October is a great month for baseball. Not only do we get playoff excitement nearly every day -- and how cool is today, when we get four Division Series games? -- but the Arizona Fall League kicks off as well. The six-week AFL season starts Tuesday and runs through Nov.
October is a great month for baseball. Not only do we get playoff excitement nearly every day -- and how cool is today, when we get four Division Series games? -- but the Arizona Fall League kicks off as well. The six-week AFL season starts Tuesday and runs through Nov. 18, showcasing some of baseball's best prospects.
My two favorite events to cover are the College World Series and the AFL, both of which are easily accessible to fans. Here's a team of the players I'm most looking forward to watching in Arizona, and I'm going to cheat and list five outfielders because I can't pick between them:
C: Jake Rogers, Mesa (Tigers)
1B: Yordan Alvarez, Mesa (Astros)
2B: Brandon Lowe, Surprise (Rays)
3B: Francisco Mejia, Glendale (Indians)
SS: Luis Urias, Peoria (Padres)
OF: Ronald Acuna, Peoria (Braves)
OF: Estevan Florial, Scottsdale (Yankees)
OF: Kyle Lewis, Peoria (Mariners)
OF: Victor Robles, Mesa (Nationals)
OF: Kyle Tucker, Mesa (Astros)
LHP: Tyler Jay, Surprise (Twins)
RHP: Mitch Keller, Glendale (Pirates)
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The Dodgers seem to have a nearly endless supply of breakout prospects. Ruiz made his full-season debut in 2017, quickly rising in the ranks of the top catching prospects in the Minors after batting .316/.361/.452 between two Class A stops as an 18-year-old. For more on him, check out the video at the top of this story.
Arizona Fall League performance doesn't play a big part in where we rank players on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, which we'll overhaul again in January. The quality of hitting outpaces the pitching by a significant extent, and position prospects usually make about 20 starts, so it's not a reliable sample size.
Mountcastle is a Top 100 contender regardless of his AFL play. A 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) by the Orioles, he led the high Class A Carolina League in batting (.314), slugging (.542), OPS (.885) and extra-base hits (51) this season at age 20. Though he hit just .222/.238/.366 in 39 Double-A games, he has the ingredients to produce for both average and power.
The biggest question surrounding Mountcastle is his defense, as he broke into pro baseball as a shortstop but scouts gave him no chance to stick there because of his below-average speed and arm strength. The Orioles were encouraged by how he looked after moving to third base in Double-A, though some evaluators don't think he has the arm for the hot corner and will wind up in left field.
Few pitchers have made a bigger splash with one four-inning outing in Rookie ball than Albertos did in 2016 in the Rookie-level Arizona League. The Cubs shut the right-hander down after that start because he had forearm soreness, but it was enough for those who saw him to believe that he might have more upside than any pitching prospect in the organization.
Chicago continued to handle Albertos carefully in 2017 because he's still just 18. He pitched 43 innings between the AZL and the Short-Season Northwest League, continuing to wow scouts with a fastball that can reach 97 mph and a very advanced changeup. If he continues to make strides with his slurvy breaking ball and his command, he could be a No. 2 or 3 starter for the Cubs.
A shortstop from Montverde (Fla.) Academy -- the alma mater of Francisco Lindor -- De Sedas ranked 10th on Jonathan Mayo's recent ratings of the best high school prospects in the 2018 Draft. Fellow shortstop Brice Turang (Santiago HS, Corona, Calif.) topped that list, but De Sedas is talented enough to possibly erase that gap next spring. Both could go in the first five picks next June.
Turang has more pure hitting ability and is a better defender at shortstop, though De Sedas is a switch-hitter with power potential from both sides of the plate, and he has the arm strength and actions to remain at shortstop as well. De Sedas draws Lindor comps because of his school, but he reminds me more of a switch-hitting version of Brendan Rodgers, whom MLBPipeline rated as the top prospect in the 2015 Draft, where he went third overall to the Rockies.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.