While the most talented team doesn't always win the championship, it did in the Arizona Fall League. The Mesa Solar Sox wrapped up the East Division crown on the final day of the regular season before rolling to an easy victory in the AFL's one-game playoff for its first title since 2003.
Mesa had the league's deepest lineup, as evidenced by its seven hitters who rank among the AFL's 20 best prospects below. The Solar Sox had star power with outfielders Eloy Jimenez (Cubs) and Bradley Zimmer (Indians) and second baseman Ian Happ (Cubs), all of whom sit in the 20s on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list. They also had emerging talents such as shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang and outfielder Greg Allen, who have been overshadowed in a deep Indians system, and league home run leader Brian Anderson (Marlins No. 4 prospect), who had support for making our list.
:: 2016 Arizona Fall League championship game coverage ::
Position prospects usually stand out more than their pitching counterparts in the Fall League because most clubs would rather not load extra innings on their best young arms. This year was no exception, as hitters claimed 20 of the 25 spots on our list. The pitchers who did make it -- right-handers Michael Kopech (Red Sox), Brent Honeywell (Rays), Francis Martes (Astros), James Kaprielian (Yankees) and Frankie Montas (Athletics) -- all could make their presence felt in the big leagues by the end of next season.
Infielder Yoán Moncada (Red Sox), MLBPipeline's No. 1 prospect, left with a sprained left thumb after playing just six games in the AFL, which wasn't long enough to earn consideration for our list. Fellow Top 100 ProspectsDavid Paulino (Astros), Zack Collins (White Sox) and Stephen Gonsalves (Twins) also didn't play enough to qualify.
Even without them, our Fall League Top 25 doesn't lack for talent. Multiple scouts contacted while we compiled this list noted that the depth of prospects merited expanding the list from its normal 20.
1. Gleyber Torres, SS/2B, Scottsdale (Yankees No. 2): The Aroldis Chapman trade helped the Cubs win the World Series, but the Yankees likely will come out ahead in the deal thanks to Torres, the youngest batting champion (.403) and MVP in league history at age 19. His quick hands work extremely well at the plate and at shortstop, where he has a better chance to stick than he initially was given credit for when he signed as a 16-year-old. Both his ceiling (a shortstop capable of winning batting titles and hitting 20 homers per year) and his floor (a solid offensive second baseman) are terribly impressive.
2. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Glendale (Dodgers No. 1): Bellinger can hit the moonshots desired from a first baseman, but he's so much more than that. He shows the ability to make adjustments at the plate, provides Gold Glove-caliber defense at first and can also play both outfield corners and fill in at center (which will come in handy with two years remaining on Adrián González's contract in Los Angeles). You may be surprised to learn that he's faster and more athletic than the guy right behind him...
3. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Mesa (Cubs No. 2): Another precocious 19-year-old, Jimenez wasn't as spectacular in Arizona as he was when he starred at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and won the Class A Midwest League MVP award this summer. Yet he still exhibited as high a power ceiling as any Fall Leaguer, with scouts comparing his upside with Giancarlo Stanton.
4. Michael Kopech, RHP, Surprise (Red Sox's No. 5): Kopech hit 100 mph five times with his fastball during two perfect innings at the Fall Stars Game and sat at 98 mph in many of his starts. His hard slider elicits swings and misses and his changeup shows flashes of becoming a plus offering. Save for one start in which he walked six, his control was better than advertised, as he surrendered just two free passes in his other 19 innings.
5. Brent Honeywell, RHP, Peoria (Rays No. 2): While he's best known for his screwball, Honeywell also has a fastball that sits at 95 mph and a quality changeup. He fills the strike zone with ease, too, which helped him bounce back from a rough beginning to allow the fewest baserunners per nine innings (9.0) among AFL starters.
6. Francis Martes, RHP, Glendale (Astros No. 1): Martes battled his control and command in his first three starts before dominating his last three with a 93-98 mph fastball and a wicked 81-84 mph slider. Once he irons out his changeup and becomes more consistent, he'll give the Astros the power starter they've been looking for.
