Arizona Fall League roster predictions

August 15th, 2019

While most fans are focusing on the pennant races, I find myself looking at the bottom of the standings and wondering who will claim the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft. With about a quarter of the season remaining, the Tigers have a 2 1/2-game lead over the Orioles, with the Royals (six games back) and Marlins (eight games back) the only other clubs within double digits.

If Baltimore catches Detroit, it would become just the fourth team with the top choice in consecutive Drafts, joining the 2007-08 Rays, 2009-10 Nationals and the 2012-14 Astros. That wasn't possible in the first 40 Drafts from 1965-2004 because the leagues alternated making picks at the top of the Draft and throughout each round.

I say this all the time, and I'll say it again: My two favorite baseball events are the College World Series and the Arizona Fall League. The AFL begins play earlier than ever this year, with its 30-game season kicking off Sept. 18.

While I'd like Rays shortstop Wander Franco to play for the Salt River Rafters, I also know that's probably not going to happen. From the standpoint of players who realistically could wind up in Arizona, the three I hope to see the most are Angels outfielder Jo Adell, Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearson and White Sox first baseman Andrew Vaughn.

Adell might have the best all-around tools in the Minors. Pearson ventured to the AFL last fall but won't hit his innings limit during the regular season and is the top pitching prospect who could make it to Arizona. Vaughn, the best offensive prospect and the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 Draft, is on the fast track to Chicago.

I received three questions about Burdick, so that's a mandate to discuss him. He missed all of 2017 at Wright State following Tommy John surgery, then returned to win Horizon League awards for Tournament MVP in 2018 and Player of the Year in 2019, when he batted .407/.538/.729 with 15 homers and 24 steals. The Marlins drafted him in the third round in June and signed the redshirt junior for a below-slot $397,500.

Burdick has had no problems adjusting to pro pitching, needing just a week to earn a promotion to Class A and batting .319/.399/.565 with nine homers in his first 53 games. He leads all 2019 Draftees in runs (44), hits (66), total bases (117) and RBIs (54). And his talent is real.

Burdick has some of the best raw power among college hitters in the 2019 Draft, getting plus-plus grades from some scouts for his ability to translate his bat speed and strength into pop to all fields. He has impressed more with wood bats in pro ball than he did in the Cape Cod League last summer, giving him a better chance of getting to his ceiling as an everyday corner outfielder who could provide 25-30 homers per year. He has a solid arm and moves well for a 6-foot, 210-pounder too.

Signed for $280,000 out of the Dominican Republic by the Yankees in 2015, Medina has one of the most explosive arsenals in the Minors. The right-hander has a fastball that reaches 102 mph with cutting action, a high-spin curveball that combines power and depth and a low-90s changeup with splitter action. When they're on, each of his pitches grades as well above average.

Medina has had difficulty harnessing his stuff, which is why he has gone 4-13 with a 5.80 ERA and 141 walks in 172 1/3 pro innings. But he looks like he's starting to figure it out in Class A, where he has posted a 2.06 ERA with a 51/12 K/BB ratio in 35 innings over his last six starts. He hasn't dialed back his stuff at all -- he averaged 97 mph during seven shutout innings Tuesday night -- and hasn't made any mechanical changes.

One club official said Medina looks more comfortable on the mound than he has in the past. He made his U.S. debut at age 18 and is still just 20, so he remains young for his level. If he comes anywhere close to his ceiling, he'll be a weapon for the Yankees.

Like Medina, Corry is a 20-year-old pitcher who has had trouble controlling his lively stuff in the past but is now on a roll in the South Atlantic League. A Giants third-round pick out of a Utah high school in 2017, he issued 96 walks in his first 141 pro innings through June. Since then, he has gone 7-0 with a 0.40 ERA and a 62/7 K/BB ratio in 45 1/3 innings over eight starts.

For Corry, the key has been developing a consistent tempo with his delivery. The left-hander was an all-state safety in high school and has the athleticism to throw regular strikes. His best pitch is a 12-6 curveball and he also has a 91-96 mph fastball with running action, while his changeup is more of a work in progress.

If he continues to progress, Corry could be a No. 3 starter. I want to see him continue to throw strikes and dominate against more advanced hitters before I'd advocate for him on the 2020 preseason Top 100 Prospects list, but he's headed in the right direction.