The Arizona Fall League came to a close on Saturday evening after the Scottsdale Scorpions defeated the Surprise Saguaros in the league championship game, 6-4.
Despite falling a few runs short of hoisting the AFL title, the Yankees collection of prospects for Surprise proved to be standout performers throughout the fall campaign.
Catcher Gary Sanchez, who led the AFL in homers (7) and RBI (21) and total bases (55), fell just short of winning the leagues MVP award. The 22-year old Sanchez was named the Fall-Star game MVP after going 1-for-3 with a mammoth two-run homer to propel the West to an 8-3 victory. In 93 games between Trenton and Scranton Wilkes-Barre in 2015, Sanchez tied a career high with 18 homers and drove in 62 runs while hitting for a .274 average.
The biggest knock on Sanchez has long been his defensive deficiencies behind the plate. However, the organization has been pleased with the growth and improvement that he has demonstrated over the last two seasons and it has given them confidence in his ability to stick at the position long-term. In 2014, Sanchez threw out 37-of-95 potential base stealers (38.9%) and followed it up by throwing out 31-of-87 (36%) in 2015.
Dating back to 2011 when he allowed 26 passed-balls, Sanchez has worked tirelessly to improve his blocking ability. In 2012, he sliced that figure down to 18, he then allowed 13 in 2013, 8 in 2014 and in 2015, Sanchez was charged with just 2 passed-balls. After the trade of John Ryan Murphy to Minnesota, Sanchez has the inside-track for the Yankees back-up catching spot in 2016.
No Yankees prospect opened more eyes this fall than 20-year old outfielder, Dustin Fowler. The sweet-swinging left-hander ended his impressive AFL stint by going 2-for-3 with a homer and 2 RBI in the title game on Saturday. The Yankees 18th-round pick in 2013 hit .279 with 2 homers, 7 RBI and added 7 stolen bases in 16 games for Surprise.
Fowler put together one of the more impressive under-the-radar performances in the organization in 2015. The young outfielder hit a combined .298 with 5 home runs and 70 RBI and added 30 stolen bases in 123 games between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa.
After being designated for assignment by the Yankees last September, former top-five prospect Tyler Austin took a second go-around in the AFL to help rebuild his stock and get extra at-bats heading into the winter.
The 24-year old Austin split time between first base and both corner outfield spots for Surprise and had the fourth-highest at-bat total on the team with 81. Austin capitalized on the extended playing time by hitting .274 with 3 homers and 7 RBI in 21 games; he also stole 7 bases in 10 attempts.
Coming off of a season that saw Austin hit a career worst .240 between SWB and Trenton, his strong bounce back AFL showing may make him an attractive commodity for a major league team in next months Rule 5 draft. In the mean time, instead of packing up and heading home to Georgia for the winter, Austin is jumping right into winter ball where he is slated to play for Aguilas del Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Shortstop Tyler Wade, who is regarded as one of the better position prospects in the organization, was limited to just 14 games of action after his AFL season was cut short due to injury.
Wade, who will turn 21-years old on Monday, split time between both middle-infield spots and hit just .220 with 6 RBI in 41 at-bats for Surprise.
In 2015 Wade was named a Florida State League All-Star for Tampa after hitting .289 with 2 HR, 26 RBI and 31 stolen bases in 98 games. His impressive first-half earned him a promotion to Trenton for the final 29 games of the season where he hit just .204 over that stretch.