2019 Arizona Fall League Roster Analysis: Peoria Javelinas
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 Peoria Javelinas, who play their home games at Peoria Sports Complex and will feature prospects from the Mariners, Astros, Padres, Pirates and Red Sox.
Top Prospects: The top two prospects on this team—Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez—match up with nearly any duo in the minors. They'll challenge Salt River's Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff for the title of the most dynamic duo in the AFL. Kelenic, who was the prize in the deal that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets, has used a superb feel to hit to rocket through the minors. He began the year in low Class A West Virginia and reached the Double-A Texas League by season's end.
Unsurprisingly, the Mariners are extremely high on Kelenic, with farm director Andy McKay calling his ceiling "as high as any player I've ever been around."
Rodriguez could also challenge Kelenic for that title. The 18-year-old wunderkind missed two months with a fractured left hand but has otherwise spent this season showing off an outstanding set of high-end tools. He managed an .850 OPS before he was promoted to high Class A Modesto, where he opened with a 4-for-5 day that included a grand slam. He has four tools that rank as average or better, including an arm that grades as a 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
The Intriguing: Padres catcher Luis Campusano has been quietly dominant this season. He's discovered the magic of some of the hitting environments in the high Class A California League and taken extreme advantage. The 20-year-old catcher has swatted seen his power grow by leaps and bounds, especially when playing away from his home park in Lake Elsinore. Moreover, he's drawn plenty of walks this year while also proving incredibly difficult to strike out.
Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz, who will not turn 21 until the middle of the AFL season, has continued to rise through the Pirates' system while maintaining a high average. He's one of the most interesting prospects in the minors because of his height and position—he's 6-foot-6 and playing shortstop—and the incredible raw power he can show off during batting practice. He left high Class A Bradenton with an .860 OPS and started strong with Double-A Altoona.
Red Sox lefthanded reliever Yoan Aybar is in his second season as a full-time pitcher after spending the first part of his career as an infielder. He's whiffed 69 batters in 55.2 innings between both levels of Class A. His system-mate Bryan Mata has refurbished his prospect stock after a rough go in 2018. He opened the season as the youngest player in the high Class A Carolina League and was dominant, striking out 52 batters in 51.1 innings while working to a 1.75 ERA. He's hit a bit of a rough patch with Double-A Portland but still has a very high ceiling.
The Rehabbing: After blitzing the minor leagues in 2018, including a star turn in the AFL, Astros righthander Forrest Whitley has been through a very strange 2019 season. He started the year with Triple-A Round Rock, where he was roughed up regularly. After dominating the minors and the AFL in 2018, Whitley was touched for 33 runs (all earned) in 24.1 innings in the Pacific Coast League. That was followed by a move back to the Astros' minor league complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., and the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he continued to struggle with his control. He's had difficulty finding the strike zone everywhere except for a two-game stint at high Class A Fayetteville.
Cruz missed two months with a right foot fracture but has been back in action since June 30.
UPDATE — Sept. 10: The Padres added lefthanders Elliot Ashbeck and Osvaldo Hernandez, as well as righthander Reiss Knehr to their group, while the Pirates added righty Beau Sulser and the Red Sox added lefty Jhonathan Diaz to their mixes.
Opening Night Update: The Astros have swapped righthanders, removing Tyler Ivey and sending Cody Deason in his place.
Five Reasons Why So Many Elite Prospects Made Opening Day Rosters
An exploration of the factors that led a near-record number of Top 100 Prospects making their MLB debuts during the first week of the season, reversing decades of front office behavior.
|Tanner Houck||RHP||Red Sox|
|Yoan Aybar||LHP||Red Sox|
|Bryan Mata||RHP||Red Sox|
|Jhonathan Diaz||LHP||Red Sox|
|CJ Chatham||SS||Red Sox|
|Marcus Wilson||OF||Red Sox|
|Jarren Duran||OF||Red Sox|
|Drew French||Pitching Coach||Astros|
|Oscar Bernard||Hitting Coach||Padres|
|Corey Wimberly||Coach||Red Sox|