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Top prospects set to shine in Fall Stars Game

Arizona Fall League's showcase of stars airs Saturday on MLB Network, MLB.com
MLB.com @JonathanMayo

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- To understand why it's important to watch the Arizona Fall League's Fall Stars Game on Saturday, all one has to do is look at the game's history.

Of the 46 players who participated in last year's game, 16 saw time in the big leagues this season. The 2012 game featured Billy Hamilton, Kolten Wong and Christian Yelich , all of whom who spent most of this season in the big leagues. Hamilton and Wong should garner some National League Rookie of the Year votes.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- To understand why it's important to watch the Arizona Fall League's Fall Stars Game on Saturday, all one has to do is look at the game's history.

Of the 46 players who participated in last year's game, 16 saw time in the big leagues this season. The 2012 game featured Billy Hamilton, Kolten Wong and Christian Yelich , all of whom who spent most of this season in the big leagues. Hamilton and Wong should garner some National League Rookie of the Year votes.

Mike Zunino was the Mariners' full-time catcher. Jon Singleton and George Springer of the Astros, Anthony Rendon of the Nationals and Nick Castellanos of the Tigers all played in the 2012 Rising Stars Game, and pitchers Kyle Gibson, James Paxton and Jarred Cosart, all big leaguers now, were also there.

Go back a few more years, find more big leaguers: Bryce Harper and Mike Trout in 2011; Brandon Belt and Eric Hosmer, this year's World Series first basemen, in 2010 ... the list goes on and on. Plain and simple, if a fan wants to know who the game's next stars will be, he or she should tune in to MLB Network or MLB.com at 8 p.m. ET. Paul Severino, Joe Magrane and John Manuel will have the call.

"It's fun to see these guys, to face them in an environment, in a game like this," said D-backs pitching prospect Archie Bradley, who will start for the East Division. "You look at what it's done for guys' careers in the big leagues, it's just exciting. I'm looking forward to it."

Bradley is one of 13 participants in this year's game currently on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list. That doesn't include the No. 1-ranked prospect, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, whose AFL season ended Monday when he sustained a dislocated and fractured finger. Top 100 pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Mark Appel are not on the rosters because they pitched on Thursday and Friday.

A vast majority of the players in the game are on their organization's Top 20 lists as well. Nick Howard, the Reds' first-round Draft pick this year, is No. 5 on Cincinnati's Top 20. He'll get the ball for the West Division, joining Jesse Winker in representing the Reds.

Video: Reds prospects on display in Arizona Fall League

"It still hasn't hit me yet," Howard said. "It's definitely an honor, and it's a very humbling achievement to be selected to start a game where there are all these highly touted prospects. To be one of those, it's very humbling."

Added to the rosters this week were outfielder Eddie Rosario of the Twins, who leads the AFL in batting with a .397 average through Thursday, and the Yankees first-base prospect Greg Bird, the home run (six) and RBI (17) leader. Rio Ruiz, an Astros third-base prospect, joins them on the East Division squad. For the West, right-hander Ben Klimesh from the Reds and Rangers outfielder Nick Williams have been added, along with the Royals' top prospect, shortstop Raul Mondesi.

Video: PEJ@SRR: Mondesi rips a triple to right field

Bradley pitched in the 2013 Futures Game, so he knows what this game will be like. The D-backs' No. 1 prospect, ranked No. 9 overall, didn't have the season he hoped for, but getting the ball on Saturday will only help him, as he believes he's getting back to where he was before struggles and elbow soreness slowed him.

"It's an honor any time you get to throw in a game like this, just to represent the organization and represent everything I've been working for," Bradley said. "This year's been a little struggle for me and I feel like I'm putting things back together. To go out there and face arguably the best hitters in the Minors and see where my stuff stacks up right now -- it's going to be fun."

Howard is no stranger to playing in front of big crowds and on national TV. It might not quite be like Brandon Finnegan's experience -- the Royals left-hander played in the College World Series and the World Series in the same year -- but Howard is going from the College World Series to the Fall Stars Game, no small feat.

"To come out here and compete against the top prospects and have some success, it's definitely a big confidence boost," Howard said. "It's definitely a very exciting time, but once I get on the mound, I'm looking 60 feet, six inches, and nothing really creeps into my mind except for getting the hitter out."

Some of the pace-of-game experiments that have been used in some Fall League games this year, including the no-pitch intentional walk and the rule that dictates that a batter keep one foot in the box at all times, will be in effect on Saturday, but a pitch clock will not be in use. That might be a relief to Bradley and Howard, giving them one less thing to worry about.

Video: PEJ@SRR: Broadcasters explain pitch clock rule

Both know they likely won't be out there long, with showcases like these often being a one-and-done scenario. Bradley will try to stay in the routine that he's tried to rediscover this fall to help him move past the adversity of the regular season, while Howard might rely on past experiences as a college reliever to help him get ready.

"I'm going to go in the game and continue to work on what I've been working on since I've been out here -- fastball command, continue to throw the changeup, throw the slider I've been working on," Bradley said. "It's not going to be any different because it's an all-star game. I'm going to treat it like a normal start and try to get guys out."

Said Howard: "I might tap into the old closer mentality and try to close it like it's a one-inning stint like I did at Virginia. Hopefully, that will help me out."

 

Fall Stars Game starting lineups

West
  1. DH: Francisco Lindor (CLE)
  2. CF: Tyrone Taylor (MIL)
  3. SS: Corey Seager (LAD)
  4. RF: Steven Moya (DET)
  5. 3B: Hunter Dozier (KC)
  6. LF: Nick Williams (TEX)
  7. C: Mike Ohlman (BAL)
  8. 2B: Daniel Castro (ATL)
  9. 1B: Patrick Leonard (TB)
  10. SP: Nick Howard (CIN)
East
  1. CF: Dalton Pompey (TOR)
  2. LF: Eddie Rosario (MIN)
  3. SS: Matt Reynolds (NYM)
  4. 1B: Greg Bird (NYY)
  5. RF: Brandon Nimmo (NYM)
  6. C: Peter O'Brien (ARI)
  7. 2B: Tony Renda (WSH)
  8. 3B: Kaleb Cowart (LAA)
  9. DH: Josh Bell (PIT)
  10. SP: Archie Bradley (ARI)

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter.