Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Vlad Jr. among prospects in AFL Hitting Challenge

Sixth annual Fall League event is unique twist on home run derby
October 12, 2018

Many of baseball's most talented future stars are on display in Phoenix as the Arizona Fall League kicks into gear. And on Saturday, several of them -- including MLB's No. 1 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- will show off their skills in the league's sixth annual Bowman Hitting Challenge

Many of baseball's most talented future stars are on display in Phoenix as the Arizona Fall League kicks into gear. And on Saturday, several of them -- including MLB's No. 1 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- will show off their skills in the league's sixth annual Bowman Hitting Challenge at at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz.
Up-and-coming prospects from nearly all 30 Major League Baseball teams will compete in a unique twist on the conventional home run derby. In addition to earning points for sending a ball over the wall, sluggers will attempt to hit targets in the form of bullseyes, Bowman inflated baseball cards parked between the bases, inflated cows, tethered balloons and more. When designated targets are hit by batted balls, fans in the stands can win prizes.
Each team's representative will put down four targeted bunts before getting a two-minute batting practice to swing for the fences. At the conclusion, each hitter will take one untimed swing at the Bowman Bonus Ball off a tee atop home plate for double points. Point values range from 100-400 points and the three players with the highest scores from American League and National League teams win cash prizes.
Guerrero Jr. is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Blue Jays' top overall prospect and headlines this year's class of hitting challenge power hitters. The son of 2004 AL MVP and nine-time All-Star Vladimir Guerrero, Vlad Jr. signed with Toronto in July 2015 and quickly earned high praise as baseball's top international prospect for his enormous talent. The 19-year-old opened his 2018 AFL season hitting the ground running, going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and three runs for the Surprise Saguaros. Guerrero Jr. challenged the .400 batting average mark for most of the '18 Minor League season over 95 games for four teams.

This year, eight participants rank among the Top 100 prospects in all of Major League Baseball: Guerrero, Taylor Trammell (No. 19 overall), Keston Hiura (No. 26), Carter Kieboom No. 37), Keibert Ruiz (No. 39), Estevan Florial (No. 46), Julio Pablo Martinez (No. 58) and Peter Alonso (No. 61). Additionally, 24 of the 30 participants hold spots on their team's Top 30 Prospects list.
Many past participants of the Bowman Hitting Challenge developed into Major League All-Stars. The Dodgers' Corey Seager, Yankees' Gary Sanchez, Cubs' Willson Contreras, Twins' Byron Buxton and White Sox Yoan Moncada all slugged for points in previous challenges. Twins' third-base prospect Chris Paul won the event in 2017. Bradley Zimmer broke out as the Indians' rookie center fielder after winning the 2016 Hitting Challenge with 2,350 points and four homers in two minutes.
Here's a complete list of the participants this year in the order they'll be hitting, along with their club prospect rank where applicable:
MESA
Angels: Jahmai Jones (No. 4)
Athletics: Skye Bolt (No. 30)
Cubs: Nico Hoerner (No. 6)
Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec (No. 6)
Tigers: Daz Cameron (No. 8)
SCOTTSDALE
Astros: Ronnie Dawson
Giants: C.J. Hinojosa
Mets: Peter Alonso (No. 2)
Phillies: Darick Hall
Reds: Taylor Trammell (No. 17)
SALT RIVER
D-backs: Daulton Varsho (No. 5)
Marlins: Brian Miller (No. 11)
Nationals: Carter Kieboom (No. 37)
Rockies: Josh Fuentes
Twins: Luke Raley (No. 19)
GLENDALE
Dodgers: Keibert Ruiz (No. 39)
Indians: Yu-Cheng Chang (No. 6)
Orioles: Ryan McKenna (No. 12)
White Sox: Laz Rivera (No. 28)
Yankees: Estevan Florial (No. 2)
SURPRISE
Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (No. 1)
Cardinals: Andy Young
Pirates: Will Craig (No. 16)
Rangers: Julio Pablo Martinez (No. 2)
PEORIA
Braves: Braxton Davidson
Brewers: Keston Hiura (No. 1)
Mariners: Ian Miller (No. 20)
Padres: Hudson Potts (No. 23)

Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.