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Twins' Buxton tops list of prospects headed for Arizona Fall League

Twins prospect Byron Buxton seems likely to follow the long line of players who have moved on from the Arizona Fall League to become All-Stars in the majors. (Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Twins prospect Byron Buxton may be the most likely to follow the long line of players who have moved on from the Arizona Fall League to become All-Stars.

The rosters for the Arizona Fall League (AFL) were announced Tuesday and, as usual, many of the game's top prospects are among those who will be playing on the high-scoring circuit in October and November. The league, created in 1992 to provide additional experience and exposure to minor-league prospects, boasts a who's who of alumni: the last eight National League MVPs (Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols -- who won three times -- Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard); AL MVPs Josh Hamilton and Dustin Pedroia; Cy Young award winners Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter; as well as Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, David Wright, Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Jered Weaver, Matt Holliday, Craig KimbrelMark Teixeira, Chase Utley, Brandon Phillips, Todd Helton; and, more recently, Stephen Strasburg (in 2009), Mike Trout and Bryce Harper (in '11) and Yasiel Puig (last year). Through '11, the league had featured at least one future All-Star in every season, and Puig came very close to extending that streak this year.

Looking at the list of the top-50 midseason prospects of Baseball Prospectus from late June, ten have seen major league action this season, and at least two (the Cardinals' Oscar Taveras and the Orioles' Dylan Bundy) are out for the year due to injury. Of the remaining 38, 11 will play in the AFL. Here are those 11 in order of their rank on the Baseball Prospectus list.

Byron Buxton, CF, Twins

Glendale Desert Dogs

BP Rank: 1

The 19-year-old Buxton, the second overall pick in last year's draft, has hit .330/.424/.492 with 21 stolen bases since being promoted to High-A in late June. On the season, he has 12 homers, 18 triples and 53 steals at a solid 76-percent success rate. He's a five-tool monster and the best prospect in baseball. Look for him to start 2014 in Double-A and possibly finish it in the majors.

Addison Russell, SS, A’s

Mesa Solar Sox

BP Rank: 11

Russell, the 11th pick in last year's draft, is also 19 and has also thrived in High-A, where he's spent the entire season and is hitting .277/.373/.514 with 17 homers and 18 steals at an 86-percent success rate. He's an offense-first shortstop, but concerns about his defensive abilities are fading, causing his stock to rise. Jason Parks, who compiled the Baseball Prospectus list, thinks he could be a top-five prospect heading into next season, though he may not reach the majors until 2015.

Austin Hedges, C, Padres

Peoria Javelinas

BP Rank: 13

A second-round pick in 2011, Hedges just turned 21 and has struggled at the plate in 16 games since his promotion to Double-A at the start of the month. Fortunately, his elite status hinges largely on his spectacular play behind the plate, where he is considered to be not just good, but the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues.

Albert Almora, CF, Cubs

Mesa Solar Sox

BP Rank: 15

Almora, the sixth-overall pick in 2012, won't turn 20 until next April and has hit .329/.376/.466 in full-season A-Ball this year. A five-tool talent, he is more raw than fellow teenagers Buxton and Russell, but he has similar potential.

Javier Baez, SS, Cubs

Mesa Solar Sox

BP Rank: 17

The ninth-overall pick in 2011 will turn 21 in December. He earned mention in this space in early June when he became just the second player in the High-A Florida State League's 95-year history to hit four home runs in a single game. Not surprisingly, Chicago promoted Baez to Double-A one month later. In 49 games at that level, he has hit .302/.353/.643, with 18 home runs; his combined line on the season: .285/.344/.578, 35 HR, 105 RBI, 20 SB (at an 83-percent success rate). His aggressive approach at the plate has caused many evaluators to hedge their bets regarding his potential, but his walk rate has improved with each promotion, and his immediate success in Double-A, considered the second-hardest jump to make (after the jump to the majors), speaks volumes about his pure hitting ability.

Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Blue Jays

Salt River Rafters

BP Rank: 24

He was drafted in 2011 with the compensation pick acquired when Marco Scutaro signed with the Red Sox. The lanky 21-year-old Sanchez throws easy mid-90s gas, has a sharp nose-to-toes curveball and a potentially above-average changeup. But he also lacks control, walking 90 batters in 169 2/3 innings over the last two seasons (4.8 BB/9), and his strikeout rate dropped below a man per inning with his promotion to High-A this year. Still, with Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard having gone to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey trade, he's the Blue Jays' best prospect, and Parks thinks he has the potential to be a number-two starter in the majors.

Jorge Soler, RF, Cubs

Mesa Solar Sox

BP Rank: 31

Soler is likely going to draw countless comparisons to Baez, Almora, and Yasiel Puig as he approaches the major leagues. Baez and Almora are fellow Cubs prospects (and Solar Sox teammates). Puig, like Soler, is a powerful right fielder with a strong arm who defected from Cuba last year and landed a big contract. Puig signed with the Dodgers for seven years and $42 million on June 27, three days before Soler signed with Chicago for $30 million over nine years. Soler, who will turn 22 in February, is a little more than a year younger than Puig and has spent this season hitting .281/.343/.467 for High-A Daytona, a solid showing for a 21-year-old adjusting to his first full year of pro ball in a new country. Scouts think there's a ton of potential in his bat.

Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers

Glendale Desert Dogs

BP Rank: 35

The younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, Corey was drafted with the 18th pick last year and won't turn 20 until late April. He hit .309/.389/.529 with 12 homers in 74 games in A-ball earlier this season, but he has struggled since his promotion to High-A at the start of the month. An offense-first prospect, he should thrive in the hitting-friendly AFL, but he may ultimately need to change positions.

Garin Cecchini, 3B, Red Sox

Surprise Saguaros

BP Rank: 39

The older brother of Mets minor league shortstop Gavin Cecchini, 22-year-old Garin was a fourth-round pick in 2010. He has hit .311/.416/.455 across four minor-league levels, including a .350/.469/.547 performance in 62 games at High-A earlier this year. Cecchini has struggled to hit for power since a late June promotion to Double-A, and there are questions about his defense, which, combined with the possibility of Xander Bogaerts having to move to third, could cloud his future.

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Alex Meyer, RHP, Twins

Glendale Desert Dogs

BP Rank: 44

Acquired from the Nationals in the Denard Span trade, the 23-year-old Meyer was the 23rd pick in 2011 after playing college ball at Kentucky. His 6-foot-9 frame and a nasty fastball/slider combo result in a lot of strikeouts but also have led some to wonder if he isn't best suited for the bullpen, where he would have potential as a closer. Meyer complained of a sore arm after a June 1 start and spent the next two months on the disabled list. After three rehab starts in the Gulf Coast League, he made a triumphant return to Double-A this past Saturday with five scoreless innings of one-hit ball. His time in the AFL should serve to replace the innings he missed and could prepare him for a possible major league debut next season.

Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins

Glendale Desert Dogs

BP Rank: 45

The ninth pick last year out of Oklahoma State, Heaney dominated the Florida State League earlier this year, posting a 0.88 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 3.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12 starts and one relief appearance. His strikeout rate has dipped since his late-July promotion to Double-A, but he has excelled in four of his five starts at the level. Heaney has a live, mid-90s fastball, a big breaking curve and a developing changeup. What's more, unlike Meyer and Sanchez, he has shown consistent control and received high marks for his approach. The 22-year-old Heaney is generally regarded to have less upside than Meyer or Sanchez, but he might be the best pitcher of the three right now.

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