Ranking the 2013 Arizona Fall League's Top 10 Prospects

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterOctober 15, 2013

Ranking the 2013 Arizona Fall League's Top 10 Prospects

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    Top prospect Byron Buxton is off to a hot start in his first Arizona Fall League.
    Top prospect Byron Buxton is off to a hot start in his first Arizona Fall League.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    While the nation’s attention has understandably been on the League Championship Series, the Arizona Fall League is underway and once again features many of baseball’s top prospects.

    The AFL season began October 8 and will run through November 16, with the league’s annual Rising Stars Game being played on November 2.

    As usual, teams with deep prospect pools are well represented in the AFL. This year, the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins boast the most impressive collections of talent on the field.

    Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora, each of whom are ranked among the top 30 prospects in baseball, will offer a glance of the Cubs' future this fall while playing for the Mesa Solar Sox. Meanwhile, the Twins will be represented by Byron Buxton, the consensus No. 1 overall prospect, as well as highly regarded prospects Alex Meyer, Eddie Rosario, Trevor May and Max Kepler.

    Based on our end-of-season ranking of baseball’s top 100 prospects, here’s a look at the top 10 prospects participating in this year’s Arizona Fall League.

10. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins

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    Andrew Heaney was slowed by an oblique injury to begin last season and didn’t take the mound for the first time until May 20. However, once he got going, the 22-year-old was quick to make up for the lost time.

    At 6’2”, Heaney’s frame is both wiry and athletic with room to add strength. As for his stuff, the left-hander features a plus fastball that works in the low- to mid-90s with late life. His go-to secondary pitch is a nasty slider that should induce whiffs at the highest level. Heaney made significant progress developing his changeup this past season, and it should be at least a solid-average offering at maturity.

    When all is said and done, he should emerge as a solid No. 3 starter, possibly even a No. 2 if everything comes together perfectly.

    At this point, the only thing really holding Heaney back from the major leagues is lack of experience. That being said, he’s an excellent candidate to parlay a strong showing in the AFL and a hot start back at Double-A Jacksonville next season into an ahead-of-schedule call-up by the Marlins.

    MLB ETA: 2014

    Ceiling: No. 2/No. 3 starter

9. Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants

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    Kyle Crick has the potential to be a monster.

    At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Crick utilizes his strong core and lower half to generate big-time fastball velocity in the 93-96 mph range, and as high as 98. His changeup is a second plus pitch, thrown with excellent arm speed and velocity separation, as well as considerable fade to the arm side. The 20-year-old’s curveball can be a sledge and flash plus potential with impressive pace and shape, and he’ll also mix in a slider with decent bite.

    Crick demonstrated improved control and command this past season, but still endured bouts of inconsistency in which he struggled to repeat his mechanics. Specifically, Crick doesn’t always maintain ideal posture on the mound, which can cause his arm to drag and stuff to linger up in the zone. So, while the arsenal is electric, he still has a few significant hurdles to clear in terms of his overall development.

    MLB ETA: 2015

    Ceiling: No. 2 starter

8. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    At 6’4”, 215 pounds, Corey Seager is very athletic with more strength than his frame suggests, and he’s only going to add more as he fill outs. At the plate, the left-hander hitter exhibits the type of good habits that are uncommon for a 19-year-old, employing a simple, direct swing that enables him to drive the ball to all fields with average power.

    However, what I really enjoy about Seager is his consistent approach at the plate; he’s a selective hitter who rarely gets himself out or gives up an at-bat. Whether he remains at shortstop or eventually shifts over to third base, Seager has an impact that could help reach the major leagues ahead of schedule.

    MLB ETA: 2015

    Ceiling: First-division regular

7. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

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    Miguel Sano and Joey Gallo are the first names to come usually come up in a discussion about the best power hitter in the minor leagues. However, Kris Bryant should absolutely be in the mix. 

    Bryant had the best power in the 2013 draft class. At 6’5”, 215 pounds, Bryant possesses effortless 80-grade power that will undoubtedly translate at the highest level. He does an excellent job of using his height and size to his advantage, hitting down on the ball to create backspin carry to all fields. At maturity, he should be good for 30-plus home runs in a given season.

