2019 Arizona Fall League Roster Analysis: Scottsdale Scorpions
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 Scottsdale Scorpions, who play their home games at Salt River Fields and will feature prospects from the Blue Jays, Braves, Marlins, Mets and Phillies.
Top Prospects: The two biggest highlights on this roster are Giants prospects Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos. They are San Francisco's top two prospects, rank 17th and 65th on BA's Top 100 Prospects list, respectively, and were named to this year's Futures Game.
Bart, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, was the top prospect in the short-season Northwest League in his pro debut and has risen to Double-A in his first full season. He's lauded for his potential, both offensively and defensively, and earns plus grades for his power, defense and throwing arm. Ramos entered the year as the fifth-youngest player (and the youngest non-Padres prospect) in the high Class A California League and has a mix of mostly average or better tools. He produced an .885 OPS with San Jose before being promoted to Richmond.
The Intriguing: Mets shortstop Andres Gimenez hasn't done much with the bat this year, but the team is still confident that he'll start producing once he finds a consistent approach and batting stance. Even as a returner, Gimenez was the third-youngest player in the Eastern League on Opening Day, behind fellow AFL players Luis Garcia (Nationals) and Isaac Paredes (Tigers).
Blue Jays shortstop Kevin Smith was excellent in 2018 but started very slowly in his first test at Double-A. His numbers have picked up in the second half, and he will look to continue bouncing back in Arizona.
Phillies outfielder Mickey Moniak, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, has battled through a middling season at Double-A Reading and will try to re-establish himself for evaluators who have grown increasingly skeptical that he's more than a future reserve outfielder.
The Rehabbing: Phillies righthander Spencer Howard missed two months in the early portion of the season with a bout of shoulder soreness. He returned on June 27 and has been excellent, which is to be expected for someone gifted with an arsenal filled with a variety of offerings that each grade as plus or better. His fastball regularly touches triple-digits, and he can get swings and misses with any of his offspeed pitches.
UPDATE — Sept. 6: The Blue Jays added righthanders Maverik Buffo, Mike Ellenbest and Graham Spraker to their group, while the Phillies added righty reliever Zach Warren and outfielder Josh Stephen as well. The Giants added righty Tyler Schimpf, and the Mets removed lefthander Thomas Szapucki.
Opening Day Update: The Mets added righthander Jordan Humphreys and lefthander Blake Taylor, and removed infielder Sam Haggerty. The Giants removed righthander Frank Rubio. The Blue Jays added righthander Jackson Rees.
Game Instincts Elevate Andres Gimenez
The 21-year-old shortstop won the Arizona Fall League batting title, but it's really his instincts and feel for the game that set him apart.
|Maverik Buffo||RHP||Blue Jays|
|Graham Spraker||RHP||Blue Jays|
|Jackson Rees||RHP||Blue Jays|
|Mike Ellenbest||RHP||Blue Jays|
|Cullen Large||2B||Blue Jays|
|Logan Warmoth||SS||Blue Jays|
|Kevin Smith||SS||Blue Jays|
|Cesar Martin||Manager||Blue Jays|
|Brad Bergesen||Pitching Coach||Phillies|
|Danny Santiesteban||Hitting Coach||Braves|