Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Arizona Fall League

Here are the Arizona Fall League's Top 25 prospects

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

The bats usually outshine the arms in the Arizona Fall League, because teams aren't going to pile more innings on arms that completed a full regular season without interruption.

That was true again this fall, though there was a new twist. For the first time in recent memory, the AFL featured not only the game's best prospect in Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but also the best pitching prospect in Astros right-hander Forrest Whitley. They both lived up to their billing, claiming the top two spots on MLB Pipeline's annual Fall League Top 25 Prospects list.

The bats usually outshine the arms in the Arizona Fall League, because teams aren't going to pile more innings on arms that completed a full regular season without interruption.

That was true again this fall, though there was a new twist. For the first time in recent memory, the AFL featured not only the game's best prospect in Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but also the best pitching prospect in Astros right-hander Forrest Whitley. They both lived up to their billing, claiming the top two spots on MLB Pipeline's annual Fall League Top 25 Prospects list.

After winning the Minor League batting title with a .381 average, Guerrero opened AFL play with three consecutive three-hit games and led the developmental circuit officially in doubles (seven) and plate appearances per strikeout (14.7) and unofficially in hard-hit balls. Whitley fanned the first seven Fall Leaguers he faced and topped the league in strikeouts (36 in 29 innings) and fewest baserunners per nine innings among starters (8.7).

AFL stat leaders

Hitters accounted for 19 of the spots on our Top 25, which is based on a combination of long-term potential and AFL performance.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Surprise (Blue Jays No. 1)
Guerrero did nothing to harm his reputation as the best hitting prospect in recent memory, effortlessly barreling balls and delivering one hard line drive after another. Though he didn't homer, his huge power upside was still apparent. The youngest player in the league at age 19, he needs to improve his defense and conditioning.

Video: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looks to impress in the Majors

2. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Scottsdale (Astros No. 2)
Whitley can miss bats with four pitches, and his most devastating offering in Arizona surprisingly was a changeup with plenty of depth and deception. He also sat in the mid-90s with life on his fastball, though his hard curveball and slider were inconsistent at times. Despite having pitched only 137 1/3 innings in pro ball, he looks ready to help Houston in the near future.

3. Keston Hiura, 2B, Peoria (Brewers No. 1)
The league MVP and a driving force on the Javelinas' championship club, Hiura led the AFL in hits (31), RBIs (33) and total bases (54). Considered the best pure hitter in the 2017 Draft, he focused on driving the ball in Arizona and succeeded, looking capable of doing whatever he wants at the plate. He probably won't be more than an average defender at second base.

4. Jazz Chisholm, SS, Salt River (D-backs No. 3)
Limited to two games per week as a taxi-squad player, Chisholm batted a robust .442/.489/.767 with three homers and seven steals in 10 contests. He's a dynamic shortstop who has the power and speed to become a 20-20 player and the defensive tools to make highlight plays.

Video: MSS@SRR: Chisholm handles tough hop with ease

5. Cristian Pache, OF, Peoria (Braves No. 6)
For the second straight fall, scouts buzzed about a five-tool outfielder from the Braves system. Pache doesn't have Ronald Acuna Jr. 's power potential but still could be a 20-20 guy, possesses more speed and is the best defensive outfielder in the Minors.

6. Luis Robert, OF, Glendale (White Sox No. 4)
Though his injury woes continued with a hamstring injury that cost him nine days, when healthy, Robert showed why Chicago invested a $26 million bonus and a matching amount in penalty tax to sign him in May 2017. There may not have been a Fall Leaguer who could top his combination of exit velocity and foot speed, and his five-tool potential was obvious.

7. Taylor Trammell, OF, Scottsdale (Reds No. 2)
One of the best athletes in the league, Trammell needs more polish but can make an impact with his bat, speed and defense. His power is still a work in progress and his arm is his lone weakness.

8. Carter Kieboom, SS/2B, Salt River (Nationals No. 2)
An advanced hitter for a 21-year-old, Kieboom repeatedly barrels balls, possesses 20-homer upside and led the AFL with 17 walks. He's also an underrated defender, capable of playing an average shortstop or a solid second base.

9. Keibert Ruiz, C, Glendale (Dodgers No. 2)
Ruiz's Fall League season ended two weeks early when he left to deal with a death in his family, but before he departed he showed why he's one of the game's best catching prospects. He's a switch-hitter who can handle the bat from both sides of the plate, should grow into power and owns solid receiving skills.

10. Nate Pearson, RHP, Surprise (Blue Jays No. 4)
After missing almost the entire regular season when a comebacker broke his forearm in his first start, Pearson lit up radar guns more than anyone in Arizona, topping out at 104 mph in the Fall Stars Game. He regularly pitched in the upper 90s and backed up his fastball with an overpowering slider, though his battles with control and command led to questions as to whether he'll be a starter or reliever.

