Christopher Crawford

Prospect Roundup

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Top 2018 AFL Prospects

Monday, October 9, 2017


Every year, the Arizona Fall League is required viewing for those who follow the top prospects in baseball.  It’s a chance to see some of the very best future big-leaguers in baseball face off against each other before shutting down for the winter. If you have a chance to attend a game in Arizona, you can guarantee you’ll be sitting near a scout or front-office member at some point.

This year is no exception. Here’s a look at the top hitting and pitching prospects to follow in this year’s Arizona Fall League, starting October 11.

 

 

Hitters:

Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves -- Acuna isn’t just the top prospect on the Peoria Javelina roster, nor simply the top prospect in the AFL. He just might be the top overall prospect in baseball. There’s no talent here that doesn’t project to be at least average, and several of them -- hit, speed, glove -- project to be plus or plus-plus. A strong showing in Arizona against top competition would go a long way in establishing himself as a legit candidate for the 2018 season.

Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros -- Tucker was exceptional for the Astros’ system this year, and saw his stock rise significantly in the process. His swing invokes comparisons to hitters like Darryl Strawberry; as does his ability to hit for average and power from the left side. Despite being only a slightly above-average runner, he’s also able to make a difference on the bases thanks to his ability to read pitchers. He has a real chance to be a part of the already crowded Houston outfield next summer.

Luis Urias, SS, San Diego Padres -- Urias burst onto the prospect scene last year when he hit .330 as a teenager in the Cal League, and he followed that up with a strong season in Double-A in 2017. He has excellent feel for the barrel, and he makes hard contact to all parts of the field with his smooth, line-drive stroke. It wouldn’t be a big surprise if Urias was hitting at or near the top of the San Diego lineup before the end of next season.

Estevan Florial, OF, New York Yankees -- You may recall reports that the Yankees were hesitant to include Florial in any trade talks, including the deal for Sonny Gray at the deadline. Watch him play and you’ll understand why. The only glaring weakness is that the left-handed hitting outfielder strikes out too much (157 last year), but he compensates by drawing his fair share of walks. He’s an outstanding athlete who should steal 30-plus bases if he plays every day, and there’s power coming. Florial’s upside competes with any outfielder here outside of Ronald Acuna (and Victor Robles, if the Nationals decide to send him after the playoffs).

 

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Pitchers:

Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates -- Like Urias, Keller’s stock shot up after excelling in 2016, and like Urias, he showed that it was no fluke this summer. His fastball touches the mid-90s, and it plays up because of his sink. Add in a plus curveball and a useable change, and you have the stuff of a pitcher that can pitch near the top of a rotation someday, especially since he can throw those pitches for strikes.

Justus Sheffield, LHP, New York Yankees -- New York acquired Sheffield from Cleveland in the deal that sent Andrew Miller to the Indians. The brother of Dodgers’ prospect Jordan Sheffield doesn’t have elite stuff, but few southpaw prospects do a better job of making the most of their arsenal. And it‘s not like the left-hander doesn’t have quality pitches. He’ll get up to 96 mph, and both his slider and change have a chance to be above-average pitches, as well. He’ll need to refine the command, but if he can, he’s a potential third starter.

Tyler Jay, LHP, Minnesota Twins -- It was a bit of a lost season for Jay, as tendinitis in his biceps as well as a shoulder impingement kept him off the field for the majority of the season. He was able to return in September, however, and there’s no questioning his talent. He can miss bats with his fastball and slider, and if you try and sit on those pitches, his curveball and change are both solid options as well. The question is whether or not he’ll pitch as a starter or reliever, but either way, he’s missing bats.

T.J. Zeuch, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays -- If you like tall (6’7”) right handers who can get downhill with their fastball, you’ll love Zeuch. His 92-95 mph fastball plays up because he generate so much extension and it gets on hitters very quickly. He has two solid breaking-balls -- with his curveball flashing plus and the slider more an average pitch -- and the change gives him a competent fourth pitch as well. Like most young hurlers, the control and command need work, but there’s no reason to think Zeuch can’t throw enough strikes to start at the next level.



Christopher Crawford is a prospect writer for Rotoworld. He's scouted and covered prospects since 2009 and resides in Coronado, Calif. Follow him on Twitter @Crawford_MILB.
Email :Christopher Crawford



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