5-tool phenoms Robles, Acuna, Tucker highlight AFL rosters
By Jonathan Mayo | August 29th, 2017
The 26th edition of the Arizona Fall League begins on Oct. 10. Preliminary rosters were released on Tuesday and, as is the norm for the elite prospect finishing school, they are chock full of high-end talent.
All 30 organizations sent some of the best players in their respective systems to fill the rosters of the six AFL teams. In that group, there are 11 players on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 prospects list, including four in the Top 20. Rosters will continue to change as organizations finalize who they are sending to the six-week league.
The list is led by Nationals outfield phenom Victor Robles, who comes in at No. 5 on the Top 100 and reached Double-A at age 20. He will be part of an outstanding Mesa outfield that also includes No. 10 prospect Kyle Tucker of the Astros, who also is in Double-A at age 20 and has turned in a 20-20 season. In between those two in the rankings is Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna, who is the No. 8 prospect, reaching Triple-A as a teenager and recording a 20-40 season in the process. He'll be playing for Peoria.
The other top-20 hitter in the AFL is Indians catcher Francisco Mejia, who'll get reps at third base with Glendale this fall to potentially increase his versatility so the Indians can get his bat into the lineup. The switch-hitting 21-year-old who had a 50-game hitting streak in 2016 continues to show he can hit for average with his power showing up more during his '17 season in Double-A.
The top pitching prospect this fall, as of now, is Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller, coming in at No. 22. He'll be making up for some lost innings because of a back strain, but he still reached Double-A at age 21. Keller has continued to miss bats and generate weak contact across two levels this season.
The other Top 100 prospects in the AFL this season are the Mariners' Kyle Lewis (No. 47) and the Brewers' Corey Ray (No. 66), both outfielders from the first round of the 2016 Draft, Padres infielder Luis Urias (No. 55), Dodgers outfielder Yusniel Diaz (No. 85), as well as outfielder Estevan Florial (No. 87) and southpaw Justus Sheffield (No. 89) of the Yankees. Lewis and Urias will play for Peoria, Diaz and Ray will suit up for Glendale and the Yankees prospects will be members of the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Of those 11 Top 100 prospects, four are former first-round picks. Ray was the No. 5 overall pick in 2016, while Lewis came at No. 11. Tucker was taken the year prior, also with the fifth overall selection. They are four of 18 players taken in the first round from 2012-16. Yankees right-hander Dillon Tate is the highest draftee on an AFL roster at No. 4 overall. Braves catcher Alex Jackson (No. 6 overall to the Mariners in '14), Twins lefty Tyler Jay (No. 6 in '15) and Phillies outfielder Cornelius Randolph (No. 10 in '15) are the other top-10 selections. Outfielder Jake Gatewood of the Brewers (No. 41 overall in '14) and the Braves third baseman Austin Riley (No. 41 in '15) were taken in the Competitive Balance Round A.
"The 30 Major League organizations have assigned an array of promising prospects to the Arizona Fall League as always," AFL director Steve Cobb said. "Approximately 60 percent of them will reach the Major Leagues. Fans can enjoy watching the next big leaguers from the comfort of six of Arizona's state-of-the-art Spring Training stadiums."
Hundreds of future Major League All-Stars have come through the Fall League since its inception, including Mike Piazza, the first AFL alum to get enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. There have been 27 Rookie of the Year Award winners and 16 MVP Award winners who put the finishing touches on their Minor League development in Arizona over the two and a half decades of the league's existence.
The AFL is owned and operated by MLB and plays a Monday-Saturday schedule. The championship game will be played on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Scottsdale Stadium. The 12th Fall Stars Game is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 4, at Salt River Fields. Game times are 12:35 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. MT, with some noted exceptions in the schedule.
The Fall League's six venues remain Camelback Ranch-Glendale (Glendale Desert Dogs), Peoria Sports Complex (Peoria Javelinas), Salt River Fields (Salt River Rafters), Scottsdale Stadium (Scottsdale Scorpions), Sloan Park (Mesa Solar Sox) and Surprise Stadium (Surprise Saguaros).