Major League Baseball’s most elite prospects are currently stronger, faster, better than at any point in the game’s history. For proof, one need look no further than the Arizona Fall League, which concluded action yesterday, with Peoria capturing the championship for the second consecutive year. Over the span of the six-week league, a number of notable prospects showcased their potential, providing the baseball world with ample opportunity to do its favorite thing: speculate.
First, it’s crucial to begin with the league’s MVP, Milwaukee’s number one prospect, second baseman Keston Hiura. It’s no surprise that Hiura performed well in this tournament, as he has hit well at both single-A and double-A, and has returned to playing second base after an elbow injury forced him into a DH role. If he follows in the footsteps of recent MVP winners such as Ronald Acuña, Gleyber Torres, and Kris Bryant, Hiura could have a dramatic impact on Milwaukee’s major league roster as soon as this coming season.
Also outstanding in the league were Colorado first baseman Tyler Nevin and Atlanta first baseman Braxton Davidson. Drafted out of high school in 2015, the 21-year-old Nevin has struggled with injuries these past two seasons, but has still managed to impress with his bat and isn’t too shabby with the glove, either. In this tournament, he placed second in MVP voting after winning the league batting title with a .426 average, suggesting he may not remain Colorado’s 11th ranked prospect for very long. Meanwhile, after a disappointing 2018 season, Davidson managed to end on a high note, hitting a championship-clinching walk-off home run in the 11th inning.
As for pitchers, Miami’s Jordan Yamamoto, San Francisco’s Garrett Williams, and Houston’s Forrest Whitley all showed much promise. Yamamoto, who pitched the first four innings of the championship game, had command issues, but demonstrated a consistent ability to work his way out of jams. He worked his way from rookie ball to double-A in 2018 and is currently projected to make the majors in 2020. The reverse of Yamamoto, Williams struggled with command during the season, issuing 61 walks in 81.2 innings at double-A, but improved greatly during the AFL, walking 11 while striking out 27 in 24 innings. Finally, Whitley, the consensus top pitching prospect in baseball, demonstrated why he’s earned the title. He led pitchers in strikeouts with 36 while posting a 0.96 WHIP, furthering the speculation that he could assist Houston’s beleaguered pitching staff at some point next season.
After witnessing all of these performances, it’s difficult to be anything other than optimistic about the quality of play in MLB’s future. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and wait for “hug your prospects” season to truly kick off.
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