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Toolshed: Arizona Fall League standouts

Yanks' Torres, Reds' Vincej turn in impressive offensive performances
November 18, 2016

The Arizona Fall League regular season came to a close Thursday, and it did so rather dramatically with five of the six teams still in contention on the final day. With all said and done, it'll be Mesa and Surprise in the Championship Game on Saturday.

But as most know, the AFL isn't really defined by team success. Though it's interesting how prospects from different organizations can come together for six weeks and potentially take a trophy home for their efforts, at the end of each autumn our focus is more drawn to individuals -- specifically the ones who solidified their standing among the game's best prospects or even did enough to raise their stock.

With that in mind, here are eight prospects -- four position players, four pitchers -- who stood out for their performances during the 2016 Arizona Fall League season:

Yankees SS Gleyber Torres, Scottsdale: New York's No. 2 prospect began his first offseason in the Yankees system in the Fall League as a 19-year-old who hasn't played above Class A Advanced. He's performed beyond his years over the past six weeks, finishing with a league-best .403 average, .513 on-base percentage and 1.158 OPS -- not to mention an impressive 8/14 K/BB ratio. After entering 2016 with five career homers, Torres broke out in the power department with 11 long balls over the summer and added three more in Arizona. The Dominican Republic native also split his time between his natural position of shortstop and second base -- a position he had only played once before in the Minors -- to increase his versatility entering the upper Minors in 2017. Long considered a good talent, this might be the official coming out party for's No. 17 overall prospect.

Reds SS Zach Vincej, Peoria: The 25-year-old was far more off the radar than Torres but could give him a run as Fall League MVP. A 37th-round pick out of Pepperdine in 2012, Vincej hit .281/.329/.378 with three homers in 121 games in his second season at Double-A Pensacola. Although he was a light hitter in the Southern League, he's proven to be the opposite (over a much smaller sample) in the AFL with a .352/.425/.676 line over 20 games. His four homers this autumn beat out his trio from the summer -- in 101 fewer contests. Vincej was even in contention for the batting and OPS title before an 0-for-5 final game Thursday left him atop only the slugging percentage, total bases (48) and extra-base hit (13) charts. This surge isn't enough to make the shortstop a major prospect in the Cincinnati system, but it does make him more intriguing and could help him force his way into Rule 5 Draft protection.

Indians OF Greg Allen, Mesa: The Indians' No. 19 prospect has shown major speed at every stop he's made in the Minor Leagues with at least 30 stolen bases in each of his first three seasons. That was no different in the AFL. Allen tied with Scottsdale outfielder Champ Stuart for the league lead with 12, and though he hit just .269 in 22 games for the Solar Sox, he was able to produce a .380 on-base percentage. That came after a 2016 campaign in which he put up a .416 OBP between Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Double-A Akron. With those base-stealing and on-base abilities, the 23-year-old center fielder is turning into the prototypical top-of-the-order offensive player every team craves.

Dodgers 1B/CF Cody Bellinger, Glendale: It's rare that a prospect -- never mind one that's only 21 -- can play both first base and center field well and can hit enough to provide value at either spot. Bellinger is proving to be just that type of player. The Dodgers' top prospect followed an impressive 2016 season -- .271/.365/.507 with 26 homers between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City -- with an equally good Fall League campaign in which he produced a .314/.424/.557 line with three homers, eight doubles and 17 RBIs in 20 games. A time will come when the Dodgers will have to decide his best position -- the fact that Adrian Gonzalez is signed through 2018 might force their hand -- but for now, Bellinger is proving he has multiple tracks to the Majors and should be knocking down the door at some point next season.

D-backs LHP Jared Miller, Salt River: Only two qualified pitchers did not give up an earned run this fall: Surprise right-hander Edgar Santana and Miller. Of those two, the latter tossed 4 2/3 more innings (18 1/3 vs. 13 2/3). But Miller didn't just impress with the zeros. He also posted the lowest FIP (1.18), WHIP (0.55) and average-against (.103) while leading in strikeout percentage (48.4 percent) and finishing second in total strikeouts (30) and K/9 (14.7). As reported in last week's Toolshed, the 23-year-old left-hander made the transition to the bullpen this season and climbed four levels as a result. With a devastating fastball-cutter-breaking ball mix, he was also the AFL's most dominant hurler.

A's RHP Frankie Montas, Mesa: The 23-year-old was dealt from the Dodgers to the A's -- his fourth organization in seven Minor League seasons -- at the deadline in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick deal but couldn't officially debut for Oakland until the AFL due to oblique/rib injuries. Montas pitched exclusively in relief and thrived, putting up a 0.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP while holding batters to a .130 average over 17 innings. If there are worries, they are that the club's 10th-ranked prospect didn't strike out many batters with nine punchouts in those 17 frames and that he nearly walked as many as he struck out with eight free passes. After a season in which he threw only 16 innings, any on-the-mound news from Montas this fall was going to be good news, so the positive results are gravy. He'll have another chance next spring to show that he and his mid- to high-90's heater can stick in a starting rotation once fully healthy.

Cardinals LHP Austin Gomber, Glendale: As if the Cardinals haven't done a good enough job at churning out pitching prospects, their highest-ranked hurler proved himself quite well in the Fall League. St. Louis' No. 19 prospect led the circuit in strikeouts (33) and innings pitched (33 2/3) while posting a solid 2.14 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP over seven starts. With three average pitches and above-average control, Gomber has the basic skill set of a back-end starter, and this doesn't necessarily change that. But it does make it look like a much more real possibility. The 22-year-old is likely headed to Double-A Springfield to start 2017 after sporting a 2.69 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 33 walks over 127 innings between Springfield and Class A Advanced Palm Beach this summer.

Red Sox RHP Michael Kopech, Surprise: No one had quite the roller-coaster ride of a season than Kopech did. Boston's fifth-ranked prospect started out on the disabled list with a broken hand suffered in an altercation with a teammate. He returned in the middle of June with Class A Short Season Lowell and was meant to move up to Class A Advanced Salem before another DL stint pushed that back to July 7. Once on the mound, the 20-year-old was dominant, if not entirely accurate, with a 2.25 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 29 walks in 52 innings in the Carolina League. The 2015 first-rounder, who has been clocked above 100 mph on multiple occasions, finished with a 2.01 ERA, 26 strikeouts and eight walks in 22 1/3 innings this fall. There's still work to be done, as his six-walk performance Nov. 11 showed, but the fact that he could make up for lost innings and handle the jump in competition without a drop in results should have Boston encouraged for his pending jump to Double-A Portland come spring.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.