Digging for DiamondsProspect Talk

Digging for Diamonds: Deep AFL Edition Prospects Part 2

Here we go again, I dug through another twelve players. Analyzing the depths of the Arizona Fall League. Scouring the depths of minor league systems for prospects that may help you out. That’s right, some of us are such baseball masochists that we actually put ourselves in leagues where the players below may provide teams with value. Lucky for you I’ve taken the time to dig through the Arizona Fall League rosters, and I have analyzed players you’re unlikely to know much about.

Most of these players are for the deepest of leagues, but I finish each player with advice as to the depth of the league in which these guys require your attention. Please feel free to leave comments and feedback, and I hope you find your prospect Cinderella somewhere in the mix.

You can find the first part of my AFL analysis here.  Enjoy!

Salt River Rafters

Daulton Varsho, 22, C, A+ ARZ

Source Baseball Census
2017 | Low-A2128.0%14.2%.22377
2018 | High-A3428.8%20.8%.1641119

There isn’t a catching prospect out there that makes me swoon as much Daulton Varsho. The power and speed potential he brings to the catcher position is absolutely dreamy. Varsho suffered a hamate injury in June- an injury notorious for zapping power. He was able to post the highest home run total of his minor league career, but he only smacked three homers in the second half compared to the eight he hit in the first. Varsho also posted the lowest slugging percentage in the minors as well. Still, he managed 19 stolen bases, which is a very sexy thing to do at catcher.

We’ll get to see Varsho in action further removed from the hamate injury this fall, and hopefully, he displays a bit more power. The tangibles that Varsho brings to the catcher position make him a must-add in pretty much any dynasty league. A strong performance in the AFL should have him starting in Double-A next year. Buy now before the hype gets out of control for the young catching prospect.

Advice: Must add in all dynasty leagues

Brent Rooker 23, 1B, AA MIN

Source Jon Tarr
2017 | High-A1629.9%29.0%.273110
2018 | Double-A9.9%26.4%.211.211226

First base remains a surprising wasteland for fantasy owners. While there are more first base prospects emerging, Brent Rooker shouldn’t be looked over. The young first-base prospect has shown plus power at three levels now, including Double-A. Rooker has walked enough to mitigate his swing and miss tendencies. He is a slight pull-heavy hitter but distributes the ball all over the field, so there’s promise for success at the major league level. Rooker also displayed a low ground-ball rate, and strong line-drive rate in 2018.

Personally, I’d like to see Rooker get a taste of Triple-A before getting the call to the majors. But with Joe Mauer seemingly on his way to retirement, there is a possibility that Rooker could make an appearance in the show as early as 2019. If we could get some more at-bats in higher levels for him, we’d have a better shot at seeing if the strike-out rate would stay reasonable against more advanced pitching. Regardless of when he gets the call, Rooker will be worth the add.

Advice: Add in 16+ Leagues 

Jazz Chisholm 20, SS, A+ ARZ

Source Fangraphs
2018 | A-Ball3418.8%28.4%.228158
2018 | High-A1605.6%32.5%.268109

Jazz Chisholm is likely the Diamondbacks top prospect, but he doesn’t carry a ton of name recognition amongst dynasty owners, but he has displayed enough pop and speed to demand some interest.

My assumption is that Chisholm will likely start the year in High-A as he continues to adjust to a stronger level of competition. Since he was only able to collect 160 plate appearances and he has struggled with making contact (whiffing over 30%), he should spend a bit more time there despite posting a slash line of .329/.369/.597.  Chisholm will unlikely maintain the high BABIPs he’s posted thus far, and hence that beautiful slash-line is a bit of a mirage. He’ll need to improve his contact if he’s going to be an asset for dynasty teams.

Advice: Add in 16+ leagues

Luke Raley, 23 1B, AA MIN

Source MiLB
2018 | Double-A (LAD)4355.5%24.1%.202173
2018 | Double-A (MIN)11610.3%27.6%.17331

Raley is a power hitting first baseman who was acquired by the Twins from the Dodgers in the Brian Dozier trade earlier this year. The Dodgers currently have a system deep enough to allow them to trade Raley without regret. Touted as a player that will likely only develop into a bench bat, Raley flashed potential to be more in 2018.

After coming over to the Twins system, Raley managed to double his walk-rate while still hitting for a similar amount of power. The power-hitting lefty managed 20 home runs between the Dodgers and Twins systems and posted ISOs near .200. Similar to fellow Twin Rooker, there’s a strong possibility that Raley will begin his time at Triple-A. Perhaps a move to the outfield is in the cards for the lefty, or his stiff frame might be better off at DH.

