2019 Arizona Fall League Roster Analysis: Salt River Rafters
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 Salt River Rafters, who play their home games at Salt River Fields and will feature prospects from the Rockies, D-backs, Twins, Marlins and Rays.
Top Prospects: Salt River might be the most loaded group int the AFL. Their prospect core is anchored by Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, the Twins' two Futures Game representatives this year. Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, returned to high Class A Fort Myers and scuffled somewhat before a hot stretch earned him a promotion to Double-A Pensacola. He still earns good reviews for his athleticism and projects to stick up the middle. His complicated mechanics at the plate have confounded his offensive production somewhat, but there's still belief that he will be an everyday big leaguer. Kirilloff tore up the lower minors in 2018 after missing all of 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He missed time early in 2019 with a sprained wrist and will be making up those at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. He projects as at least a plus hitter in the big leagues with plenty of power as well.
The Intriguing: The D-backs and Marlins are each sending talented groups to Salt River. Arizona's squad is led by talented infielder Geraldo Perdomo, who blitzed the Midwest League as a 19-year-old with a .394 on-base percentage. He earned a promotion to high Class A Visalia, and started hot there, too. The 2016 international signee checks in at No. 12 in a loaded Arizona system and has shown an uncanny ability to get on base this season and has plus tools on defense that should allow him to stick at shortstop. Perdomo is joined by new acquisition Seth Beer, who came over from the Astros in the blockbuster Zack Greinke trade. Beer showed on-base and power skills with the Astros, and will likely continue to be mainly an offensive asset with his new organization.
The Marlins' contingent is led by outfielders Victor Victor Mesa and Jerar Encarnacion. Mesa and his brother, Victor Mesa Jr., were added to the fold in the offseason with Victor Victor commanding a $5 million bonus. Like many new Cuban signees who've dealt with a long layoff, Mesa has spent much of the year kicking off rust. He still has the full confidence of the Marlins, however, who see him as a four-tool player even if the power never gets to average. Encarnacion entered the year with a reputation as a standout defender in right field who hadn't broken out at the plate. He ran roughshod over the Midwest League in the first half before a second-half promotion to high Class A Jupiter. He has a classic power hitter's frame at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds and has shown off his raw juice at both levels of Class A.
Rays outfielder Josh Lowe has long earned a reputation for having some of the better tools in a loaded system. The production, however, never matched up. He's still just 21 years old, though, and has put together a strong second half with Double-A Montgomery.
The Rehabbing: Marlins infield prospect Jose Devers missed a chunk of time this season with a groin strain, and he is an elite runner with plenty of quick-twitch athleticism when healthy. Meanwhile, Marlins righthander Nick Neidert missed three months this season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Twins righthander Dakota Chalmers, whom the team acquired last August from the A's for Fernando Rodney, is coming off of Tommy John surgery and will build his innings in the AFL. He was throwing his fastball in the mid- to upper 90s during a rehab assignment in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
D-backs outfielder Jake McCarthy, the No. 39 overall pick last year, missed a month with a jammed wrist earlier this season and has been out since early July with a severe ankle sprain.
Rockies third baseman Colton Welker missed a month with a left shoulder strain but returned Aug. 14.
UPDATE — Sept. 6: The Twins removed Alex Kirilloff and replaced him with Luke Raley. They also added catcher Ben Rortvedt to the mix. The Rays added righthander Simon Rosenblum-Larson.
UPDATE — Sept. 10: The Rockies added righthander Ryan Castellani.
Opening Day Update: The Rockies added righthander Antonio Santos, while the Rays swapped out Taylor Walls and replaced him with Vidal Brujan.
2019 Arizona Fall League Rosters Announced
Headlined by Jo Adell and Forrest Whitley, the 2019 rosters feature 22 of baseball's Top 100 Prospects.
|Victor Victor Mesa||OF||Marlins|
|Jim Paduch||Pitching Coach||Rays|
|Tim Doherty||Hitting Coach||Rockies|