283 at high Single-A since his 2007 selection in the draft. The lack of hype surrounding him could leave some skeptical of him keeping this up.
- A potential five-tooler widely considered a project, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Dominic Brown (Honolulu) led the league with a .389 clip in 72 at-bats. However, he didn't do much else (one homer, eight RBIs and three stolen bags). The 6-foot-5, 204-pound pure athlete should enter Double-A this year.
- Phillies arm prospect Kyle Drabek (Honolulu) streamlined his windup and added a changeup to his arsenal while going 1-2 with a 3.05 ERA. He also fanned 19 in 20 2/3 frames after joining the team midseason. He reportedly has plus-plus stuff, but his advancement was halted by Tommy John surgery in 2007.
About Tim Heaney
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 the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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