The baseball season is over. Now, time for more baseball.
The Minor League schedule came to an end with the Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday in Memphis, but one day later, the national pastime is back on the schedule for many top prospects. Wednesday marks Opening Day in the Arizona Fall League, as some of the game's best young talents flock to the Southwest for what many call baseball's finishing school. It's a chance to measure their skills against other top Minor Leaguers, make up for time lost due to injuries (or other factors) or show off in front of potential trade partners or Rule 5 Draft pickers. The schedule has been moved up from years past so that players no longer have to shut down from the regular season only to build themselves back up in October.
Without further adieu, this week's Toolshed previews the early-coming AFL season by looking at the strengths, weaknesses and prospects to follow for each of the six Fall League teams.
Glendale Desert Dogs
Organizations: Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Reds, White Sox
Top-100 prospects: Jonathan India (Greeneville 2018)
Strength: Third base -- India being the only Top-100 name here automatically makes the hot corner one of the Desert Dogs' most attention-worthy spots on the diamond. MLB.com's No. 94 overall prospect heads to Arizona after hitting .259/.365/.402 with 11 homers and 11 stolen bases in 121 games split between Double-A and Class A Advanced, which offers him a chance to build on that first full season in the Reds pipeline. Though he is considered defensively above-average at third, India has also seen time at second base and shortstop in his brief pro career, and this Fall League excursion could be used to develop that versatility -- something that helped fellow former third baseman Nick Senzel reach Cincinnati more quickly.
Organizations: Astros, Mariners, Padres, Pirates, Red Sox
Top-100 prospects: Jarred Kelenic (Kingsport 2018) and Forrest Whitley (Greeneville Astros 2016)
Strength: Mariners outfielders -- No use in dancing around it. Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez were two of the most exciting outfielders in all of the Minors in 2019 and now they'll be paired together on a roster for the first time since April 12 with Class A West Virginia.
Weakness: Command -- The list of intriguing pitchers suiting up for Peoria is not short. Whitley is back as the top pitching prospect in the entire AFL. The Pirates assigned hard-throwing righty Blake Cederlind to the Javelinas. There's a lot to like.But what does that duo have in common? Command and control struggles. Whitley famously was both hittable and unable to find the strike zone with regularity in what at times looked like a lost 2019.Cederlind is coming off a breakout season that saw him climb three levels, but he was inconsistent in finding the zone (as is often expected from a hard-throwing young reliever). The stuff is certainly there from this group, though, and this is a mere nitpick of a talented roster.
Organizations: D-backs, Marlins, Rays, Rockies, Twins
Top-100 prospects: Shane Baz (Bristol 2018; Princeton 2018)
Weakness: Power questions --Rays catcher Ronaldo Hernandez (Princeton 2017) has power potential but saw his stock slide after posting a .397 slugging percentage in the Florida State League.
Prospect to follow: Josh Lowe (Princeton 2016) -- This was covered mostly in another recent Toolshed, but the Rays' 2016 first-rounder is coming off a season in which he set career highs with 18 homers, a .442 slugging percentage and a .783 OPS. After offensive issues slowed him down, Lowe's power has truly come on in his age-21 season -- something the left-handed slugger always figured would happen as he matured physically and his approach improved with experience. Tampa Bay's No. 12 prospect was always going to have assets in his speed (30 steals), glove and arm; now that he's rounding out the prospect package, he could be primed for an extended coming-out party this autumn.
Organizations: Nationals, Orioles, Rangers, Royals, Yankees
Top-100 prospects: Daniel Lynch (Burlington 2018)
Strength: Kansas City contingent -- The Royals are coming off an incredible Minor League postseason in which four affiliates (Wilmington, Lexington, Idaho Falls, DSL Royals1) won their respective league titles. If that developed any excitement throughout the system, it will carry to the Fall League, with three ranked former Appalachian League prospects heading to Arizona -- No. 3 Lynch, No. 29 Gabriel Cancel (Burlington 2016) and No. 30 Daniel Tillo (Burlington 2017). Lynch looks like the biggest piece of the franchise's future after the 22-year-old lefty showed off a deep arsenal and good control when healthy with Wilmington. (He was limited by arm injuries to 96 1/3 innings.) Cancel will hopefully build off his career-best 18 homers at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Tillo is an extreme groundball pitcher, but that should help him in what's usually considered a hitters' league. Royals fans should be following this year's AFL keenly.
Click Here for full list of Appalachian league alums in the Arizona Fall League.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.