November 6th, 2022
Josh Jackson, Jacob Resnick, Stephanie Sheehan, Rob Terranova
The 16th iteration of the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game featured something for everybody, with baseball’s most promising talent from all 30 systems showing the tools that earned them a trip to the AFL in the first place. Not least among those tools was the power of Cubs prospect Matt Mervis, who crushed a two-run homer and took MVP honors in the National League squad’s 9-3 victory on Sunday.
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Here’s what each player did:
American League East
Batting third and playing right field, Heston Kjerstad, Baltimore’s No. 9 prospect, was the only member of the AL’s starting lineup to stay in for the game’s duration. The AFL’s hits leader picked up an RBI single in the fifth inning and reached on a walk, while also squeezing the final out in the field. Meanwhile, Noah Denoyer surrendered one unearned run on a hit and a walk over one inning as the AL’s starting pitcher.
Heston Kjerstad on Fall League
Nick Yorke, Boston’s No. 4 prospect, struck out as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning and remained in the game to play second base, later grounding out in his second of two trips to the plate. Stephen Scott got the starting nod behind the plate for the AL squad, reaching base twice on a single in the fifth and a walk in the sixth.
With more representatives in the starting lineup than any other organization, the Yankees were poised to make an impact. The presence of Jasson Domínguez — MLB’s No. 39 prospect — only elevated those expectations, and he delivered an RBI double in his first trip to the dish, finishing 1-for-3. Tyler Hardman and T.J. Rumfield manned the corner infield spots to begin the game, with the latter picking up a single in the fourth inning.
Jasson Domínguez’s RBI double
Ronny Simon kicked off the festivities as the AL’s leadoff hitter, grounding out to third on the first pitch of the afternoon and finishing 0-for-3. Antonio Menendez, a righty, surrendered the game’s only long ball to one of the two batters he faced in the fifth. Evan Reifert made quick work of the heart of the NL lineup in the seventh, coaxing a trio of Top 100 prospects to fly out to center.
Zach Britton, Toronto’s only representative, started the game in left field and flared a double down the left-field line in the second inning, later coming around to score his team’s first run.
American League Central
The White Sox No. 29 prospect Adam Hackenberg pinch-hit in the DH spot to lead off the eighth and worked a five-pitch walk.
Working out of the bullpen in the fourth inning, Mason Hickman cruised through a scoreless frame by retiring three hitters on eight pitches. David Fry entered the game as a defensive replacement behind the dish in the sixth and struck out in his only trip to the plate in the eighth.
Sixth-ranked Detroit prospect Colt Keith came into the Fall Stars Game as one of the league’s most consistent hitters, boasting a .444 OBP. Batting seventh in the AL lineup, he drilled an RBI double in his first plate appearance. No. 25 Tigers prospect Tyler Mattison was charged with five runs — all earned — on four hits and a walk over 2/3 of an inning. He notched a strikeout.
Entering in the third, southpaw Christian Chamberlain whiffed three Top 100 Prospects — the Rockies’ Zac Veen, the Padres’ Jackson Merrill and the Dodgers’ Andy Pages — in succession, requiring a mere 12 pitches to get through the perfect frame. Outfielder John Rave entered the game as a defensive replacement in center in the sixth and struck out in his lone plate appearance in the eighth.
Edouard Julien, Minnesota’s No. 14 prospect, has been arguably the biggest breakout performer of the AFL so far, ending Week 5 as the circuit’s leader in OBP (.535), slugging (.683), walks (20) and runs (21). In the Fall Stars Game, he grounded out, struck out and worked a five-pitch walk in the fifth. Francis Peguero entered the game in sixth, and the right-hander tossed a perfect frame on seven pitches.
American League West
The 2022 World Series champions’ lone representative was righty Matt Ruppenthal, who struck out a batter and issued a walk in a hitless inning.
The club’s No. 15 prospect, Werner Blakely, entered the game at third base in the sixth frame and finished 0-for-1 with a walk in the ninth.
No. 14 prospect Lawrence Butler subbed into the game in left field in the sixth and collected a double to center in the seventh for his only hit of the game.
Southpaw Jorge Benitez picked up a strikeout to shrug off a hit, posting a zero for the AL in the second inning. Fresh off a victory in the AFL Home Run Derby, first baseman Robert Perez Jr. entered the contest in the sixth and finished 0-for-1.
Seventh-ranked prospect Luisangel Acuña drew a seven-pitch walk in his lone plate appearance as a pinch-hitter, while lefty Grant Wolfram allowed a run on one hit in his 1/3 of an inning of work.
