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Arizona Fall League: Three prospects to watch closely

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A look at a few unheralded position players that could use a strong Arizona Fall League showing to improve their prospect status.

Yes, I know this picture of AB Walker is old. Hopefully we'll get new ones from the AFL
Yes, I know this picture of AB Walker is old. Hopefully we'll get new ones from the AFL
John Sickels, SB Nation/Vox Media
After the 150-day grind of the minor league calendar year, baseball season gives us one 'last hurrah' in the form of a six-team mega-prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, starting in mid-October.

With the AFL preliminary rosters being announced on Tuesday, high-end prospects such as J.P. Crawford, Sean Manaea, and Bradley Zimmer are some of the headliners sprinkled throughout.

While many of us are well-versed on the impact players - and in this twitter age, maybe a little *too* versed - there are a myriad of unheralded prospects with unique stories, waiting to be unearthed. With that in mind, we'll take a look at a few of these under-the-radar position players that could parlay a strong AFL showing into consideration as a top prospect.


Mesa Solar Sox

Jeimer Candelario - 3B, CHC

Candelario is a name that gets lost among the Cubs' cavalcade of infield prospects, but his interesting journey to pro ball coupled with his sudden success at AA Tennessee this season deserve a closer look.

Jeimer was born in New York City but moved to the Dominican Republic at the age of 5, where his father Rogelio - a former Houston Astro farmhand - would open a youth baseball center. Young Jeimer took advantage of the (ostensibly) free tutelage and learned the nuances of the game under his father, also picking up switch-hitting along the way. Despite interest from multiple teams and the ability as an American citizen to continue his playing career stateside in college, Candelario signed with the Cubs at the age of 16.

While Jeimer hasn't produced eye-popping numbers during his first few seasons of affiliated ball, he's been at least two years younger than the competition at each stop he's made. Even so, his struggles at high-A Daytona last season (.193/.275/.326) led to a demotion to the Carolina League to start 2015.

Candelario appears to have put the subpar season behind him, and even earned a promotion to the AA Southern League in July. Facing the ever-important jump to Double-A, Jeimer has responded with one of his best months as a pro, tallying a 134 wRC+ and a 16:19 BB/K ratio against the best pitching he's seen.

It might be a stretch to read too much into a 40-game stint at Tennessee, but Candelario's relative youth and positive scouting reports point to a player on the rise. Per Fangraphs' Kiley McDaniel, "Candelario is solid at third with a plus arm, average or better raw power, a good sense of the zone and a solid stroke from both sides​." Jeimer will get a chance ​to display his tools at the AFL on a star-studded Mesa team and prove his early success in the upper levels is no fluke.



Salt River Rafters

Rowdy Tellez - 1B, TOR

Tellez is a guy worth touching on, especially with power at a premium across all levels of the game. Because of a perceived strong commitment to USC, the California HS product fell to the 30th round in the 2013 draft. When the Jays were unable to come to terms with first-rounder Phil Bickford at the time, that freed up enough funds to sway Tellez from the Trojans and instead start his pro career with Toronto.

Listed at 6'4"/245 and armed with (at least) a 65 power grade, Tellez has boosted his stock in 2015, his first year in full-season ball. Despite favorable pitching environments and being young for both levels, Rowdy has combined for 14 HRs and an .801 OPS across stops in the Midwest and Florida State Leagues.

When John Sickels checked in on Tellez back in July, he hinted that Rowdy could be in consideration for a top 100 list depending on second-half scouting reports, performance, etc. Though the hulking slugger has been shelved with an injury for nearly a month, the plan is for Tellez to make up those lost ABs in the highly-competitive AFL. His performance will be one to monitor, as a strong showing could both push him up the prospect ranks and tempt Toronto to challenge him with a promotion to the Eastern League next season.



Scottsdale Scorpions

Adam Brett Walker - OF, MIN

Fans of the Minnesota Twins have a lot to be excited about these days. After graduating all-world prospects Byron Buxton & Miguel Sano to the big club this year, the team's late August surge has them just one game out of the wild card race - with top arm Jose Berrios perhaps ready to join the fray for a playoff push.

Similar to the Cubs, despite major-league success and several prospect graduations, the Twins' farm system still looks strong. While German import Max Kepler is generating ample buzz on the strength of a .323/.409/.528 line (das ist sehr gut), his AA Chattanooga teammate Adam Brett Walker has put on quite the power display this summer - his 30 HR and 103 RBI are both modern-day records for the Lookouts' franchise.

If we're 'scouting the stat line' on Walker, the power numbers jump off the page but so do the punchouts - ABW has K'd 188 times, more than any other player in the minor leagues. The contact issues are Walkers' obvious bugaboo, and his improvement in that area will likely determine whether he becomes a middle-of-the-order thumper at the MLB level or the Twins' version of Mike Hessman.

The argument can be made that, even at 23, Walker still has time to iron out the swing-and-miss to his game. While the huge power numbers + bushels of strikeouts have elicited comps to Joey Gallo, the Rangers' slugger was able to develop his game year-round growing up in Las Vegas, playing on easily the scariest youth teams of our time. On the flipside, Walker grew up in Wisconsin, balancing his ballplaying career while also starring at quarterback and power forward for Milwaukee Lutheran High. It wasn't until he arrived at Jacksonville University that Walker concentrated solely on baseball.

In sum, Walker is a tantalizing prospect because his brand of raw power doesn't come around too often. If he can make minor improvements to his approach at the plate (identifying spin on a breaking ball, hitting the ball the other way), ABW has the ceiling of a superstar. On the hitter-friendly fields of the Arizona Fall League, Walker has the chance to put a cherry on his record-breaking season before a likely promotion to AAA in 2016.