Advice: Watchlist for 18+ leagues

Scottsdale Scorpions

Abraham Toro-Hernandez 21, 3B, AA HOU

Source MiLB
2018 | High-A34912.9%17.8%.218145
2018 | Double-A2028.4%22.8%.14023

This will be the second time I’ve written up Toro-Hernandez, but I’m quite intrigued. Prior to reaching Double-A this year, Toro-Hernandez had posted double-digit walk rates and ISOs over .200 at every level. In the previous two seasons, he’s also increased the number of fly balls he’s hit, and that translates to more balls leaving the yard. The approach at the plate, however, seems to have changed upon graduation to Double-A.

Like many of the lower-level fringy power-hitting prospects, the pop hasn’t translated to Double-A right away. This year in 349 plate appearances in High-A the twenty-one-year-old hit 14 bombs, but managed to only hit another two in 202 appearances at  Double-A. There’s some evidence in an altered approach as Toro-Hernandez did increase his line-drive rate and started taking the ball the other way more. We’ll want to monitor his performance in the AFL as it will likely give us a better idea if the power is going to continue against stronger competition.

Advice: Watchlist in 18+ leagues

Darick Hall 23, 1B, AA PHI

Source BaseballBetsy
2018| High-A1999.0%19.6%.260111
2018 | Double-A3315.4%23.9%.193151

Here we are again with yet another power-hitting fringe prospect. Darick Hall is a Phillies prospect who finished the year playing for the Reading Fighting Phils, (a notoriously homer-friendly home park). However, Hall hit eight of his homers at home, and seven of his homers on the road. While the International league is closer to an offensive friendly league rather than pitcher friendly, it’s not ranked anything like the Pacific Coast League.

Hall has now demonstrated plus power through four different levels, and he’s also shown solid (but not elite) plate skills. The bigger power numbers (including leading the Florida State League prior to his promotion) come from an apparent swing change to try and improve his launch angle.  The recent class of graduates from the Phillies system means that Hall is now considered one of their top power hitting prospects, and putting up 26 homers over the course of two levels in one season has my attention.

Advice: Watchlist 16+ leagues

Ronnie Dawson, 23, OF, AA HOU

Source Baseball Rebellion
2018 | High-A37610.4%25.5%.1511029
2018 | Double-A1234.9%27.6%.22866

Finally not just fringe power, but fringe speed as well! Across two levels this season Ronnie Dawson posted 16 home runs and 26 stolen bases. Those counting stats would be a welcome sight to almost any dynasty team. Particularly interesting was the increased pace of homers Dawson posted once he reached Double-A. As mentioned before there’s generally a drop in power once you’re seeing higher quality pitches.  In limited plate appearances this year, Dawson was able to generate over half his homers from High-A.

Once reaching Double-A Dawson also continued to steal bases at a strong clip. Fangraphs has Dawson graded with 55 speed, but one has to wonder if maybe his speed is closer to 60 after the number of bases he’s stolen. Base stealing in the minor league levels is hard to judge, as players don’t have the defense to necessarily prevent or pick-off players on the base paths. Thus we’ll need to look for sprint times or scouting notes from the AFL in order to get a better grasp Dawson’s speed.

Advice: Add in 20+ leagues

Heath Quinn 23, OF, A+ SF

Source Baseball Census
2017 | High-A2976.7%29.0%.143100
2018 | High-A40710.3%24.1%.185144

Watching the former college player’s at-bats, one walks away with the impression that Heath Quinn is probably a Quad-A player. While Quinn has demonstrated patience at the plate and some pop, he also appears to be just a bit late on fastballs. He constantly is battling pitchers, but often fails to make the quality of contact needed for advanced levels.

Beyond my questions of his bat speed, there’s the concern that Quinn has played at High-A for the last three seasons. Granted, he hadn’t seen a complete season worth of at-bats until 2018, and he did put up impressive numbers in his first full season there. Quinn’s strong season was enough for the Giants to send him to the AFL where Quinn will have the chance to prove he belongs in Double-A in 2019. The Giants have a history of taking spare parts and turning them into gold. There’s enough evidence with him that he warrants keeping tabs on him.

Advice: Add to watchlist 18+ leagues

Surprise Saguaros

Lane Thomas 23, OF, AAA STL

Source MiLB
2018 | Double-A4359.9%23.2%.2272113
2018 | Triple-A1405.0%23.6%.22164

That baseball was murdered by our next prospect, Lane Thomas.  Originally drafted by the Blue Jays as a shortstop in the fifth round in 2014, the now 24-year-old occupies the outfield for St. Louis. Scouts debated about Thomas’ power potential when he was originally drafted, many believing that he would develop only an average source of pop at best.

