With the Arizona Fall League being such a hitters' environment (the league ERA is just more than 5 again, and the Peoria Saguaros set an AFL record for highest team ERA), starting pitching prospects with good potential will stand out even more. Here are the top five starters from the AFL based on their future potential:
Mike Montgomery, Kansas City Royals: The biggest thing Montgomery needed to show was that he was healthy again after two separate elbow problems this season, and that he was looking better than when I saw him earlier in the season while rehabbing in rookie league play. Considering he was touching up to 96 mph on the gun here, I'd say he was feeling good again. His changeup was an above-average offering with good fade. He just needs to show better command of his curveball to go along with the depth. Though elbow trouble still gives us a little pause, the 21-year-old southpaw re-established himself as one of the best starting pitching prospects in the minors.
Manny Banuelos, New York Yankees: Banuelos was here to get some extra innings in after missing part of the season due to an appendectomy. He showed better stuff to go along with the polish and plus command that had been evident in the past, touching up to 95 mph in shorter stints, and sitting at 91-93 mph in his starts. He was aggressive, worked both sides of the plate and threw a plus changeup that was a true strikeout pitch, showing why he was able to get Double-A hitters out before his 20th birthday. He deserves more attention than he's probably been getting from fantasy owners in long-term keeper or dynasty leagues. Keith Law and I talked more about Montgomery and Banuelos in this video.
Casey Kelly, Boston Red Sox: Kelly hasn't had the results on the field to match his stuff and projection yet, but given that it was his first full season exclusively as a pitcher, we can cut him a little slack. Kelly's relatively easy delivery allows us to project better command in the future, and he was hitting 93-94 mph out here while showing flashes of both a solid curve and changeup. I think we just need to be patient here, and he's a good "buy low" candidate coming off a down season if you're fishing around for prospect throw-ins in long-term formats.
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