The Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game is always bittersweet. It's one of the best events of the year, kind of a Futures Game redux. But it also means the 2018 season is drawing ever closer to a close on the prospect front.There will be plenty to do, from the
The Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game is always bittersweet. It's one of the best events of the year, kind of a Futures Game redux. But it also means the 2018 season is drawing ever closer to a close on the prospect front.
There will be plenty to do, from the Rule 5 Draft to analyzing trades at the Winter Meetings that involve prospects. And there are even some prospects playing winter ball somewhere. But the end of the AFL, the championship game on Nov. 17, does offer a bit of a punctuation mark on an eventful 2018 campaign.
But let's not wax nostalgic just yet. There are two weeks of action left in Arizona and plenty of questions about your favorite prospects to answer.
Anyone who knows me knows I'm a big Cole Tucker fan. The Pirates' No. 5 prospect has tremendous talent and, for our business, is one of the most personable prospects I have ever come across.
That, of course, doesn't impact his prospect status, but let's just say I root for him to succeed. He certainly has the tools to do so. After a rougher first half, the shortstop made some good adjustments in the Double-A Eastern League, raising his OPS by more than 140 points in the second half. He's carried that over to the Arizona Fall League, where he's fifth in average (.368) and eighth in on-base percentage (.438). That latter number is even more important as he profiles best as a top-of-the-order type. The fact he has more walks than strikeouts this fall is a good sign as he continues to refine his overall approach.
• Arizona Fall League: Batting leaders
We'll have to see whether he climbs onto the Top 100 when we really dig into that list, but I will issue one word of caution, a caveat we are used to giving this time of year. Don't read too much into AFL numbers. It's a small sample size in what's historically been a very good hitter's league. Yes, what Tucker has done is encouraging, and it no doubt will help carry him into 2019 and beyond. But what he does there alone shouldn't be overvalued. Let's just say we'll be taking a very long look at him as we begin work on 2019 rankings.
I'll pick one hitter and one pitcher for this one. Hitting-wise, I think I have to go with Monte Harrison with the Marlins. His first season with the organization after coming over in the Christian Yelich deal with the Brewers didn't go according to plan. The Marlins' No. 2 prospect struck out 215 times in 2018 and even if you're one who thinks strikeouts are overblown as a negative, that's too many swings and misses. Harrison himself would agree. But his tools are too impressive to think he won't bounce back. Even with the struggles, he still hit 19 homers and stole 28 bases. And he's had a strong AFL campaign, with a .328/.425/.393 line, drawing 10 walks and striking out 16 times in 16 games. I see that carrying over to 2019.
On the mound, I'll take a chance with an injury bounceback candidate in Franklin Perez of the Tigers. The top prospect in the Justin Verlander trade, Perez has barely been able to show his new organization what he can do. First he had a lat strain, then was shut down with shoulder inflammation, which is always scary. He only compiled 19 1/3 innings in 2018 total. His stuff, though, is so electric, that if he can come back healthy in 2019, I think he'll show what he's capable of and move back up the Top 100.
One thing is certain: Jo Adell has absolutely moved up his timetable. As I was responding to these questions, I realized we had his ETA as 2021. That's been updated to 2020. Am I being conservative? Perhaps.
Considering how many scouts were concerned about how his hit tool would play as a professional, Adell was seen as the type of five-tool high school talent who might take a while to figure things out. That got thrown out the window when he hit his way across three levels and reached Double-A in his first full season at age 19. Finishing with 20 homers and 15 steals, to go along with an .897 OPS, is a big reason why he's No. 15 on our Top 100 currently.
There are things Adell will have to work on to keep climbing. He struck out 111 times and walked 32 times in 99 games. There's always going to be some swing and miss, but some refinement to his approach will be necessary as he returns to Double-A in 2019 (I'm guessing) and moves up to the Angels. The good news is he's shown an ability to make those kinds of adjustments much more quickly than most anticipated, which bodes well for his continued ascension. For now, we'll leave his ETA at 2020, but if you told me he'll figure things out to start 2019 in Double-A and reach the big leagues by the end of the season, I might believe you.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.