2018 AFL Standouts

Christopher Crawford
Rotoworld
Christopher Crawford breaks down the top prospects that stood out this fall in the AFL

2018 AFL Standouts

Christopher Crawford breaks down the top prospects that stood out this fall in the AFL

After a bit of a down year in 2017, the Arizona Fall League was loaded this year, and several marquee prospects -- and some lesser-known ones -- stood out in Arizona over the fall.

Here’s a look at the standouts of the 2018 AFL season.

Hitters:

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays -- Surprised? Of course you're not. Guerrero went through a substantial slump at the end of the season, and still finished with a .363 batting average and .844 OPS in his time in the AFL. I've said it so much that the words no longer make sense, but Guerrero Jr. has the most offensive potential of any prospect I've studied in recent memory, and the only reason he's not a Blue Jay right now is the financial aspect. He's going to be a star.

Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers -- Hiura was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League, and for good reason. He hit five homers, drove in 33 runs, and posted a .371 on-base percentage to go with a .563 slugging percentage. Hiura can flat out hit, and while I do understand some of the concerns involving where he'll play on defense, it doesn't really matter in the long term. Be it at second base or left field or -- worst case scenario -- a DH for another club, Hiura is going to hit. It should shock anyone if he's playing everyday for the Brewers next season.

Tyler Nevin, IF, Colorado Rockies -- The 38th pick of the 2015 draft, Nevin had a breakout season with a .328/.388/.509 line for High-A Lancaster in 2018, and he followed up that season by hitting .428 with an even more ridiculous .538 on-base percentage in his time in Arizona. He also struck out just five times, showing his elite hand-eye coordination while continuing to make hard contact all over the field. The son of former All-Star/first-overall pick Phil Nevin, Tyler doesn't have his dad's power, but his ability to hit for average and get on base make him a quality prospect that's certainly worth monitoring.

Daz Cameron, OF, Detroit Tigers -- And speaking of sons of former All-stars. Daz is the son of Mike Cameron, and the former Houston Astros first-round pick was excellent in his time in the AFL with a .903 OPS, five homers and nine steals; although he was also caught stealing seven times. It was an inconsistent season for Cameron, but it's important to keep in mind that he doesn't turn 22 until January, and he showed enough promise at Double-A to earn a trip to Triple-A to end the season. He's also a terrific defender, so if he can show his above-average hit tool and solid power more consistently, he'll be a regular.

Pitchers

Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros -- Whitley's season was marred by a suspension and some elbow issues, but he looked just fine in the AFL, posting a 2.42 ERA and striking out 37 hitters in his 26 innings with just seven walks. Whitley has a plus-plus fastball, and that fastball plays up because if you sit on it, you're at risk to look a fool by one of his three plus-graded secondary pitches. The command is still a work in progress -- remember that control and command are not the same thing -- but Whitley has the swing-and-miss stuff to pitch in a rotation right now. 

J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Houston Astros -- Yep. It's not fair. I know. Bukauskas was in a car accident that caused back issues that clearly had an effect on his 2018 season, but like Whitley, he looked healthy in the AFL with 24 strikeouts in as many innings and a solid 3.33 ERA over six starts. When he's at his best, Bukauskas is in the mid-90s with his fastball, and he complements that heater with one of the best sliders in minor league baseball. There's a lot of effort in his delivery, and his small frame (6'0"/196) make some believe he's best suited for relief. In whatever role he pitches in, Bukauskas is going to miss bats. A lot of them.

Jordan Yamamoto, RHP, Miami Marlins -- Yamamoto was not a celebrated part of the deal that sent Christian Yelich to the Brewers, but after posting an 1.83 ERA in 68 2/3 innings this year, and a 2.08 ERA in the AFL, it's time to take notice. The 22-year-old right-hander isn't overpowering; generally working in the low 90s, but he commands the pitch well with some movement. His best pitch is a 60-grade curveball, and his change is another solid offering that he throws for strikes. This is more a high-floor than high-ceiling pitcher, but he's close to ready, and could help the rebuilding Marlins at some point in 2019.

Jon Duplantier, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Duplantier has quickly become the top pitching prospect in the Arizona system, and after a strong -- albeit injury filled -- season, he was back at it in the AFL with 32 strikeouts and 3.32 ERA in 21 2/3 innings. The former Rice star has excellent movement on his mid 90s fastball, and both his slider and curve can miss bats, to go along with an average change. The issue with Duplantier is that he's struggled to stay healthy, and despite being drafted in 2016 he'll turn 25 in July. There's big upside in his right arm, but he needs to show he can handle the rigors of a full season. He could be an elite reliever if the Diamondbacks choose that route for him. 

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