    Though he’s known for his light-tower power, Bryant is a much better hitter than given credit for, with a line-to-line approach and decent pitch recognition. The right-handed hitter has some swing-and-miss to his game, however, that should steadily improve as he gains professional experience. Bryant won’t contend for a batting title and likely will be pitched around regularly at the major league level, but has the approach and bat speed to be a consistent .270-plus hitter.

    If Bryant is eventually forced to move off third base, it won’t be because he can’t handle the position defensively. With average range and actions as well as a plus arm, Bryant’s overall defensive skill set is a clean fit at the hot corner.

    In his prime, Bryant should serve as a force in the middle of the Cubs lineup, as well as one of the top sluggers and run-producers in the game.

    MLB ETA: 2015

    Ceiling: Potential All-Star

6. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins

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    At 6’9”, Alex Meyer has a massive frame with long limbs, but demonstrates impressive body control as well as the ability to repeat his mechanics better than most pitchers his size. As expected given his height, the 23-year-old throws everything on a steep downhill plane.

    The right-hander’s fastball is difficult to barrel up, registering between 93-97 mph deep into starts and even flirting with triple digits in shorter stints.

    Meyer also features a legitimate plus slider with sharp, wipeout break and utilizes it against both right- and left-handed hitters. Specifically, against left-handed hitters, he demonstrates a feel for throwing it backdoor for a strike and burying it for a swing-and-miss on the hitter’s back foot. Meyer doesn’t throw his changeup that often because, well, he doesn’t need to with that fastball-slider combo.

    However, he does have one that shows signs of being at least average but will need refinement. Colleague Adam Wells was in attendance for Meyer’s AFL start on Monday night and had this say:

    “Alex Meyer done after 2. Struck out 3, no hits, no BB and a big FU with those sliders. Scouts behind me were saying ‘Scherzer’.”

    MLB ETA: 2013

    Ceiling: No. 2/No. 3 starter

5. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs

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    At 6’4”, 215 pounds, Soler is a physically strong right-handed hitter with a mature frame that requires little projection. With blinding bat speed and an explosive swing, the ball absolutely jumps off Soler’s bat. Meanwhile, his extension and lift after contact generates exceptional backspin carry and suggests the potential for multiple 20-plus home runs in his prime.

    Soler’s approach has been more polished than expected as a professional, as he demonstrated the ability to hit when behind in the count with solid pitch recognition. While his swing can be rushed and choppy at times and will need to be ironed out as he moves up the ladder, Soler is a natural hitter with plus bat speed and knack for making hard contact.

    Despite his muscular build, Soler is an above-average runner who moves well on both sides of the ball. He has the ideal profile of a big-league right fielder with average range and plus arm strength.

    Soler appeared in only 55 games this season before suffering a season-ending injury in late June, when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left tibia after fouling a pitch off his leg. He’ll be looking to make up for the lost time in the AFL.

    MLB ETA: 2015

    Ceiling: Potential All-Star

4. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs

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    Albert Almora is an excellent athlete with present strength in a 6’2”, 180-pound frame that still leaves room for projection. The 19-year-old has above-average bat speed that yields consistent hard contact to all fields, and employs a quiet and efficient swing with little wasted movement.

    Almora’s power will develop as he matures and should be above average by the time he reaches the major leagues. In general, the outfielder’s all-around offensive skill set is highly advanced for his age and suggests 20-20 potential in his prime.

    On the other side of the ball, Almora is a slightly above-average runner that demonstrates excellent instincts in center field through his reads, jumps and positioning. With arm strength best suited for center field, he profiles as an above-average defender thanks to his natural ability and an all-out style. It’s also worth noting that the 19-year-old has a high baseball IQ and mature on-field demeanor.

    Almora is a premium athlete who showcases a rare blend of tools, work ethic and advanced baseball skills—each of which should help him reach the major leagues ahead of schedule.

    MLB ETA: 2015

    Ceiling: First-division regular

3. Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres

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    Austin Hedges is the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues. Despite his age and lack of experience in the high minors, the kid could excel right now behind the dish in the major leagues. He’s seriously that good.

    The quickness and efficiency of his footwork is unparalleled among his peers, and his elite catch-and-throw skills, insanely quick transfer and plus arm strength allow him to essentially shut down the running game. Hedges’ pitch framing has continued to improve since turning pro, and he’s drawn endless praise from pitchers and coaches alike. It’s crazy to think that he’s only going to get better.

