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Jo Adell
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Prospect Roundup

Top 10 Prospects: AFL

by Christopher Crawford
Updated On: September 10, 2019, 1:07 am ET

If you're not familiar with the Arizona Fall League, it takes place in fall, and in Arizona. It also is a collection of some of the best prospects in baseball that's a chance to see some future stars battle against each other, and it's a must-see event for talent evaluators.

Here's a look at the top 10 prospects that'll be participating in the AFL this year.

1. Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels

2019 stats: 76 G, .289/.359/.475, 10 HR, 7 SB, 30 BB, 94 SO at High-A Inland Empire, Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake.

Despite missing nearly half of the season due to a hamstring and ankle injury, Adell looked like one of the best prospects in baseball when healthy, and those numbers are a bit skewed by a tough adjustment to the Triple-A level. The 20-year-old has five tools that project at least plus -- or 60-grade, if you go by the 20-80 scouting scale -- and he has a chance to be a 30/30 player while hitting for a high average and getting on base at a good clip. Adell is just about ready to go, and should be a part of the Angels' outfield in 2020.

2. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners

2019 stats: 117 G, .291/.364/.540, 23 HR, 20 SB, 30 BB, 94 SO at Low-A West Virginia, High-A Modesto and Double-A Arkansas.

The Mariners acquired Kelenic in the deal that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets, and with all due respect to those players, we don't think Seattle is regretting that deal too much. Drafted with the sixth pick in 2018, Kelenic can do a little bit of everything, and he gets rave reviews for his baseball acumen. Baseball acumen doesn't mean much if you can't play, and the 20-year-old has a chance to hit for a high average with above-average power, and his speed suggests 25-to-30 steals. There's a real chance Kelenic is playing center everyday for the Mariners before the end of next season. 

3. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins

2019 stats: 127 G, .236/.290/.371, 12 HR, 22 SB, 38 BB, 123 SO at High-A Ft. Meyers and Double-A Pensacola.

Lewis was one of the most disappointing prospects in baseball, at least from a statistical perspective. There's still lots of reason for optimism, and it's worth pointing out that Lewis doesn't turn 21 until next June. The 2017 first-overall pick still has plus-plus speed, and when he does make contact, his impressive bat speed and strong wrists allow him to make hard contact to all parts of the field. He's also developing power, and Lewis should hit 15-to-20 homer seasons with regularity. He may need to move to center, but assuming Lewis can keep the strikeouts to a low roar, he has a chance to be an excellent fantasy player in the coming years.

4. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Minnesota Twins

2019 stats: 94 G, .283/.343/.413, 9 HR, 7 SB, 29 BB, 123 SO at High-A Ft. Myers and Double-A Pensacola.

Kirilloff, 21, doesn't have awe-inspiring numbers, but they're better than they look; he got off to a slow -- and injury-riddled -- start and has really turned things around over the final month of the season. He has one of the best hit tools in the minors; of any hitter on this list, he's the most likely to hit .300 consistently. The power isn't at that level, but 20-plus homer seasons are likely as he builds strength. There's not a lot of speed here, but there doesn't need to be if the average/power max out. Kirilloff can flat-out hit, and he should be ready to help the Twins next year.

5. Alec Bohm, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

2019 stats: 125 G, .305/.378/.518, 21 HR, 6 SB, 57 BB, 73 SO at Low-A Lakewood, High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. 

The Phillies drafted Bohm with the third pick of the 2018 draft knowing they'd get one of the most advanced bats in the class, and he hasn't disappointed. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound infielder is one of the rare power hitters who doesn't offer much swing-and-miss, and he has a chance to earn plus grades at both. The long-term concern is that Bohm may need to move to first base, but even there, the bat can play. 

6. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros

2019 stats: 18 G, 59.2 IP, 7.99 ERA, 11 HR, 44 BB, 86 SO at High-A Fayetteville, Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock. 

Ugly numbers, to be sure, but Whitley still is considered one of the best pitching prospects, and for good reason. The 21-year-old really struggled with his command, but when he's at his best he showed four strikeout pitches; including a high 90s fastball. That heater makes his change play up, and he has both a slider/cutter and curve that can give hitters fits. Whitley still has a very bright future, there's just some stuff that needs to be ironed out. 

7. Joey Bart, C, San Francisco Giants

2019 stats: 79 G, .278/.328/.495, 16 HR, 5 SB, 21 BB, 71 SO at High-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond. 

Bart's numbers are solid, and they're even better after his promotion to Double-A, as he hit .316/.368/.544 in his 79 at-bats with the Flying Squirrels. The second pick of last year's draft, Bart has easy plus power from the right side, and while the hit tool lags behind, he makes enough hard contact -- and contact -- to project at least an average grade. He's also a quality defender, so you don't have to worry about him moving from behind the plate, at least not in the next few years. Bart is the heir apparent to Buster Posey, and should be catching for the Giants as a regular by the end of 2021.

8. Heliot Ramos, OF, San Francisco Giants

2019 stats: 102 G, .290/.369/.481, 16 HR, 8 SB, 42 BB, 118 SO at High-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond. 

Ramos was the Giants first-round selection in 2017, and after a shaky 2018 season (.709 OPS), he's really put things together in 2019. The ball jumps off the 20-year-old's bat, and the right-handed hitting outfielder should have no trouble hitting 25-plus homers in a season if he hits enough to be a regular, and obviously I think he will. Ramos also has some speed, but needs to improve his jumps (8-of-18 in stolen bases). There's a lot to like about Ramos, and there's at least a chance he's an everyday player for the Giants before next season comes to an end.

9. Nolan Jones, 3B, Cleveland Indians

2019 stats: 126 G, .272/.409/.442, 15 HR, 7 SB, 96 BB, 148 SO at High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron.

Jones has one of the best approaches you'll see, and while it leads to strikeouts because he's so willing to get to two strikes, it also gives him a chance to be among the league leaders in walks. In order for that to happen, pitchers have to have a reason to 'fear' Jones, and with above-average power and a left-handed stroke that makes hard contact to all parts of the field, he should. He's not going to win many base races, but he has enough speed to provide double-digit steals, as well. Jones is just about ready, but he may not make his debut with the Indians until 2021. 

10. Oneil Cruz, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

2019 stats: 73 G, .298/.356/.475, 8 HR, 11 SB, 24 BB, 74 SO at High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona.

You don't usually see 6-foot-6 players at shortstop, but that's what you get in Cruz, and there's at least a chance that he's going to be able to stick there. Even if he has to move to third or the outfield, the former Dodger prospect has plus power potential from the left side, and the speed isn't far behind in terms of grade. He has some contact issues from a long swing, but the bat speed means that the contact he does make is hard, and a decent average should come with the pop and steals. Cruz still has some work to do, but the upside is palpable, and he could be an everyday player for the Pirates before the end of 2020, with 2021 a more likely ETA.

Also considered: Shane Baz, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays; Seth Beer, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks; Nico Hoerner, SS, Chicago Cubs; Daniel Lynch, LHP, Kansas City Royals; Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners; Luis Garcia, INF, Washington Nationals; Dylan Carlson, OF, St. Louis Cardinals 

 

Christopher Crawford

Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for NBC Sports Edge. Follow him on Twitter @Crawford_MILB.