The Arizona Fall League is one of the premier events each season for prospects, as teams will look to send some of their top prospects to get another 20-30 games of at bats to cap their year. For some, it will be an opportunity to make up for missed time due to injuries. For others, it could be their last shot before roster deadlines to show that they should be added to the 40-man roster this year. With that in mind, let's look at a few of the more under-the-radar prospects who are currently slated to spend October in Arizona.
Glendale Desert Dogs
Andrew Knapp (C - Phillies) - Knapp has been on a nearly two month hot streak since being promoted to AA Reading. He's been splitting time between catcher and DH, but he is hitting .364/.422/.646 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI in 53 games. Knapp is considered more advanced at the plate than behind it, so I would imagine that he'll be there in part to work on his defense. The best case scenario is that he ends up being a good batting average, decent power hitter who holds onto his catcher eligibility while not playing behind the plate everyday.
Courtney Hawkins (OF - White Sox) - Hawkins was famous for being the draft pick who did a backflip during the draft coverage, and unfortunately it hasn't turned out the way the White Sox hoped just yet. Hawkins did better in his second go-around at High-A in 2014, but injuries have hampered his season and he continues to show major contact issues (30% strikeout rate). A good showing in Arizona could help the White Sox to justify moving him up to AAA to start 2016, but there seems like a distinct possibility that he may never be able to translate his above-average raw power into useful game power.
D.J. Peterson (1B - Mariners) - It's been a terrible year for Peterson, who isn't hitting for nearly as much power as he's shown in previous years, and frankly wasn't really hitting very well in any way before he hurt his Achilles. Peterson is likely limited to first base defensively long term, so the hope is that a strong AFL will get him back on the prospect map and closer to Seattle.
Adam Walker (OF - Twins) - The Twins have managed to churn out even more outfield prospects than was originally thought, and while I think Walker is a trade candidate, he's still very interesting for our purposes. He's never going to be a high average hitter, but he reached 30 home runs this year at AA after hitting 27 and 25 in the last two seasons as well. The Twins will need to protect Walker on the 40-man roster this offseason, so I could see them trying to include him in a deal to upgrade somewhere on the major league roster.
Nick Burdi (RP - Twins) - Burdi was expected to be a quick riser after being a second round pick out of Louisville in 2014. Unfortunately, he's struggled with his command, ended up demoted back to High-A for about a month, and will be headed to Arizona rather than Minnesota as had been hoped at the start of the year. He remains a future closer option with a high strikeout potential, but the command could damper his value a bit.
Mesa Solar Sox
Pierce Johnson (SP - Cubs) - Johnson missed the first two months of the season due to a lat injury, but pitched well upon his return and looks like a potential rotation candidate at some point in 2016. He's a lock to be added to the 40-man roster, and seems likely to start next year at AAA Iowa regardless of his performance in Arizona.
Jake Bauers (OF - Rays) - Bauers was a prospect who was a bit of an add-on in the Wil Myers trade, but one who may turn into a very nice player for the Rays very soon. He is listed as an outfielder for the AFL, which he will be apparently trying to shift to from first base. The bat itself can potentially be strong enough at first base, but a move up the defensive spectrum would help his status as well.
Salt River Rafters
Jordan Patterson (OF - Rockies) - Patterson gets a bit lost behind the other top outfield prospects in the Rockies' system, but he's had a very good year between High-A and AA, hitting .295 with 17 home runs and 17 stolen bases. Patterson could be the next outfield prospect to reach Colorado, and has the potential to be at least a 15 HR/15 SB hitter in the majors.
Yoan Lopez (SP - Diamondbacks) - The Diamondbacks gave Lopez $8.25 million in January as a Cuban signee, and while he's expected to need more time still in the minors, he'll be pitching this fall to make up for missed time this year. He only made 11 appearances in total with just 54 innings, so if he can get another 20-30 in the AFL, it could help with moving him up to AA to start the 2016 season.
Jurickson Profar (SS - Rangers) - Remember him? Profar has missed nearly the entire 2014 and 2015 seasons, but is finally back on the field and will be playing in Arizona. It's hard to remember how young Profar was when he debuted, but he's only going to be 23 on Opening Day next year. I'm wondering if the Rangers try to showcase him for a trade since they have Odor and Andrus pretty well locked into the middle infield.
Bubba Starling (OF - Royals) - Starling needs to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason, and I'm expecting him to be protected unless he falls completely on his face in Arizona. His defense can carry him enough to the majors, but it's no longer very likely that he turns into the impact player he was projected to be originally.