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Every year in early October, a few hundred prospects converge on the Minor league complexes of Arizona to celebrate the grandest of all prospecting expeditions. The Arizona Fall League. Now I want you to backup, and read the words “Arizona Fall League” like you’re Ham Porter talking about Babe Ruth. Okay, now that you’ve reread the opening sentence, I’d like you to read the last one again in a “silly” old lady’s voice. Okay, now that you’ve done that we can move on. BTW, if you didn’t do any of that out loud, you win. You’re not an idiot. As for the Arizona Fall League, or the AFL as us “cool kids” call it, tis’ back in full swing. In case you don’t know it’s a 6 team league in Arizona run by MLB, and the teams are comprised of top prospects from almost every MLB organization. The ultimate goal is to showcase these talents for scouts and MLB executives, but there’s a multitude of reasons why players head to Arizona. It might be further refinement of a new swing adjustment or pitch, but it’s very often to make up time. Over the last few years we’ve had a string of exciting prospect classes in Arizona, and this year is no different. Needless to say, we’ll be covering some of the top prospects in the game today. Even one that earned his own Rookie post from the incomparable Grey Albright.

I swear to god they’re not all Braves! Though most of them are Braves, I’m not going to lie.

Ronald Acuna, Braves OF | Peoria Javelinas: Named the Hitter of the week for Week 3, Acuna was obviously inspired to make Grey Albright look good. He hit a cool .475 (10-21) with three doubles, three homers, six RBI, and 12 runs. Just to put this all in perspective 12 runs would be enough for third place overall in the entire league, and he did that in a week. Oh, and BTW he doesn’t turn 20 until December, this kid has monster written all over him. It’s going to be tough to keep Acuna down in AAA for any length of time.

Max Fried, Braves LHP | Peoria Javelinas: What a crazy year it’s been for the oft-injured lefty. It started with a messy 19 start run in AA, followed by a rather sudden promotion to Atlanta. Through 4 big league starts, and 5 pen appearances, Fried was solid. He also exceeded the 100 inning mark for the second consecutive season, both good signs. So far in Arizona, Fried has been the best pitcher in the league, through 4 starts he’s accumulated a 0.47 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, and 23 strikeouts to 5 walks in 19 innings. He’s got a shot at the rotation out of camp next year, and he’s slowly regaining my trust. “Regaining your trust? It’s 19 innings in October, Ralph!” Yes, but he was a little unlucky at AA, and he wasn’t a total dumpster fire at the MLB level. I mean he’s already better than Glasnow, right? At his best Fried mixes three plus pitches in his fastball, curveball, change mix, and generates tons of groundballs.

Austin Riley, Braves 3B | Peoria Javelinas: Between his play in the Arizona Fall League, and recent appearances in Top 100 lists, and Braves Top 10’s, Riley is kind of breaking out. Would you believe me if I told you he actually has a higher OPS than Ronald Acuna? It’s true, Riley owns a robust 1.208 to Acuna’s 1.160, and is leading the AFL in slugging by 80+ points. Not bad for a prospect considered an after thought by Braves fans as recently as two months ago. Make no mistake Riley has blossomed into one of the top 3rd base prospects in baseball. I ranked him 10th in my third base Top 10 back in mid-September, but I’d push him up to 7th if I re-ranked, and I more or less did when I slotted him 95th in my end of season Top 100.

Alex Jackson, Braves C | Peoria Javelinas: I can’t help that the four best players to talk about are Braves, the system is just that good. Jackson ranked 6th on my Top 10 Catcher list, and just missed the top 100, after just making it in the mid-season. He’s making me regret my decision to not rank him a little higher. At the moment, Jackson is the home run leader in the AFL through three weeks with 5 dongs, and is second to only the aforementioned Austin Riley in SLG. He’s never going to be an on-base machine, but he makes hard contact, and he makes lots of it. If he can stick behind the plate, Jackson has a chance to be one of the few impact bats at the catching position.

David Bote, Cubs 2B | Mesa Solar Sox: After starting out on fire through the first week, Bote has slowed down over the last few, but he’s undoubtedly been one of the early stars of the Fall League. He’s not a player I’m particularly high on, he’s been in the minors for 5 years, after being drafted in the 18th round back in 2012 out of a JuCo. He did put up a solid .272/.353/.438 at AA this year, and he has some approach (9% Bb% to a 18% K%), but at best he looks like a low end second division regular. Probably just a few hot weeks.