    However, it’s the 21-year-old’s bat that will ultimately determine whether he becomes the superstar people expect.

    A right-handed hitter, he has a short, compact swing geared toward line-drive contact across the entire field. In terms of his approach, Hedges is already adept to working counts in his favor and controls the strike zone better than most players his age. He doesn’t strike out that often, but his excellent bat-to-ball ability can hinder his selectivity at times and force weak contact.

    Power has never been Hedges’ calling card, and probably never will. That being said, he does have consistent gap pop capable of producing a sizeable doubles total annually.

    And considering his present strength and feel for the strike zone, there’s a chance that he’ll develop some over-the-fence pop as he matures. However, it’s doubtful that it will amount to anything more than average power. Hedges also shows above-average speed for the position on the basepaths; he’s a smart ballplayer who already demonstrates a knowledge of reading pitchers and picking his spots to steal.

    Hedges’ elite, game-changing chops behind the plate will make him one of the best defensive catchers in the major leagues upon his arrival. There’s simply nothing he can’t do back there. And if the bat continues to develop ahead of schedule, then Hedges has the potential to reach his enormous ceiling as one of the game’s premier catchers.

    MLB ETA: 2015

    Ceiling: Potential All-Star

2. Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics

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    Addison Russell is a dynamic right-handed hitter with explosive wrists and strong hands. He also demonstrates a knack for barreling the ball, showcasing advanced bat control that yields hard contact to all fields. And though the 19-year-old’s game features some swing-and-miss at the present, that can at least be partially attributed to his status as a teenager playing against advanced competition.

    Meanwhile, Russell’s combination of plus bat speed and present strength calls for above-average power at maturity, if not more, and his speed should always lead to a high number of doubles and triples.

    Russell has the athleticism and range for any position on the field, which is a strong indication that he’ll be able to remain at shortstop. He is an aggressive but agile defender with plus arm strength that even plays up due to his quick transfer and release.

    Although he looked raw at times this past season as a 19-year-old in High-A, Russell has the makings of an impact shortstop at the major league level with four above-average or better tools that will only improve with experience.

    MLB ETA: 2015

    Ceiling: Potential All-Star

1. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

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    Byron Buxton enters the Arizona Fall League as the big man on campus following an insanely good full-season debut across both Single-A levels. The 19-year-old showed evaluators a lot everything this past season, hitting for both average and power with an advanced approach while showing his usual elite speed and superb defense in center field.

    Buxton is a rarity in that he’s a teenager with a realistic ceiling of a plus-plus hitter at maturity. While his off-the-charts bat speed and direct bat path will give him a chance to hit at the highest level, it’s the mature approach and pitch recognition that gives him the chance to be one of the game’s top hitters.

    The bat has exceeded all expectations this season and will only continue to improve as he moves up the ladder.

    His power was regarded as his weakest tool when the Twins made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2012. However, his advanced approach and impressive bat have allowed it to develop ahead of schedule this season, as he’s showcased plus raw power to all fields that should ultimately translate to 20-plus home runs annually at maturity.

    Beyond that, Buxton should always be an extra-base machine and rank among the league leaders in total bases.

    Buxton’s speed is another plus-plus tool and a product of his insanely good athleticism. Despite his lack of experience, he’s already viewed as an elite baserunner capable of taking an extra base with relative ease. His speed also caters to his present ability and future potential as basestealer, and amazingly it even plays up thanks to his high baseball IQ.

    At maturity, Buxton should easily amass 30-plus steals annually.

    With all that’s already been said about Buxton’s speed and overall baseball savvy, his projection as an elite defender in center field shouldn’t come as a surprise. While he has the athleticism and wheels to get almost every ball, Buxton’s jumps and aggressive (but direct) routes are especially impressive for a player his age.

    With five potential plus tools to his name, it’s obvious why Buxton is regarded as baseball’s consensus No. 1 prospect. Beyond his eye-popping natural ability, the outfielder possesses secondary skills that are uncommon in a player his age.

    To put it simply: Buxton has the ceiling of one of the game’s best players, if not the best, in his prime.

    MLB ETA: Late 2014

    Ceiling: The best player in baseball.