Thomas has been destroying baseballs since he’s joined the Cardinals organization. Both parks that Thomas has played in for Double and Triple-A are parks known to inflate power numbers, but he’s displayed power in both home and away starts. The former shortstop turned outfielder did make a short appearance at Triple-A, but will definitely end up spending more time there. The Cardinals currently have far too much outfield depth for them to need Thomas anytime soon. Still, his performance earned him some extra playing time in the AFL, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him receive an invitation to Spring Training.

Advice: Add to watchlist for 20+ leagues

Nick Heath 24, OF, AA KC

Source Nick Couzin
2018 | High-A23714.8%27.4%.082229
2018 | Double-A12510.4%26.4%.086010

Finally a prospect on this list with no power and plus speed. Like many of the prospects in this article, Nick Heath saw time at multiple levels. In over 300 plate appearances the lefty swiped 39 bases! Combine that with multiple seasons of elite patience at the plate, and you have the kind of speed profile I am interested in. The pandemonium raised by the dynasty community over declining speed is annoying to me: At this point, the “no speed” narrative has caused me lack-of-speed fatigue. I’m still interested in Heath though!

If I’m going to invest in a player with wheels then they need to get on base. So far in his minor league career, Heath has slashed .274/.350/.348. Along with that glorious slash line, Heath has posted a 11% career walk rate in 774 at-bats in the minors. He can get on base? Check. Of course, there’s a reason he’s down here in the depths of the AFL prospects. Did you catch that slugging? There’s no power here whatsoever. The majority of contact Heath makes is on the ground, and that’s not something I like to see. However, those speed and on-base skills are awfully appealing.

Advice: Add in 18+ leagues

Cole Tucker, 22, SS AA PIT

Source 2080 Baseball
2017 | Double-A19410.8%16.0%.120211
2018 | Double-A5899.3%17.7%.097535

Another speed prospect! That’s right: not one, but TWO prospects on this list have a real chance at giving you those stolen bases your dynasty team needs! Fangraphs  graded his speed at 60/55, and that 60 grade sure looks accurate. His success rate on the bases could use some improvement however, as he was thrown out at a 25% clip this last season. That will need to improve if he’s going to be successful at the major league level.

What’s the first thing I want to see with a speed prospect? Patience, and Tucker’s got boatloads of that! Like Heath, Tucker has posted a double-digit career walk rate (a 10% clip through four different levels). Also similar to Heath, Tucker’s profile comes with very little power. On the positive side, he did increase his fly-ball rate significantly in 2018. That led to a career high in home runs: a whopping 5! Power is not an attribute we’ll be looking for from Tucker, but the good news is that there’s a ton of prospects on this list that may fill that need.

Meibrys Viloria 21, C, A+ KC

Source MiLB   
2017 | A-Ball3986.3%19.8%.13584
2018 | High-A4079.8%18.4%.10162

The only kind of prospect that is even in the same proximity of disdain as pitching prospects is catchers. Still, if you’re desperate, or just really enjoy catching prospects (cough, Keaton), here’s another one. While Viloria busted on the scene and dominated the Pioneer league in 2016, becoming the League’s MVP, it’s still hard to take those statistics too seriously.

Viloria doesn’t have any experience above High-A, yet the Royals decided he was ready enough to play in the majors. On September 1st he was called up and he hasn’t exactly dominated the same way he had in the Pioneer league. The jump from High-A to the majors hasn’t been kind, and it may not ever really work out for the catcher. A prospect without much pop or speed, and considerable worry about his ability to stick behind the plate, there’s a whole lot of risk with the young catcher.

Now, let’s toss all that risk and pessimism out the window. Got your rose tinted glasses? Good, put them on. If all things click for this catcher, we’re looking at a .270 average and maybe 12-15 home runs. Nothing spectacular, but at the catcher position it kind of is. That’s about as excited as I can get for Viloria.

Advice: Watchlist for 20+ leagues


Patrick Magnus: @TheGreenMagnus


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The Author

Patrick Magnus

Patrick Magnus

Baseball Dad, husband, TDG podcast talking head, educator, Vermonter, Shenzhener, and completely baseball obsessed.
Living, working, and writing in Shenzhen, China. Follow me on Twitter @TheGreenMagnus


  1. September 24, 2018 at 5:40 am

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  2. […] continues their deep dive into the AFL rosters in an attempt to find prospect […]

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