Sheldon Neuse, Athletics 3B | Mesa Solar Sox: Not going to lie, this post was almost an entire sleeper writeup on Neuse. Since being acquired by the A’s for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, Neuse has been on a one man mission to become fantasy baseball relevant. I’m sure the prospects of millions of dollars and models has nothing to do with it. Nope, Neuse is driven by the thought of you adding him to your dynasty roster. How is he showing this? By slashing .300/.364/.580 with 16 RBI in 13 AFL games, after hitting .321/.384/.502 across three levels of the minors. Sure he’s going to strikeout too much, but at a point in time, where there’s no real depth in the minors at the corner infield spots, Neuse presents a bat on the rise at a decent price.

Andrew Knizner, C Cardinals | Surprise Saguaros: I never thought I’d write a minor league update that featured 25%+ catchers, but it’s 2017 anything goes. A 2016 7th round pick out of NC State, Knizner had a very good under the radar season in the Cardinals organization between A and AA.  He slashed .302/.349/.471 with 12 homers across 95 games, and has continued that hot hitting in Arizona. So far though 11 games, he’s hitting .386/.426/.568 with four extra base hits, and 10 RBI. This might be a breakout in the making, or he might be this year’s Ramon Laurenano.

Monte Harrison, Brewers OF | Salt River Rafters: Had a great season between the Midwest league and the Carolina League, accumulating 20/20 totals while slashing .272/.350/.481. So far in the AFL he’s picking up where he left off, a good sign he could build on his 2017 breakout, next season.  Harrison has only featured in 6 games, but he’s knocked 4 extra base hits, including 2 homers, and stolen 2 bases. The Brewers have an abundance of outfield options, but Harrison brings a true power/speed combo that plays in fantasy.

Josh Naylor, Padres 1B | Peoria Javelinas: One of the tougher prospects to gauge an appropriate value for, and not surprisingly he’s a player I blow hot and cold on. The big question with Naylor is will he get to his batting practice power in games? So far in Arizona the answer is a resounding, yes! Through 14 games Naylor is slashing .288/.323/.508 with 3 homers and 4 doubles. Last Friday he collected four hits, in his 6th multi-hit game in his three weeks in Arizona. If Naylor can marry the advanced approach, plus contact, and raw power he’s shown in flashes, he could be a scary player. At still just 20 years old, it’s very possible 2018 could be a breakout for the burly Canuck.

Estevan Florial, Yankees OF | Scottsdale Scorpions: One of my favorite prospects, the toolsy 19 year old outfielder has yet to get to his power in the AFL, but otherwise he’s done nicely. At the moment he’s tied for 7th in the league in runs with 10, and is slashing .293/.408/.415. He’s striking out too much still, and a homer or two would be nice to see, but he’s young, and there’s a lot to like.

Will Smith, Dodgers C | Glendale Desert Dogs: Left off of my Top 10 catchers list, Smith is coming off an injury prone campaign that saw him limited to just 73 games. He’s making up for lost time in Arizona slashing .368/.419/.579 with a homer and three doubles. The Dodgers look to be committed to Barnes as the starter next year, but Smith might factor into the mix at catcher upon Yasmani Grandal’s departure. His defensive chops are solid, and the bat looks to be coming around, not a bad catcher in deeper leagues if you need one.

 

If you’d like to compliment me, or are looking to argue, hit up my Twitter @ProspectJesus

   
  1. Ted Cruz's Farts says:
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    Justus Sheffield?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Ted Cruz’s Farts: I didn’t cover every player having a great Fall.

      Sorry

  2. Richard Davis says:
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    Nice write up as always. When is the next prospect podcast? I’m having withdraws. Thanks

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Richard Davis: Thanks bud! We’re recording tonight before game 7. So you’ll have a new episode this time tomorrow.

  3. J-FOH says:
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    I’m going to need a Neuse if I have to read about any more Braves players. How hard is MLB going to come down on them and why haven’t you wrote an expose on the dirtiest team in the league? If you don’t then you might as well be Rachel Maddow and your fake news

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @J-FOH: A. I love what they’ve done, and my guess is they aren’t the dirtiest but the most brash. MLB will doc them intentional signing dollars and maybe draft bonus pool. Won’t be that different from what they did to the Sox.

