MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Inbox: Crawford, Kaprielian and players to watch in 2017

Jim Callis answers fans' questions about baseball's future stars

Inbox: Crawford, Kaprielian and players to watch in 2017

If you can't get enough Arizona Fall League -- and I know I can't -- MLB.com has you covered. Thursday featured the first live broadcast on MLB.com, with the Mesa Solar Sox defeating the Salt River Rafters, 7-5.

Mesa had multiple Top 100 Prospects in their lineup, headlined by Cubs outfielder Eloy Jimenez (No. 23), Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer (No. 25), and Blue Jays outfielder Anthony Alford (No. 86). Salt River was led by middle infielder Isan Diaz (No. 96) of the Brewers. Your next opportunity to catch the action live online will be on October 27, when the Rafters will host the Scottsdale Scorpions.

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Crawford entered the season ranked No. 5 on the Top 100 and finished it at No. 2, behind only Red Sox infielder Yoan Moncada. In between, the Phillies shortstop posted lackluster numbers: .250/.349/.339 with 27 extra-base hits (seven homers) and 12 steals in 123 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

More was expected from Crawford, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "letdown year." He was just 21 and the youngest player in the Triple-A International League when promoted there in mid-May. He needs to make some adjustments to do a better job of driving the ball, but he's still showing advanced plate discipline and should hit for average along with double-digit home run totals.

Crawford has a quick first step and hands to match, not to mention a solid, accurate arm and keen instincts at shortstop. He'll be a quality defender at shortstop and could challenge for Gold Gloves. There no reason for Philadelphia to have him on its Opening Day roster in 2017, because it won't contend, but look for him to claim a spot in the lineup by midseason.

If Kaprielian can stay healthy and maintain the velocity he has shown early in his pro career, he could pitch near the front of the Yankees' rotation. New York drafted the right-hander 16th overall in 2015 in large part because he could fill the strike zone with an array of solid pitches, not because he lit up radar guns. He spent his Draft year at UCLA working mostly at 88-92 mph with his fastball.

After he signed for $2.65 million, Kaprielian's velocity spiked and he now sits around 94-95 mph with the ability to reach back for 99. Even at lower velocities, his fastball was effective because of his sink and command. His curveball and changeup can be plus pitches at times, and he also can mix in a slider.

Kaprielian looked great at the beginning of the year in high Class A, allowing just eight hits and three walks while striking out 22 in 18 innings. But he made just three starts before getting shut down with a strained flexor muscle in his forearm. He returned to game action in the Arizona Fall League on Wednesday, throwing 29 of 40 pitches for strikes while fanning six of the 10 batters he faced in three scoreless innings.

Nationals outfielder Victor Robles really broke out during his U.S. debut in 2015, when he batted .352/.445/.507 with 20 extra-base hits and 24 steals in 61 games between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and the short-season New York-Penn League. He opened 2016 at No. 63 on the Top 100 despite not having reached full-season ball, and he currently sits at No. 10.

But I'll play along and interpret this question as to which Latin American prospect could rocket up the Top 100 in 2017. The most obvious answer is Braves shortstop Kevin Maitan, who signed for $4.25 million this summer as the best Venezuelan prospect since Miguel Cabrera. I included him on my list of projected Top 10 Prospects for the end of next year.

If we're looking for candidates who already have made their pro debut, Jake mentions three good possibilities but there are three guys I like even more. Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. likely will rank as our No. 1 Blue Jays prospect and crack the Top 100 when we overhaul our organization and overall lists early next year. He might end up as an outfielder in the long run, but he has explosive bat speed reminiscent of his father's and a mature approach.

Rangers center fielder Leody Taveras has a good swing from both sides of the plate and a chance to have four plus tools along with at least average power once he fills out. The most likely pitcher to make a meteoric rise is Dodgers right-hander Yadier Alvarez, who pairs a 96-97 mph fastball that tops out at 101 with a pair of power breaking balls.

Shortstop Delvin Perez and right-hander Sandy Alcantara could make the Top 100 next year if they continue to progress like they did in 2016. Righty Jack Flaherty could if his stuff kicks up a notch, while righty Junior Fernandez is the furthest away of this group.

Perez had a chance to go near the top of the 2016 Draft before he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He answered some of the questions surrounding that misstep with a solid pro debut, showing plus speed and defensive ability to go with some offensive upside.

Alcantara has a 6-foot-4 frame with a lot of projection remaining, already can reach 101 mph with his fastball and has the makings of solid secondary stuff. Flaherty has more polish if less power, with a lively low-90s fastball and a promising changeup his two best offerings. Fernandez can match Alcantara's velocity but does it with more effort and may wind up as a reliever.

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.