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AFL Top 20 Prospects

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Early on in the Arizona Fall League's 16th season, scouts and front-office personnel considered the state of the circuit's pitching to have taken a step backward from 2006.

That wasn't exactly how things ended up however.

Last year, the league boasted such names as Royals righthander Luke Hochevar, Mets righthanders Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey, as well as Devil Rays righthander Jeff Niemann. But none of those arms pitched enough innings to qualify, though Matt Albers (Astros), Kevin Slowey (Twins), Troy Patton (Astros) and Jonathan Meloan (Dodgers) made the Top 20.

This year, the pitching was at least equally as deep, and arguably boasted higher-quality arms overall.

But the bats continue to rule this league where the infields play extremely fast and balls fly out of every ballpark. That said, team averages were down in 2007, hinting that the pitching had improved over last season.

In 2006, the lowest team batting average was .264. This year, three clubs—the Peoria Saguaros, Mesa and Phoenix—all finished below that benchmark.

"It's the same every year," one front-office executive from an American League club said. "You hear how the talent level is down or this and that and it's the same every year. It's the same thing with the draft. The reality is these are the guys—these are the next crop of big leaguers. And there are some pretty good ones out here regardless of what you want to say about the talent level. The talent level is fine."

While Team USA and Team China each played six games against AFL clubs as a warm-up for the World Cup in Taiwan, none of those players, with the exception of Devil Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, are eligible for this list. Longoria played 12 games for Scottsdale before joining the U.S. national team.

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