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Mayo, Callis discuss players to watch in AFL

October 6, 2017

The following is an excerpt from this week's Pipeline Podcast, in which Tim McMaster, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo discuss the upcoming Arizona Fall League and some of the players they are most excited to watch. To listen to the show in its entirety, go to the MLB Pipeline Podcast

The following is an excerpt from this week's Pipeline Podcast, in which Tim McMaster, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo discuss the upcoming Arizona Fall League and some of the players they are most excited to watch. To listen to the show in its entirety, go to the MLB Pipeline Podcast page.
Tim McMaster: Let's get into the players at the Arizona Fall League, which is why it's an exciting league every year and there's plenty of talent heading there this season, including four club No. 1 prospects, as I mentioned, 12 players in the Top 100, so it's a good group. Jonathan, some of these guys have already made their big-league debuts, like Victor Robles and Francisco Mejia. But when you look at the list of players heading to Arizona, anybody in particular you're excited to see compete at this level?
Jonathan Mayo: I mean, I think getting the chance, I mean Robles was a good one, but getting the chance to see Ronald Acuña play. We saw him in the Futures Game for a quick glimpse and he showed off some of his tools, even if the box score doesn't show it, Statcast™ would. One of the best things about the Fall League is it's not that one-game showcase, bright spotlight kind of deal. But getting to get multiple looks at a guy and have him get multiple at-bats, play an entire game are all bonuses. So I'm really looking forward to getting to watch him do his thing for more than just that one brief look that we got in Miami in July. Everything that he did this year to make it from A-ball up to Triple-A and rake throughout and put up ridiculous numbers, power and speed, and he's incredibly young and he's knocking on the big league door. He's an exciting guy. I want to see, even though he's already shown that he can compete at the upper levels of the Minor League system, I want to see how he does in the Fall League for sure.
Jim Callis: Yeah, I mean you talk about Robles and Acuña, I mean they're two of the players with the best all-around tools in the Minors. A guy who's not as advanced, but is in that same category is Esteven Florial of the Yankees. As deep as that farm system is, he may have a higher ceiling than anybody in it. He's probably a year, or a year and a half, developmentally, behind Robles and Acuña, but I think we're going to see him as a major part of Yankees teams. I mean, he just has exciting all-around talent. From a pitching standpoint, I mean Mitch Keller of the Pirates is a better quality pitching prospect than we usually see in the Fall League. He missed some time this year, not a ton, with a back strain, but looking forward to really seeing him. He's been very good the last couple seasons in the Pirates system. And Kyle Lewis is a guy who hasn't had a chance to play a whole lot because he hurt his knee shortly after the Mariners took him in the first round of the Draft a couple years ago. At the time, I would've taken Kyle Lewis with the No. 1 overall pick. I really, really like Kyle Lewis and I'm curious to see what he looks like and how much the knee injury may or may not hamper him. I think he's back to 100 percent, and I'm looking forward to seeing that.
McMaster: When you guys are down there in Arizona watching these games, obviously it's players from all different levels of the Minors -- you have Acuña and Robles, who are kind of knocking on the door -- there's guys from the lower levels that haven't seen that higher level stuff yet. Do you look at each player differently based on that sort of thing, or do you just try to throw them in a group and see, regardless of experience, how they compete against that competition?
Mayo: I mean, obviously I think you have to. Just like when you're evaluating any prospect. Yes, we try to line them up and rank them, but you have to take into account their age and how much they played and what level they're at. There's a certain level playing field. We've certainly seen guys, you look at Gleyber Torres last year, who hadn't faced upper-level competition and was completely dominant. It's a really good test to see how guys from the lower levels [perform]. I think a guy like Florial is a perfect example. This is a guy who showed a lot of interesting things this year. I think we'll end up talking a lot about him for Top 100 lists just because of the tool package. Yeah, the Fall League is a small sample size and it tends to be friendly for hitters, but if a guy like that performs well, it invariably will inform our rankings and I think sets him up to move a little more quickly through the Yankees system next year. But I do think you have to look at each guy and be, at the very least, cognizant of their backgrounds, where they came from and what their professional experience has been up to the point that they get there.
Callis: I'd agree with all that, and I'd also throw in, too, and another factor, you have to give the younger guys a little bit more slack and everything we do, I think we always consider age, that they're not as accustomed to playing a full season. A guy like Florial, this was his first five-month Minor League season since he signed with the Yankees, and now he's got another six weeks of games tacked onto it. I remember, maybe it was 2013, Jonathan, I want to say I was working for MLB at the time and that was my first summer, but Corey Seager like was horribly overmatched in the Fall League. He just looked exhausted and didn't hit well at all. He had one of the worst lines in the league, but at the same time, you had to realize that, look, the guy is 19 years old and he's just getting going. It's not the same as some of these guys who are 23, 24, who've been playing for a while. So you definitely have to take age and experience into consideration.