MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Ranking prospects showcased in desert

Ranking prospects showcased in desert

This year's group of Arizona Fall League prospects couldn't match those from 2013 and '14, though that's a nearly impossible standard to live up to. The historic rookie crop that generated so much big league buzz this summer was fueled by several former AFL participants, including Kris Bryant, Francisco Lindor, Roberto Osuna, Joc Pederson, Addison Russell and Corey Seager.

While there weren't as many elite prospects in the Fall League this time around, there still was plenty of intriguing talent. As usual, the hitters stood out more than the pitchers -- position players claimed 13 of the first 16 spots on our Top 20 Prospects list -- because most clubs opt not to pile more innings on their best young arms.

Shortstop J.P. Crawford, No. 5 on the MLBPipeline.com Top 100 Prospects list, didn't make the AFL Top 20 because he played only five games for Glendale before tearing a ligament in his left thumb. Likewise, Salt River shortstop Gavin Cecchini (Mets No. 4 prospect), Surprise right-hander Luis Ortiz (Rangers No. 5 prospect) and Surprise outfielder Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 2 prospect) didn't stick around long enough to merit consideration.

After missing almost all of the last two years with a shoulder injury, infielder Jurickson Profar (Rangers) showed the offensive prowess that twice made him MLBPipeline's No. 1-ranked prospect in all of baseball, batting .267/.352/.453 and finishing third in the league with 20 RBIs. Limited to DH duty as a precaution, he's not on the Top 20 because he's no longer rookie-eligible and thus not considered a prospect.

Glendale outfielder Adam Engel (White Sox No. 17 prospect), who led the Fall League in all three slash stats (.403/.523/.642) and won the AFL MVP Award, is absent as well. He has impressive tools, most notably his well-above-average speed and plus center-field skills, but scouts aren't sold on his bat because he hasn't produced consistently at the plate in college or as a pro.

1. Alex Reyes, RHP, Surprise (Cardinals No. 1 prospect): Far and away the best pitching prospect in the league, he worked in the mid-90s and hit 100 mph with his fastball and unleashed some hammer curveballs. Reyes still needs more consistency and command before he's ready to become a frontline starter in the big leagues, and he'll have to wait a bit to add to that polish because his AFL season ended early when he drew a 50-game suspension after a second positive test for a drug of abuse.
MLB ETA: 2017

2. Austin Meadows, OF, Glendale (Pirates No. 2 prospect): He had the best all-around tools in the league, projecting as solid or plus in terms of hitting, power, speed and center-field defense, with arm strength the only thing that didn't jump out. It's a testament to Meadows' potential that scouts still loved him even though he hit .169/.194/.308 and recorded the league's worst on-base percentage.
MLB ETA: 2017

Meadows' two-run homer

3. Lewis Brinson, OF, Surprise (Rangers No. 4 prospect): Meadows' chief rival for the AFL's best tools package, Brinson is a little less polished at the plate but has more raw power and arm strength. He continued to make impressive strides with his plate discipline before leaving at midseason to play in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
MLB ETA: 2017

4. Gary Sanchez, C, Surprise (Yankees No. 5 prospect): He earned a $3 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 thanks to his power and his arm strength, and both were on display as he topped the Fall League in homers (seven), RBIs (21), extra-base hits (14), total bases (55) and catcher caught-stealing percentage (.615). Knocked in the past for his lack of effort and indifference to catching, he played with passion and showed enough receiving ability to play behind the plate in the Majors.
MLB ETA: 2016

Statcast: Sanchez's two-run shot

5. Willson Contreras, C, Mesa (Cubs No. 10 prospect): After leading the Double-A Southern League in batting (.333) and extra-base hits (46), he continued his breakout 2015 by hitting .283/.361/.547 before straining a hamstring. Like Sanchez, Contreras is an offensive-minded catcher with enough defensive skills to be a big league regular.
MLB ETA: 2017

6. Clint Frazier, OF, Scottsdale (Indians No. 2 prospect): The top prospect on the champion Scorpions, he had the AFL's most electric bat speed and one of its highest power ceilings. Frazier can get overly aggressive at times but has made progress in that regard, and he figures to wind up in right field rather than stay in center.
MLB ETA: 2017

7. Dominic Smith, 1B, Salt River (Mets No. 5 prospect): The best pure hitter in the Fall League, he made a run at the batting title and MVP Award before an oblique strain sidelined him for most of the second half. Smith maintains a disciplined approach, delivers line drives from gap to gap and should have 20-homer power once he starts to turn on more pitches.
MLB ETA: 2017

