Postseason baseball is right around the corner. That's not the only baseball that is right around the corner, though, as the Arizona Fall League (AFL) begins play on Tuesday October 9. Prospect enthusiasts will be delighted to know that there are a plethora of talented hitters littered throughout AFL teams. This is the norm for the hitter friendly league, but there are a handful of interesting arms that will be pitching there as well. For those unfamiliar, the AFL has six teams, each of which is comprised of players from five different organizations. I'll be highlighting a trio of players from each team, starting with the Mesa Solar Sox today.
*Full Rosters can be found by clicking on the hyperlink for the team.
Mesa Solar Sox (Orioles, Cubs, Tigers, Astros, Dodgers)
Standout Pitcher: Jarred Cosart, SP, Houston Astros, 22 years old
Standout Hitter: Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs, 19 years old
Bonus: Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers, 21 years old
Don't be confused, my selections don't necessarily reflect the best prospects on each team, simply the ones I'm most intrigued by. Cosart came into the season ranked as the top prospect in the Astros organization by Kevin Goldstein, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, now the Coordinator of Pro Scouting for the Astros. Baseball America ranked him second in the organization. His electric stuff, which includes a plus fastball that can reach the upper-90s, has yet to miss bats at a high rate (6.6 K/9 in his career at Double-A, and 7.8 K/9 in 27.2 innings pitched in Triple-A this year). Stats aren't everything, but it would be nice to see him rack up more strikeouts. He'll see stiff hitting competition in a run scoring environment. The offensive friendly surroundings won't be anything new to Cosart, having pitched in the Pacific Coast League to wrap up the year.
There were a number of talented hitters to choose from including Nick Castellanos, Jonathan Singleton, and George Springer, but I chose Baez. I chose him, in large part, because the others have seen advanced upper minor league pitching, and this will be Baez's first exposure to it. Baez had an explosive season at the dish in the Low-A Midwest League, but stumbled in his limited time (86 plate appearances) in the High-A Florida State League late in the season. He's currently a shortstop, but I've yet to read a scouting report that indicates he has any chance of staying there. That's fine, though, because the ceiling for the bat is considered by most notable outlets to be middle of the order good.
Speaking of players without exposure to advanced pitching, Puig fits the bill as well. The Dodgers made a splash in the international market inking the Cuban outfielder to a seven-year $42 million contract in June. Puig is big, but not sloppy and out of shape. Goldstein relayed a description from a scout to his Twitter followers in which the scout compared Puig's body type to Mike Tyson. Puig made his stateside debut getting his feet wet in Rookie Level ball for nine games before a promotion to the High-A California League to conclude the season. In all, he tallied just 95 plate appearances, but made them count slashing .354/.442/.634 with 10 extra base hits, five finding the seats. Ben Badler wrote about Puig and the industry reaction to his signing back in June for Baseball America. The article suggested that there were mixed opinions on this tools. Badler lauded Puig's bat speed and raw power, but pointed out that some question his approach. He was more murky in discussing his speed, as some scouts mentioned getting good running times and others said they hadn't. For what it's worth, Puig stole eight bases and legged out three triples, but he was caught stealing five times. A big display in the AFL could result in a lot of buzz going into next year.