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.
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.