Since the game’s inception in 2006, the Fall Stars Game has been a showcase for future Major League Baseball talent. Cody Bellinger, Pete Alonso, Vlad Guerrero Jr., Harrison Bader and Ronald Acuna Jr. are just a few of the big names who have made it to the big leagues and have already made their mark after playing in the Arizona Fall Stars Game. in the past five years. So, it’s very likely that one or two of the players we see tonight will end up being Major League MVPs. The game is set for Saturday, 7pm ET, at Salt River Fields.
Here are the rosters:
The first pitcher to jump off the page for me is Dodgers right star Bobby Miller. Miller boasts an impressive arsenal. Miller’s fastball can hit the 90s easily and has shown the potential to creep into the three digits when it gets ready for the Major League. His shifter is also a great off speed, but his best throw is probably his slider. Undoubtedly used as his putaway throw, Miller’s slider is in the mid-80s with a bad break. It’s devastating against left-handed hitters and Miller has enough control to use it in almost any situation.
Control might be Miller’s best tool. It’s hard to believe considering Miller’s fastball can hit triple digits, but Miller only hit 13 batters in 56 innings compared to 70 strikeouts. This is a K-BB ratio of 5.38-1, which would rank it fifth among the Major League pitchers in 2021, between Nathan Eovaldi and Zack Wheeler.
While Miller struggled in the Arizona Fall League, recording an ERA of 9.90 in ten innings, 2021 was only Miller’s first professional baseball season and this year he pitched just 9.1 innings in Double-A. . In High-A this season, Miller recorded an ERA of 1.91 in 47 innings. He is young. He’s green, but he has the tools to dominate opposing batters. The Dodgers have always been great at finding and developing throwing talent, and Miller is just the latest in a long line of young talent to join the Dodgers farming system.
Another more MLB-ready pitcher to watch for is Zack Thompson, a reliever southpaw in the Cardinals system. Thompson has spent the entire 2021 MiLB season getting smoked by opposing hitters. As a member of the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, Thompson set a record of 2-10 with an ERA of 7.06. In the fall championship, however, Thompson did like hokey pokey and turned around. His snapping ball felt damn unassailable at times.
Of all Arizona Fall League pitchers with at least 15 innings pitched, Thompson has the third lowest ERA (1.63). Yes, he’s a small champion size and yes, his fastball doesn’t have overwhelming speed, but Thompson is a master at changing eye level. Thompson had some issues with generating weak contacts in 2021, allowing 18 dingers in 93 innings to pitch, but he found his rhythm in Arizona and will strut this Saturday.
On the offensive side of the pot, there are a multitude of big hitters to watch. The first three that come to mind are Nick Gonzales (2B, Pittsburgh), Triston Casas (1B, Boston) and Bret Baty (3B, New York Mets). These are all fantastic hitters who will no doubt be watched with eager eyes this Saturday. They are attracting enough attention as is, so I will focus more on one of the lesser known hitters participating.
Meet Richie Palacios, outsider in the Cleveland Guardians system.
Palacios has raked everywhere He’s gone. Since joining the minor leagues, Palacios has at least .800 OPS at all levels except A-ball, where he has only played 20 games and still managed to record five extra-base hits and an average of .300. He is as consistent as they are, and could be ready for the major leagues by the middle of next season.
In 80 pot appearances in the Arizona Fall League, Palacios hit ten extra-bases and stole four bases. It has power and speed. What he may be missing is contact. Palacios has a career strikeout rate of over 15% in Minors. It’s not a terrible number, but it’s something Palacios could definitely improve on before being called up.
Palacios also took a two-year hiatus from baseball between 2018 and 2021, but the Brooklyn native didn’t miss a step when he jumped straight into Double-A upon his return. He is a person who adapts quickly to opposing pitchers and really has the skills to be a 5-instrument player in the right circumstances. He’s not getting the same attention as Baty, Gonzales and Casas, but he has a big bat that can certainly keep up with them.