A pair of top National League East prospects hope to shine in the Arizona Fall League
The 27th Arizona Fall League season kicked off on October 9, and players are already making waves against the best competition the minor leagues has to offer.
For the last quarter century, the Fall League has brought baseball’s future stars together to showcase their skills and serve as the last big stepping stone before the big leagues.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero and baseball’s top prospect, will get the most attention, and rightfully so. But the Blue Jays prospect is not the only big name taking the field at six different spring training ballparks across Arizona in October and November.
The Salt River Rafters are one of the six teams in the AFL and will feature players from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals and Minnesota Twins organizations.
The Rafters, who are led by Twins’ Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos manager Tommy Watkins, finished last season 13-15, 2.5 games behind the AFL West division champion Mesa Solar Sox. The Rafters defeated the Solar Sox in Mesa, 2-1, in their last game, and will play Mesa again at Salt River Fields Wednesday night.
Here are four Rafters’ prospects to keep your eye on this fall.
Carter Kieboom – Washington Nationals
The fifth highest ranked hitting prospect in the Fall League according to MLB Pipeline, Kieboom did not play much in his first full season, but reached Double-A this season at the age of 20 after a productive campaign.
Kieboom hit .280 with 16 home runs and 31 doubles in 123 games between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. His performance this season netted him the Nationals’ Minor League Player of the Year Award.
A first-round draft pick in 2016, Kieboom is the No. 34 prospect in all of baseball based on MLB Pipeline’s rankings. He has struggled in his first four Fall League games, batting only .154, but expect this talented shortstop to pick up his game soon.
Monte Harrison – Miami Marlins
Harrison’s speed and power combination is one of the best tool sets among players in this year’s Fall League. The 23-year-old’s value became apparent when he was the centerpiece going back to the Marlins in the trade that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee.
In his first Double-A season, the Marlins’ top prospect according to MLB Pipeline and hit 19 home runs and stole 28 bases. He had a great Fall League campaign last season and will look to take the next step forward on the road to the big leagues in Arizona this fall. Harrison is hitting .263 after five games, but make sure to follow the center fielder’s performances closely.
Jon Duplantier – Arizona Diamondbacks
If it were not for injuries, Duplantier could have easily made his major league debut already.
The Diamondbacks top prospect and No. 80 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline had a huge year in 2017. Splitting the season between Class-A Kane County and High-A Visalia, Duplantier posted the second lowest ERA (1.39) for a minor league pitcher in 32 years, behind only Justin Verlander.
Duplantier pitched well in 2018, but the injury bug came back to bite him. He missed two months with bicep tendinitis. But the Futures Game alum clearly has the talent and the stuff to dominate on the mound. The 24-year-old right-hander will try to make up for lost innings in the Fall League.
Sam Hilliard – Colorado Rockies
The Rockies No. 9 prospect is off to a hot start in the Fall League after an outstanding 2018 season.
Hilliard hit .262 at Double-A Hartford with nine home runs and 40 RBIs. He helped lead the Rockies’ charge of stealing bases in the minors, swiping 23 bags with an on base percentage of .327.
The 24-year-old has the fourth-highest average (.462) in the Fall League so far this season. Despite a somewhat rough first season at Double-A compared with his 2017 season at the High-A level, his raw power, speed, and ability to play all three outfield spots make him one of the most intriguing players to watch in this year’s Fall League.