2019 Arizona Fall League Roster Analysis: Mesa Solar Sox
At long last, the Arizona Fall League is here. Well, almost. The league doesn't begin until Sept. 18, but its preliminary rosters were released today. As usual, Baseball America is here to give you a complete run down of the top prospects, the intriguing risers and any other players to keep an eye out for during the six-week AFL season. The league hosts some of the game's top talent and offers a preview of next season's stars.
Last year's version featured slugging Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who has broken the National League rookie record for most home runs in a season, as well as Blue Jays phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Brewers standout Keston Hiura, White Sox wunderkind Luis Robert and Toronto fireballer Nate Pearson. Past AFL stars have also included Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge, Kris Bryant, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.
The league will look a little different this year, with two of its stalwart parks—Scottsdale Stadium and Surprise Stadium—out of commission for the fall, meaning Salt River will share its home park with Scottsdale and Surprise will double-up in Peoria. The league's Opening Day is much earlier this year, too, in an effort to make the transition from the regular season to the Arizona Fall League easier, especially for pitchers, who in previous years had to deal with a few weeks of layoff between games.
This preview focuses on the Mesa Solar Sox, who play their home games at Sloan Park and will feature prospects from the Cubs, Athletics, Tigers, Angels and Indians.
Top Prospects: The Solar Sox's unquestioned top prospect is Angels outfielder Jo Adell. He's among the sport's top talents still in the minor leagues, and he possesses a bevy of plus-or-better tools. He projects as an above-average hitter with double-plus power, and he spent the summer punishing pitching in the California and Texas Leagues before a final bump to Triple-A Salt Lake for the home stretch. He strained his left hamstring and sprained his right ankle in spring training, costing him the first six weeks of the minor league season. His presence alone will make home games at Sloan Park worth the cost of admission.
Cubs infielder Nico Hoerner was aggressively assigned to Double-A Tennessee to begin his first full season as pro (after tearing up the 2018 AFL) but missed significant time with a fractured wrist. He's been solid in the Southern League and looks to be a potential everyday player with a defensive home to be determined. He and lefthander Brailyn Marquez are in contention for the title of top prospect in the Cubs' system.
The Intriguing: Tigers infield prospect Isaac Paredes entered the year as the second-youngest player in the Eastern League, behind only Nationals shortstop Luis Garcia. Paredes made it that far that quickly because of an advanced approach that has continued to translate in his first full test at the upper levels. He's likely to move off of shortstop as he develops, so it will be critical that he continues to tap into enough power to profile at a different position.
Cubs catcher Miguel Amaya has had an inconsistent year at high Class A Myrtle Beach but is still held in high regard by the organization and performs much better away from Myrtle Beach, where the ball doesn't carry particularly well. Indians third base prospect Nolan Jones has put together a solid season, including his first taste of action at the upper levels. He's proved adept at drawing walks and is continuing to tap into his power potential, which should continue to develop as he gets older.
Tigers outfielder Derek Hill is probably good for one show-stopping play in center field per week, while Nick Allen is one of the slickest defenders in the Oakland system and should make for a fun watch on what should be an outstanding defensive club. After serving as a starter for the entirety of his pro career, Tigers righthander Alex Lange has worked exclusively out of the bullpen since being dealt to Detroit at the trade deadline as part of the package that sent Nicholas Castellanos to the Cubs.
The Rehabbing: As mentioned above, Adell and Hoerner are each coming off of injuries that cost them significant time this season. Angels outfielder Brandon Marsh missed most of June with a sprained ankle, and Indians infielder Ernie Clement missed roughly a month early in the season with a right abductor strain. Allen, the slick-fielding shortstop, has been out since the end of June with a severe ankle sprain.
UPDATE — Sept. 6: The Indians added righthander Jonathan Teaney to their pitching group.
UPDATE — Sept. 10: The Cubs added infielder Zack Short to their group. He replaces Nico Hoerner, who was recalled by Chicago and went 3-for-4 in his big league debut. The A's added righthander Daniel Gossett, their second-rounder from 2014 out of Clemson, who missed the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Opening Day Update: The Athletics added righthander Brady Feigl, and the Indians are sending righty Manuel Alvarez.
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