Tigers prospect Hill has breakout AFL season

Detroit Tigers

It was the season of the underdog prospect in the Arizona Fall League, starting with MVP Nelson Velazquez (Cubs) and Pitcher of the Year Owen White (Rangers). They rank 29th and 28th on MLB Pipeline’s organization Top 30 lists.

Co-Hitter of the Year Juan Yepez (Cardinals, No. 26) and Breakout Player of the Year Elijah Dunham (Yankees, No. 24) also sat near the end of Top 30s. Several other players broke out in the developmental circuit after placing closer to the bottom than the top of our organization lists, which were compiled during the summer, or going completely unranked.

Velazquez, White, Yepez and Dunham all made our AFL Top 25 Prospects list. Below, we identify 10 more previously unheralded prospects who boosted their stock in the Fall League:

Jackson Cluff, SS, Nationals (No. 19)
The AFL Defensive Player of the Year, Cluff showed off solid range and plus arm strength while committing just one error in 125 chances. And after batting .223/.315/.336 in his first two pro seasons, the 2019 sixth-rounder looked more like the line-drive hitter he was at Brigham Young, albeit without much over-the-fence power.

Coleman Crow, RHP, Angels (unranked on Angels Top 30)
An over-slot $317,500 signing as a 28th-rounder out of a Georgia high school in 2019, Crow made his pro debut this year and was the youngest pitcher in the Fall League at age 20. His changeup and curveball show flashes of becoming plus pitches and play well off his low-90s sinker, a combination that helped him post a 1.59 ERA with a 20/2 K/BB ratio in 17 innings.

Brendan Donovan, INF/OF, Cardinals (No. 17)
Donovan has hit throughout his amateur and pro career, including a .304/.399/.455 line in the upper levels of the Minors this year and a .308/.422/.519 line in the AFL. The 2018 seventh-rounder from South Alabama has fringy defensive tools but makes repeated quality contact and offers some gap power and baserunning savvy.

Nathan Eaton, INF/OF, Royals (unranked on Royals Top 30)
Eaton has batted just .237 in full-season ball, but was one of the hottest hitters in the first half of the Fall League season before finishing at .317 with eight extra-base hits and four steals in 20 games. He has played six different positions since signing as a 21st-rounder out of Virginia Military Institute in 2018, possesses plus speed and arm strength and has drawn some comparisons to Whit Merrifield for his versatility and makeup.

Garrett Hill, RHP, Tigers (unranked on Tigers Top 30)
A 26th-rounder from San Diego State in 2018, Hill has a 2.54 ERA with 274 strikeouts in 237 1/3 pro innings and recorded a 1.98 ERA with a 21/3 K/BB ratio in 13 2/3 AFL frames. He had one of the better changeups in the circuit, set it up with a low-90s fastball with tough vertical angle and also displayed an average curveball and changeup.

Ivan Johnson, 2B, Reds (No. 16)
Tied with two others for the highest-drafted player on this list, Johnson turned pro as a fourth-rounder from Chipola (Fla.) JC in 2019. He’s a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate — he hit six homers in 60 Fall League at-bats — a patient approach and the potential for average or better tools across the board.

James Outman, OF, Dodgers (No. 27)
Outman featured some of the league’s best all-around tools, showcasing plus raw power, speed, arm strength and center-field defense. The 2018 seventh-rounder from Sacramento State needs to make more consistent contact but did make progress in the second half of the regular season and hit .284/.422/.552 in Arizona.

Andre Pallante, RHP, Cardinals (No. 30)
One of the AFL’s harder-throwing starters, Pallante sat in the mid-90s and topped out at 99 and complemented his heater with a solid mid-80s slider. The 2019 fourth-rounder from UC Irvine led the league’s starters with a 1.29 ERA while striking out 22 in 21 innings.

Graham Spraker, RHP, Blue Jays (unranked on Blue Jays Top 30)
Spraker won AFL Reliever of the Year honors after striking out 17 in 11 1/3 scoreless regular-season innings, and he also contributed scoreless frames to wrap up the Fall Stars Game and the championship contest. The 31st-rounder from NCAA Division II Quincy (Ill.) in 2018 saw his stuff improve after he became a full-time reliever this year, and he now operates with a 92-95 mph fastball with good carry and an upper-80s cutter.

Joey Wiemer, OF, Brewers (No. 23)
Wiemer played just nine AFL games because of a bruised left thumb, but that was long enough to hit .467 with four extra-base hits and leave scouts raving about his physical ability. A 2020 fourth-rounder out of Cincinnati, he’s a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder with huge raw power, at least solid speed and double-plus arm strength.

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