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Arizona Fall League All Star Game: West 7, East 6

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Entertaining game ends in a walkoff victory for the West All Stars

Nearly full house in Surprise for AFL All Star Game

The Arizona Fall League All Star game is the league’s marquee event of the season and last night’s game could not have been any better. 6,883 fans showed up on a perfect night in Surprise to cheer on the players and they did not disappoint. With scouts and officials from all 30 major league teams in attendance, this was a unique opportunity for everyone to see so many top rated prospects all in one place. In fact 13 of the top 100 rated prospects & 10 #1 draft picks played in the game.

With the players all sporting the uniforms of their major league teams, the game had a multi textured feel. There was the “big league” aspect of course, as half the guys that played in the game will be in the majors either next year or the year after. There were minor league shenanigans going on as well, as the between innings sideline entertainment had people rolling in the aisles. And most enjoyable of all perhaps was the enthusiasm of the players. With each big hit or moment, they erupted in celebration and showed passion cheering on their teammates.

The game started off with Nate Pearson of the Blue Jays firing 103-104 MPH fastballs. After inducing a ground out and striking out our own Daulton Varsho swinging, in stepped Peter Alonso.

Staked to a 1-0 lead, the #1 Pitching Prospect in baseball Forrest Whitley , took the mound for the East. In an otherwise uneventful inning, Vlad Guerrero Jr , the #1 Hitting Prospect in baseball drew a walk . Not every day you get to see #1 vs #1, so that was cool. More on Vlad later.

Whitley is very impressive. Despite walking 2 in his two innings of work he showed excellent command of all of his stuff. A long fluid motion generates a 97 MPH fastball, and he repeats his mechanics very well for such a big guy. (6’7”) So the best pitching staff in baseball is likely to get more help very soon.

In the top of the 3rd, Bobby Dalbec singled and Pavin Smith hit a line drive over the head of the SS Lucius Fox of the Rays. Except Fox had other ideas, timing his leap perfectly and snaring the ball at the very top of his considerable jump, robbing a base hit from Pavin and doubling up Dalbec in the process.

Jon Duplantier came on to pitch the bottom of the 3rd and gave up a leadoff triple to Estevan Florial of the Yankees. What was notable here was the ball was a line drive smoked into the left field corner. Florial is extremely fast and was already at 2b by the time Taylor Trammel got over to pick up the ball, and Florial easily made it into 3b with a head first slide. The run would score on a sac fly, but JD retired the next 3 hitters in order to hold it to 1 run.

In the 4th inning the West All stars put 2 runs on the board with 3 singles, and 2 walks and a passed ball that clanked off the glove of Varsho allowing a runner from 3rd to score.

The East answered back with a run in the 5th thanks to a line drive to CF smoked off the bat of Pavin Smith to drive in a run. The East scratched out another run in the 3rd to tie it up 3-3.

One of the highlights of the game was a leadoff double by Guerreo in the 5th. This ball was smoked 117 MPH off the bat. He advanced to 3rd on a heads up running play as well, as the replay was misplayed.

Guerrero is a big body guy. He will probably fill out even further as he develops. So he is going to have to watch his weight. There is some question if he will be able to stick at 3rd base, and in fact in this game there were a couple of plays where he didn’t seem to have the quick twitch reactions you hope fore in a 3rd sacker. He may ultimately have to move across the diamond to 1b, or perhaps LF even. But there is little question he will hit and hit a lot no matter where he is on the field. It should be noted that his approach is a lot different than his famous namesake, as he has more walks than strikeouts in his minor league career. Expect him to be up a few weeks after the Blue Jays get done manipulating his service clock next year.

The West all Stars grabbed a 5-3 lead thanks to a triple off the bat of Yu Chang. The Taiwanese native was signed by the Indians in 2013. So far in the minors he has hit for plenty of power, but not much batting average. His arrow shot after the triple is something the West team was doing all game. It was all part of the fun

Not to be outdone, Austin Listi of the Phillies ripped a 3 run homer in the top of the 8th to give the East a 6-5 lead. The post homer celebration had a very college world series feel to it as the East bench jumped out of the dugout to congratulate him

Brett Hanewich of the Angels would strikeout the side in the 8th and the East side failed to score in the 9th despite being issued 2 walks. Daz Cameron took one of them, but was caught stealing. He also took a bad route on the Yu Chang triple linked above, (seemed like his first step was in) . He hasn’t impressed me a whole lot this fall league. But he is still very young for his level, just 21, having reached AAA after a solid half season at AA. Small sample size for me I guess.

This brought us to the 9th and the East clinging to a 1 run lead. Guerrero reached on an error and was brought in on a triple off the bat of Buddy Reed. The ball was a deep fly ball to the wall in CF. Off the bat it looked like a homer, but the centerfielder Luis Barrera drifted back slowly as if he was going to catch it at the track. But the ball kept carrying and Barrera missed it as it hit the wall midway up. The next batter Meibrys Viloria , who had replaced Varsho at catcher, finished it off with a walkoff single. You would have thought that the West just won the college world series ;)

Prior to the game, I also had a chance to chat with Scout/Analyst Bernie Pleskoff, who was kind enough to answer some DBacks centric questions I had. You can follow Bernie on twitter @BerniePleskoff and also see some of his in depth profiles on AFL league players at http://clubhousecorner.com/

On whether he thinks AJ Pollock will get a multi year deal OVER 50 Million, (Thus insuring the Dbacks the best possible draft Pick:)

Bernie Felt most likely less. The issues working against AJ are

  • Many teams have organizational depth at Outfield, so not as pressing a need for a player with AJ’s profile
  • The injury prone tag of course (Although he noted many of the injuries have been freakish type injury
  • Perhaps the biggest blow of all, Cleveland not making a QO to Michael Brantley is an indication the OF market may not be so robust for AJ.

On Jazz Chisholm:

REALLY likes him, thinks he’s one of the best SS prospects in the game and should have been playing the AFL All Star game. Dynamic player who reminds him somewhat of Didi Gregorious.

On Pavin Smith:

Very high on Pavin. Comped him to John Olerud, and believe the power will come. No worried about the power, believes he has excellent mechanics, eye hand coordination and bat control

Daulton Varsho:

Catcher in waiting, believes he will stick at the position. Maybe some question about how many games he can catch per year, but should be a starter.

So thats it for this report. You can still catch some fall league games, as the season runs through to November 17th. Schedule Here There will be a meetup on November 10th, at Sal River Field