Though Yoan Moncada is without a doubt the best player in the league, I have to question the quality of the Surprise Saguaros rotation and bullpen. Past Mat Kopech, there isn't anything worth noting long term as viable big league options. The Surprise Saguaros, however, may be the most fun team to watch.
What they lack in roster depth they certainly make up for in star power. I expect the Saguaros to put up more runs than anyone in the league. They do have a rather crowded infield. You can bet that most of the attention the media gives will end up being placed on the Saguaros even though they may not end up with the best record.
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- Glendale Desert Dogs
- Mesa Solar Sox
- Surprise Saguaros
- Peoria Javelinas
- Salt River Rafters
- Scottsdale Scorpions
Four Players to Watch
Yoan Moncada – 2B/3B/OF – Boston Red Sox
We need to set the record straight by starting with the fact that Yoan Moncada is a generational talent. That said, elite talents don't always reach their ceiling. Moncada is my highest rated prospect. He is a freak of an athlete.
Now on the Red Sox MLB roster, it is a surprise to see him in the AFL, but you can imagine all eyes will be on him. I expect him to live up to the expectations and maybe even surpass them.
Austin Meadows – OF – Pittsburgh Pirates
Likely the star on any other team, Austin Meadows will coast through the AFL as the attention falls onto Moncada. Meadows is one of the top minor leaguers in baseball. He ismy 15th highest rated prospect. He boasts a sturdy 6'2" 195lbs frame that he utilizes for both speed and power.
Meadows has an advanced approach at the plate that has allowed the Pirates to advance him quickly through the system, even with injuries. At only 21 years old, he finished 2016 in Triple-A. He will likely start in the minors again next year with a great chance to potentially crack the Pirates roster when a spot opens up.
In a lot of ways, Meadows is more blocked by his team than his potential at the next level. If the Pirates decided to move Andrew McCutchen or another outfielder, he would still have to battle Josh Bell for a shot at sticking in the bigs. Push comes to shove, Meadows will find a spot in the MLB sooner rather than later as he has way too much talent to keep down for too many more seasons.
On the year, Meadows hit .266 with 12 home runs and 18 stolen bases in Double-A and Triple-A. If that seems rather bland, just realize he is one of seventeen 21-year-old batters who saw Triple-A this year. It is rare for someone to see such mature competition and not show flaws in his contact rate.
Meadows is currently dealing with injury issues and may miss portions if not all of the AFL.
Michael Kopech – SP – Boston Red Sox
Michael Kopech has all the potential needed to be an ace. In a scouting report of Kopech, I mention that he offers an electric fastball generated out of an athletic build and upper body mechanics. Kopech tops out at 105 mph on the gun. Though he lacks a mastery of control, he dazzles batters with a rare combination of speed and movement. He flashes four above average pitches one being an elite caliber fastball. His arm slot helps offer a lot of deception for any handed batter.
Kopech is currently my 38th overall prospect but, with an improvement to his secondary options, he could finish much higher. There isn't an accurate comparison to him in the majors. The closest is Danny Salazar of the Indians. Kopech is a physical player who commands your attention when watching. He has all the makings to be a big league stud.
Ryan O’Hearn – 1B – Kansas City Royals
Power and contact are Ryan O'Hearn's calling card so far this year with time split between High-A and Double-A ball. At age 23, the Royals would like him to be more consistent with his approach. Currently, he has a long swing leading to a pull happy approach. He has the tools to be an advanced hitter at the plate, and you can expect that to show in the AFL.
O'Hearn logged 22 home runs over the course of 502 at bats while hitting .275 between Class-A (Advanced) and Double-A. There is a lot to love about the future for O'Hearn knowing the Royals development style. I fully expect O'Hearn to be a successful big league player even if Eric Hosmer currently blocks him. O'Hearn comes into the AFL ranked as my 76th overall prospect.
Three More to Watch
Mauricio Dubon – SS – Boston Red Sox
Nick Gordon – SS – Minnesota Twins
Andy Ibanez – 2B – Texas Rangers
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