The Arizona Fall League's 26th season opened today, giving prospects a chance to further polish their skills on the way to the big leagues. The number and quality of players who have done so is staggering.
Roughly 60 percent of AFL participants have reached the Majors since the league began play in 1992, a total of more than 2,600 players -- among them 261 All-Stars (including 42 this year), 16 MVPs, six Cy Young Award winners and 27 Rookie of the Year Award winners. Alumni include Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, future Cooperstown inductees Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols, four of the six major award winners from 2016 (Kris Bryant, Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Mike Trout) and 2017 breakout stars Cody Bellinger, Aaron Judge and Robbie Ray.
Each of MLB's 30 organizations sends six or more players to Arizona, where they play six games per week during a 30-game regular season from Oct. 10 through Nov. 16. The two division winners will meet Nov. 18 in a one-game playoff for the championship, broadcast live on MLB Network. MLB Network also will televise the Nov. 4 Fall Stars Game and the Nov. 11 Military Appreciation Game.
Eleven of MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects will suit up in Arizona. The Mesa Solar Sox outfield features MLB's No. 7 prospect Kyle Tucker (Astros) and would have also include No. 2 Victor Robles if he weren't currently on the Nationals' playoff roster. Outfielder Ronald Acuna (Braves), MLBPipeline's Hitting Prospect of the Year, headlines the Peoria Javelinas.
Video: MLBPipeline.com's Fall League prospects to watch
In addition to its primary purpose of developing players, the Fall League also serves as a testing ground for potential rule changes. Past experiments have included instant replay, foul poles of different heights and colors, pace-of-game initiatives and balls that don't require being rubbed down with mud.
This fall, the AFL will use a clock to regulate the time between pitches (12 seconds with bases empty, 15 seconds with runners on base), between hitters (30 seconds), mound visits (30 seconds) and between innings (two minutes, 15 seconds). Mimicking a rule introduced in the World Baseball Classic this spring and in the Rookie-level Arizona, Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast leagues this summer, all extra innings will begin with the player who made the final out the previous inning on second base. By rule, all AFL games end in a tie after 11 innings.
Top 100 Prospects
The Javelinas lead all clubs with four Top 100 prospects, and the Glendale Desert Dogs, whose contingent includes the top-rated pitcher in right-hander Mitch Keller (Pirates) have three. The Yankees are the only organization to send multiple Top 100 guys, with outfielder Estevan Florial and left-hander Justus Sheffield teaming up on the Scottsdale Scorpions.
The complete list of Top 100 Prospects in the AFL:
Ronald Acuna, OF, Peoria/Braves (No. 5 on Top 100)
Kyle Tucker, OF, Mesa/Astros (No. 7)
Francisco Mejia, C/3B, Glendale/Indians (No. 13)
Mitch Keller, RHP, Glendale/Pirates (No. 18)
Kyle Lewis, OF, Peoria/Mariners (No. 41)
Luis Urias, SS/2B, Peoria/Padres (No. 48)
Corey Ray, OF, Salt River/Brewers (No. 58)
Yusniel Diaz, OF, Glendale/Dodgers (No. 76)
Estevan Florial, OF, Scottsdale/Yankees (No. 78)
Justus Sheffield, LHP, Scottsdale/Yankees (No. 79)
Michael Chavis, 3B, Peoria/Red Sox (No. 92)
Top Organization Prospects
