Since I cannot be in Arizona this Fall to see all of these prospects play in person, I wanted to take a look at which players have been leading the way for the AFL teams. Any minor league follower or dynasty leaguer who keeps tabs on prospects likely wants to know who’s been performing well. If any of these players are available in your deep dynasty leagues and you have an upcoming Minors draft, add them to your Watch List!
Andrew Knizner, C – STL
In his first 7 games Knizner was slashing .393/.433/.643 (OBP 1.076) with 2 HR and 7 RBI. He’s currently #27 on MLB Pipeline’s Cardinals Top 30 and will certainly be ranked somewhere in our Prospects1500 Cards Top 50 in January.
Nicky Lopez, SS – KC
Lopez was leading Surprise with 13 hits in his first 8 games, including 4 doubles and a stolen base. With a .406 AVG and .972 OPS his bat has enjoyed Arizona so far. Lopez is #11 on MLB Pipeline’s Royals Top 30 and #9 on K.C. Shankland’s midseason Royals Top 30.
Zach Lovvorn, RHP – KC
Not ranked in our Royals top propsects or in MLB Pipeline’s Royals Top 30, 23-year-old Lovvorn looks great in his first 2 AFL games this fall. Through 8 IP he’s given up only 7 hits with no walks and 7 K, picking up 1 W. His 2017 was spent at Double-A Northwest Arkansas where he struggled to a 4-9 record, 4.83 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.
Ryan Eades, RHP – MIN
The Twins’ 2nd round pick in 2013, Eades spent most of 2017 with Double-A Chattanooga but got into a couple games for Triple-A Rochester and picked up 2 wins in 8 IP, giving up only 1 ER. So far in Arizona he’s pitching out of the bullpen, having tossed in 4 games. Through 4.1 IP he hasn’t given up any ER, has 1 BB, 2 K, a Win and a Hold.
Glendale Desert Dogs:
There are a lot of big prospect names and solid performances so far on this Glendale squad.
Francisco Mejia, C – CLE
Mejia, the Indians top offensive prospect, has picked up in the AFL right where he left off in the 2017 season, which saw him play at 3 levels – Double-A Akron, Triple-A Columbus and in the majors with Cleveland. Through the Desert Dogs first 8 games Mejia leads the team with 15 total bases, slashing .387/.406/.484. His natural position is Catcher but he’s been playing 3B in Arizona with Will Smith getting most of the catching duties.
Will Smith, C – LAD
Smith was LA’s 1st round pick in 2016. He’s on fire to start this Fall hitting .400 (10-25 in his first 7 games) with a 1.024 OPS.
Seby Zavala, C – CWS
Zavala hasn’t had as many at bats as Smith but he’s taking advantage of the playing time he does get. He’s hitting .500 (7-14) with 2 doubles, 2 runs and 3 RBI, with an OPS of 1.198 in 5 games. Zavala was one of our 2017 Catcher Prospects of the Year nominees.
Other names to keep an eye on in prospect circles who are also playing well to start the AFL season are Kevin Kramer (PIT), Bobby Bradley (CLE) and Yusniel Diaz (LAD).
Mitch Keller, RHP – PIT
Keller, Pittsburgh’s 2nd round pick in 2014, is arguably the Pirates #1 pitching prospect. After 3 starts so far he holds a 2.53 ERA with 1 W. Only 3 ER in 10.1 IP with 4 BB, 8 K and 1.03 WHIP. As of press time on this article Tuesday night October 24th he tossed 4 more innings, giving up 2 hits and 2 ER.
Mesa Solar Sox:
David Bote, 2B – CHC
Bote is en fuego to start this Fall’s action in Arizona and it’s very likely you’ve seen Twitter updates on his Fall prowess so far. The Chicago Cubs’ 18th round pick in 2012 Bote leads the AFL world with 27 total bases in 9 games. He’s logged 14 hits through his first 9 games, with 4 HR, 8 RBI and 1 SB. The slash line so far reads .438/.514/.844/1.357. Our Prospects1500 Cubs rep Dan Hogan had Bote ranked #50 on last January’s Cubs Top 50 list. Most likely we’ll be seeing him move up in those rankings this year.
Sheldon Neuse, 3B – OAK
Neuse is leading the Solar Sox with 10 RBI in his first 9 games. Washington’s 2nd round pick in 2016, Neuse was traded to Oakland in the Ryan Madson/Sean Doolittle trade this season. MLB Pipeline ranks Neuse 14th in the A’s organization while Robert Hill had him at #16 in Prospects1500’s A’s Top 50 Prospects from September 1st.
Daniel Johnson (WAS) and Kyle Tucker (HOU) are a couple other big time prospects playing for the Solar Sox this Fall.
Adbert Alzolay, RHP – CHC
The Cubs’ 22-year-old righthander is one of the Chicago’s top pitching prospects. Coming out of the bullpen this Fall he’s pitched in 4 games so far, going 8 IP giving up only 1 ER with 8 K. A 1.13 ERA and 0.50 WHIP are dominating numbers and I’m excited to see how the rest of the Fall goes for Adbert and am very high on him for 2018.
Jimmy Cordero, RHP – WAS
Philadelphia traded Cordero to Washington last November for a player to be named later. Seems like not much of a return for the now 26-year-old former Phillies top prospect. So far so good in Arizona for Cordero as he’s pitched in 4 games so far, going 5 innings, giving up only 3 hits, striking out 3 and hasn’t given up a run.
Zac Houston, RHP – DET
Prospects1500’s Relief Pitcher Prospect of the Year in 2017, Houston is a force in the Solar Sox bullpen just as he was in A ball this past season in Detroit’s MiLB system. He hasn’t given up a run through 3 appearances this Fall, striking out 6 in 4 innings. I look for Houston to make the Double-A Erie Seawolves roster in 2018.
