With the completion of the Arizona Fall League season on Saturday comes a run of "AFL in review" type stories. Last week, Mike Rosenbaum weighed in with 10 players who stood out to him during his time there. Later this week, Jim Callis will have an AFL top prospects list
With the completion of the Arizona Fall League season on Saturday comes a run of "AFL in review" type stories. Last week, Mike Rosenbaum weighed in with 10 players who stood out to him during his time there. Later this week, Jim Callis will have an AFL top prospects list and MLBPipeline.com will also have an all-AFL team to peruse.
While those later stories will shine a deserving light on the top prospects around the league, 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.
There is plenty of crossover between Rosenbaum's list and this one, and there certainly will be some from the alphabetical list below who will end up on Callis' group as well.
Albert Abreu, RHP,Yankees' No. 7 prospect: If he's in New York's top 10, he obviously wasn't completely off the radar, and he was a big part of the Brian McCann deal. But after just 53 1/3 innings in his first season with the organization due to a shoulder issue, all in A ball, there were questions. Abreu still needs to work on his command, but a 2.60 ERA and .219 batting average against in 27 2/3 IP with premium stuff certainly answered some of them this fall.
Cody Carroll, RHP, Yankees' No. 25 prospect: The 25-year-old reliever took off in 2017 with a full-time move to the bullpen, pitching well in Double-A. With a fastball up to 98 mph and a slider, both coming from a hard-to-pick-up delivery, Carroll didn't give up a run in 11 2/3 AFL innings, allowing only two hits and striking out 18.
Jonathan Davis, OF, Blue Jays: Davis isn't currently on Toronto's Top 30, but that certainly could change in 2018 after his strong AFL stint. Acting primarily as league champion Peoria's leadoff hitter, he got on base (.389 OBP) and hit .295 while going 7-for-8 on stolen-base attempts.
Thairo Estrada, SS, Yankees' No. 17: After hitting .301 in Double-A at age 21, perhaps Estrada should be more firmly on the map. Hitting .342 this fall won't hurt, nor will his outstanding defense at shortstop for Scottsdale.
Eric Filia, OF, Mariners' No. 23 prospect: Drafted at age 24 in the 20th round of the 2016 Draft, Filia is the epitome of a sleeper prospect. Hitting .326 with a .407 OBP in his first full season in the California League was nice, but his age and the hitting-friendly environment didn't necessarily assuage skeptics. Winning the AFL batting tile (.408) and leading the league in OBP (.483) with nine extra-base hits might also need to be taken with a grain of salt, but at least people now want to see what he does for an encore.
Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B/1B,Nationals' No. 12 prospect: An ankle injury limited him to just 68 games in 2017, mostly in the Carolina League. The corner infielder certainly made up for some lost time and readied himself by hitting .350/.438/.475 in 40 Fall League at-bats, slowed only by getting spiked early in the season.
Monte Harrison, OF,Brewers' No. 14 prospect: There might not be another AFL prospect with a bigger up arrow next to his name than Harrison. Coming off a 20-20 season across two levels of A ball, the toolsy outfielder kept going this fall, finishing with five homers (.604 SLG) and five steals in 13 games.
Andrew Knizner, C,Cardinals' No. 27 prospect: Not only did Knizner double-jump from A ball to Double-A in his first full season with a .302/.349/.471 line, he also threw out 45 percent of would-be basestealers. He raised his profile even more by posting a .358/.403/.537 line this fall and even threw out 3 of 5 trying to steal.
Nicky Lopez, SS,Royals' No. 11 prospect: Lopez reached Double-A in his first full season and stole 21 bases, but had more of a utility guy feel before this fall. After finishing second in the AFL with his .383 average and banging out nine extra-base hits to go along with plus defense at short, Lopez's second full season should be watched with interest.
Andres Munoz, RHP, Padres: At just 18 years old, Munoz was the youngest competitor in the AFL this season, one who had a grand total of 2 1/3 IP in full-season ball on his resume. It seemed a curious decision to send him to Arizona, then he went out and struck out 11 and gave up just four hits in 8 2/3 relief innings thanks to a fastball that hit triple-digits regularly and a promising slider.
Sheldon Neuse, 3B,A's No. 14 prospect: Neuse had a busy first full season, getting traded and then promoted up to Double-A. He finished it off by leading the AFL with his 23 RBIs and finishing with a .314/.366/.570 line.
Sean Murphy, C,A's No. 11 prospect: In a crop of solid catching prospects this fall, Murphy really stood out. Not only did he hit .309 with a .413 OBP, but his defensive tools were all on display, from outstanding framing to his plus arm that allowed him to throw out 11 of 18 basestealers.
Will Smith, C,Dodgers' No. 8 prospect: Smith made up for lost time this fall after getting hurt in his first game in Double-A and raked, finishing third in the AFL with his .371 average, second in OBP (.452) and fourth in OPS (1.017).
Art Warren, RHP,Mariners' No. 17 prospect: Warren moved to the bullpen full-time in 2017 and the new role suits him. He didn't give up a run in 11 1/3 AFL innings, striking out 12 and giving up just five hits (.132 BAA), using his mid-to-upper 90s fastball and potentially plus slider with great success.
T.J. Zeuch, RHP,Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect: It's tough for a first-round pick to be truly under the radar, but coming from a Pitt program not exactly known as a baseball powerhouse then missing around two months because of a back injury in his first full season limited Zeuch's exposure. While he didn't light up radar guns like some this fall, he was very effective this fall, with his heavy fastball leading to a 2.45 GO/AO ratio. He capped it all off with the win in the championship game.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.