National League East
Justyn-Henry Malloy, Atlanta’s No. 11 prospect, entered as a pinch-runner in the sixth inning and went hitless in his two plate appearances. In an exhibition game special, right-hander Austin Smith pitched to his own team in the bottom of the ninth despite the NL already holding a six-run lead. Smith allowed a double and induced a groundout to the two batters he faced.
Infielder Jose Salas, Miami’s No. 5 prospect, was the organization’s lone representative. He took over as a pinch-runner on the fifth inning and scored on a double, later going 0-for-2 while playing the final four innings at second base.
Working the second inning, lefty Josh Walker was charged with two runs on three hits — all doubles — and recorded a strikeout.
Righty Cristian Hernandez allowed a hit but fanned two to record a scoreless fourth inning for the NL.
Drew Millas, Washington’s No. 30 prospect, started the game behind the plate for the NL and singled in his first at-bat of the night. Righty Orlando Ribalta was the seventh of nine NL pitchers to toss an inning, working around a two-out double to turn in a scoreless frame with a strikeout.
National League Central
Matt Mervis, Chicago’s No. 21 prospect and the game’s MVP, was hitting fifth in the starting lineup and proved up to the task, going yard for a two-run dinger in the fifth. He was 1-for-3 before being replaced on defense in the sixth. Lefty Bailey Horn worked a hitless ninth, yielding a walk while fanning one to end the frame.
Matt Mervis’ two-run home run
With Noelvi Marte (MLB’s No. 17 prospect) and Rece Hinds (Cincinnati’s No. 18 prospect) batting back-to-back in the starting lineup, Reds fans were well served to tune into this game. Marte made contact in all three of his trips to the plate, but did not record a hit. Hinds singled on a ground ball that found the grass in left in the fifth and was promptly lifted for a pinch-runner.
Righty Abner Uribe boasts serious heat, which was on display when he reached triple digits coming out of the bullpen in the sixth inning. He permitted a hit and a walk but did not allow a run, fanning two. Jeferson Quero, the Brewers’ No. 7 prospect, entered the game behind the dish as a defensive replacement in the sixth. He popped out to short in the bottom half of the frame before leading off the ninth with a single to left. Zavier Warren replaced Noelvi Marte at third in the sixth and grounded out to first in his lone at-bat.
Henry Davis (MLB No. 19) did not enter the game, and Nick Gonzales (MLB No. 93) was the NL’s starting second baseman. Gonzales drove in a run for the NL squad with an RBI double to right in the fifth. It opened a six-run frame for his club. He was replaced for a pinch-runner after the knock.
Nick Gonzales’ RBI double
With Jordan Walker (MLB’s No. 6 prospect) batting cleanup and Connor Thomas (St. Louis’ No. 24 prospect) getting the start for the NL, the Cards were well-represented from the first pitch. Thomas turned in a 1-2-3 first, recording a strikeout and plowed through the frame on eight pitches. Walker bashed an automatic double to plate two runs in the fifth and finished 1-for-5 with a run scored. Masyn Winn (MLB No. 51) entered as a pinch-runner just before Walker’s two-bagger and dropped jaws with an incredible throw from shortstop in the ninth inning. Things got especially interesting for Cards fans at the bottom of that frame, when the AL team borrowed sixth-ranked prospect Tink Hence to record the final out of frame, which he did, getting fellow Cards prospect Walker to line out to right.
Jordan Walker’s two-run double
National League West
Entering in the third, No. 30 D-backs prospect Justin Martinez struck out a pair and worked around a walk for a scoreless frame.
Andy Pages, MLB’s No. 66 prospect, plated the game’s first and last runs. In the first frame, he lofted a sacrifice fly to left field before poking a single to center in the bottom of the ninth against a fellow National Leaguer in the Cardinals’ Tink Hence.
Top San Diego prospect Jackson Merrill was the only player to notch a multihit game. The 19-year-old ripped a single in the first frame and advanced to second on a fielding error to set up Pages’ sac fly one batter later. In the fifth, MLB’s No. 83 overall prospect popped a ball into no-man’s land for a game-tying double, his only RBI of the day.
Jackson Merrill on Fall Stars Game
Righty Tyler Myrick ended up earning the win in the contest, striking out one in one frame of work while allowing one run and walking three. Fellow right-hander Spencer Bivens fanned two and issued one walk in a hitless inning.
Zac Veen, MLB’s No. 23 prospect, has been impressive all autumn. He led off for the NL and not only reached base three times via two walks and a double, but Colorado’s top prospect also scored three times in the victory. His lone RBI came in the bottom of the ninth against Atlanta righty Austin Smith.