Alex Jackson, C – ATL
Similar to Bote, Jackson has been one of the hottest hitters to date in the 2017 AFL. Jackson, who was Seattle’s 1st round pick in 2014 and traded to Atlanta last November, has 26 total bases in 8 games. He’s swatted 4 HR to go along with 9 RBI, 12 runs scored and a line of .364/.417/.788/1.205. Currently Prospect1500’s Drew Bonner’s 10th ranked Braves prospect and 16th on MLB Pipeline.
Eric Filia, 3B – SEA
He’s been as hot as Jackson, just without the power. Unranked by Prospects1500 and MLB Pipeline in the Mariners organization, Filia leads the Javelinas with 14 hits (in 30 AB) with 5 runs scored and 6 RBI so far. His other numbers are eye popping with .467 BA, .514 OBP, .700 SLG and 1.214 OPS. The 25-year-old was a 20th round pick by Seattle in 2016 and spent the entire 2017 season, a very solid season, with A-Advanced Modesto Nuts.
Jackson and Filia have outshined a who’s who of other top prospects on the Peoria squad. Ronald Acuna, Prospect1500’s overall #2 prospect and in some cases baseball’s #1 prospect, is hitting .281 with 1 HR and a SB. Other notable names include #1 Mariners prospect Kyle Lewis, Michael Chavis (BOS), Lourdes Gurriel (TOR), and Luis Urias (SD).
Max Fried, RHP – ATL
Dominant so far this Fall, Fried is 2-0 after 3 games started. He’s only given up 1 ER in 13 IP with 4 BB and 18 K. Fried is a former 1st round pick (San Diego, 2012) and a solid AFL performance could catapult him into Atlanta’s 2018 rotation plans. His 2017 saw him in 19 games in Double-A, 2 in Triple-A and 9 games (26 IP) in Atlanta.
T.J. Zeuch, RHP – TOR
Toronto’s 1st round pick in 2016, Zeuch has looked very good after 2 starts for Peoria. 1 win in 8 IP, having only given up 3 hits with 8 K (0.00 ERA and 0.38 WHIP). Greg Bracken ranked Zeuch #9 on his Prospects1500 midseason Blue Jays Top 50 Prospects, while MLB Pipeline has him at #5.
Salt River Rafters:
Ryan Mountcastle, SS – BAL
Mountcastle was our Prospects1500 Orioles #4 prospect heading into 2017 and he’s currently #3 on MLB Pipeline’s O’s list. He leads the Rafters with 20 TB but also leads the team with 12 strikeouts. His 2 HR and 8 RBI also lead the squad, tied with Milwaukee’s Monte Harrison.
Lucas Erceg, 3B – MIL
Erceg is hitting .350, slugging .650, and has a 1.031 OPS through 6 games and his first 20 at bats, including 3 doubles. Prospect1500’s Steve Hammerling ranks Erceg #14 on his 2017 midseason Brewers Top 50 Prospects list. He was Milwaukee’s 2nd round pick in 2016 and spent most of 2017 with High-A Carolina and got into 3 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Zach Jemiola, RHP – COL
Jemiola, a 23-year-old 9th round pick by Colorado in 2012, is showing promise against tough AFL competition. In 2 starts he’s 2-0 with 9 K in 8 IP, with 0.00 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. He wasn’t ranked by Robert Hill in Prospects1500’s Rockies Top 50 prior to the 2017 season (just missed the cut) and hasn’t cracked MLB’s Rockies Top 30 yet. Jemiola spent most of 2017 with Triple-A Albuquerque and most likely will be back there in 2018.
David Thompson, 3B – NYM
Thompson was with Double-A Binghamton all season. He leads Scottsdale with 18 total bases in only 6 games. His slash line is a nice .391/.440/.783/1.223 which includes 1 HR, 3 RBI, 6 R and 1 SB. The Mets’ 4th round pick in 2015 is currently ranked #24 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Mets prospects. Prospects1500’s Michael Hivry had him #29 on his Mets Top 50 going into 2017.
Billy McKinney, OF – NYY
McKinney leads the AFL with 11 RBI. He’s hitting .292 (7-24) with 1 HR. The former 1st round pick (2013, Oakland), spent a few season in the Cubs organization (went to the Cubs with Addison Russell in the Samardzija trade) and then was moved to the Yankees last July in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Ryan Ortiz had him ranked #10 on his midseason Yankees Top 50 Prospects list and it will be interesting to see if he rises or falls on the upcoming 2018 Yankees Top 50.
Other big offensive prospect names we’ll keep an eye on from Scottsdale are: Estevan Florial (NYY), Kyle Holder (NYY – hitting .450 in his first 5 games), Matt Thaiss (LAA), Taylor Ward (LAA), Thairo Estrada (NYY), Tomas Nido (NYM), and Chris Shaw (SF).
Albert Abreu, RHP – NYY
Abreu made it up to A-Advanced Tampa Yankees in 2017, getting into 14 games, throwing 53.1 innings with a 3.38 ERA. So far in Arizona this Fall he’s been very good in 3 games started. Through 15 IP he’s given up 9 hits, only 2 ER, 3 BB and 15 K. That’s a 1.20 ERA and 0.80 WHIP, dominant numbers for the 22-year-old Dominican.
Justus Sheffield, LHP – NYY
Abreu’s Yankee teammate Sheffield has similarly dominated at times through his 3 starts. The lefty has thrown 14 IP and only walked 2 while striking out 15. The ERA (3.21) is higher because of 5 earned runs but still solid, but the WHIP is right there with Abreu’s at 0.86.
Article featured image of David Bote – courtesy of MLB Pipeline on Twitter