Inbox: Nats' Soto vs. Yankees' Florial

November 10th, 2017

Just back from my second trip to the Arizona Fall League, a stretch that included the always-exciting Fall Stars Game, I still very much have the AFL on my mind.

So it should come as no surprise that all four questions tackled in this week's Inbox involve guys I saw in Arizona. And all are guys who really impressed me at one point or another. It has me excited to dig into the rankings for 2018 soon and see what we come up with.

The quick answer seems like it would be Soto, based on the current Top 100 ranking (Soto is 36 and Florial is 78), but keep in mind, we will re-rank in January. I recorded the video above to dig into this more deeply.

Can he? Yes, if needed. Will he? Based on the personnel in the Padres organization, I'd say it's unlikely for any length of time.

Over the course of his pro career, Urias has played much more second base than short (205 games vs. 90), though it was split a bit more evenly in 2017, with an edge to short. In the Fall League, he has been playing second base almost exclusively. He did make a very nice play in the Fall Stars Game, and there were some scouts I talked to who thought he was better at short than expected. Others felt it didn't look good enough for him to stay there long term.


The good news is he's more than good enough to be a strong all-around second baseman, one who could compete for batting titles in the future. And there isn't really a need for him to play short anyway, thanks to the presence of as Urias' future double-play partner.

Of the three, David Thompson is the closest to the big leagues, but I probably would pick Mark Vientos as the long-term answer to the question. Blake Tiberi, because he missed nearly all of 2017 following Tommy John surgery, is still a bit up in the air.

Thompson spent his second full season in Double-A (.263/.325/.429 with 16 home runs) and is now having a fine AFL campaign (.306/.333/.551 in 49 at-bats) with the bat. If he can continue to refine his approach, his raw power should play up even more, so offensively he'd fit the profile well. The question has always been about his ability to stay at third defensively. He's improved considerably since the Mets grabbed him in the fourth round of the 2015 Draft, and the Mets' No. 24 prospect could be just fine to play third at the outset of his big league career.

But seeing Vientos, ranked No. 10 in the system, eventually nudge Thompson to first is a possibility. A shortstop in high school, Vientos played up the middle during his pro debut this summer, but he also saw some time in the Gulf Coast League at the hot corner, the spot most amateur scouts thought he'd have to move to. He has the defensive acumen to be a solid defender there in the future, plus he has the offensive profile for the spot. So it's really more a matter of Vientos being a better option than Thompson in the long run, rather than Thompson's inability to play there. Perhaps the pair man the two infield corner spots eventually at Citi Field.

Let me start by saying that I've become a big Sheldon Neuse fan after seeing the A's No. 14 prospect several times in Arizona (he's hitting .286/.357/.571 with four homers and a league-leading 20 RBIs as of Thursday). The 2016 second-round pick, who was sent by the Nationals to the A's in the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson deal, can flat-out hit, and it's his bat that will get him to the big leagues.

Now on to the question at hand. I don't see him as a second-base option and, more importantly, I don't think the A's do. He was a shortstop in college and has shown he can be acceptable there if needed (he's played a couple of games there in the AFL), but he has largely become a third baseman. That's where he's played a majority of his games defensively, and given his body and his plus arm strength, it's a good fit. He hasn't played a single inning of pro baseball at second. That includes the AFL, where such experimentation often takes place. I'm not saying it could never happen, with Neuse being an offensive-minded second baseman, but I just don't see it.