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Inbox: Barreto's upside; Phillies' No. 1 pick in 2016

Jim Callis responds to fans' questions about baseball's future stars

As we await the final entrant into MLB's Final Four and for Eddy Julio Martinez to become either a Cub or a Giant, the Arizona Fall League began play this week. It's my second-favorite baseball event, ranking behind only the College World Series. If you're a baseball fan, attending the AFL and CWS should be on your must-do list.

The AFL has its usual array of quality prospects, led by Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford and Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes. In the latest Pipeline Podcast, Jonathan Mayo and I break down the prospects who intrigue us the most at each position. We'll have game stories on all of the action, and at least one member of the Pipeline crew will be in Arizona providing additional coverage for most of the five-week schedule.

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Can you explain Athletics shortstop Franklin Barreto's odd 2015 season? He showed increased power but significantly fewer stolen bases and even fewer walks.
-- Dave B., St. Paul, Minn.

Barreto's season wasn't so much odd as it was a typical developmental step for a 19-year-old. Acquired in the offseason from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade, the A's No. 1 prospect and's No. 18 overall prospect hit .302/.333/.500 with 13 homers and eight steals as the youngest regular in the Class A Advanced California League.

While Barreto is one of the best prospects in baseball, he probably won't pile up a lot of walks or steals because he's an aggressive hitter with good but not great speed. He does have an exceptionally quick bat and more power than most middle infielders, and he should hit enough to be an All-Star even if he winds up at second base.

When will unveil its Top 50 Draft Prospects for 2016? Who's the best bet to go No. 1 overall to the Phillies at this point?
-- Alex G., Ridgefield, Conn.

We typically release our initial Draft rankings in the first week of December. In a repeat of 2015, the picture at the top is murky. There's no clear-cut candidate for the No. 1 overall choice, with Barnegat (N.J.) High left-hander Jason Groome, Oklahoma right-hander Alec Hansen and Florida southpaw A.J. Puk the front-runners at this point.

The best bet at this point is Puk, because he's more polished than Hansen and because only one high school arm (unsigned Brady Aiken in 2014) has gone No. 1 in the last 24 Drafts. Hansen has better pure stuff than Puk and Groome could have the highest ceiling of the three, so there's little consensus within the industry. No position player has emerged yet, with outfielders Corey Ray (Louisville), Buddy Reed (Florida) and Blake Rutherford (Chaminade Prep, Los Angeles) getting the most acclaim for now.

How good will Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver be? Is he a potential No. 1 starter? Do you like him better than White Sox first-rounder Carson Fulmer?
-- J.B., Manorville, Pa.

The 27th overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Weaver had a lackluster pro debut in terms of performance and stuff after signing for $1,843,000. He bounced back this year at Class A Advanced Palm Beach, recording a 1.62 ERA, 88/19 K/BB ratio and .247 opponent average in 105 1/3 innings.

Though the Cardinals' No. 8 prospect should move fast, he's more of a mid-rotation starter than a frontliner. His fastball and changeup are solid to plus pitches but his breaking stuff grades as fringy. I prefer Fulmer's high-octane stuff, which gives him a chance to pitch at the front of a rotation, to Weaver's polish.

What are your thoughts on Diamondbacks prospects Adam Miller and Daniel Palka?
-- Ryan M., Mesa, Ariz.

Miller and Palka are two of the more interesting sleepers in the Diamondbacks system. They're both products of the 2013 Draft, with Palka a third-rounder out of Georgia Tech and Miller a 20th-rounder from Brigham Young.

A corner outfielder/first baseman, Palka, Arizona's No. 29 prospect, has topped 20 homers in each of this two full pro seasons, and he took advantage of the Cal League's hitter-friendly conditions this year, batting .280/.352/.532 with 29 homers and 24 steals this year. The 23-year-old was a bit old for the Class A Advanced level, and he'll need to cut down his strikeouts and find a defensive home, but his bat speed and power are for real.

Miller, a right-handed reliever who can push his fastball into the triple digits, had a 2.88 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 56 1/3 Double-A innings, though he gave too many hits (60) and walks (28). He's already 25 because he went on a Mormon mission before entering pro ball, and he'll need to come up with a reliable secondary pitch and throw more strikes.

Jim Callis is a reporter for and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.