The AFL Not-Quite-Top-25 Team

The talent in the Arizona Fall League was better than usual this year — and it’s usually pretty good. As a result, we increased the MLBPipeline.com AFL Top Prospects list from 20 to 25.

That still wasn’t enough to include all of the intriguing players I saw in 2 1/2 weeks in Arizona, however. So I’ve put together the team below of the best prospects who couldn’t crack our Top 25 (Jonathan Mayo also breaks down his favorite AFL extras at his blog here):

Peter O’Brien, c/1b, Diamondbacks (Salt River)
He was one of the most dangerous power hitters in the AFL, finishing third with five homers, and also has a strong arm. I’d like O’Brien more if he didn’t swing and miss so much and didn’t look so rough defensively at catcher and first base.

Patrick Kivlehan, 1b, Mariners (Surprise)
I like Dan Vogelbach’s (Cubs/Mesa) bat and approach, but the baserunning and defense were such negatives that I’m going with Kivlehan here. The former Rutgers defensive back topped the AFL with 22 RBIs, has enticing raw power and fits better at first base than third base. So does fellow Mariners slugging prospect D.J. Peterson.

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AFL Prospects To Watch

If you’re not ready for the baseball season to end after the World Series, the Arizona Fall League is a godsend. Many of the game’s top prospects continue to play through mid-November in Arizona, which made identifying which AFLers I’m looking forward to seeing the most a difficult task because I was limited to just one position player and one pitcher.

So I’ve decided to expand on my choices of Twins outfielder Byron Buxton and White Sox right-hander Francellis Montas, and pick an entire team of AFL players worth watching:

Justin O’Conner, c, Rays (Peoria)
O’Conner has a cannon arm and promising power potential as well. In a light AFL year for backstops, slugging Peter O’Brien (Diamondbacks/Salt River) also stands out but probably won’t stick behind the plate for the long term.

Josh Bell, 1b, Pirates (Scottsdale)
How are the Pirates going to sort out their outfield logjam? One way is to see if Bell can handle first base. Mesa is loaded at first base with Matt Olson (Athletics) and Dan Vogelbach (Cubs), Nos. 2 and 4 on the MLBPipeline.com First Base Top 10.

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Bickford Will Attend CC Of Southern Nevada

Phil Bickford, a former first-round pick projected to go very early in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft, will attend the Community College of Southern Nevada next spring, according to a source familiar with the situation.

After starring in the Cape Cod League this summer, Bickford left Cal State Fullerton after one season to make himself eligible for next year’s Draft. Had he returned to the Titans, he would have had to wait until after his junior season in 2016 to turn pro.

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Combining The Cape Lists

I’ve spent the last two weeks ranking the top 10 pitching prospects and the top 10 hitting prospects in the Cape Cod League. The most prestigious summer collegiate circuit has produced more than 1,000 big leaguers — including more than 200 who have been active this year — and 13 first-round picks in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. It’s a terrific destination to see many of the stars of tomorrow today.

I pushed my word counts to give detailed scouting reports of those 20 players, but my notebook is full of much more information. So I’m going to present an overall Cape Top 30 list here, combining the arms and bats. If a player was covered in one of the two Top 10s, I’ll let you click the links above to check out his details. If he’s new on this list, I’ll provide a quick report.

All of the players below are eligible for the 2015 Draft, with the exception of Garrett Williams (No. 19).

1. Walker Buehler, rhp, Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (Vanderbilt, Jr. in 2015).

2. Phil Bickford, rhp, Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox (CC of Southern Nevada, So.).

3. Ian Happ, of, Harwich Mariners (Cincinnati, Jr.).

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Bonus Team USA Prospects: Nos. 11-20

Give me prospects to rank, and I can’t stop myself from providing extras. I spent the last couple of weeks doing that for the 10 farm systems I handled when we updated MLBPipeline.com’s Prospect Watch, and I’m back at it with the U.S. collegiate national team.

As I mentioned in my story where I listed Team USA’s 10 best prospects, the team annually features several of college baseball’s brightest stars. The 2013 squad produced 10 first-round picks in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, led by Carlos Rodon (White Sox, No. 3 overall) and Kyle Schwarber (Cubs, No. 4), and should have at least two more next June in Louisiana State shortstop Alex Bregman and Texas Christian right-hander Riley Ferrell. This year’s team probably won’t produce 12 first-rounders, but it still had several intriguing prospects and there wasn’t room for all of them in the Top 10. So here are 10 more:

11. Jake Lemoine, rhp (Houston, Jr. in 2015). Scouts liked his body (6-foot-5, 220 pounds), his delivery and the way he pitched off his 89-94 mph sinker. Lemoine’s slider and changeup can be average offerings, giving him a chance to start in the Major Leagues.

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Bonus Rangers Prospects: Nos. 21-25

In the 10th and final installment of my Bonus Prospects series, I give you the Rangers. Texas has a lot of high-risk/high-reward prospects in its system, epitomized and headlined by third baseman Joey Gallo, and its Top 20 Prospects list already was strong before it acquired right-handers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel from the Tigers for Joakim Soria shortly before the July 31 trade deadline. So not only do the Rangers have one of the better Top 20s around, they also have one of the more intriguing 21-25 lists as well.

