The Scottsdale Scorpions have one of the least prospect-laden teams on paper, representing three of the weaker farm systems in baseball (Cleveland, San Francisco, and Anaheim) and two others who elected not to send their top prospects (Pittsburgh and the Yankees).
Kaleb Cowart (LAA)
Cowart, a 2010 first-rounder, put together a nice first full season. Splitting time between the Midwest and California Leagues, Cowart hit .276/.358/.452 with 31 doubles and 16 home runs. The third baseman is thoughts player on the Scorpions roster, but also one of its most talented.
Joe Panik (SF)
After dominating the short-season Northwest League last season, big things were expected out of Panik in his first full year, especially since he was heading to the California League. That's the only context in which a .298/..368/.402 season might be considered disappointing. Panik displayed less power and plate discipline than many thought he had, but still had an ok all-around season. He'll head to Double-A next season.
Ronny Rodriguez (CLE)
Another one of the AFL's youngest players, Rodriguez oozes potential but is still very raw. He hit 19 home runs in the Carolina League as a 19-year-old this season, but also walked just 19 times against 88 strikeouts. Signed as a shortstop out of the Dominican, he also saw time as second base, where he is much more consistent as a defender.
Gary Brown (SF)
The Giants top prospect rebounded from a rough first half to put up decent numbers in Double-A in 2012, hitting .279/.347/.385, but his lack of power is concerning. It should be noted that his home park in Richmond is known for greatly limiting power, but Brown's OPS was over 100 points lower on the road, so it's difficult to gauge how much effect that had. Brown is still exceptionally fast, but he'll need to rebound with a strong season next year to prove he's more than just a fourth outfielder.
Other Notable Hitters
Slade Heathcott has had trouble staying on the field, but when he was out there this season, he finally displayed the tools the Yankees knew he had when they made him a first runs pick in 2009. Randal Grichuk will always be the guy the Angels selected one pick ahead of Mike Trout, but he finally displayed his power this season. He still doesn't walk enough, though.
Arsenal of Arms
Dellin Betances (NYY)
Instead of helping the Yankees when they needed extra pitching this season, Betances took a step back, finishing the season back in Double-A. His control escaped him completely in Triple-A, and after his demotion he just got lit up. The AFL isn't the best place to send a struggling pitcher, but it's his last chance to get the bad taste of the 2012 season out of his mouth.
Victor Black (PIT)
It's not out of the question to envision Victor Black setting up Joel Hanrahan in Pittsburgh by the end of next season. The hardest thrower in the Pirates farm system put it all together this year, posting a 1.65 ERA as the closer for Double-A Altoona and striking out 85 batters in 60 innings. What will determine if Black becomes a closer in the majors or a middle reliever will be his control, which has been questionable at times.
Other Notable Arms
Ryan Chaffee really took to his new role as a reliever this year and struck out more batters than ever. Heath Hembree still projects as a mid-to-late inning reliever for the Giants despite a rough introduction to the Pacific Coast League this year.