Every year, the Arizona Fall League is required viewing for those who follow the top prospects in baseball. It’s a chance to see some of the very best future big-leaguers in baseball face off against each other before shutting down for the winter. If you have a chance to attend a game in Arizona, you can guarantee you’ll be sitting near a scout or front-office member at some point.
This year is no exception. Here’s a look at the top hitting and pitching prospects to follow in this year’s Arizona Fall League.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays -- We've talked about Guerrero a lot -- I can't remember writing a single column without mentioning his name -- but when you're this good, you deserve it. Guerrero has the most offensive potential in any fantasy prospect in baseball, and if not for the financial implications, he'd have already been up with the Blue Jays hitting for average and power. He's a special, special offensive prospect.
Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers --Hiura had an up-and-down year, but there were more ups than downs, and for the most part, he showed the offensive ability that makes him among the best middle-infield prospects in baseball. He can hit the ball with authority to any part of the field, and there's at least solid-average power in his right-handed bat with a chance for more. The patience can come and go -- and there are defensive question marks here -- but there's a really good chance that Hiura is playing everyday for the Brewers at some point in 2019.
Taylor Trammell, OF, Cincinnati Reds-- Trammell finished the year with a .727 OPS in his second full year of professional baseball, but that's a bit misleading; a slump at the end of the year pushed his numbers down and he was mostly excellent at the High-A level. He's an excellent athlete with plus-plus speed, and his approach gets better each year. There's power in his left-handed stroke as well, making him a potential 25-homer, 35-steal type. There's work to be done, but Trammell has as much upside in his skill set as any player in the league, not counting Vlad Jr.
Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox-- Robert had an injury-plagued year, so the chance to get at-bats in the Arizona Fall League -- against legitimate prospects, no less -- is vital. This is a five-tool player, and when he has been on the field, all of those tools have flashes in game; a rarity for someone who won't turn 22-years-old until August. Consistency has been an issue on top of the health concerns, but Robert is tremendously gifted, and he could be a fantasy star if everything maxes out.
Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros -- Whitley's season got off on the wrong foot, as he was suspended for 50 games for a violation of the drug policy. Once back, there was some rust to shake off, and he also had a lat strain that shut him down for a while. And even with those negatives, Whitley remains the top pitching prospect in baseball. He gets his fastball into the high 90s, and he can miss bats with three other pitches. There's a chance Whitley pitches in the bullpen in 2019, but his long-term future is as a starter, and he's potentially an ace.
Jon Duplantier, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Duplantier was limited to just 74 innings because of injuries -- something that has plagued the right-hander since he was at Rice -- but they were quality innings with 77 strikeouts and a .215 average allowed. The 6-foot-4 right-hander has three pitches that flash plus starting with a fastball that has movement and can get into the upper 90s, and when he's at his best, he'll throw them for strikes. The durability concerns could make him a reliever long-term, but the stuff is here for Duplantier to start, and he could help the Diamondbacks next year.
JB Bukauskas, RHP, Houston Astros -- Yep, it's another pitcher that missed time with injuries. Bukauskas was in a car accident that caused back problems and was limited to just 59 innings. When he was healthy, however, he was excellent with a 2.14 ERA and 71/24 K/BB ratio. The 2017 first-round pick has an electric fastball and wipeout slider, and he's making progress on a change; enough progress that he has a chance to start at the next level. There's a lot of effort in Bukauskas' delivery, and his command can come and go, but his stuff suggests he can be a high-level pitcher in the coming seasons.
Jordan Yamamoto, RHP, Miami Marlins -- The Marlins picked up Yamamoto in the deal that sent Christian Yelich to the Brewers, and while the right-hander isn't good enough to make Miami fans forget about Yelich, he was a solid addition to the rebuilt Miami system. A 12th-round pick in 2014, the 22-year-old posted an ERA of 1.83 at the High and Double-A levels, and his 85 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings show that his stuff has a lot to do with it. Yamamoto pounds the strike zone with all three pitches, and his curveball is a potential swing-and-miss pitch at the highest level. There are certainly pitchers with higher ceilings, but Yamamoto has a quality one himself, and there aren't many with a higher floor.