There’s only one game remaining on this year’s Arizona Fall League schedule, but it’s a big one.

The Salt River Rafters (17-11-4) and Peoria Javelinas (15-4-3) will play in the AFL Championship Game on Saturday, beginning at 3:08 p.m. ET and airing on MLB Network/MLB.com.

Meanwhile, the other notable offseason leagues, such as the Dominican, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan Winter Leagues, are in the middle of their respective regular seasons, with the postseason still roughly a few months away. And as it’s the case every year, some of this year’s AFL participants will head out to extend their seasons in one of the winter leagues.

Unfortunately, the overlap across the four aforementioned offseason leagues will soon end. But before it does, we’ve got you covered with an up-to-date look—based on our year-end top 100 rankings, but adjusted to reflect changes since the article was published—at the top 25 prospects playing winter ball this year.

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The New York Yankees made Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka the highest-paid international free agent in baseball history last offseason, signing him to an unprecedented seven-year, $155 million contract (not including the Yankees’ winning bid of $20 million to secure negotiating rights).

This year, Yasmany Tomas is expected to sign the largest contract in baseball history for a Cuban player, with recent reports suggesting the 24-year-old outfielder could receive a deal worth at least $100 million.

The willingness to shell out more money each year to relatively unknown players is a growing trend within Major League Baseball, with teams attempting to capitalize on undeveloped international markets and land impact talents at a bargain price.

At the same time, the increasingly large contracts given to international free agents in recent years, as well as the subsequent validations of those contracts, have ostensibly inspired more players to make the jump to the major leagues, many of them doing so with the free-agent market in mind.

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One big name came off the board Wednesday, as Victor Martinez re-signed with the Detroit Tigers for four years, $68 million, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Now, the market depends on four players—Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval—and once they begin to sign, the dominoes will fall.

But as the top players in this year’s free-agent class, they also have incentive to hold out until their contract demands are met, meaning there’s a real chance they don’t sign anytime soon. That could be especially true for Scherzer, who’s represented by mega-agent Scott Boras and widely viewed as the premier talent on the market.

At the same time, there also are free agents who won’t be affected by the high-profile signings. Teams have highly specific needs, and in a thin free-agent class, there are only so many players worth consideration. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if bidding wars were to take place this offseason for seemingly middle-of-the-pack players, resulting in some of them signing earlier than expected.

Here are five impact free agents who will sign quickly this offseason.


The 2014 Arizona Fall League is set to end this weekend, with the championship game to be played Saturday at 3:08 p.m. ET, airing on MLB Network/MLB.com.

The game will feature the Salt River Rafters, who clinched the East Division Monday behind a league-best 17-9 overall record, taking on the winner of the West Division, which is still up for grabs.

Entering Wednesday, the Peoria Javelinas (14-13-3) and Surprise Saguaros (15-14-1) are tied for first place, while the Glendale Desert Dogs (13-15-1) are just one-and-a-half games back.

However, excitement surrounding the AFL has little to do with the teams or championship game; it’s more about gauging the developmental processes of many of baseball’s top prospects and getting a feel for where players are at heading into the offseason.

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During the regular season, teams usually call up their top prospects to fill a role that’s been affected by injuries or productivity issues.

While those obviously aren’t relevant concerns in the offseason, teams still have to consider the futures of its top prospects when addressing roster concerns caused by free-agent departures.

In some cases, teams will turn to internal replacements to fill glaring roster holes, as the Reds did with Billy Hamilton this season. Other clubs show more pause in passing the torch to a largely unproven, young player, and instead pursue outside help, potentially blocking a prospect’s path to the major leagues in the process.

However, these 10 players have the potential to benefit from their respective team’s free-agency situations.

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Believe it or not, the New York Yankees don’t plan on being big spenders this offseason. At least compared to previous years.

According to Mark Feinsand and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, the Yankees are not expected to pursue top free-agent pitchers Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields, as well as free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Instead, the team is likely to address its needs by targeting “mid-level free agents” such as Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy, notes Feinsand and Madden.

Though it’s difficult to discount the Yankees' potential to make a splash on the free-agent market this year—especially after the team’s spending spree last offseason—avoiding more large, multi-year contracts to players approaching the wrong side of 30 is the right call.

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This year’s class of free agents features top-tier pitchers such as Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields, as well as a few middle-of-the-order hitters such as Hanley Ramirez, Victor Martinez and Pablo Sandoval. However, some organizations may be more interested in what the international market has to offer.

As of now, Yasmani Tomas is expected to be the most coveted international free agent, as teams have flocked to see the Cuban outfielder in various showcase events over the last two months. However, he is only one of numerous international talents capable of making an impact in the major leagues as early as the 2015 season.

But how much will teams spend on this year's top international talents?

Here’s an early look at the potential contracts for the top 10 international free agents, ranked by cost. Please keep in mind that this article features players who have not officially defected from Cuba as well as players expected to be posted this offseason by a Japanese or Korean league.

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The (multi) million-dollar question this offseason is whether Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda will be posted by Nippon Professional Baseball’s Hiroshima Carp.

Maeda was the subject of rumors last offseason as well, after the 26-year-old right-hander openly expressed a desire to pursue a career in Major League Baseball. However, with four years of team control remaining at that time, the Carp chose not to post their top pitcher, keeping him in Japan for at least one more year.

Now, with the free agency underway, speculation regarding Maeda’s future in the States is once again picking up steam. But according to a recent report from The Japan Times (h/t MLB Trade Rumors), Hiroshima Carp owner Hajime Matsuda hasn’t decided whether the club will make Maeda available through the posting system.

“We have the right. We would like to let him go, but based on his production this year it will be difficult,” Matsuda said.

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Major League Baseball announced the 2014 Comeback Players of the Year in the American and National Leagues on Friday, and they got both of them right.

Seattle Mariners right-hander Chris Young was bestowed with the honor in the AL, after the 35-year-old pitched to a 3.65 ERA over 165 innings and cemented the back end of the team’s starting rotation with 12 wins in 29 starts.

Young spent the 2013 season with the Nationals, but injuries prevented him from reaching the major leagues. He managed to log just 32 innings at Triple-A Syracuse, where he registered an ugly 7.88 ERA and made only seven starts.

A clause in Young’s contract allowed him to opt out of his deal at the end of spring training, and soon thereafter he caught on with the Mariners. The veteran turned out to be a bargain for the M’s, costing them only $1.25 million on the year.

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Baseball’s offseason has only just begun, but with the winter meetings roughly a month away, speculation regarding this year’s trade market is already heating up.

In recent years, we’ve seen more and more teams willing to trade their top prospects, like when the Royals dealt Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays prior to the 2013 season, which was also the same offseason that the Blue Jays sent Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud to the Mets.

And even though the deals that transpired last offseason didn’t involve as many big-name prospects, we still saw numerous highly regarded young talents, such as Matt Davidson, Michael Choice, Jesse Hahn and Robbie Ray, get moved in exchange for veteran players.

With that being said, here’s an early look at four potential impact prospects who could be wearing a different uniform at the start of the 2014 season.