      Hey Braves got the players, and they’re the ones having good falls.

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: you wrote an A but no B? I hope they just change the international signing

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @J-FOH: I had to be up at 5. I’m totally out of it.

          • J-FOH says:
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            @Ralph Lifshitz: wow you got up when I was just dozing off.

          • Ralph Lifshitz

            Ralph Lifshitz says:
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            @Rob: Dap

          • J-FOH says:
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            @Rob: Fuck that. I love C

  4. Tweak says:
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    Any chance Riley’s play puts him on Atlanta’s radar now? Think it is enough to get them to hold off on signing Moose, or does this make him more attractive trade bait?

    Separately, I can’t get enough of Acuna. I own him in every league of which I am a part, minus one, and I’m seriously thinking of putting JDongs on the block to acquire him. OF would end up being Stanton, Mazara, Khris Davis, Cespedes and Acuna. Yum.

    Also, do the Cards just continually birth solid hit tool and defensive catchers? Between Yadi, Kelly, Knizner, Martinez and Godoy, they’re never going to run out.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Tweak: He’s been on Atlanta’s radar. Braves fans underrated him, IMO. Riley has a track record of success and has really improved year after year. He’s at a point where he could explode in the next year, and be in Atlanta by 2019.

      Damn, that’s a tasty OF!!

      Never, it’s amazing really!

  5. Another Dan says:
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    Hey Ralph,

    Good stuff as ever. It’s the commentary that goes with the numbers that makes it so valuable.

    Will be keeping an eye on most of those names in my 12 team league. Most (not Acuna though – I snagged him, thanks to you) are unowned. Fried I owned previously but cut for Baez (since traded away), may just have to try and get him towards the end of my FYPD and unowned draft to fill out my roster.

    In my 30 teamer, I am still shopping C-Mart. What do you think of …
    I give :- C Martinez ($13.5m/3yrs) A Moore ($400k inflating based on performance rookie contract – 5 years) and $9m in salary this year (I acquire some salary dump players until end of 2018 and trade a bit of salary).

    I get :- a) Robert, Heredia, Dalbec, Weigel (or Corbin Martin)
    B) Robert, Lewin Diaz, Dalbec, Weigel (or Martin)
    C)
    D) Robert, Heredia, Diaz (he hasn’t offered this but I could counter with it)

    He also owns Riley and Florial (but he won’t pair Florial with Robert) so I could come up with all sorts of combinations.

    Any advice ?

    Best wishes,

    Dan

    PS : Football update. Lost 2-1 last night, away at a potential promotion rival. Was a long journey home, got home at 1am. The twice a week demands is thinning our squad a bit. But that was only our 2nd league defeat in the last 22 games last season and this.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Another Dan: Thanks Dan for reading as always.

      Fried isn’t a bad grab back I did the same in one of my leagues. He might have found his groove. that’s all it takes with starters, the ability has always been there.

      I like the idea on D, but would take A.

      That stinks, you need to find the next Chaz Austin Laying brick somewhere! Where are they at in regards to promotion at the moment?

      • Another Dan says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz:

        We’re currently 4th (team in 3rd beat us last night) in the league but have played less games than some of those above. If we win all the games in hand and so does everyone else we’d be 3rd. BUT we have only played 11 of the 42 league games this season. It’s a marathon not a sprint !! (Top 2 get promoted, next 4 fight for 1 play-off place, next year less places available).

        We’re a long way down the football pyramid (need 7 promotions to make the Premier League) but it’s mad what some clubs are rumoured to be offering to pay players (£450 per week ?). These aren’t full time players and some can make more money staying part time, working the normal job and playing football on the side. Some of the guys at our level have agents (and are paying them) !!! Madness !! Finding the next Jamie Vardy, Charlie Austin or Stuart Pearce is going to be very hard !!

        Thanks on the advice. This prospecting is a lot of fun. Your articles make it more so.

        Enjoy game 7. Might not be on for a while – am unable to watch game 7 live (haven’t been able to finish 5 and 6 yet). Will be avoiding spoilers !!

