Fall Stars Game to feature assortment of top talent
Top overall prospect Buxton, 2013 No. 2 pick Bryant among those competing
The name has changed, but the excitement of the sheer star power that will be on the field remains the same.
The Fall Stars Game, formerly known as the Rising Stars Game, will take place for the eighth year, on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz. The game, which starts at 5 p.m. Arizona time and will be broadcast on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com, will bring together the best of the best in terms of Minor League prospects on one field.
There are a total of 21 members of MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list on the two rosters, starting with No. 1 prospect Byron Buxton of the Twins. He's part of a talent-laden West Division squad that includes two other Top 100 outfielders in the Astros' Delino DeShields (No. 73) and the Royals' Jorge Bonifacio (No. 89).
There are 11 Top 100 players in total on the West roster, including two pitchers (the Twins' Alex Meyer, ranked 31st, and Eduardo Rodriguez, No. 84, of the Orioles), both catchers (the Padres' Austin Hedges, No. 33 and the Rangers' Jorge Alfaro, ranked No. 55) and four infielders (Corey Seager of the Dodgers, who is No. 47 on the list, Eddie Rosario from the Twins, ranked No. 62, Marlins 2013 first-round Draft pick Colin Moran, currently No. 71, and Red Sox third baseman Garin Cecchini, at No. 82). In addition, the West team has 10 other players currently on organizational Top 20s.
The West has a one-man advantage in the Top 100 race. The East's 10 Top 100 entries do come higher on the list, however, with eight of the 10 in the Top 50. The group is led by A's shortstop Addison Russell (No. 17) and Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez (20). Joining Sanchez on the staff are two other Top 100 arms, the Giants' Kyle Crick (42) and the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman (91).
"It means that of all the work I've put in throughout my life is starting to pay off," Stroman said. "Everyone is a top player -- to be one of the top top guys is going to be a great feeling. It's going to be fun day."
The Cubs' contingent that has been generating so much buzz with the Mesa Solar Sox in the AFL are all on the East roster. Outfielders Albert Almora (21) and Jorge Soler (25) will join third baseman Kris Bryant (35) in taking their hacks against that talented West Division pitching staff.
"It's a huge honor," said Bryant, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 Draft who currently leads the AFL in home runs, RBIs and OPS. "I've played about 40 professional games, yet they see me in that light. There's a bunch of good guys out there, good competition, so it should be a good game."
Going back to the start of his junior season at the University of San Diego, Bryant has been playing since the end of January. Given the fact he's hitting .429/.468/.905 in 10 Fall League games, he's fine with not getting Saturday off.
"I feel like I'm playing pretty well right now, so I want to play as much baseball as I can," he said.
Bryant and his Cubs cohorts will be joined by Yankees outfielder Mason Williams (No. 36), Pirates shortstop Alen Hanson (39) and Nationals center fielder Brian Goodwin (65). There are a dozen other members of the East team currently on organizational Top 20 lists.
There's no question this game has a pretty good track record in terms of predicting who will be in the big leagues sooner rather than later. The 2009 version of the game featured 28 players who made it up the following season. In 2010, two dozen Rising Stars participants spent time in the Majors the next year. In 2011, 18 from this game -- including Rookie of the Year Award winners Bryce Harper and Mike Trout -- ascended to the highest level. Last year was no different, with 23 alumni from this AFL exhibition reaching the Majors.
"When you read those numbers, it brings a smile to your face," Stroman said. "To know those numbers and go out there and know that you have a chance to be a factor next year, that's what we all want. It makes you want to work even hard to be ready for 2014."
Bryant might have a particular interest in a guy like Mike Zunino. The Mariners catcher, like Bryant this year, was a top Draft pick (No. 3 overall) who went from the Draft to the AFL to the big leagues the following season.
"You can't have any words for that," Bryant said. "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."