Below are each organization's top-rated AFL prospects, according to MLBPipeline's midseason rankings:
Angels: Matt Thaiss, 1B, (No. 3 on organization Top 30), Taylor Ward, C (No. 10), Troy Montgomery, OF (No. 20)
Astros: Tucker (No. 1), Yordan Alvarez, OF/1B (No. 4), Framber Valdez, LHP (No. 14), Dean Deetz, RHP (No. 26)
Athletics: Logan Shore, RHP, Mesa (No. 8), Sean Murphy, C (No. 11), Sheldon Neuse, 3B (No. 14)
Blue Jays: T.J. Zeuch, RHP, Peoria (No. 5), Max Pentecost, C/1B (No. 8)
Braves: Acuna (No. 1), Max Fried, LHP (No. 9), Austin Riley, 3B, (No. 10), Touki Toussaint, RHP (No. 14), Alex Jackson, C (No. 16),
Brewers: Ray (No. 2), Lucas Erceg, 3B (No. 10), Monte Harrison, OF (No. 14), Jake Gatewood, 1B (No. 18)
Cardinals: Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Surprise (No. 9), Edmundo Sosa, SS (No. 12), Jordan Hicks, RHP (No. 14), Oscar Mercado, OF (No. 18), Andrew Knizner, C (No. 27)
Cubs: Adbert Alzolay, RHP (No. 3), Alec Mills, RHP, Mesa (No. 20), Charcer Burks , OF (No. 22)
D-backs: Victor Reyes, OF, Salt River (No. 19), Jack Reinheimer, SS/2B (No. 25)
Dodgers: Diaz (No. 5), Will Smith, C (No. 8), DJ Peters, OF (No. 17), Matt Beaty, 3B/1B (No. 30)
Giants: Chris Shaw, OF/1B, Scottsdale (No. 2), Tyler Beede, RHP (No. 3), Steven Duggar, OF (No. 7), Aramis Garcia, C/1B (No. 8), Joan Gregorio, RHP (No. 12)
Indians: Mejia (No. 1), Bobby Bradley, 1B (No. 3), Tyler Krieger, 2B (No. 19)
Mariners: Lewis (No. 1), Braden Bishop, OF (No. 5), Max Povse, RHP (No. 9)
Marlins: No players from organization Top 30 in AFL.
Mets: Tomas Nido, C, Scottsdale (No. 9), Luis Guillorme, SS (No. 11), David Thompson, 3B (No. 24)
Nationals: Daniel Johnson, OF (No. 10), Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B (No. 12), Taylor Gushue, C (No. 23)
Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B/SS, Salt River (No. 3), Tanner Scott, LHP (No. 6), Keegan Akin, LHP (No. 8), Anthony Santander, OF/1B (No. 9), Jesus Liranzo, RHP (No. 22)
Padres: Urias (No. 3)
Phillies: Cornelius Randolph, OF, Glendale (No. 12), Elniery Garcia, LHP (No. 18), J.D. Hammer, RHP (No. 30)
Pirates: Keller (No. 2), Kevin Kramer, 2B (No. 9), Taylor Hearn, LHP (No. 11), Brandon Waddell, LHP (No. 23)
Rangers: Yanio Perez, 1B/OF/3B, Surprise (No. 11), Josh Morgan, SS/C (No. 15)
Rays: Brandon Lowe, 2B, Surprise (No. 13), Kevin Padlo, 3B (No. 28)
Red Sox: Chavis (No. 2), Chad De La Guerra, SS/2B (No. 24), Josh Tobias, 2B (No. 27)
Reds: Blake Trahan, SS, Scottsdale (No. 27)
Rockies: Yency Almonte, RHP, Salt River (No. 10), Brian Mundell, 1B (No. 14), Dom Nunez, C (No. 15), James Farris, RHP (No. 21)
Royals: Nicky Lopez, SS, Surprise (No. 11)
Tigers: Jake Rogers, C, Mesa (No. 7), Gerson Moreno (No. 25), Adam Ravanelle, RHP (No. 26), Spencer Turnbull, RHP (No. 28)
Twins: Tyler Jay, LHP, Surprise (No. 8), Lamonte Wade, OF (No. 17)
White Sox: No players from organization Top 30 in AFL.
Yankees: Florial (No. 3), Sheffield, LHP (No. 4), Albert Abreu, RHP (No. 7), Thairo Estrada, SS/2B (No. 17), Billy McKinney, OF (No. 23), Cody Carroll, RHP (No. 25)
Dates To Remember
Oct. 10: Opening Day
Oct. 21: Bowman Hitting Challenge, Sloan Park, Mesa, 9:35 pm ET
Nov. 4: Fall Stars Game, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, 8 pm ET
Nov. 11: Military Appreciation Game, Peoria Sports Complex, 8 pm ET
Nov. 18: Championship Game, Scottsdale Stadium, 3 pm ET
TBD: Hall of Fame inductions for Max Scherzer, Mike Trout and David Wright
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.