Perez Jr. edges Kjerstad for AFL Home Run Derby crown

November 5th, 2022

Championship round
With each player allotted just 90 seconds for long ball supremacy, Robert Perez Jr. went first in the round and flexed for the Fall League Derby crown with 11 home runs to edge out Heston Kjerstad’s 10. Perez, Seattle’s 21st-ranked prospect, left the yard four times through his first 30 seconds and took his timeout with six dingers, before finishing with five more jacks. Kjerstad made a strong case early, connecting on five taters on his first five swings through 26 seconds. Baltimore’s ninth-ranked prospect finished strong with five but could not connect on a tying long ball to force a swingoff. Perez Jr. finished the day with 32 total home runs to Kjerstad’s 31.

Round 1
After Round 1 of the Fall League Derby, Seattle’s Robert Perez Jr. topped the pack with 13 dingers. Right behind him was Baltimore’s Heston Kjerstad and Arizona’s Deyvison De Los Santos with 11. Jhailyn Ortiz put on an impressive show with nine homers and stand tied with the Dodgers’ Andy Pages. Cubs’ Matt “Mash” Mervis went cold late and finished with eight while Boston’s Stephen Scott (six) and Twins’ Edouard Julien (three) capped the opening round.

Round 2
As fatigue started to set in for the sluggers in the second round, first-round leaders Kjerstad (11) and Perez Jr. (eight) kept up their respective paces to advance to the final round — Kjerstad with 22 and Perez Jr. with 21. Mervis hit the most homers in the second round with 11, but he fell short with a combined score of 19. Andy Pages (six) and De Los Santos (four) finished with tallies of 15. Jhailyn Ortiz only connected on two dingers to end up with 11 and Stephen Scott clubbed four to finish with 10. Edouard Julien did not leave the yard in the round.

The Arizona Fall League is known first and foremost as a finishing school for the top prospects from all 30 MLB organizations. To a lesser degree, it’s known as a place where baseballs go to have the living stuffing knocked out of them.

The desert climate and lineups stacked top to bottom with elite hitters combine for a high-flying, high-scoring atmosphere. There’s no better place to see prospects swing for the fences than the AFL Home Run Derby, which is set for tonight at 9:35 p.m. ET/6:35 p.m. MST at Mesa’s Sloan Park. The event will stream live on MLB.com.

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Eight players representing eight big league systems and each of the six AFL teams are set to compete in the three-round bashfest.

And here is the field of Arizona Fall League Home Run Derby contestants.

Deyvison De Los Santos (ARI No. 6 prospect), Salt River Rafters: At 19, De Los Santos cruised through three levels (Single-A, High-A, Double-A) over the regular season, amassing 22 homers across 126 games along the way. That long ball tally was the highest of any teenager in the Minors. The corner infielder brought his 65-grade power to the desert, but it has yet to fully show out against advanced competition in the Fall League. Will it play in the derby? No doubt.

Deyvison De Los Santos rips homer
Edouard Julien (MIN No. 14), Glendale Desert Dogs: If Julien’s 2022 regular season in the Minor Leagues has the looks of a breakout campaign, what he’s been doing in the AFL so far goes a long way to proving he’s the real deal. The 23-year-old second baseman has enjoyed two multihomer games with Glendale and was the most recent AFL Hitter of the Week.

Oct 25, 2022 ·
Heston Kjerstad (BAL No. 9), Scottsdale Scorpions: Kjerstad has been a source of intrigue since the Orioles selected him with the second overall pick of the 2020 Draft, and the curiosity only built as his pro debut was delayed until the middle of this year because of a health issue involving viral inflammation of his heart. In the AFL, he’s been a beacon of power and vitality, entering the fourth week of the autumn campaign with five homers — tied for the league lead — and topping the circuit in several offensive categories, including slugging (.627), OPS (1.010) and total bases (47).

Heston Kjerstad knocks solo homer
Jul 1, 2022 · 0:26
Heston Kjerstad knocks solo homer
Matt Mervis (CHC No. 21), Mesa Solar Sox: The power barrage from “Mash” Mervis throughout 2022 regular season was one of the most exciting stories out of the Chicago organization this year, and indeed all of the Minor Leagues. Mervis recently talked to the MLB Pipeline Podcast about going from free agent signee to clubbing 36 homers — tied for third in the Minors this year — across three levels. He also entered Week 4 of the AFL tied with Kjerstad for the autumn jack lead, with five.

Matt Mervis on his two-homer game
Andy Pages (MLB No. 66/LAD No. 5), Glendale Desert Dogs: Pages has been one of the most dangerous power threats in the Dodgers organization since signing in 2018, and this year he mashed 26 taters in 132 Double-A games. He clubbed his first two AFL homers in a four-hit performance on Oct. 11 at Salt River, putting the circuit on notice.

Robert Perez Jr. (SEA No. 21), Peoria Javelinas: After setting a career high with 27 roundtrippers over 127 games between Single-A Modesto and High-A Everett in the Minor League season, Perez plated 14 runs and went yard three times over his first 16 AFL games. On Friday, he reached three times in three trips to the plate while clobbering a long ball that left his bat 111 mph and landed 434 feet away. But that wasn’t even his most noteworthy fireworks display of the fall. On Oct. 14., Statcast measured a Perez homer at 448 feet — 12 feet longer than the next longest AFL homer Statcast has measured this year.

Robert Perez Jr. on his homer
Jhailyn Ortiz (PHI No. 17), Surprise Saguaros: Listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Ortiz has hit 72 homers since debuting at a full-season level in 2018 and slugged eight in each of his two prior short-season stints. The outfielder boasts 55-grade power and hit a cluster of three homers across five Surprise games from Oct. 18-25.

Jhailyn Ortiz’s three-run homer
Stephen Scott (unranked among BOS Top 30), Scottsdale Scorpions: The 2019 10th-round pick out of Vanderbilt was limited to 96 games during the regular season, but in that span he slugged 10 homers and 19 doubles. Scott’s productivity in the AFL suggests he’s more than making up for his missed at-bats. He finished the third week of the six-week season with four homers and 31 total bases over 12 games.

The rules are as follows:

In Round 1, each player will have 2:30 to crush as many dingers as he can. All competitors advance to Round 2, carrying their Round 1 jack total with them for a 1:30 swat session. The two players with the most home runs accumulated over the first two rounds meet in the finals, which are also 1:30. In each round, every competitor is allotted one 30-second timeout. In the event of a tie among more than two players after the first two rounds, however, an additional round of one minute will be played, with no timeouts given.

In all rounds, the clock starts ticking with the release of the first pitch. Home runs will count so long as the pitch they were hit on was released before the clock hit zero.