We'll put the 2009 baseball season in the books with a look ahead to the hitters who will be making noise in the Arizona Fall League. This should be one of the most exciting groups of players in some time, with premium bats being swung on every roster.
Mesa Solar Sox
Matt Dominguez, 3B, Marlins: He was a bit disappointing with the stick upon his arrival to Double-A (.186/2/9), but still profiles as an above average third baseman in the bigs. He'll need to cut down on the strikeouts (24.7 percent at Double-A).
Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs: Widely considered a butcher at the hot corner, it's his bat that will carry him to the majors in the future. He hit 18 homers between two stops in Single-A ball, but struggled with his average at High-A (.238). If the power develops, he could be a .300/30/100 bat in his prime.
Ryan Kalish, OF, Red Sox: An impressive five-tool talent, he was solid upon his promotion to Double-A this season with a line of .271/13/56 and 14 steals. I can picture him being a Corey Hart-type player, with better plate discipline.
Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins: He carries a big stick (28 total homers in '09), but his strikeout rate is concerning (33 percent at Double-A), as is his ability to hit for average (.231). He is widely considered a top-five prospect in all of baseball, so the talent is certainly there for him to improve.
Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, Mariners: Still recovering from Tommy John surgery, it will be interesting to see if he gets time in center field in the AFL, the position he should play in the majors. As a high draft pick with five-tool talent, expectations for him will be high, as will the pressure he feels making his professional debut.
Carlos Triunfel, SS, Mariners: Coming off a broken leg earlier in the season, this will be a good measure as to where his prospect stock stands. He was easily a top-50 guy prior to the injury, and the AFL will determine where he lands on prospect lists heading into 2010.
Dayan Viciedo, 3B, White Sox: There was talk of him being the opening day third baseman for the White Sox in '09, but he was clearly over-hyped, as he posted average numbers at Double-A (.280/12/78). He is huge for a third baseman, and will most likely move to first, so his power will need to develop quickly.
Jordan Danks, OF, White Sox: Another casualty of Double-A pitching (.243/6/20), although his time in High-A was impressive (.322/3/21). He looks more like a fourth outfielder at this point, but that could change if his power and plate discipline develop.
Jason Castro, C, Astros: The baseball player, not the dread-locked hack from American Idol. He hits for a solid average (.300 in '09 at two levels), but minimal power (10 total home runs). He looks like an above average big leaguer who should be a serviceable fantasy backstop.
Yonder Alonso, 1B, Reds: Where is the power? His nine home runs in '09 were a major concern, although he shows patience at the plate which should allow him to grow in that area. The Reds will have a decision to make between he and Joey Votto by 2011. A shift to the outfield looks likely for one of them.
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: Hands down, the best prospect in the minor leagues (Take that, Stephen Strasburg). His combined season line in the minors this year was .323/17/63 with 10 steals and a 51/51 BB/K ratio. There is a chance he'll start '10 in Atlanta, making him an early Rookie of the Year candidate.
Phoenix Desert Dogs
Derek Norris, C, Nationals: He reminds me a lot of Tyler Flowers heading into the AFL last season, a catching prospect who seemingly came out of nowhere to post a great season line (.286/23/84). Keep an eye on him, he could be the top backstop prospect in the minors when 2011 rolls around.
Josh Bell, 3B, Orioles: The future at the hot corner for the O's, Bell was acquired in the George Sherrill trade and didn't disappoint in '09 (.295/20/76). He is just about ready for the show, and should be the opening day third baseman in 2010. The cost conscious O's could keep him down through June though to protect his service clock, delaying arbitration eligibility.
Buster Posey, C, Giants: A simply outstanding '09 campaign (.325/18/80) earned him a cup of coffee with the big club in September. I'm interested to see if he or 2009 uber-prospect Matt Wieters has a better 2010 season line. Their skill sets are awfully similar.
Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies: He'll look to build on a strong '09 (.299/14/64 with 23 steals) and catapult himself into elite prospect status this fall. The Phillies will have a log jam of quality outfielders by mid-2010, which is great news for GM Ruben Amaro Jr.
Thomas Neal, OF, Giants: One of my personal favorites of '09, Neal bounced back from injuries to post a line of .337/22/90 in High-A. Facing better pitching will provide a better indicator if he is the real deal heading into 2010.
Jose Tabata, OF, Pirates: It seems like he has been around forever ('09 was his fourth minor league season), and is only 21 years old. He reached Triple-A and held his own (.276/3/10) in a brief stint, but still needs to develop power if he plans to be anything more than a fourth outfielder in the major leagues.
Austin Romine, C, Yankees: While many talk about Jesus Montero and Francisco Cervelli, it is Romine who could ultimately end up as the future Yankees backstop. His line of .276/13/72 and with solid defense has many in the Bronx excited about his trip to Arizona.
Ike Davis, 1B, Mets: The power arrived finally (20 homers in '09), but he still lacks in the area of generating contact (29.0 % strikeout rate at Double-A). If he continues to develop in the AFL and in 2010, the Mets could have their future first baseman by opening day of 2011.
Mike Moustakas, SS, Royals: His prospect stock took a hit with his '09 performance (.250/16/86 at High-A), but he still has all the tools to succeed and be a very good major leaguer. He suffered from an unlucky BABIP (.277), a big reason why his line doesn't look very impressive. He could rebound in the eyes of scouts with a solid fall.