The 2018 Fall Stars game was a classic that saw stars shine, juiced radar guns flash crazy numbers, and a walk off.
Nate Pearson of the Blue Jays got the start on the hill and touched 104 on the Surprise Stadium gun that is usually very accurate, but seemed inflated on this night (although scouts did say it was a legit). Peter Alonso made him pay in the top of the first, hitting a fastball out to center on a ball that showed Alonso’s easy power as the ball started like a fly out, but just carried over the wall.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was impressive as well, absolutely crushing a double off the wall with an exit velocity of an incredible 117 MPH.
Here's the good stuff:— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) November 4, 2018
1⃣1⃣7⃣ mph exit velocity on this double from #BlueJays phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in tonight's @MLBazFallLeague Fall Stars Game. Watch live: https://t.co/xkzxDrU8TM pic.twitter.com/oPkTJKGP8J
Buddy Reed of the Padres took home the MVP on the heels of a two-out triple in the bottom of the ninth that drove in Guerrero Jr. to tie the game, then scored the game winner on a ball driven into the gap for a walk-off single from Meibrys Viloria. Viloria is a catcher in the Royals system and really opened eyes to first time viewers as he showed off his solid approach at the plate, but also caught two would-be base stealers with his cannon of an arm.
Had the East held on to win, the MVP would have gone to Austin Listi of the Phillies thanks to his no-doubt three run home run in the top of the eighth off Demarcus Evans. Evans had a rare appearance without a strikeout, after putting up more than 16.5 K/9 in the Rangers system this year.
One arm that really impressed was Devin Smeltzer, who the Twins got from the Dodgers in the Brian Dozier deal this summer. Smeltzer has a heavy cross body delivery from a low 3/4 slot that made the eventual hero, Viloria, look incredibly uncomfortable at the plate.
One final takeaway I had from the game was Keibert Ruiz’s improvements as a catcher over the course of the season. There was a point early in the year I had real questions as to whether or not he would be a reliable backstop, but his hands behind the plate and agility on a few balls in the dirt had me thinking he may not only be capable, but possibly a good defensive catcher in time.
There will be plenty more notes from the Arizona Fall League as it wraps up in two weeks, but these were the notes that jumped out to me most while watching the game Saturday evening.