The offseason has been moving at such a dizzying pace that memories of the recently concluded Arizona Fall League have already begun to fade. This post was originally scheduled to coincide with the end of the AFL slate in November, but was delayed due to a combination of various factors including the lineup placement of various Rockies hitters as it relates to runs scored and the greatness that is D.J. LeMahieu, and being upset about having the third pick in the TDGX dispersal draft that featured Carlos Correa and Paul Goldschmidt, so I appreciate your understanding.
With many dynasty leagues set to have their offseason minor-league drafts in the not-too-distant future, let’s take a look at three prospects who improved their stocks with their performance in the desert. As has been pointed out thousands of times before, it’s important not to put too much stock into AFL statistics, but there can be bits of useful information to be gleaned from the inherently small sample sizes of action.
We might as well start with the AFL MVP, who will almost assuredly follow a different career path than the last Desert Dog to win league MVP honors—former Oakland outfielder Grant Desme, who took home the award in 2009. A White Sox 19th-round selection from the University of Louisville in 2013, Engel turned 24 shortly after concluding his time in the desert, hitting a robust .403/.523/.642 in Arizona after posting a .251/.335/.369 line (109 wRC+) in the High-A Carolina League. The slash lines don’t tell the story of Engel’s fantasy worthiness, as his 65 stolen bases (in 76 attempts) led the Carolina League by a wide margin, and his 10 steals in his 19 games with the Desert Dogs were good for second in the AFL. Engel has increased his walk rate each year as a professional, checking in at just over 10 percent in 2015, and walked more times (16) than he struck out (11) while in Arizona.
As longtime Jennifer Jason Leigh fan (and Prospect Team member) Wilson Karaman pointed out, there’s still plenty of development that needs to take place for Engel as he reaches the upper minors, but he’s a guy who wasn’t owned in all but the craziest of leagues prior to the AFL and now is a prospect who should be considered in deeper formats that roster over 200 minor leaguers.
Multiple members of the Prospect Team touched on Scavuzzo's athletic profile this season: Wilson Karaman in August and Craig Goldstein in October. While questions remain about how his hit-tool will play as he reaches Double-A in 2016, there is little doubt about his power potential. Despite an aversion to walks, the Dodgers 21st-round selection in 2012 kept his head above water in the Midwest League this season, hitting for a .263/.292/.427 line with five home runs (and four steals) in 58 games before being moved up to High-A Rancho Cucamonga. Scavuzzo (like most hitters) found the Cal League to be much to his liking, clubbing his way to a .308/.376/.568 performance that included 13 home runs (with three steals) in 61 games—and a career-best walk rate of just over eight percent in 255 plate appearances. Scavuzzo’s 153 wRC+ in the Cal League wasn’t quite in A.J. Reed territory (190), but it was good enough for a tie for sixth overall (min. 200 PA), and he was the fourth-youngest hitter in the top 20. Scavuzzo continued his good work in the AFL, smacking four home runs in 16 games and hitting for a .377 AVG, but again showed a distaste for walks, collecting just two bases on balls in 72 plate appearances. His 1.012 OPS finished second to Engel’s 1.165 mark.
Scavuzzo is another deep-league special at this point, as there are legitimate concerns about the length of his swing and how it will translate to better pitching. Still, with a good showing at Double-A Tulsa in 2016, he could force his way into shallower-league relevance.
Candelario’s inclusion here serves two purposes: first, to mention the fall continuance of the solid production he put forth in 46 games at Double-A Tennessee to close the regular season, but mainly to point out that our own fantasy czar Bret Sayre once wrote a sonnet about Candelario in November 2012.
A .218 BABIP contributed to a .193/.275/.326 line in 244 plate appearances as the 2014 season came to a close for Candelario in the Florida State League, earning him another go-around in High-A to start the 2015 season. This time in the Carolina League, the switch-hitting Candelario’s BABIP rose (.320), as did the rest of his offensive numbers (.270/.318/.415 with five home runs), earning him a promotion to Double-A Tennessee, where he caught fire with the bat over the final 46 games of the year, hitting five home runs and walking more (22) than he struck out (21) in 182 plate appearances. His .841 OPS was good for 10th in the Southern League and his 140 wRC+ tied teammate Dan Vogelbach.
Candelario was added to the Cubs 40-man roster in November and has put himself in position as a borderline top-10 fantasy third base prospect entering 2016. While his future likely won’t be on the dirt in Wrigley, his .321 batting average with five home runs in Arizona showed that the Cubs have another talented young infielder on their hands, as if they needed any more.
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