AZL Review and The Top 5 Prospects

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Updated: September 5, 2017

 

 

The AZL has sadly come to an end. The Arizona Rookie League for many is the first professional stop (as well as the GCL). Living out in Arizona has given me an advantage in the prospect world, with the close proximity of so many good prospects. I am within easy driving distance of 3 of the AZL parks, as well as a tiny bit more of a drive to the rest. The AZL started in late June with 110+ degree weather, but lots of baseball! I spent one afternoon seeing the Reds and Indians in which it topped 118 degrees when I got to my car. It’s a grind! The players will tell you that! International signings or DSL players, 2017 draftees, rehab starts, players returning from major injuries, it’s all been here. We saw the 3rd overall pick in the draft show up, to the soon to be future rookie of the year Cody Bellinger hit a homer in a rehab start. What I am getting at here, is lot’s of talent has passed through here, but so many people won’t know these future house hold names for many years. What I am going to do here is give you the top 5 prospects I witnessed in the AZL, and throw a few other names to remember as well.

 

One last interesting note before I talk prospects, is all the other interesting people you see and meet out in during the AZL. I saw Luis Gonzalez watch his son take hacks in Peoria. Former players like Mark Prior working as a coach. Rehabbing players you wouldn’t think to see like Anderson Espinoza just hanging out post TJ, and the community of scouts and photographers (Bill Mitchell and Lee Magenheim being some of the most interesting!). All of these people help make up what is so fascinating about the first level of pro ball! Now onto the prospects…

 

 

 

MacKenzie Gore – SP –  San Diego Padres

0-1, 7GS, 1.27 ERA, 21.1 INN, 7B, 34K

Gore was drafted as the 3rd overall pick in 2017. The first night I came across him was during Michael Baez’s final AZL start. He had just arrived and spoke with a scout. Gore walks and talks with confidence. His fastball was too advanced for this level. He rarely was hit, and when it was it was him letting the fastball flatten out. He compliments his fastball with advanced off-speed offerings. Gore is the total package. I expect he starts in A ball next year, and will dominate. I think he will move through the system quickly. Gore is future ace material. Gore is my 5th overall fantasy pitcher, and is a top 25 fantasy prospect.

 

 

Heliot Ramos – OF – San Francisco Giants

.348 AVG, .404 OBP, 138 AB, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 33 RUNS, 10SB

Some guys in the AZL look the part of a 17 or 18 year old player where you want to check their ID to make sure they can really be out past 8PM, but then some guys…not many look like Heliot Ramos. Ramos is already built like a major leaguer. Some of the very first video I had ever seen of him, he seemed to be in a shape that had me worried for the future. That isn’t the case right now. Ramos really took the AZL by storm. His power was talked as some of the biggest out here. I was surprised at the speed he showed on the base paths and the field. The Cespedes comps are a real thing, but with more speed. I believe as he grows he will steal less, but I could see low double digit stolen bases in his future. The thing I feel most confident about though is he will hit, and he will hit for power. Ramos is a top 75 overall fantasy prospect, but of course…he’s a quite a few years off from playing in the majors.

 

Michel Baez – SP – San Diego Padres

1-0, 1GS, 3.60 ERA, 5 INN, 2BB, 7K

The day I went out to see the Royals vs Padres I was there to mainly see Nick Pratto. I had heard about Michel Baez on the back fields, but never had the chance to see him. This game was his one and only AZL start, and it was awesome. Baez just took a part the lineup. I talked to Pratto after, and this was for sure the best stuff he had seen to date. Baez was un-hittable with the fastball, which made his off-speed that much more difficult. Baez is like a machine. After the start he was stretching, working out, and the guys in the stands (Gore was one) were lightly giving their congrats to Baez, as if not to disturb him. After that start he was called up to A ball, and burst onto the prospect scene. It was one start, but stood out as one of the best I witnessed out in the AZL. Baez has vaulted himself into conversation with

 

 

Nick Pratto – 1B – Kansas City Royals

.248 AVG, .330 OBP, 198 AB, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 25 Runs, 10 SB

