This edition of the Arizona Fall League Hot Sheet takes into account what AFL players did from Oct. 23-29.
Contributing: J.J. Cooper, Ben Badler, Kyle Glaser and Josh Norris.
1. Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
Why He's Here: .476/.520/1.048 (10-for-21), 12 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1 SB.
The Scoop: Acuna could go 0-for-the-Fall-League and it wouldn't really matter. He's already established himself as one of the best prospects in baseball, and a bad October wouldn't have changed that. What Acuna has done is put together an outstanding start to his AFL season thanks in large part to one of the best weeks you'll see in the AFL. Acuna leads the league with 17 runs scored. His 12 runs scored this past week would rank second in the league (behind only Braves teammate Alex Jackson's 13).
2. Austin Riley, 3B, Braves
Why He's Here: .412/.500/1.000 (7-for-17), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 SO.
The Scoop: The AFL is generally an excellent place to hit, both because the ball generally carries well and because more top hitting prospects than pitching prospects make the trip to the league. But cycles are extremely rare. Riley's cycle on Thursday is the first in the league in nearly a decade (Logan Morrison, 2008). The Braves third baseman celebrated his cycle by homering in his next game as well.
3. Max Fried, LHP, Braves
Why He's Here: 2-0, 0.82, 2 GS, 11 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Unlike most of the starting pitchers in the AFL, Fried actually logged plenty of innings this summer (118.2 IP). But the Braves sent Fried to Arizona to give him a leg up in next year's spring training battle for one of multiple open rotation spots in Atlanta. So far, he's been outstanding. Fried leads the AFL in strikeouts (23), WHIP (6.63) and wins (3) and is second among starters in batting average against (.136). He's allowed only one extra-base hit in 19 innings and his control (2.3 BB/9) has been improved.
4. Bobby Bradley, 1B, Indians
Why He's Here: .438/.438/.938 (7-for-16), 3 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 0 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: The 2017 season was a positive developmental step for Bradley. The Indians slugger cut his strikeout rate from 30 percent in high Class A in 2016 down to 23 percent this year in Double-A while maintaining his plus-plus power. The strikeouts are creeping back up early in the AFL—16 whiffs in 40 plate appearances—but Bradley's adjustments this year are an encouraging signal for his future.
5. Justus Sheffield, RHP, Yankees
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 2.79, 9.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 12 SO, 1 BB
The Scoop: One of the two big prizes—along with outfielder Clint Frazier—whom the Yankees acquired from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade last summer, Sheffield kept mowing them down in two starts this week. His 12 punchouts over that span tied with Atlanta lefty Max Fried for the highest total. Sheffield, who brings a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup, has struck out 21 and walked two over four AFL starts, including six apiece in three of those starts.
6. Albert Abreu, RHP, Yankees
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.80, 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 SO, 0 BB
The Scoop: Abreu was sent from Houston to the Yankees—along with fellow righthander Jorge Guzman—in exchange for catcher Brian McCann last winter. Abreu missed time this year with elbow flare-ups and is regaining those innings in the AFL before a test at the upper levels in 2018. At his best, he brings a low-to-mid-90s fastball with a plus curveball and feel for a changeup. He's struck out 15 against just three walks in 15 AFL innings this year, including just one earned run (a home run to new AFL arrival Victor Robles).
7. Adbert Alzolay, RHP, Cubs
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 2.25, 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 SO, 2 BB
The Scoop: In a Cubs system thinned out due to trades of top prospects like Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, Alzolay has risen near the top thanks to a breakout season. With a sped-up delivery and a mid-90s fastball, Alzolay finished third in the Cubs' organization with a 2.99 ERA between high Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee and struck out a career-best 108 hitters. He's allowed just three hits over 10 innings (a span of five outings) in the AFL thus far, and he didn't until his first hit until his fourth appearance.
8. Alex Jackson, C, Braves
Why He’s Here: .333/.391/.667, (7-for-21), 4 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 4 SO, 0 SB.
The Scoop: Thus far, the Fall League has been dominated by Braves. Max Fried has rung up the strikeouts, Ronald Acuna has caught fire, Austin Riley hit for the cycle and Jackson leads the AFL with five home runs through 11 games. To put that in perspective, five home runs was a enough to lead the AFL last year. Beyond the offense, Jackson, who was dealt to the Braves from the Mariners last offseason, is in the AFL to work on his catching. If he can become even fringe-average there, Atlanta's farm system might have gained a valuable piece.
9. Max Pentecost, C, Blue Jays
Why He’s Here: .455/.600/.818, (5-for-11), 3 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI,4 BB, 3 SO, 0 SB.
The Scoop: After three years in the minor leagues spent wracked by injuries, Pentecost, the Blue Jays' first-round selection out of Kennesaw State in 2014, is clearly making up for lost time. He's never played more than 74 games in a pro season, and has had at least two surgeries on his shoulder since joining the Blue Jays. More important than any offensive numbers he puts up in the AFL is where he's played on defense. He caught just 20 games during the regular season. Usually he was given multiple days off from catching after each appearance behind the plate. He’s caught twice in the AFL with only one day off between starts.
10. Thairo Estrada, SS, Yankees
Why He's Here: .400/.471/.600 (6-for-15), 3 R, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Estrada might get lost in the depth of talent ahead of him in a strong Yankees farm system, but his smart, instinctive play and simple swing have helped him succeed up to Double-A. There isn't much power in Estrada's bat, but his ability to shoot line drives to all fields fueled a .301/.353/.392 slash line this season in the Eastern League.