Shortstop Addison Russell, the 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft, beat out a couple of higher profile Cubs to be named the Arizona League’s No. 1 prospect by Baseball America on Monday.
Cubs outfielders did claim the second and fourth spots on the list, which ranked the top 20 prospects from the 13-team league. Albert Almora, the sixth overall pick in the draft, was ranked No. 2 after hitting .347/.363/.480 with one homer in his 18 games in Arizona. Cuban defector Jorge Soler was ranked fourth despite hitting .241/.328/.389 with two homers in his 14 games there. Soler looked better after moving up to the Midwest League, where he hit .338/.398/.513 in 20 games.
League MVP Joey Gallo, who was drafted by the Rangers 39th overall this year, claimed the third spot. The third baseman hit .293/.435/.733 with 18 homers in 43 games.
The 18-year-old Russell hit .415/.488/.717 with six homers and nine steals in his 26 games in Arizona. There’s some skepticism about whether he’ll remain at short or require a move to third, but the A’s have to be thrilled with the way he hit in his introduction to the pros. He’ll probably open next year in low-A ball in the Midwest League.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.