If you love prospects, then it doesn’t get any better than the Arizona Fall League.
With six teams comprised of baseball’s top prospects from all 30 organizations, the AFL provides an opportunity to witness the future of the game on one field.
This year’s crop of talent is especially deep, including 21 players that ranked among our end-of-season top 100 prospects.
After looking at the hottest and coldest hitters at every minor league level during the regular season, we’ve decided to continue the series into the fall so as to offer insight into the happenings of the AFL.
While colleague Adam Wells is back in the Midwest and currently going through withdrawal after nearly two weeks in Arizona, my fun is only just beginning. On Wednesday, I’ll be heading west for my own week of AFL action. So, be sure to check back regularly for fresh scouting notes and video.
Here’s the third installment of the hottest and coldest hitters in this year's Arizona Fall League.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
AFL Stats: .422/.471/.933, 14 R, 12 XBH (5 HR), 16 RBI, 14/5 K/BB (11 G)
To say that Kris Bryant has been hot in the early going of the Arizona Fall League is a massive understatement.
Making stops at three levels after signing with the Cubs, Bryant, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 draft, was one of the top hitters in the minor leagues over the final month of the season at High-A Daytona, batting .333/.387/.719 with five home runs and 14 RBI in 16 games.
This fall, the 21-year-old third baseman has been a one-man wrecking crew with five home runs (12 extra-base hits) and 16 RBI through his first 11 games. Suffice it to say that he’s making an early run at the league’s MVP award.
Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
AFL Stats: .300/.327/.440, 8 R, 5 XBH (HR), 9 RBI, 12/2 K/BB (11 G)
Assigned to High-A Daytona for his first full professional campaign, Soler posted an .810 OPS with 22 extra-base hits (eight home runs) and a 38/21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55 games before suffering a season-ending leg injury (stress fracture to tibia) when he fouled a ball off his left shin in late June.
As expected, Soler was rusty to begin the AFL—which for him apparently means a hit in each of the first seven games. Since then, the 21-year-old has found his groove at the dish and is now 7-for-15 with a home run and four RBI over his last four contests.
Chris Taylor, SS-2B, Seattle Mariners
AFL Stats: .394/.474/.545, 4 XBH (3 2B), 3 SB, 7/5 K/BB (9 G)
I considered Taylor to be one of the more well-rounded, high-floor shortstop prospects in the 2012 draft class, and thought the Mariners landed a potential steal when they nabbed him in the fifth round. So far, he hasn’t let me down.
In his first full professional season this year, the 23-year-old batted .314/.409/.455 with 108 runs scored, 47 extra-base hits, 38 stolen bases and a 117/84 strikeout-to-walk rate in 134 games between High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson. However, it’s worth noting that his OPS dropped by nearly .180 points at the more advanced level.
In the AFL, Taylor has reached base safely in all nine games and collected multiple hits on six occasions.
Jason Rogers, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
AFL Stats: .367/.500/.633, 6 R, 4 XBH (2 HR), 6 RBI, 2 SB, 8/7 K/BB (10 G)
Selected by the Brewers in the 32nd round of the 2010 draft out of Columbus State University, Rogers is one of the better under-the-radar prospects in this year’s AFL class. In his first taste of Double-A this past season, the 25-year-old outfielder batted .270/.346/.468 with 49 extra-base hits—including a career-high 22 home runs—87 RBI and a 86/59 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 133 games.
Rogers is making a strong case to be added to the Brewers’ 40-man roster this offseason with his performance this fall. He’s been especially hot over his last four games, going 7-for-16 with five runs scored and two home runs.
Andrew Susac, C, San Francisco Giants
AFL Stats: .379/.525/.483, HR, 4 RBI, 6/10 K/BB (10 G)
Susac was limited to only 84 games this past season due to a shoulder impingement, so he's looking to make up for the lost time in the AFL. Spending the entire year at Double-A Richmond, the 23-year-old batted .256/.362/.458 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and a 68/42 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While he showed consistent power and a solid approach at the plate, there's still concern as to whether his shaky defense and contact rates will ever allow him to be a major league regular.
