Since the game’s inception in 2006, the Fall Stars Game has been a showcase for upcoming Major League Baseball talent. Cody Bellinger, Pete Alonso, Vlad Guerrero Jr., Harrison Bader, and Ronald Acuna Jr. are just some of the great names who’ve come up to the big leagues and already made their mark after having played in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game over the last five years. So, it stands very likely that one or two of the players we see tonight will end up being MVP-caliber Major Leaguers. The game is set for Saturday, 7 pm ET, at Salt River Fields.
Here are the rosters:
The first pitcher to jump off the page for me is Dodgers’ right-handed starter, Bobby Miller. Miller boasts an impressive arsenal. Miller’s fastball can hit the high-90's with ease and has shown the potential to creep up into the triple digits by the time he becomes Major League-ready. His changeup is a great offspeed as well, but his best pitch is probably his slider. Undoubtedly used as his putaway pitch, Miller’s slider sits in the mid-80's with nasty break. It’s devastating against left-handed hitters, and Miller has enough control over it to use in almost any situation.
Control might be Miller’s best tool. It’s hard to believe considering Miller’s fastball can touch triple digits, but Miller only walked 13 batters in 56 innings compared to 70 strikeouts. That’s a 5.38-1 K-BB ratio, which would rank him fifth among Major League pitchers in 2021, right in between Nathan Eovaldi and Zack Wheeler.
While Miller has struggled in the Arizona Fall League, recording a 9.90 ERA across ten innings, 2021 was just Miller’s first season of professional baseball, and he only pitched 9.1 innings in Double-A this year. In High-A this season, Miller posted a 1.91 ERA in 47 innings. He’s young. He’s green, but he’s got the tools to dominate opposing hitters. The Dodgers have always been great at scouting and developing pitching talent, and Miller is just the latest in a long line of talented youngsters to come up in the Dodgers’ farm system.
Another, more MLB-ready pitcher to look out for is Zack Thompson, a lefty reliever in the Cardinals’ system. Thompson spent the entire 2021 MiLB season getting smoked by opposing hitters. As a member of the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, Thompson posted a 2-10 record with a 7.06 ERA. In the fall league though, Thompson has made like the hokey pokey and turned himself around. His breaking ball has seemed damn near unhittable at times.
Among all pitchers in the Arizona Fall League with at least 15 innings pitched, Thompson has the third-lowest ERA (1.63). Yes, that’s a small sample size and yes, his fastball doesn’t have overwhelming velocity, but Thompson is a master at changing eye level. Thompson had some issues with generating weak contact in 2021, allowing 18 dingers in 93 innings pitched, but he’s found his groove in Arizona and will strut his stuff this Saturday.
On the offensive side of the plate, there are a multitude of great hitters to look out for. 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 undoubtedly be watched with eager eyes this Saturday. They’re drawing enough attention as is, so I’m going to focus more on one of the lesser-known hitters participating.
Meet Richie Palacios, outfielder in the Cleveland Guardians’ system.
Palacios has raked everywhere he’s gone. Since entering the Minor Leagues, Palacios has at least an .800 OPS at every level except A-ball, where he played just 20 games and still managed to record five extra-base hits and a .300 average. He’s as consistent as they come, and he could be ready for the Major Leagues by the middle of next season.
In 80 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League, Palacios has smacked ten extra-base hits and stolen four bases. He’s got power and speed. What he may be lacking in is contact. Palacios has a career strikeout rate of over 15 percent in the Minors. That’s not a terrible number, but it’s something that Palacios could certainly improve on before getting the call up.
Palacios even took a two-year hiatus from baseball between 2018 and 2021, but the Brooklyn native didn’t miss a step when he jumped right into Double-A in his return. He’s someone who adapts to opposing pitchers quickly, and really has the skills to be a 5-tool player under the right circumstances. He’s not drawing the same attention as Baty, Gonzales, and Casas, but he’s got a great bat that can certainly keep up with them.