Bright futures on display at Fall Stars Game
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Want to get a sneak peak at 2014? Curious who may contribute to big league roster for the first time? In a fantasy league and wanting to get a leg up on competition by knowing who the hot rookies will be now? Then boy, does the Arizona Fall League have a game for you.
The eighth annual Fall Stars Game will take place Saturday (8 p.m. ET, MLB Network and MLB.com) at Surprise Stadium. Formerly known as the Rising Stars Game, the exhibition brings the best of an already talented league together on the field for one game -- the AFL's version of the Futures Game. And if history is any indication, a large number of the prospects on the field will see time in the big leagues in 2014.
The past four iterations of the game have seen 93 players reach the Major Leagues the following season, with a high of 28 in 2009 and a "low" of 18 in '11. These weren't just cup-of-coffee-type callups, either. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout played in the 2011 game, then went on to win Rookie of the Year Awards in 2012. That wasn't a one-time deal, either. Craig Kimbrel, Buster Posey and Ryan Braun all played in the game and then went on to win Rookie of the Year honors in the big leagues in future seasons.
"You can't have any words for that," Cubs prospect Kris Bryant said when it was announced he was on the roster. "It's incredible that so many guys from this game go to the big leagues the next year. It's very special; I think we all know that. We know we have a chance, and all you can do is ask for a chance at the big leagues. Being on that stage will definitely help us display our talents."
In an informal anonymous poll of participants in this year's Fall Stars Game, Bryant was one of the leading answers to the question "Which player in the Fall Stars Game do you feel is most likely to become a Major League star?" With 21 members of MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list on the two rosters, there were many choices, but Bryant's light-tower power stood out for some.
|LF - James Ramsey (STL)|
|CF - Brian Goodwin (WSH)|
|3B - Kris Bryant (CHC)|
|1B - C.J. Cron (LAA)|
|2B - Taylor Lindsey (LAA)|
|DH - Stephen Piscotty (STL)|
|RF - Jorge Soler (CHC)|
|C - Peter O'Brien (NYY)|
|SS - Addison Russell (OAK)|
|P - Aaron Sanchez (TOR)|
|LF - Delino DeShields (HOU)|
|DH - Tyler Naquin (CLE)|
|CF - Byron Buxton (MIN)|
|3B - Colin Moran (MIA)|
|RF - Jorge Bonifacio (KC)|
|SS - Corey Seager (LAD)|
|C - Austin Hedges (SD)|
|1B - Brett Nicholas (TEX)|
|2B - Mookie Betts (BOS)|
|P - Alex Meyer (MIN)|
"He hit two monstrous opposite-field homers against us," one player said. "It was very impressive, and it stuck in my mind. I can see that playing very well in the big leagues."
Like Bryant, No. 1 prospect Byron Buxton got multiple mentions, both for that question as well as the one that asked pitchers: "Which hitter would you most like to face?" Both have yet to play above A ball, a different situation than a year ago, when those polled picked Mike Zunino and Billy Hamilton, both of whom had played in Double-A during the regular season.
Not every respondent to the first question answered with a hitter. Some have seen pitching they feel has the chance to achieve stardom. Twins right-hander Alex Meyer got several mentions, as did Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez. Both were also mentioned when hitters were asked which pitcher they would most like to face.
"I've seen his bullpens," one of Sanchez's teammates said. "It's the easiest 95-plus I've ever seen. He has an electric arm. I see him as a future star."
The final question in the survey was what one tool -- a player's speed, a particular pitcher's fastball, etc. -- was each player looking forward to seeing on display in the Fall Stars Game. The responses were all over the map.
Some were specific: Bryant's power, Meyer's fastball, Astros outfielder Delino DeShields' speed, the Indians' Tyler Naquin's outfield arm, Padres catching prospect Austin Hedges' arm from behind the plate, to name a few.
"I saw [Yankees catching prospect Peter] O'Brien's BP early in the fall, and he just put on a show," one pitcher said. "It made me want to see more. It's fun to watch as long as it's not happening to you."
Other answers were more general, like appreciating speed, power or high-velocity heat from anyone who'll be on the field. One player answered he'd most like to see the power at the plate vs. a power arm on the mound. Meyer vs. Bryant was a good example of such a dream matchup.
"That's one of the more impressive things to watch," the player said about power vs. power. "Either he swings through it and it looks impressive, or he makes contact and it goes a long way. It's a win-win."