MINNEAPOLIS - Since there is no Arizona Fall League, teams who have played themselves out of the playoffs no longer have anything to do but “wait 'til next year.” But, if given the chance, who would be the stars of the AFL, destined to be superstars in the majors down the road? They would have to be guys with sky-high potential, ones with the possibility of being some of the best at their positions in a couple of years. To get to that step, though, these players also need to be blessed with good health, showing no indication that they may be sidetracked off the road to stardom by a nagging sore shoulder or a hip flexor. With a cursory glance around the league, these guys are the ones I would stock my franchise with if they were available.
Note: the players are listed at their current positions, not where they may play in the majors. With the exception of pitchers, only one player per team is considered at each position.
Part One: Catchers
Who will be the ones to join Diego Santana and Andy Curtis among the elites to don the tools of ignorance? Which farmhands have what it takes to squat 150 times a game and then go hit 40 home runs, walk 100 times, or bang out 50 doubles?
1. Pasqual Mota, Jackson Rookie, 1st year pro, 21 years old.
Mota played as much as Omlansky and Jones despite just having a shortened rookie season. His 2:1 walk to strikeout ratio was a plus, and he threw out almost a third of basestealers. I don't put much stock in rookie-level numbers, but he should be good.
2. Jeff Jones, Honolulu AA, 3rd year pro, 20 years old.
Jones has put up monster numbers in A ball and that translated to AA as well. He had 72 extra-base hits in season 7 and hit .370. He has room to grow defensively and in playing more games, so his major league seasons will surely have him play more than his career-high 81 games.
3. Mateo Pena, St. Louis AAA, 3rd year pro, 21 years old.
Pena, like many of the top catchers, is a hitting machine. He played about as much as the other top prospects and banged out 31 doubles in his 100 games. 17 passed balls and 50 stolen bases against have got to be frustrating, though.
4. Terrence Parrish, Boston Low A, 2nd year pro, 19 years old.
Parrish clubbed 71 doubles in his first two pro seasons and gets on base almost half the time, but his defense is not major league. As he gets older, he will be able to play a lot more games and hit as good as or better than anyone else, so he is almost ideal as a DH.
5. B.J. Omlansky, Salem High A, 3rd year pro, 21 years old.
Omlansky has crunched everything at rookie, low A, and high A. Offensively, he has hit more home runs every season and doesn't strike out as much as some guys. His downside is that he can't play a whole season or anything close to that and his pitch calling is not quite ideal for the majors. Opponents stole 51 bases on him this season.
6. Bo Collins, Atlanta AAA, 4th year pro, 21 years old.
After a second season at AAA, he may be on the way to the big leagues soon. Collins caught 103 games and gave up 67 stolen bases, but he also had almost 400 ABs and hit 20 homers and 21 doubles. His defensive game probably won't get much better, and he's ugly.
If I missed your can't-miss catcher prospect, post your reply and tell us why your Donne Kirkland is a future HoFer.