10 breakout prospects from 2015 Fall League
The Arizona Fall League season is now in the books and, as usual, many top prospects performed well. But while it's exciting to see known players do what's expected, it's at least as much fun to see other Minor Leaguers put themselves on the map during the six-week AFL campaign.
Every year, without fail, less-heralded prospects excel -- and sometimes outperform -- their more famous counterparts. The 2015 AFL season was no different. Many were on team Top 30 prospects lists, but their performance in Arizona could help them move up a few ticks when the lists are reranked in 2016. They now might be seen as a bigger part of their team's future, or perhaps they caught the eye of another team to bring up in trade talks.
Different than the top 20 prospects list coming out on Tuesday, here is a list of 10 prospects who leave Arizona standing a bit taller than they did at the start of the season, a 10-pack of AFL breakouts:
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Cubs: Because the Cubs need another hitting prospect, right? Candelario, No. 20 on the Cubs' Top 30 list, had a solid 2015 season, reaching Double-A. But he really turned it on in the AFL, hitting .329/.371/.610 with five homers in 82 at-bats. That ensured a spot for him on the Cubs' 40-man roster, a move officially made on Friday.
Aledmys Diaz, SS/2B, Cardinals: The Cuban infielder -- who isn't ranked by MLBPipeline.com standards because of the rules that dictate international pool spending -- has had an up-and-down two years in the Cardinals' system. Signed to a four-year, $8 million contract in March 2014, Diaz was on the 40-man roster at the start of the 2015 season, then was designated for assignment in July. He rebounded in August and continued to perform well in Arizona, with a .315/.370/.616 line possibly helping the Cardinals decide to put him back on the roster.
Adam Engel, OF, White Sox: Chicago's No. 17 prospect had yet to make it beyond Class A Advanced and hit .251/.335/.369, albeit with 65 steals, in the Carolina League this year. All he did in Arizona was win league MVP honors by hitting .403/.523/.642 with another 10 steals to prepare him for the jump up to Double-A in 2016.
Mike Gerber, OF, Tigers: Gerber had a very good first full season of pro ball, hitting .292/.355/.468 with 54 extra-base hits and 16 steals. But as a college senior who spent the entire season in the Class A Midwest League, it was time to see the 23-year-old jump on a faster track. Detroit's No. 17 prospect may have done that with a solid AFL, hitting .280/.371/.440 with four steals and impressing with an ability to make consistent hard contact.
Josh Hader, LHP, Brewers: The twice-traded southpaw, No. 14 on Milwaukee's Top 30, has always had a good arm. But his secondary stuff hasn't always been there, leading many to feel he was destined to the bullpen. After leading the AFL in ERA with a 0.56 mark to go along with a .154 opponents' batting average, an ability to maintain a mid-90s fastball and more consistent alternative offerings, Hader may have convinced some he can stay in a rotation long term.
Chad Hinshaw, OF, Angels: Hinshaw, a senior signee from the 2013 Draft, has performed well in his pro career, though turning 25 in September means he's been slightly behind the curve, age-wise. The Angels' No. 13 prospect also missed 10 weeks with a thumb injury this year. He not only made up for lost time, he played a solid center field and hit .349/.397/.508 in Arizona.
Chad Pinder, SS/2B, A's: He only played in 13 AFL games, but he started out with a bang by hitting two home runs on Opening Day. Continuing to show positional flexibility by playing both shortstop and second base, the A's No. 7 prospect hit four homers, two doubles and a triple in 51 at-bats, turning some heads along the way.
Yadiel Rivera, SS, Brewers: Orlando Arcia, rightfully, gets most of the shortstop prospect buzz in the Brewers' system, but Rivera's AFL turn definitely made more people take notice. The organization's No. 18 prospect hit .315/.405/.425 while continuing to show his typical slick fielding at multiple positions. Most encouraging: a walk percentage of 11.9, much higher than at any other stop in his career.
Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees: Seemingly on the radar forever, Sanchez has developed slowly, but he is still just 22 years old. The Yankees' No. 5 prospect showed off the plus tools he's been known for -- his power (AFL-leading seven home runs) and his arm (61.5 percent caught-stealing rate), and he also received better than many had seen previously. He could use this to knock on the big league door more loudly in 2016.
Nick Travieso, RHP, Reds: Cincinnati's No. 6 prospect had a solid season in Class A Advanced shortened by a wrist contusion courtesy of a comebacker. The AFL allowed him to make up for lost innings, and he took advantage, finishing fifth with a 2.05 ERA and a nifty 20:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He didn't light up the radar gun like some in the AFL this season, but he showed his feel for pitching is ready for the jump to the upper levels next year.