The Arizona Fall League is a lot like my romantic relationships – short-lived, dry, and rarely televised. Yesterday’s championship game marked the end of the 2018 AFL season. We laughed, we cried, but mostly we paid attention to football instead. It’s Thanksgiving, which means it’s basically Christmas, which means it’s basically spring. Time flies when your public water supply is spiked. January Grey will be here before you know it with projections for all the good boys/five girls and pop-up ads for all the bad ones. Small sample sizes aside, the AFL is basically a showcase for top prospects, so the ones who stood out warrant our attention. They’re the creme de la creme fraiche. So let’s take one last look back at the AFL leaders before we put these desert specs on ice and fly south to the Caribbean.
Batting Average and OPS – Tyler Nevin (COL)
Nevin’s AFL performance about sums up his profile – a corner infielder with a good approach who can hit for both average and power. He’s 21, and hit .328 with 13 bombs in High-A in 2018. Power and average are always a beautiful combination but they’ll upgrade from pretty to sexy if Nevin carves a path to Coors. I don’t think he’ll get much more than a cup of coffee this year. Rather, he’ll hit the upper minors with a real shot to break things open in 2020.
Home Runs – Peter Alonso (NYM), Will Craig (PIT), Braxton Davidson (ATL)
Of these three, Peter Alonso piques my interest. There’s nothing wrong with the other two (at least that I know of…I don’t pry), but Alonso’s 2018 season and the possibility of some 2019 redraft value make him stand out. He hit .285 with 36 homers across two levels (AA/AAA) in 2018. He can’t run and his fielding is suspicious, but right now Dominic Smith is slotted as the Met’s Opening Day first baseman. That’s not exactly an unstoppable force. There could be a duel in the spring for that gig.
Runs Batted In – Keston Hiura (MIL)
We’ve covered him a bit already, but you can’t do much better than what Hiura did this fall. To go along with the league-leading 33 RBI, the 22-year-old hit .323 with five homers and seven steals. His ETA is 2019, and his 70-grade hit tool should play immediately. The only question is how much playing time he’ll see and/or if he has a real chance to win a gig out of spring training. It’s hard to imagine Arcia going anywhere, and Schoop is your current clubhouse leader for the keystone, but man this kid can hit.
Runs and Steals (AKA the SAGNOF Special) – Nick Heath (KC)
Heath is a burner who hits from the left side and probably ends up as a one-dimensional fantasy threat. ‘Round these parts it’s called SAGNOF. At 24, he’ll head to the upper minors in 2019, and could be relevant in redraft leagues towards the end of the season.
Strikeouts – Forrest Whitley (HOU)
I clumsily ranked Whitley behind Alvarez in the top tier of the Astros system a month or so ago, and now I look like the mayor of Crazytown. After throwing just 26 innings for Corpus Christi in 2018, the AFL was Whitley’s chance to show some more – and boy did he ever. In 26 more innings this fall, the 21-year-old righty struck out 36 batters and walked seven with a 2.42 ERA. I don’t think he’ll break camp, but I’d bet my dog a dollar he gets at least one start in 2019.
Earned Run Average (Starters) – Garrett Williams (SF)
Williams has a decent plus fastball and curve. An ERA north of six in Double-A isn’t exactly promising though. I still think he ends up as a lefty reliever, but he figured something out in the desert this month. His AFL ERA finished at 1.88 with 27 strikeouts in six starts.
Good stuff Mike,
Interested in your thoughts about Braxton Davidson. His milf season was nit the best. The average was .177 and he K’ed over 200 times (off the top of my head). But he has improved in the AFL. Has there been a true change ? Is it small sample ? He has the pedigree but I’m not convinced yet.
I enquired after him in a 30 team unlimited rosters dynasty league. I didn’t like the price tag. Is he a top 250 prospect ? Top 500 ?
Thanks for your efforts,
*milb not milf, although it is a hilarious typo
ha! No true change and I’d use the minor league track record as your guide (power but with lots of strikeouts). When he starts to face some legit pitching in the upper levels of the minors it could get even worse in terms of approach. You might be able to get him for nothing this time next year and just add him as a depth piece. Top 250 but towards the end of the line…
Should have read ’40 roster spots’.
Mike love your posts, thanks for the solid work man.
Just got into my first dynasty league and am playing catchup. After reading loads of prospect info over the last couple weeks I’m not sure about my value gauge.
16 team, 40 rosters, no keeper fees, I entered the league this year and got a team that placed 8th (so there’s no real ‘tear down’ vs. ‘go for it’ direction that’s obvious).
What types of current MLB pitchers should I be looking for in trading the likes of Danny Jansen, Kyle Tucker, Lewis Brinston, Brendan Mackay, in your opinion. Or would you definitely hold them all?
Thanks man, have a great Sunday!
Hard to name arms without knowing the league better, but with that depth I can give you some general advice…don’t tear it down unless you’re prepared to get into a vicious cycle that could take multiple years to get out of. I’d trade specs for MLB players and go the opposite direction…try to contend or at least hang around the middle group. If you do some homework, you might get lucky and hit on a guy like Corbin, etc. without paying for it with your top specs. Find some rebuilding team and take advantage of their fire sales. Hope this helps, sorry it’s not more specific.
@David Niven:It can take a year or two to get the feel of a new league and really understand the nuances of its unique rules, especially when you have to educate yourself on a bunch of deep prospects. My opinion is that until you have that feel and understanding and are quite confident you have a roster that has a chance to go for the championship, you should hold on to the prospects and young talent. You can always trade prospects for talent later, but it is not always easy to go the other way.
@LenFuego: Thanks Len and Mike, appreciate your time and perspective. You guys have a great week.
Not sure why you’re so convinced Schoop owns 2B in Milwaukee. He was so awful after they traded for him, they had to move Shaw BACK over there to cover for him. You do realize he hit .202 with a .246 on-base percentage once he got to Milwaukee, don’t you? There’s no way in hell they let that continue if Hiura is stroking the ball all over the place. I bet Schoop is riding the pine by June, even if Hiura is still in the minors, with Shaw back at 2B or Herman Perez filling in. Teams in contention don’t wait struggling guys to figure it back out.
Oh, also, Hiura was named the AFL Most Valuable Player on Saturday too.
I’m betting he’s quite a bit higher when all the prospect rankings begin rolling out in January and February. CBS had him at #5 in their mid-season rankings. Yeah, it was super high but they may have simply realized it before everyone else.
eh, I think you’re inferring a bit. He’s just the current 2B on the depth chart, not really commenting on his performance. He’s also ARB3 this year (I think?) so the length of his leash could be in proportion to the checks they’re signing. Plus winter meetings coming yadda yadda. My guess is we see Hiura midsummer in some role, I’m just not seeing an Opening Day slot here.
@Mike: My bad. I misunderstood. Yeah, mid-summer seems fair/likely to me too. I don’t think Schoop sticks around long after the poor showing following the trade.
No worries! There’s even a chance they nontender Schoop (which would swing the door wide open) but I’d be surprised if they did that since they paid for him in specs.