7. Bradley Zimmer, OF, Mesa (Indians No. 1): One of the best all-around athletes in the Fall League, Zimmer has 20-20 potential along with center-field skills and a strong arm. He paced the league in runs (25) and tied for first in walks (19) while ranking among the leaders in several other categories, though his swing-and-miss tendencies carried over from the regular season with 26 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances.
8. Ian Happ, 2B, Mesa (Cubs No. 1): Happ also has 20-20 potential and homered from both sides of the plate in the championship game. Though he's athletic, most scouts think he'll wind up on an outfield corner rather than at second base.
9. Tyler O'Neill, OF, Peoria (Mariners No. 2): His massive power was evident when he homered three times in eight AFL games in 2015, but he showed a more well-rounded game this time around. The pop remains obvious, and he has bettered his plate discipline and his defensive play in right field.
10. Carson Kelly, C, Glendale (Cardinals No. 11): His clean receiving and strong, accurate throws belie the fact that Kelly converted to catching just three years ago. As he has gotten more comfortable behind the plate, his offensive game -- centered around gap power and patience -- has improved as well.
11. Nick Gordon, SS, Surprise (Twins No. 2): Though Gordon lacks a clear standout tool, he also doesn't have a glaring weakness and has tremendous instincts that help him contribute in all phases of the game.
12. James Kaprielian, RHP, Scottsdale (Yankees No. 9): After a strained flexor muscle in his forearm limited him to three regular-season starts, Kaprielian returned with the same 93-95 mph fastball and the ability to command four potentially solid-or-better pitches.
13. Frankie Montas, RHP, Mesa (Athletics No. 10): Also on the comeback trail after missing most of 2016 with rib injuries, Montas brought an upper-90s fastball and an upper-80s slider to the mound every time out.
14. Anthony Alford, OF, Mesa (Blue Jays No. 3): The former college quarterback/defensive back has shaken off the rust from a three-year baseball layoff, with one scout comparing Alford with a more physically gifted Shannon Stewart.
15. Willie Calhoun, 2B, Glendale (Dodgers No. 4): Calhoun had as much bat speed as anyone in the league, giving him enough power to profile anywhere -- which is crucial because he's unlikely to stay on the dirt.
16. Franklin Barreto, SS/2B, Mesa (Athletics No. 1): Barreto probably will wind up at second base instead of shortstop, though it won't matter much because he'll still provide more offense than most middle infielders.
17. Isan Diaz, 2B/SS, Salt River (Brewers No. 8): Similar to Barreto, Diaz has a bit more power and a little less quickness.
18. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS, Mesa (Indians No. 9): He's blocked by Francisco Lindor and Erik González in Cleveland, but Chang has the offensive and defensive ability to become a big league starter somewhere.
19. Travis Demeritte, 2B/3B, Salt River (Braves No. 9): Known primarily for his power -- he led the league in triples (four) and tied for the lead in total bases (48), Demeritte displayed better athleticism and range at second base than expected in Arizona.
20. Greg Allen, OF, Mesa (Indians No. 19): A sound hitter, runner and defender, Allen uses his plus speed well and tied for the Fall League lead with 12 steals.
21. Miguel Andújar, 3B, Scottsdale (Yankees No. 7): Andujar may have had the AFL's strongest infield arm and also offers the power required at third base.
22. Harrison Bader, OF, Glendale (Cardinals No. 3): The first of four Glendale outfielders who conclude this list, Bader has a chance to stick in center field with average or better tools across the board.
23. Andrew Stevenson, OF, Glendale (Nationals No. 8): An outstanding defensive center fielder with plus speed, Stevenson boosted his stock by leading the AFL hits (30), finishing second in batting (.353) and showing more gap power than he had previously.
24. Ramon Laureano, OF, Glendale (Astros No. 27): Before his scheduled departure at the end of October, Laureano opened eyes with his hitting ability and plus speed.
25. Alex Verdugo, OF, Glendale (Dodgers No. 3): Verdugo's play was uninspiring at times, but as one scout said, it's hard to ignore his hitting ability and arm strength.