The Arizona Fall League starts up next week and it gives us all a few more looks at some fantasy relevant prospects. Some players are getting in the extra reps for development, while others are making up for lost time due to injuries earlier in the season. Either way, all 30 MLB clubs are represented across six teams in the desert. This week we’ll take a peek at the big names on the Salt River Rafters and the Peoria Javelinas. Included with the blurbs are the combined stats for each player’s 2014 season regardless of minor league level. I’ll wrap up the AFL previews next week before we begin the 2015 team-by-team minor league countdown…
Salt River Rafters
Byron Buxton, OF | MIN
Injuries stalled much of Buxton’s 2014 season, so the extra at-bats he’ll get in Arizona are important. A bad wrist kept the 20-year-old out for the early part of the season, and a scary outfield collision in late August ended things early as well. Although the Twins are notoriously slow with their prospects, it wouldn’t surprise me if we still saw Buxton in late 2015 – granted he stays healthy and produces in Double-A. Despite accruing only 137 plate appearances, he appeared at #1 on Baseball America’s midseason Top 50 rankings and remains one of the best fantasy prospects in the game thanks to his ability to contribute in all five roto categories.
Archie Bradley, RHP | ARI
Many fantasy owners thought Bradley might have already made his debut by now, but elbow problems and a D-Backs squad that went nowhere again in 2014 stalled his progress. The 21-year-old right-hander has great stuff and maintained good strikeout numbers from the year before. Like most young arms though, he’s going to have to learn to control his arsenal and limit the walks to carry that success over to the major leagues and become the #1 fantasy starter we’re assuming he’ll be.
Mark Appel, RHP | HOU
Hitter-friendly Lancaster was not kind to the former #1 pick. Appel posted a 9.74 ERA in 44 innings and allowed nine homers there. He fared better with Double-A Corpus Christi, but overall it was a disappointing season for the 23-year-old. Fantasy owners may still want to take a gamble on the stuff that made Appel a #1 pick in the first place. He carried over the 8+ K/9 and sub-3 BB/9 from 2013. This year’s stat line certainly presents a buy-low opportunity if you’re into that sort of thing.
Rio Ruiz, 3B | HOU
Ruiz spent the entire summer in the California League where he showed a good approach at the plate and solid power. As the sixth-youngest player in the league, the 20-year-old put himself on the fantasy prospect map with 11 home runs and a good K/BB ratio. If he can continue the success with the bat outside of Lancaster next year, he’ll end up on a lot of midseason Top 50 lists. Even if the glove isn’t quite up to speed with the bat, Ruiz could be manning the hot corner for the Astros sometime in 2016.
Raul Adalberto Mondesi, SS | KC
At first glance, Mondesi’s 2014 numbers don’t scream top prospect. When you consider that he was the third-youngest player in the High-A Carolina League, however, you’re willing to take the struggle with a grain of salt. Baseball America still ranked him #22 on their midseason list – just ahead of another 19-year-old shortstop prospect for the Phillies named J.P. Crawford. Mondesi didn’t turn 19 until late July and scouts still like his approach at the plate. He’s also likely to stick at shortstop long term. The Royals will probably continue to push him and it will be interesting to see how their #1 prospect fares against some of the older competition in the AFL this fall.
Hunter Dozier, 3B | KC
Dozier checked in at #39 on BA’s midseason top 50 after being drafted 8th overall by the Royals in 2013. The 22-year-old can hit for power and his .348 OBP shows he can take a walk now and then as well. He’s made the transition from shortstop to third base and figures to be the Royals’ starting third baseman at some point in 2016. He’ll have to adjust to life in Double-A first, however. Dozier hit just .209/.303/.312 after his promotion in July.
Kyle Zimmer, RHP | KC
A lat injury gave us all the shakes earlier this year but apparently Zimmer is healthy again and looking to make up some lost innings in the AFL. It’s hard to glean much from only 4.2 innings in 2014, but everything you read on the former first round pick looks the same – he’s got killer stuff if only he could stay healthy. It can be a red-flag when a pitcher has health issues this early in his career. It could also be a good buy-low opportunity. The 23-year-old did put up an 11.6 K/9 across two minor league levels in 2013 after all. He’s a high-risk/high-reward type of arm that could see his first taste of the majors in 2015 if everything breaks right.