SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It didn't take long for Max Muncy to make a strong first impression on Arizona Fall League Opening Day.
On the first pitch he saw, the seventh-ranked Athletics prospect took a mighty swing at a ball down the middle thrown by right-hander Zak Kent (Rangers). The crack of the bat echoed throughout Surprise Stadium, and the ball sailed 403 feet into the left-field bullpen to give the Solar Sox an early one-run lead.
Muncy's homer, which registered an exit velocity speed of 103 mph, set the tone for his performance Monday night, although Mesa ultimately lost to the Saguaros, 13-8. The 21-year-old finished 4-for-5 with two RBIs, a pair of runs and a stolen base. He was just a triple shy of the cycle.
"I think it was just being around these guys," Muncy said. "This is a great group of guys. They kind of gave me the energy to go out there and play today. I feel like we just kept it loose, I know we fell short but it was a good day overall."
The 21-year-old shortstop, the A's first-round pick in 2021, just completed his second professional season, playing for High-A Lansing and Double-A Midland. He raised his batting average from .229 in '21 to .275 this season, which he attributes to the A's Minor League hitting coaches.
The A's have seen an influx of its top prospects make an impact in the Majors, including Zack Gelof, Lawrence Butler and Mason Miller, all of whom played in the AFL last season. Butler dubbed the heralded A's rookies as the "New Oakland," and Muncy is ready to be part of the group that helps turn the fortunes of the A's, who lost 100-plus games in back-to-back seasons.
"That group is great," he said. "I love a lot of those guys in that clubhouse. It's exciting to see the young guys go in there and perform. … In Spring Training, the older guys have taught us so much and helped us out with our game a lot."
With such high hopes comes tough competition. Along with Muncy, Jack Wilson (OAK No. 1) and Darell Hernaiz (No. 9) play shortstop and are top-10 prospects in Oakland's system. The trio is expected to arrive in the Majors in 2025, according to MLB Pipeline. Muncy is working on enhancing his defense at shortstop but is ready to play at any position the A's need him at.
"It's really wherever the team needs me," he said. "If I get the chance to get up there at some points, it's going to be where the team needs me and wherever I need to be to win games."
The Solar Sox led 4-0 through four innings, with Royber Salinas (OAK No. 24) and Jack Perkins (OAK No. 19) combining to deliver three scoreless frames. The Saguaros took the lead by scoring five runs in the bottom of the fourth, highlighted by Brewers prospect Wes Clarke's 430-foot three-run homer. Clarke went 3-for-5 with four RBIs in his AFL debut.
"I just felt really good," Clarke said. "After the season ends, you get a little bit of downtime. It's nice to rest a little bit, refuel and get back out here and play. I've been fired up for this game for 10 days straight. I was looking to hit something in the zone and I got it."
Mesa responded by scoring three runs in the fifth, but Surprise followed up by bringing six runners home in the bottom half of the inning. Tenth-ranked Brewers prospect Eric Brown Jr. rocketed a two-run triple that had an exit velocity of 107 mph. He went 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs.
John Rhodes (BAL No. 20) and TT Bowens (Orioles) each had two hits and scored a pair of runs for the Solar Sox.