These 8 players stood out in the AFL title game
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jerar Encarnacion began the 2019 season as a projectable power hitter who had yet to homer in full-season ball. The Marlins outfielder went on to slam 16 home runs between two Class A levels, then ended his breakout year with the decisive blow in the Arizona Fall League championship game.
The Marlins' No. 17 prospect hammered a sinker from right-hander Sterling Sharp (Nationals) for a third-inning grand slam, leading the Salt River Rafters to a 5-1 victory over the Surprise Saguaros on Saturday afternoon. His blast was the hardest-hit ball in the game, leaving his bat at 110 mph and traveling 418 feet.
Encarnacion's slam snapped a 1-1 tie, and the Rafters never looked back on the way to their first championship since 2014 and fifth overall.
The following is a look at other standouts from the final game of the Fall League's 28th season.
Luis Garcia, SS, Surprise (Nationals No. 2, MLB No. 91): One of the youngest players in the AFL at age 19, Garcia turned in the best defensive play of the day. He hustled to track down an errant throw on a Victor Victor Mesa (Marlins) steal in the eighth inning, sliding and making a blind throw to nab Mesa at third. Garcia also notched two of the Saguaros' four hits and drove in their only run with a third-inning single.
Ashton Goudeau, RHP, Salt River (Rockies): Goudeau led the Fall League in ERA, not giving up a run and permitting just four baserunners while striking out 18 in 13 innings. He was just as untouchable in the finale, retiring seven of the eight batters faced and inducing a double-play groundout to get out of a jam created by starter Dakota Chalmers (Twins). Goudeau fanned three -- two on upper-70s curveballs with good depth -- and sat at 93-96 mph with his fastball while providing 19 strikes in 26 pitches.
Ronaldo Hernandez, C, Salt River (Rays No. 7): One of the better offensive catching prospects in the Minors, Hernandez endured a rough season in Class A Advanced at age 21. He rebounded to bat .359/.381/.513 in the AFL, then hit the two hardest balls in the championship game after Encarnacion's grand slam. Hernandez turned around a Daniel Lynch (Royals) slider for a 107-mph double in the second inning and drove in a run with a 108-mph single off a Sharp sinker in the fourth.
Royce Lewis, 3B, Salt River (Twins No. 1, MLB No. 9): The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 and the Fall League MVP, Lewis had two hits after topping the circuit with 30 during the fall season. He doubled in the seventh and beat out an infield single in the ninth, recording the game's second-fastest run time (29.6 feet per second, 4.23 seconds from home to first) on the latter.
Daniel Lynch, LHP, Surprise (Royals No. 3, MLB No. 69): The league's best left-handed pitching prospect, Lynch staked the Saguaros to a 1-0 lead with three scoreless innings. He ranged from 93-98 mph with his fastball and whiffed Lewis, first baseman Colton Welker (Rockies) and Encarnacion all with 84-86 mph sliders. He threw 27 of his 36 pitches for strikes, his best performance in that regard this fall.
Antonio Santos, RHP, Salt River (Rockies): Santos allowed just one single in two scoreless innings and promptly erased that lone baserunner with a double-play groundout. He delivered 15 of 19 pitches for strikes, topping out at 98 mph and not throwing a single heater under 96 mph.
Daniel Tillo, LHP, Surprise (Royals, No. 30): Tillo surrendered two hits in a scoreless seventh inning, but his pure stuff was impressive. His fastball ranged from 95-98 mph and his slider from 88-89 and he threw 12 of 16 pitches for strikes, though his command is still a work in progress.