2019 Arizona Fall League Roster Analysis: Surprise Saguaros
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 Surprise Saguaros, who will play their home games at Peoria Sports Complex this year and feature prospects from the Orioles, Nationals, Royals, Rangers and Yankees.
Top Prospects: Royals lefthander Daniel Lynch was part of the club's gigantic haul of pitching in the 2018 draft. He missed two months of the season after exiting a June start with discomfort in his arm, so he'll be making up time with the Saguaros. At his best, he works with a mid-90s fastball and a pair of sharp breaking balls. He had been solid before the injury and picked up right where left off after returning in mid-August.
Nationals shortstop prospect Luis Garcia opened the year as the youngest player in the Eastern League by more than a full year. He put together a solid month of June but has hovered around a .600 OPS all season long, which is still fairly impressive for a player who won't turn 20 until next May.
The Intriguing: Orioles righthander Dean Kremer was part of the five-player package the Dodgers used to pry Manny Machado away from the Orioles last summer, and he has performed well in his first full season in the Baltimore organization. He works with a low-90s fastball as well as a big curveball he can drop in for strikes or bury for chases. He's also continuing to develop a slider to add to his mix.
Relatively unheralded among a group of higher-profile prospects at high Class A Wilmington, Royals outfielder Brewer Hicklen is sixth among all Kansas City farmhands with 14 homers and ranks third in the system with 38 stolen bases. He's been especially potent away from the pitcher's paradise of Frawley Stadium, having posted a slash line of .297/.382/.479 in away games.
The Rehabbing: Rangers outfielder Bubba Thompson, one of the more interesting and toolsy players in the system, broke the hamate bone in his left wrist and cost him a month early in the season. He missed a second month shortly after returning from the injured list, and will make up the lost time in Arizona.
Royals outfielder Kyle Isbel missed three months recovering after taking a ball off of his face while playing defense for high Class A Wilmington, while Nationals righthander Sterling Sharp missed three months with an oblique injury. When healthy, Sharp is one of the minor leagues' premier pitchers at inducing ground balls.
UPDATE — Sept. 6: Three righthanders join the roster—Aaron McGarity from the Yankees, and Noah Bremer and Nick Snyder from the Rangers.
Opening Day Update: The Rangers filled out their pitching staff by adding righties Josh Advocate and Cole Uvila, and also selected shortstop Jax Biggers to complete their AFL contingent. The Orioles are sending righthand Cody Carroll, and the Royals swapped first baseman Travis Jones in for Gabriel Cancel.
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