The Major League Baseball season is over, but prospect season is just getting started.
Various sites, including FanGraphs, featuring Canada’s own Mr. Marc Hulet, have begun posting prospect rankings. And of course, the Arizona Fall League, the annual six-team collection of future stars-in-the-making, is entering its final week. Which makes this the perfect time for an update on a batch of young players whose AFL performances, small sample sizes be damned, just might help them make an impact in the bigs come 2013.
Hitters and Pitchers are listed in rough order of potential fantasy impact next season.
Jonathan Singleton, Astros 1B
Key AFL Stat: Tied for first with 16 walks
Houston’s top prospect, who hit .284/.396/.497 at Double-A as a 20-year-old, continues his all-around offensive development. Arguably the top first base prospect, and the rare one who’s bat will actually translate to the position. Houston won’t rush him, but a strong first half by Singleton would make it awfully tempting for the club to bring up a little bit of hope.
Nick Franklin, Mariners SS
Key AFL Stat: Leading all AFLers with 20 RBIs in 16 games
Franklin, 21, has more pop than your average middle infielder, and the fact that he hits from both sides makes him even more intriguing with the stick. Speaking of stick, the question is whether Franklin will…at shortstop. The M’s could break him in as Brendan Ryan’s apprentice-slash-offensive caddy.
Kolten Wong, Cardinals 2B
Key AFL Stat: .329 average
Across-the-board solid skills mixed with baseball savvy make Wong, 22, ready for Triple-A — and nearly ready to handle the keystone in St. Louis, where he’s not exactly blocked by Rogers Hornsby. Will pad stats in a strong lineup, particularly if he proves he can hit high in the order. Look for him to be up around June or July.
Bryce Brentz, Red Sox OF
Key AFL Stat: .897 OPS
Brentz, 23, has above-average power from the right side — and a chance to make plenty of dents in the Green Monster once he reaches the majors, possibly as soon as midseason, especially if the Sox don’t address their outfield this winter.
Billy Hamilton, Reds OF
Key AFL Stat: A 9:7 K:BB ratio — and pretty much owning the Rising Stars Game
Stolen base record-setter has swiped nine of 11, but what’s more important is that the 22-year-old switch-hitter shows his improving plate discipline is for real. Drooling over what he’ll do in fantasy if he can post an OBP north of .350 in the majors, but his conversion from short to outfield probably pushes his timetable back a bit. Still, a possible add for a late-season SB push.
Rymer Liriano, Padres OF
Key AFL Stat: No. 1 with 20 runs scored and No. 3 with a .353 average
Generates surprising speed from a compact, almost squat-like physique that also brings out plenty of pop and hard contact. The 21-year-old has been streaky at times, but his tools are loud, so if he starts off hot, he could get the call sooner than expected.
Carlos Sanchez, White Sox INF
Key AFL Stat: Tops in steals — yes, even ahead of Hamilton — with 10
As a prospect, Sanchez, 20, is better in real life than in fantasy because he does little things, like playing multiple infield spots, making contact and translating his quickness to the basepaths.
Brian Goodwin, Nationals OF
Key AFL Stat: Nine extra-base hits
A 22-year-old who possesses a lead-off man profile but with the ability to drive balls into the gaps and occasionally over the fence. Needs the majority, if not all, of 2013 in minors, but there are potential 20-20 seasons in his prime.
Anthony Rendon, Nationals 3B
Key AFL Stat: 18 games played
After two years filled with injuries, Rendon needs to rack up one stat more than all others: games played. The No. 6 overall pick in 2011 has to prove he can actually stay healthy. In all likelihood, Rendon is a September call-up at best.
Chris McGuiness, Rangers 1B
Key AFL Stat: Tied for lead with four homers
Of the older and lesser-known variety when it comes to prospects, this 24-year-old’s powerful lefty swing and quality eye will have to carry him if he’s going to carve out a career. Not a starter for the Rangers, but they still haven’t solved first base either.
Kyle Gibson, Twins SP
Key AFL Stat: 20 IPs and leading league with 24 Ks
Coming off TJ surgery in 2011, the right-hander looked strong in his late-season return (33:6 K:BB in 28.1 IPs). At 25, Gibson just needs to show his heavy low-90s fastball and once-nasty slider are back — he’s getting four ground outs for every fly out in the AFL — before the pitching-starved Twins give their 2009 first-rounder a shot. Breaking camp in the rotation is a real possibility.
Robbie Erlin, Padres SP
Key AFL Stat: 14.2 IPs and 10.4 K/9
A southpaw with plus command and control, Erlin also has some pretty good stuff, which manifested in a ridiculous 154:16 K:BB in his breakout 2011 while in the Rangers system. Traded for Mike Adams, Erlin, 22, made only 11 starts for the Pads at Double-A this year while missing much of the middle part of the season with elbow tendinitis. That setback means another few months in the minors are in order, but the Padres five-man is about three men deep.
Chase Anderson, D-backs SP/RP
Key AFL Stat: 6.9 H/9 and 11.3 K/9
The 24-year-old made 21 starts this past season, but elbow trouble limited Anderson to all of 13.1 innings in 2011, so he’s making up for lost time while also proving he might be able to hang in as a back-end starter in the bigs. Obviously, Arizona doesn’t lack for young arms, so the righty may best serve the D-backs as a reliever — or trade bait.
Mark Montgomery, Yankees RP
Key AFL Stat: 16.8 K/9
Montgomery, 22, owns a wicked slider that has led to a 14.6 K/9 rate for his two-year pro career, so that’s not some random AFL stat. Coincidentally, as a short (5’11”), athletic right-hander with a low to mid-90s fastball and a plus secondary offering, Montgomery isn’t a bad comp for fellow Yankees reliever David Robertson.
Kevin Quackenbush, Padres RP
Key AFL Stat: 0.21 WHIP
Like the name, love the stats. As in, zero — that’s Z-E-R-O — hits and just two walks allowed in his 9.1 innings so far. San Diego has yet another quality late-inning pitcher for their bullpen in this 23-year-old with closer potential (45 saves since being drafted in 2011). Quackenbush will probably start the year in Double-A but should continue to move quickly.
Next week: A look at some prospects whose AFL showings didn’t help their chances for a 2013 debut.
Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11