Susac is doing his best this fall to eliminate the doubt surrounding his bat, posting a 1.008 OPS through his first 10 games with more walks (10) than strikeouts (6).
Jared Mitchell, OF, Chicago White Sox
AFL Stats: .286/.475/.500, 8 R, 2 HR, 3 SB, 4/10 K/BB (10 G)
Selected in the first round of the 2009 draft out of LSU, Mitchell flashed his huge upside later that summer during his professional debut when he posted an .852 OPS with 14 extra-base hits in 34 games for Low-A Kannapolis. Sadly, the toolsy outfielder suffered a season-ending ankle injury the following year during spring training. Since then, the once-promising prospect’s career has steadily deteriorated.
Things hit an all-time low for Mitchell this past season, as the 25-year-old spent his second consecutive year between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Appearing in 90 games between the two affiliates, Mitchell posted a dismal .167/.293/.257 batting line with 15 extra-base hits and 123 strikeouts in 356 plate appearances.
Granted he’s currently facing AFL pitching that’s inferior to what he saw during the regular season, but it’s nice to see Mitchell enjoying success for a change. Over his last five contests, the left-handed hitter is 5-for-14 with a home run and five walks.
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
AFL Stats: .146/.239/.220, 3 2B, 4 RBI, 15/5 K/BB (11 G)
After raking in the Pioneer League last summer during his professional debut, Seager was moved up to Low-A Great Lakes for the 2013 season and batted .309/.389/.529 with 33 extra-base hits (12 home runs) and a 58/34 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 74 games.
Given his overwhelming success in the Midwest League, the Dodgers promoted the 19-year-old shortstop to High-A Rancho Cucamonga for the final month of the season. Somewhat surprisingly given the hitter-friendly environments of the California League, Seager struggled at the more advanced level, batting .160/.246/.320 with 31 strikeouts in 27 games.
Things haven’t improved for the sweet-swinging left-handed hitter this fall, as he’s batting only .146 with 15 strikeouts through his first 11 games. Regardless of how he ultimately fares in the AFL, I love Seager and believe he’s one of the better infield prospects in the game.
Nolan Fontana, SS, Houston Astros
AFL Stats: .121/.275/.182, 2 2B, 8/6 K/BB (11 G)
Though Fontana’s bat hasn’t developed as hoped since entering the Astros system last summer, the 22-year-old’s approach ranks among the best in the minor leagues. In his first full professional season this year, Fontana batted only .259 with 32 extra-base hits and 100 strikeouts in 104 games. However, he exhibited outstanding secondary skills with a .415 on-base percentage and 102 walks, as well as 88 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.
Participating in his first AFL, Fontana has struggled to the tune of a .121/.275/.182 batting line through his first 11 games. And though he’s currently mired in a 2-for-20 slump, the left-handed hitter has shown a consistent approach (as usual) with six walks.
Ryan Rua, 3B-2B, Texas Rangers
AFL Stats: .114/.262/.200, HR, 4 RBI, 14/6 K/BB (10 G)
A 17th-round draft pick in 2011, Rua seemingly came out of nowhere this season to post an .872 OPS with 32 home runs, 91 RBI in 127 games between Low-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco. However, he also struck out 115 times during that span
After feasting on younger pitching in the South Atlantic League, the 23-year-old’s plate discipline and approach was challenged following a late-season promotion to Frisco. Rua’s struggles have now carried over into the AFL, where he’s recorded only four hits in 35 at-bats and struck out 14 times in 10 games. On a positive note, however, he did pick up his first home run of the fall on Monday night.
Colin Moran, 3B, Miami Marlins
AFL Stats: .167/.310/.208, 2 2B, 7 RBI, 7/10 K/BB (13 G)
Moran, the sixth overall selection in the 2013 draft, had an impressive professional debut after signing with the Marlins, posting a .796 OPS with 13 extra-base hits in 42 games at Low-A Greensboro. Though the 21-year-old has struggled to find his rhythm at the plate this fall with only eight hits in his first 48 at-bats, he’s continued to showcase the advanced plate discipline that made him a top-10 pick this past June.
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