Pleskoff on Smith's abilities

8. Josh Hader, LHP, Surprise (Brewers No. 14 prospect): Milwaukee sent three of the four youngsters it acquired from Houston in July's Carlos Gomez /Mike Fiers trade to the AFL, and Hader, Phillips and right-hander Adrian Houser all impressed. Hader was the breakout pitching star of the league, leading in ERA (0.56), drawing Madison Bumgarner /Chris Sale comps for his slinging delivery and giving hitters fits with a fastball that reached 98 mph and a tough slider.
MLB ETA: 2016

9. A.J. Reed, 1B, Glendale (Astros No. 5 prospect): After leading the Minors in runs (113), homers (34), RBIs (127), total bases (320), slugging (.612) and OPS (1.044) during his first full pro season, he never really got untracked in Arizona before departing early with a sore knee. Reed's big left-handed power was more apparent in batting practice than in games, though he continued to control the strike zone well.
MLB ETA: 2017

Reed dominates AFL Hit Challenge

10. Christian Arroyo, SS, Scottsdale (Giants No. 2 prospect): In the same class with Smith as a hitter, Arroyo is a line-drive machine who offers less power potential but more defensive value. Though he lacks the quickness to stay at shortstop, he has enough athletic ability and arm strength to fit at second base, third base or in the outfield.
MLB ETA: 2017

11. Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Mesa (Cubs No. 20 prospect): The Cubs keep churning out impressive offensive prospects, and here's yet another. Candelario is a switch-hitter with legitimate power (he ranked second behind Sanchez with five homers, 13 extra-base hits and 50 total bases) and arm strength, though he may not have the agility for third base.
MLB ETA: 2017

Candelario's solo home run

12. Sean Manaea, LHP, Mesa (Athletics No. 3 prospect): He topped the AFL with 33 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings, thanks mainly to a lively, deceptive fastball that ranges from 90-96 mph. Scouts aren't sure Manaea can remain a starter, however, because he doesn't always carry plus velocity deep into games and his secondary pitches need refinement.
MLB ETA: 2016

13. Reese McGuire, C, Glendale (Pirates No. 6 prospect): Unquestionably the best defensive catcher in the Fall League, he's an advanced receiver for a 20-year-old and has plus arm strength as well. McGuire makes contact at the plate but needs to add strength so he can drive the ball more consistently.
MLB ETA: 2017

McGuire excited to learn in AFL

14. Raimel Tapia, OF, Salt River (Rockies No. 8 prospect): He carries just 160 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame and employs a pronounced crouch at the plate, yet he makes a lot of hard contact. Observers who believe in Tapia's power potential think he could have solid tools across the board once he adds strength.
MLB ETA: 2017

15. Chad Pinder, SS, Mesa (Athletics No. 7 prospect): He shares a similar profile to Arroyo, and some scouts prefer Pinder because they think he'll have more usable power and a better chance to play shortstop. He did slam four homers in 13 AFL games, though he's probably destined for second or third base.
MLB ETA: 2016

16. Mac Williamson, OF, Scottsdale (Giants No. 13 prospect): He made his big league debut in September and looked the part more than most Fall Leaguers at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. Williamson does a nice job of working counts to get to his solid power, moves well for his size and has a right-field arm.
MLB ETA: 2016

Williamson's RBI triple

17. Luke Weaver, RHP, Surprise (Cardinals No. 8 prospect): He did the same things in Arizona that he did while recording a 1.62 ERA in Class A Advanced during his first full pro season: reached 96 mph with his fastball, displayed one of the league's best changeups and lived in the strike zone. Weaver will need a better breaking ball to reach his ceiling of a No. 3 starter.
MLB ETA: 2017

18. Kyle Freeland, LHP, Salt River (Rockies No. 9 prospect): After allowing six runs in two-thirds of an inning in his first AFL start, he compiled a 0.32 ERA in his remaining five starts. Freeland repeatedly pounded the bottom of the strike zone with a heavy 91-95 mph fastball, though some evaluators wondered if he'd wind up in the bullpen because he lacks deception and a plus secondary offering.
MLB ETA: 2016

Freeland honored to play in AFL

19. Lucas Sims, RHP, Peoria (Braves No. 8 prospect): He had one of the Fall League's sharpest curveballs and also threw a mid-90s fastball, though the latter got hit more than it should because it lacks life and command. If Sims can't improve his movement and location and come up with a changeup, he'll wind up as a late-inning reliever rather than a mid-rotation starter.
MLB ETA: 2017

20. Nick Burdi, RHP, Scottsdale (Twins No. 12 prospect): The best relief prospect in the AFL, he consistently threw in the upper 90s with his fastball and upper 80s with his slider. After running into control troubles in Double-A, Burdi walked just one batter and allowed two hits while fanning 11 in eight scoreless innings.
MLB ETA: 2016

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.