        Best wishes,

        Dan

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Another Dan: Okay, so it’s the same setup as the Championship.

          You need to be the Football Prospector!

          Good luck! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Jose says:
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    3B Riley is my next priority. I need a 3B to replace David Wright, I traded for Todd Frazier and that was a fiasco. I am looking for a long term replacement.

    My next chase is for a 2B, I just missed the boat on Scott Kingery. I am keepin my eyes on Garrett Hampton of Co. Is there another NL 2B with those kind of hit tools in the lower levels? I like my hitters to have some power and good OBP and OPS.

    • OddBall Herrera says:
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      @Jose: You can always hold out hope that Senzel ends up at second, there is a non-zero chance of that.

      • Jose says:
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        @OddBall Herrera: Two problems with that, 1- Senzel is already owned in both my leagues and 2- He is a very good 3B and he is not really blocked.

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Jose: Depends what they do with Suarez, but the first part is a non-starter.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Jose: Keston Hiura is one, Shed Long another, Luis Urias is good for average, but no power, Isan Diaz, Max Moroff, and Kevin Kramer all come to ind.

      • Jose says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: I have Hiura in one of my teams, but he has the arm problem where he may end up having TJ surgery and may move to the OF. I hope he does not, because he seem to have a very nice bat.

        I use to really like Diaz, but over the last two years he seem to have deteriorated a little bit. Is he going to recover? Out of the others I like Long a little bit, but he sounds like his defense is suspect and will have to live and die by the bat.

        What is your opinion of Garrett Hampton? His power could get a bust from Coors field.

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Alex Wood says:
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          @Jose: Nope, Hiura played only second base in instructs and he’s fully through his throwing program and feeling fine. The TJ thing is old news.

          Huh? Diaz had a great second half in 2016. Actually 2016 in general. I mean he’s still a top 10-15 2B prospect and gets a boost in OBP/OPS/SLG leagues. So I felt he fit your criteria.

          Hampson is okay, but I tend to trust the power less due to the ballpark.

          • Jose says:
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            @Alex Wood: I like what I heard of Hiura, if he is going to stay at 2B , I will try to pick him up on my other team.
            Do you have any stats of what he hit in instructs on the games? Did you see him in person in instructs?

            I used to like Diaz, if he recovers, he will be a good second choice.

  7. David says:
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    Ralph, in your expert opinion, please rank these hitters over the long haul in fantasy where OBP replaces AVG : Acuna, Benintendi, Hoskins, Puig and Robles. Thanks

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @David: Acuna, Hoskins, Benintendi, Robles, Puig.

  8. Chucky says:
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    Not sure if you realize how, when it comes to prospects….You Da Man! Is young Vlad “that good”to keep instead of the likes of a Pollock? GPolanco? Ian Happ?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Chucky: Thank you very much Chuck!

      Depends on your team, if you’re rebuilding than yes over all three. If not I would over Polanco and Happ.

  9. JoeBuckYoSelf says:
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    Ralph,

    If it comes to it in my first year player draft and Otani is still available would you draft him and drop anyone of the following that I currently have?

    Meadows
    Luis Robert
    Eloy Jimenez
    Victor Robles
    Lewis Brinson

    Looks to me like the only odd man out would be Meadows? So is Otani worth a shot at dropping him?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @JoeBuckYoSelf: Oh yeah, lose Meadows

  10. Saints says:
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    Hay Ralph great stuff thanks a lot
    i have a general Prospect Question in your Prospect ranking you mentioned that Trammel has the Potential to become “next Years Acuna” (Amazing Call by you btw Thx again :D). Can you see some other guys like “Acuna” or Trammel right now who i should try to get via Trade in my deep dynasty ?

  11. Michael Rapaport says:
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    I don’t like anyone calling the Braves any derogatory names because a) it is a guy or two and not an organization plus the game is filled with crap because they should figure out some rules and a system when it comes to international players.

  12. Mike L says:
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    Do you think Mejia sticks at catcher? He’s the only guy I have heading into next year plus Schwarber who will lose eligibility. Ramos, Zunino, Sisco, Jackson, Barnes, Kelly, Murphy all available. I’d have to lose a guy like Dahl, B.Rodgers or Senzel to get one. Doesnt really seem worth it.

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