Top 10 performers of the 2019 Fall Stars Game
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Since the Fall Stars Game debuted 14 years ago in the Arizona Fall League, countless players have participated in the AFL’s version of the Futures Game and quickly gone on to become impact players in the big leagues. Just one year ago, Pete Alonso and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. were among the game’s standouts and one is likely to be the National League Rookie of the Year and the other is certain to get votes in the American League.
The 2019 version of the Fall Stars Game was no different, with both high-profile and more under-the-radar prospects standing out in a pitching-dominated 4-2 win by the East over the West at Salt River Fields. Here’s a look at the top 10 among the crop of 50 prospects who saw action on Saturday night.
1. Royce Lewis, 3B, Twins No. 1 (MLB No. 9): Lewis got the East on the board with a two-run home run to left-center field in the bottom of the second inning. Lewis turned around a 94.9-mph fastball from the Brewers’ Victor Castaneda at 104.6 mph off the bat, enough to earn him MVP honors. It’s a continuation of a tremendous AFL for the former No. 1 overall pick, as he leads the league with his .407 average to go along with a .704 slugging percentage.
2. Shane Baz, RHP, Rays No. 6 (MLB No. 94): Baz threw 13 pitches, nine for strikes in his inning of work, a good sign for a young pitcher continuing to work on his command. He also didn’t throw a single pitch below 89 mph (His 89.4 mph slider was his “slowest” pitch of the night. All four of his sliders were thrown for strikes). Then there was his fastball. Baz threw the five fastest pitches of the night, lead by a 100.1-mph heater that struck out Yankees prospect Brandon Wagner. Six pitches were thrown over 99 mph in the Fall Stars Game; five of them by Baz. He also had four the five top fastball spin rates, all over 2800 rpm. Baz averaged an even 99 mph on his fastball tonight. Only two pitchers averaged 99+ on fastballs in the regular season (min. 100): Jordan Hicks and Andres Munoz of the Padres. He also averaged 2,791 rpm spin on his fastballs. That's higher than any pitcher in the Majors this year (Luke Bard, 2,748).
3. Nick Neidert, RHP, Marlins No. 11: Neidert missed three months of the season with a knee injury, though you wouldn’t know it from his AFL performance (1.62 ERA, .186 ERA, 17/2 K/BB in 16 2/3 IP). He kept that up in his start for the East on Saturday, tossing two scoreless and striking out four, mixing in his low-90s fastball with life well with his breaking ball and changeup.
4. Daniel Lynch, LHP, Royals No. 3 (MLB No. 69): Lynch’s stuff has ticked up as a pro since he came out of Virginia in the 2018 Draft, but he really aired it out in his one-inning start for the West. The southpaw had the only other 99-mph pitch of the night and his other six fastballs were between 95.4 mph and 98.1 mph, and his two sliders were thrown at 85.6 and 88.3 mph. He only needed nine pitches (seven for strikes) to record two strikeouts and a groundout in his perfect frame.
5. Tyler Stephenson, C, Reds No. 7: The 2015 first-round pick has some definite raw power he’s just learning to tap into consistently. He got to it in the fourth inning facing Angels reliever Isaac Mattson, taking a 93.4-mph fastball and hitting it above the batter’s eye in center field into the cactus above the 410-foot sign. The blast left Stephenson’s bat at 104.6 mph.
6. Kyle Isbel, OF, Royals No. 8: Making up for lost at-bats because of a broken hamate this fall, Isbel is known more for his on-base skills and his speed. But when healthy, he’s shown he has the ability to drive the ball and has been one of the AFL’s top hitters (.346/.441/.481). He absolutely crushed a hanging offspeed pitch from Tigers prospect Anthony Castro in the third inning to put the West on the board. The exit velocity of the 414-foot home run was 106.9 mph, making it the hardest-hit ball of the night as well as the longest ball hit, according to Statcast.
7. Josh Lowe, OF, Rays No. 11: Lowe went just 1-for-3 for the East, but it was one of the most impressive at-bats of the night. His opposite-field double down the left field line was 99.8 mph off the bat and it allowed the East to reclaim the lead in the fourth. He then stole third base when he saw Brewers third baseman David Fry playing well off the bag because of a shift, then scored on Brandon Marsh’s sacrifice fly.
8. Alec Bohm, 1B, Phillies No. 1 (MLB No. 34): The No. 3 overall pick from the 2018 Draft lived up to his billing as an advanced hitter in his first pro season, reaching Double-A (and playing 63 games there) and hitting a combined .305/.378/.518 in the process. His tremendous approach at the plate was on display on Saturday as he drew a walk in front of Lewis’ home run in the second and laced an opposite-field single (98.8 mph off his bat) in the fourth, then scored from first on Lowe’s double. It’s in line with his .327/.345/.442 performance in the AFL overall.
9. Cole Uvila, RHP, Rangers: Baz might have led the way in terms of fastball spin rate, but Uvila was unmatched in terms of the spin on his breaking ball. Uvila needed just 13 pitches (10 strikes) in his perfect inning of work, recording two strikeouts in the process. One came on an absolutely nasty curve to get Angels prospect Jo Adell swinging, a breaker thrown with a spin rate of 3,379 rpm. Of curveballs tracked by Statcast during the Major League season, only 4.6 percent had spin rates of 3,000+ rpm. Uvila threw another curve with a 2.965 rpm spin rate for good measure.
10. Aaron Fletcher, LHP, Mariners No. 26: Acquired from the Nationals at the Trade Deadline, Fletcher missed a ton of bats during the regular season thanks to a solid three-pitch mix and outstanding deception. It was working for him again on Saturday as he struck out the two hitters he faced. Both lefty hitters, Lowe from the Rays and Marsh from the Angels, didn’t look comfortable at all and he got both of them with his 82-83 mph slider while mixing in his 94-mph fastball effectively.