To see MLBPipeline.com’s Top 20 lists for every organization, as well as our overall Top 100 and Top 10s by position, visit Prospect Watch.

21. Roman Mendez, rhp. One of three prospects acquired in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade with the Red Sox in July 2010, Mendez missed most of 2013 with a stress fracture in his elbow but has emerged as a solid contributor in Texas’ big league bullpen this year. He chews up bats with his 91-96 mph sinker and has late-inning upside if he can continue to hone his power breaking ball and his splitter. (more…)

Bonus Giants Prospects: Nos. 21-25

Much like our Cardinals Top 20, MLBPipeline.com’s Giants Top 20 Prospects list needed more updating even after we overhauled all of the Prospect Watch lists at the end of July. Actually, before we revamped them all, because San Francisco traded Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree to the Red Sox for Jake Peavy the day before all of the new Top 20s went live.

Right-hander Joan Gregorio and lefty Michael Kickham replaced Escobar and Hembree on our Giants list. Ten days later, Joe Panik lost his rookie/prospect eligibility and outfielder Gary Brown joined the Top 20.

San Francisco doesn’t have a deep farm system, so adding Gregorio, Kickham and Brown depleted our Giants Nos. 21-25 prospects. However, that won’t stop me from continuing my blog series of bonus prospects for each of the ten Top 20s I wrote up:

21. Cody Hall, rhp. He didn’t play baseball in his final two seasons of high school and had a modest collge career at Baton Rouge (La.) CC and Southern before signing for $2,500 as a 19th-round college senior in 2011. Thanks to a 95-98 mph fastball and a mid-80s slider, Hall has averaged more than a strikeout per inning at every one of his Minor League stops, and his control has improved significantly the last two years. (more…)

Bonus Cardinals Prospects: Nos. 21-25

MLBPipeline.com’s Cardinals Top 20 Prospects list already has seen some changes since we revamped all of our organization lists at Prospect Watch toward the end of July. Three days after we updated our St. Louis Top 20, the club traded outfielder James Ramsey (No. 6 on the list) to the Indians for Justin Masterson, and two days after that, outfielder Oscar Taveras (No. 1) lost his rookie status.

So in my ongoing series of posting bonus prospects for each of the 10 organizations I wrote the updates for, Cardinals Nos. 21-25 below would have been Nos. 23-27 had I blogged immediately.

21. Greg Garcia, 2b/ss. Kolten Wong’s former teammate at Hawaii has progressed steadily through the system and made his big league debut in April. Projected as more of a utilityman than a regular, Garcia is a quality defender with average speed and arm strength to go with a decent line-drive bat. (more…)

Bonus Athletics Prospects: Nos. 21-25

The Athletics have the best record in the Major Leagues, counterbalanced by a thin farm system that features just one prospect (shortstop Daniel Robertson at No. 91) on the MLBPipeline.com Top 100 list. Of course, if you had to pick between winning in the big leagues and having a strong system, you’d take the former every time.

Oakland went all in by including two of their last three first-round picks, shortstop Addison Russell (2012) and outfielder Billy McKinney (2013), to acquire Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs last month. The strength of the A’s system, as reflected on our list of the their Top 20 Prospects, is a group of infielders at high Class A Stockton. Their top pitching prospect, Raul Alcantara, had Tommy John surgery in May and several promising arms from the 2013 Draft are developing more slowly than expected.

I’ve been blogging about prospects Nos. 21-25 for each of the 10 organizations I wrote up for Prospect Watch. Here’s what I have for Oakland:

21. Herschel Powell, of. A 20th-round pick in 2012, he was having a breakout year that included MVP honors at the low Class A Midwest League all-star game before he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for an amphetamine. Powell has solid speed and center-field ability, and he controls the strike zone well, though some scouts worry about the length of his swing.

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Bonus Yankees Prospects: Nos. 21-25

There was more upheaval on MLBPipeline.com’s Yankees Top 20 Prospects than there was on any of the lists we recently revamped, all of which can be found at our Prospect Watch. Right-hander Luis Severino vaulted from No. 9 to No. 1, while outfielders Mason Williams (who had been No. 2), Slade Heathcott (No. 3) and Tyler Austin (No. 5) slid toward the bottom of the Top 20. Second baseman Rob Refsnyder and outfielder Jake Cave came from off the list into the Top 10.

I’ve been providing bonus prospects for each of the 10 organizations I wrote up, and New York’s Nos. 21-25 guys below all had some support for sneaking onto the end of the Top 20.

21. Bryan Mitchell, rhp. He has had one of the highest upsides among Yankees pitching prospects since signing for $800,000 as a 16th-rounder in 2009. He’s still just 23, he still owns a mid-90s fastball, power curveball and hard cutter and he’s still trying to figure out how to translate that stuff into throwing strikes and missing bats. (more…)

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