Pearson, Vlad Jr. flash velocity in Fall Stars Game

11. Lucius Fox, SS, Peoria (Rays No. 9)
Just 21, Fox is still refining his plate discipline and defense while learning to make the most of his well above-average speed, and he made strides in all three areas in the Fall League.

12. Cole Tucker, SS, Surprise (Pirates No. 5)
The league's Dernell Stenson Award winner in recognition of his leadership and sportsmanship, Tucker is also a gifted hitter with plus speed and solid defensive skills.

13. Nico Hoerner, SS, Mesa (Cubs No. 6)
A first-round pick (No. 24 overall) in June, Hoerner has outstanding bat-to-ball skills, sneaky power (he tied for the AFL lead with four triples) and plus speed. His average arm may land him at second base, with one scout comparing him to Ian Kinsler.

Video: MSS@SRR: Hoerner triples, scores on groundout

14. Peter Alonso, 1B, Scottsdale (Mets No. 2)
After leading the Minors with 36 homers during the regular season, Alonso continued to show off jaw-dropping power, going deep off a 103-mph Pearson fastball in the Fall Stars Game and pacing the Fall League in doubles (seven), homers (six) and extra-base hits (13). He's a shaky defender at first base, however.

Video: EAST@WEST: Alonso drills a solo homer in the 1st

15. Jon Duplantier, RHP, Salt River (D-backs No. 1)
A legitimate starter provided he can stay healthy -- which has been an issue -- Duplantier led AFL starters in strikeout rate (13.3 per nine innings) thanks to a 93-95 mph sinker and a power curveball.

16. J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Scottsdale (Astros No. 8)
There's still debate over whether his size (6 feet) and the effort in his delivery will make him a starter or a reliever, but Bukauskas has three quality pitches in a mid-90s fastball, wipeout slider and lively changeup.

17. Julio Pablo Martinez, OF, Surprise (Rangers No. 2)
Martinez can make a difference on the bases and in center field with his well above-average speed, and he hinted at his 20-20 upside when he hit for the cycle on Oct. 22.

Tweet from @MLBPipeline: On the day that this year's top Cuban prospect signed, last year's is going off in the @MLBazFallLeague. #Rangers No. 2 prospect Julio Pablo Martinez is 3-for-3 with a single, triple & homer -- and it's still the 5th inning.Follow live: https://t.co/14nn8itg5E pic.twitter.com/ZJtMolTCHm

18. Daz Cameron, OF, Mesa (Tigers No. 8)
Cameron doesn't have a flashy tool, but he's a quality defender in center field who can hit for average with at least gap power and possesses solid speed and arm strength as well.

19. Tyler Nevin, 1B/3B, Salt River (Rockies No. 11)
Nevin's pure hitting ability was evident as he topped the Fall League in hitting (.426), on-base percentage (.535), slugging (.593) and OPS (1.128) while walking three times as much as he struck out. He should develop at least average power as he matures physically and become an asset at first base as he gains experience.

Tweet from @MLBPipeline: Tyler Nevin drives in his 2nd run of the game to put Salt River up 2-0 in @MLBazFallLeague action. The @Rockies' No. 11 prospect is now 5-for-10 in the AFL. Gameday: https://t.co/qwYexXd9S5 pic.twitter.com/4t5eVLCGAP

20. Jahmai Jones, 2B, Mesa (Angels No. 4)
In his first year as a second baseman, Jones can provide atypical offense at the position with his combination of plate discipline, deceptive pop and plus speed.

21. Evan White, 1B, Peoria (Mariners No. 3)
Some scouts liked him over Alonso because of White's all-around game, which includes solid hitting ability, untapped power potential, Gold Glove-caliber defense and the speed and arm to play anywhere in the outfield if desired.

22. Yu Chang, 3B, Glendale (Indians No. 6)
Normally a shortstop, Chang has the power, arm strength and agility to profile well offensively and defensively at the hot corner.

23. Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP, Mesa (Red Sox No. 7)
Armed with an upper-90s fastball and a curveball that each featured some of the best spin rates in the AFL, Hernandez topped all relievers by averaging 19.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

24. Melvin Adon, RHP, Scottsdale (Giants No. 19)
Like Hernandez, Adon has been a starter in the Minors but looked more comfortable as a reliever in Arizona, where his four-seam fastball hit 102 mph, his two-seamer showed promise and his upper-80s slider overmatched hitters.

25. Monte Harrison, OF, Salt River (Marlins No. 2)
The high school three-sport star might have been the best all-around athlete in the Fall League as a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder with impressive power, speed and arm strength. He also made progress at the plate, employing a more measured approach after leading the Minors with 215 strikeouts.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Harrison opens scoring with single to center

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.