Historically, the Arizona Fall League has been a finishing school for players on the cusp of winning places on their teams' 40-man rosters.
Milwaukee Brewers outfield prospect Josh Prince made the best of his opportunity in Arizona this autumn. His outstanding performance there did, indeed, earn Prince the coveted roster spot he worked so hard to obtain.
In the midst of converting from shortstop, the six-foot, 180-pound Prince had an outstanding career at Tulane University that prepared him for his future in professional baseball.
In his junior year at Tulane, Prince smacked 15 doubles, four triples and six home runs on his way to hitting a robust .353 for the Green Wave. He showed his contact-hitting ability, striking out only 29 times in 218 at-bats.
Prince also flashed excellent quickness and speed, stealing 48 bases.
Scouts took notice and his success in college earned Prince a third-round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft by the Brewers.
I had not seen Prince play until this fall. What I saw was a player who took advantage of every at-bat and every chance to use his skills. Especially his speed.
Prince hit .404 in 89 at-bats in Arizona.
Prince has a unique background. He is not a stranger to competition.
He grew up in a rodeo family.
Rodeo has had a profound impact in his development. His dad participated in rodeo in college. As a youngster growing up in Louisiana, Josh was in rodeo himself. He watched his older brother suffer a fractured skull as a result of a rodeo accident. It's the first thing he shared with me when we spoke.
He knows how to make the best of an opportunity when an opportunity presents itself.
He told me playing in the Arizona Fall League was "pretty special." He indicated he relished the idea of facing quality pitching and getting additional outfield experience.
Prince indicated he was "rusty" after taking a month off from the time the regular season ended until the Arizona Fall League began.
Rusty? If his performance was "rusty," imagine what it will be like when he's fresh.
Making a transition from his natural comfort level playing shortstop to a role as an outfielder, Prince showed his athletic ability, his versatility and his quickness when he played in a total of 24 games in Arizona -- 10 in left field, four in center, eight in right, one at second base and one at third.
His defensive play in Arizona was not without hiccups. He made three errors in 44 chances. Two were in left field, one at third base.During the fall, it seemed Prince made something happen during every at-bat. Either he would hit safely, work the pitcher deep into a favorable count or walk.
Prince has a discerning eye at the plate. He knows the strike zone, he recognizes pitches well and he has good patience. He doesn't help the pitcher by making bad decisions on pitches he can't hit.
The Arizona Fall League and Major League Baseball are different worlds. The major difference is that pitchers are tired in Arizona and the pitching quality is often below Major League average. As a result, one must be careful not to inflate the value of Fall League hitting statistics.
My concern with Prince is simple. Will he be able to consistently hit higher quality pitching that includes a vast array of breaking balls? Will pitchers throw strikes more consistently and force him to hit his way on base as opposed to walking him?
Prince had 596 plate appearances this past season at Double-A Huntsville. It was a chance for him to show his ability to get on base (.346 on-base percentage) and score runs (74). He hit .251, but he walked 74 times. Most important, he stole 41 bases while being caught only 18 times. His 107 strikeouts were the most of his short career. He compensated for his strikeouts with 38 extra-base hits.
As an outfielder, Prince gets a good read on balls off the bat. I was surprised at how accurate his fly-ball routes were under the very difficult Arizona sky. If needed, his throwing arm is strong and accurate enough for him to play right field.
A right-handed hitter and fielder, Prince can also play any infield position with the exception of first base.
Because of his defensive flexibility, his solid contact bat and his running ability, Prince profiles best as a valuable multi-position utility player. Those types of players are extremely important on a big league club.
Prince can become a player who can spark a late-inning rally with a crucial base hit and a stolen base that leads to a run.
Probably considered an offense-first player, Prince is a solid enough defender with good hands and good footwork. His quick first step and his adequate range are well suited for a future Major League career.
He can advance in the Brewers system if he continues to make strides doing what he does best -- recognizing pitches, making contact, getting on base and running well enough to pressure opponents' defenses.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.