The 14th pick in the 2017 draft was one of my main targets going into the 2017 AZL league. Like Ramos, physically he looks like a guy that could play in the majors tomorrow. He has the best swing that i’ve seen in the AZL. The results probably weren’t what he had hoped, but it was a decent year for Pratto. One of the first thing Pratto said to me when I met him was how he felt like he was taking good hacks on everything, just not getting the results. I think that is true. He got his average up to .248 when he was sitting in the low .200’s for a time. I don’t know how much the speed will play in the majors. I’m not sure his 6’1 195 listed frame is correct, as he seemed a bit taller, and he has a projectable body which is going to produce power. If he holds the speed, he’s a 25+ HR and 10+SB future 1B which will work just fine. Pratto sits as a top 60 fantasy prospect for my Prospect One rankings.

 

 

Esteury Ruiz – 2B – San Diego Padres

.350 AVG, .395 OBP, 206 AB, 4 HR, 39 RBI, 45 RUNS, 26 SB

If you are looking for someone to argue Heliot Ramos wasn’t the best of all the prospects, you’d turn your attention to Esteury Ruiz. I saw Ruiz when he was with the Royals, and then mid AZL season he was traded to the Padres. Most people can’t seem to agree on will the power play? Will the speed play? Will he continue to hit? One thing everyone does agree though, is he deserves to be talked about as prospect everyone should know. Ruiz power showed in the AZL. He may only show 4 HR, but he had 20 doubles and 10 triples. I don’t think he’s a 40+ SB guy, but 20 in the majors is realistic. He showed it off one game where he stole 2nd and then the next pitch, he stole 3rd. Ruiz has a lot more to prove, and 2018 will be a big test, but if he passes, he’ll vault up everyone’s ranks.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

I obviously wanted to lock into Bubba Thompson and Jo Adell, as they were both first round picks on fantasy owners radars. Neither disappointed. Bubba didn’t show the power I expected, but he did hit (and power is the last tool we are told!). Adell moved on from the AZL towards the end of the AZL year, but flashed 5 tools that will make Angels fans very happy. What did happen though, is that I found a few other guys that almost made this list, that I didn’t expect! Chris Seise out performed Bubba both times I watched them play together. Seise moved up a level mid AZL due to his success. Tyler Freeman was probably the most consistent Indians prospect. He can hit, field and run. He may not dominate one single category, but he’s the type of player that will make his way into the lineup and next thing you know, he’s played in the majors for 10 years. Luis Campusano was another pleasant surprise from the Padres. He displayed a lot of developing power with a quick upper cut like swing. Believe me when I tell you there are more, but these guys stood out.

 

Chris Seise – SS – Texas Rangers

Tyler Freeman – 2B/SS – Cleveland Indians

Bubba Thompson – OF – Texas Rangers

Jo Adell – OF – Los Angeles Angels

Luis Campusano – C – San Diego Padres

 

Guys I missed, but you need to know

I had my eye’s on these guys, but I never was able to make it work catching them. Hiura and Heredia have been destroying the levels they’ve reached in 2017. Lewis rehabbed for quite a bit out in Arizona, but as most will be down on him, he has a chance to rebound in 2018. I went out of my way to try and catch Hans on the final night of the season, which was his turn in the rotation. Instead they brought out 2017 draft pick Ryan Dease (who was impressive) and pushed Crouse to the AZL Playoffs. Crouse probably ranks between 3-5 best pitchers out in AZL.

 

Keston Hiura – 2B – Milwaukee Brewers

Starling Heredia – OF – Los Angels Dodgers

Kyle Lewis – OF – Seattle Mariners

Hans Crouse – SP – Texas Rangers

 

There are many other great stories from the AZL, as well as prospects, but this serves a little recap of some of the guys to get excitement in the near future. Some closer than others!

 

Find me on Twitter @IsItTheWelsh

 

You can listen to my Fantasy Prospect Podcast, Prospect One on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Soundcloud or on any app you listen to podcasts!

 

Cover photo by LEESPICS

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