This final edition of the Arizona Fall League Hot Sheet takes into account what AFL players did over the entire season.
Contributing: J.J. Cooper, Ben Badler, Kyle Glaser and Josh Norris.
1. Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
Why He’s Here: .325/.414/.639 (27-for-83), 22 R, 5 2B, 7 HR, 16 RBIs, 12 BB, 22 SO, 2-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Mike Trout was 20 when he played in the AFL in 2011. He had hit .326/.414/.544 in 91 games in the Double-A Texas League and finished the year in the big leagues as a September callup. Then he went to the AFL and hit just .245/.279/.321 in 25 games with Scottsdale. He looked run down, fatigued after the longest season of his life.
Had Acuna shown any signs of fatigue in the AFL after what he’s done over the past year, it would have been understandable. After his 2016 regular season was cut short to just 42 games due to a broken thumb, he spent November and December last year playing winter ball in Australia. He played 139 games during the 2017 season, rocketing his way through three levels en route to becoming the Minor League Player of the Year. Instead of slowing down, Acuna added another trophy to his collection by winning MVP of the AFL, batting .325/.414/.639 in 23 games.
Including his AFL stint, Acuna played in 162 games this year, showing the combination of power (28 home runs) and speed (46 stolen bases) at a premium position that makes him such a special prospect. (BB)
2. Eric Filia, OF/1B, Mariners
Why He’s Here: .408/.483/.605 (31-for-76), 4 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 12 BB, 7 SO, 0-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Filia has always hit everywhere he’s been, but his advanced age against lower-level competition long gave scouts pause. Filia did his best to allay those fears in the AFL, leading the star-studded league in batting average (.408), on-base percentage (.483) and OPS (1.088). He reached base in all 22 games he played, showed improved routes in right field, added defensive versatility by playing first base and capped it all off by winning the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. (KG)
3. Max Fried, LHP, Braves
Why He’s Here: 3-1, 1.73, 6 GS, 26 IP, 15 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 HR, 8 BB, 32 SO.
The Scoop: The Fried who pitched in the Arizona Fall League had very little resemblance to the one who was shelled to the tune of a 2-11, 5.92 mark with Double-A Mississippi. As bad as Fried was to start the season as he struggled with blister issues, he was equally dominant in the AFL. With a plus fastball and curveball, Fried heads into his offseason knowing he’ll be competing for a spot in the Braves’ 2018 starting rotation. (JJ)
4. Nicky Lopez, SS, Royals
Why He’s Here: .383/.433/.568 (31-for-81), 15 R, 5 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 3-for-5 SB.
The Scoop: There was no clear cut top college shortstop in the 2016 draft. The Royals picked Lopez in the fifth round, making him the 11th college shortstop taken that year. He’s making the case he’s the best from that class. Lopez is a very reliable defender who should be able to stay at shortstop, and he is showing he is a tough out as well who can hang with the prospect elite, as he did in the AFL. (JJ)
5. Luis Urias, SS/2B, Padres
Why He’s Here: .315/.443/.481 (17-for-54), 11 Rm 5 2B, 2 3B, 9 RBIs, 14 BB, 5 SO, 0-for-3 SB
The Scoop: There isn’t an obvious game plan against Urias if you’re an opposing pitcher. His plate coverage and bat control allow him to square up pitches in all areas of the strike zone. He recognizes and barrels all types of pitches, with tight strike-zone discipline that helps him get into advantageous counts and get on base. Urias isn’t a threat to knock the ball over the fence much, but he is one of the most gifted pure hitters in the minor leagues and showed it with another big offensive performance in the AFL. (BB)
6. Will Smith, C, Dodgers
Why He’s Here: .371/.452/.565 (23-for-62), 12 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 10 BB, 18 SO
The Scoop: No one doubted Smith’s ability to catch coming into the Fall League. His contact ability, however, was another story after he hit just .246 in 2016 and .232 in 2017, albeit with solid strike-zone discipline and sneaky pop. Smith responded to those questions about his hitting ability loudly in the Fall League, finishing third in the batting title race with a .371 average and fourth with a 1.017 OPS. He notched a hit in 15 of his 18 games played, including seven multi-hit efforts. (KG)
7. Francisco Mejia, C/3B, Indians
Why He’s Here: .365/.397/.476 (23-for-63), 12 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: The Indians didn’t need Mejia in the AFL to work on anything at the plate. He hits everywhere he goes, and the AFL was no exception. Mejia went to Arizona to get some reps in at third base, giving him extra flexibility to get his bat into the lineup even on days when he isn’t catching. Mejia’s ticketed to start 2018 in Triple-A, but his bat should be coming up to Cleveland by the middle of the year. (BB)
8. Austin Riley, 3B, Braves
Why He’s Here: .300/.364/.657 (21-for-70), 5 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 18 RBI, 4 BB, 21, SO, 1-for-2 SB.
The Scoop: Riley not only proved to be one of the best hitters in the AFL, but he got the chance to show another group of scouts that the old scouting reports on him are obsolete. His power was as prolific as any prospect in the AFL, both it terms of raw strength and his ability to get to it. Defensively Riley is in better shape and moves better than he did when he was drafted, and now he’s actually an asset at third base. (JJ)
9. Justus Sheffield, LHP, Yankees
Why He’s Here: 2-2, 3.10, 20.1 IP, 14 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 22 SO, 3 BB
The scoop: In a system stacked with righthanded pitching, Sheffield adds an elite lefthanded arm. Sheffield, making up for lost innings during the season, pitched with a fastball in the mid-90s that touched as high as 98 during the fall. He coupled it with a slider and a changeup that each project as plus when his development is finished. With Clint Frazier having exhausted his prospect eligibility, Sheffield might be the next prize from the Andrew Miller trade to produce in New York. (JN)
10. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates
Why He’s Here: 4-0, 1.52, 23.2 IP, 18 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 13 SO, 5 BB
The Scoop: Keller went to the Fall League to make up for lost time after he missed a month with a back strain and to improve his changeup in a challenging environment. He was successful on both fronts. His changeup began showing above-average by the end of his AFL assignment, a development that made his arsenal even filthier and allowed him to flourish against the minors’ best. His 1.52 ERA was lowest among starters in the Fall League, and his 1.01 WHIP was fourth-lowest. (KG)