The Arizona Fall League's exciting championship game on Saturday tied a bow on a six-week season that saw several of MLB Pipeline's more highly touted prospects, led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Forrest Whitley and league MVP Keston Hiura, all move a step closer toward reaching Major Leagues.But so much of
The Arizona Fall League's exciting championship game on Saturday tied a bow on a six-week season that saw several of MLB Pipeline's more highly touted prospects, led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Forrest Whitley and league MVP Keston Hiura, all move a step closer toward reaching Major Leagues.
But so much of what makes the Fall League great is that every year there are players who might not be at the top of prospect lists, but who use the Fall League as a bit of a coming out party. These are players who can be considered breakout prospects, with the usual caveat about small sample sizes.
:: Complete coveraege of the 2018 AFL championship game ::
David Bote is a recent example, as he emerged as a valuable utility infielder for the Cubs this season after a breakout turn in last year's Fall League, following an upward-trending performance in his first Double-A campaign.
With all of that in mind, the 10 players below (listed alphabetically) were among the top breakout prospects in this year's Arizona Fall League.
Melvin Adon, RHP, Giants' No. 19 prospect
After starting games for his entire pro career, the 24-year-old right-hander dominated in his first stint as a full-time reliever, pairing a fastball that reached 102 mph with a wipeout slider in the low 90s. Altogether, Adon compiled 21 strikeouts and three walks and allowed seven hits in 12 1/3 innings (10 appearances) for Scottsdale.
Jazz Chisholm, SS, D-backs' No. 3
Jazz didn't see as much playing time as others on the list due to his taxi-squad designation on Salt River's roster, but the 20-year-old shortstop consistently impressed when in the lineup. Chisholm collected 19 hits and posted a.442/.489/.767 slashline over 10 games, hitting three homers, three doubles and a triple while producing some of the AFL's top recorded exit velocities. He also showed the tools needed to stick at shortstop and went 7-for-9 on the basepaths.
Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP, Red Sox's No. 7 prospect
After finishing the regular season with five relief appearances (his first ever as a reliever) following a promotion to Double-A Portland, Hernandez tied for sixth overall in strikeouts (24), despite logging just 11 1/3 innings across eight appearances, in the Fall League. Behind an upper-90s fastball and a curveball featuring a spin rate of 3,000-plus RPMs, Hernandez racked up multiple strikeouts in all but two outings.
Nico Hoerner, SS, Cubs' No. 6
The Cubs' 2018 first-rounder (No. 24 overall pick) proved he belonged in the AFL despite having played just four full-season games (all with Class A South Bend). In addition to hitting .337, good for a share of ninth in the AFL, Hoerner finished tied for second in hits (30), tied for the league lead in triples (four) and tied for third in total bases (45). The Stanford product also played a quality shortstop, showing the type of across-the-board defensive tools and skills that could make him useful at a host of other positions.
Evan Kruczynski, LHP, Cardinals
The 23-year-old left-hander posted three scoreless starts in six turns for Surprise en route to a 1.99 ERA that ranked second in the AFL among starting pitchers. His 88-91 mph fastball plays up because he gets good extension and angle toward the plate from a 6-foot-5 frame that enables him to effectively change hitters' eye levels. Factor in his trio of quality second offerings and overall durability, and Kruczynski has the ingredients needed to become a back-end starter or long reliever at the highest level.
Justin Lawrence, RHP, Rockies' No. 17 prospect
Lawrence blew the save in both the Fall Stars Game and AFL championship, but the low-slot righty nonetheless showed he has big league-caliber stuff in a darting 97-100 mph fastball and wipeout slider. His control of both pitches is currently below average, but it's a combination that, when around the zone, generates an ideal mix of whiffs and weak, ground-ball contact that should play nicely at Coors Field.
Tyler Nevin, 1B/3B, Rockies' No. 11
Arguably the Fall League's top breakout prospect, Nevin led the league in all three triple-slash categories, hitting .426/.535/.593 line in 17 games. His OBP was a product of a 3.0 BB/K ratio (15 BB/5 K), by far the best mark in the league, and he also finished third in RBIs (20). And while he failed to homer in the AFL after going deep 13 times with Class A Advanced Lancaster, Nevin's size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds), advanced approach and the fact that his AFL exit velocities regularly exceeded 100 mph all suggest power is on the way.
Cole Tucker, SS, Pirates' No. 5
Tucker, 22, was dynamic on both sides of the ball as he played plus defense as Surprise's regular shortstop while also pacing the club in most offensive categories. Overall, the switch-hitter finished third in the AFL batting race (.370) and tied for second in hits (30). He's well on his way toward becoming an above-average everyday shortstop -- possibly even a five-tool player, as there's a growing contingent of evaluators who believe Tucker will add significant strength to his athletic, 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. On top of that, Tucker, an Arizona native, received the annual Stenson Sportsmanship Award.
Daniel Woodrow, OF, Tigers
The 2016 12th-round pick swiped five bags while recording multiple hits four times in his final five games to finish second in the AFL in both average (.371) and stolen bases (12). He's an undersized left-handed hitter with well-below-average power but the requisite contact skills and plus speed -- he's a good bunter and very quick out of the box -- to profile at either the top or bottom of a lineup, at the least offering value as a versatile outfielder off the bench.
Andy Young, 2B, Cardinals
St. Louis appears to have found another Draft steal in Young, the club's 37th-round pick in '16 out of Indiana State. After hitting .289 with a career-best 21 homers while reaching Double-A during the regular season, Young ranked fifth in the AFL in OPS (.936) behind a .301/.416/.521 line over 20 games with Surprise. He offers an intriguing blend of power and patience from the keystone, where's he a reliable defender.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.