It’s a common refrain around the Arizona Fall League. Every game feels like an All-Star Game. That’ll happen when you put Minor Leaguers who played across all four corners of the country and for 30 different farm systems on fields across the Valley of the Sun every day for six weeks.
Do you know what really feels like an All-Star Game? An actual All-Star Game, in this case with one extra letter.
The 16th annual AFL Fall Stars Game is scheduled to be held Sunday at 4 p.m. ET (2 p.m. MT) at Mesa’s Sloan Park, the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs. It will air live on MLB Network and stream live on MLB.com, with Robert Flores, Dan O’Dowd and Jim Callis on the call. If there is a Game 7 of the World Series on Sunday, the Fall Stars Game will not be broadcast on MLB Network and will instead only stream on MLB.com.
In a change of format, this year’s Fall Stars will be divided into American League and National League squads meant to mirror those of the actual Midsummer Classic in July.
Below are team-by-team breakdowns of the players named to the AL and NL Fall Stars rosters on Friday:
Zach Britton, OF: A catcher during the regular season, Britton has made the full-time move to the outfield in the Fall League, and the lessened physical toll might be doing him wonders. The 24-year-old leads the circuit with a .404 average entering Friday and ranks third in both OBP (.482) and OPS (1.056).
Heston Kjerstad, OF (No. 9): After a battle with myocarditis in 2021 and much of 2022, Kjerstad is healthy this fall and has shown flashes of what made him a No. 2 overall pick out of Arkansas in 2020. The left-handed slugger is tied with four others atop the AFL leaderboard with five homers and ranks among the top five in average (.353), slugging (.624) and OPS (1.009).
Noah Denoyer, RHP: The O’s added Denoyer as an undrafted free agent three years ago, and the 6-foot-5 right-hander climbed as high as Double-A during the regular season. Primarily a reliever over the summer, he’s made five of his six AFL appearances as a starter, striking out 21 in 20 innings along the way.
Blake Hunt, C: Voted in but will not participate.
Evan Reifert, RHP: The 23-year-old right-hander specializes in a mid-80s, high-spin slider that has been giving hitters fits in the desert all fall. Reifert has yet to allow a run through 10 2/3 innings and has fanned 22 of the 36 batters he’s faced with Mesa.
Ronny Simon, INF: Simon hit 22 homers and stole 34 bases between High-A and Double-A during the regular season and has continued to make a name for himself with the Solar Sox, hitting .319/.390/.528 in 19 games.
Antonio Menendez, RHP: Menendez could make for a delightful watch should he appear Sunday because of his three distinctly different arm slots (submarine, sidearm, over-the-top). The former Wake Forest Demon Deacon has a 3.86 ERA with 12 strikeouts and 12 walks in 11 2/3 innings.
Nick Yorke, 2B (No. 4): The 2020 first-rounder’s stock took a tumble during the regular season when he produced just a .668 OPS in 80 games with High-A Greenville, but Yorke has done a solid job rebuilding it with Scottsdale. The right-handed slugger enters Friday with a .324 average, two homers and seven doubles through 18 games.
Stephen Scott, C: A Home Run Derby participant on Saturday, Scott has seized the moment with a powerful fall for the Scorpions. Five of his seven extra-base hits have left the yard, leading to a .673 slugging percentage through 57 plate appearances. The 2019 10th-rounder hit 10 homers in 96 games between High-A and Double-A during the regular season.
Jasson Domínguez, OF (No. 2, MLB No. 39): The Martian has struggled to put up numbers for much of the autumn, but he was the fourth-youngest player on an AFL Opening Day roster and will be the youngest AL representative Sunday. The switch-hitting outfielder remains one of the most tooled-up players in the Fall League as well with above-average to plus grades across the board.
Tyler Hardman, 3B: The 2021 fifth-rounder hit 22 homers at High-A Hudson Valley during the regular season and has built on that powerful first full season with Mesa. He enters Friday with a .328/.375/.582 line and 10 extra-base hits in 17 games.
T.J. Rumfield, 1B: Listed at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, the 2021 12th-rounder, who was acquired from the Phillies last November in a four-player deal, may look like a hulking presence at the plate, but his advanced approach has stood out most in the AFL, where he has a .475 OBP and 10/9 K/BB ratio through 59 plate appearances.
David Fry, C: Fry first participated in the AFL three years ago as a member of the Brewers organization and played in what was called the Rising Stars Game then. He’s back in 2022 after hitting .286/.347/.429 through 13 games with Peoria.
Mason Hickman, RHP: Known as the winning pitcher in Vanderbilt’s 2019 College World Series clincher, the 2020 fifth-rounder has ridden his impressive curveball to fan 15 batters in 9 2/3 innings — all as a reliever — with Peoria. He punched out 103 in 72 1/3 frames between High-A and Double-A during the summer.
Hunter Stanley, RHP: Will not participate.
Christian Chamberlain, LHP: Chamberlain can sit in the mid-90s with his fastball and flashes a 79-81 mph curve with good bite that give him two pitches to dream on. Control remains a concern (five walks in 10 1/3 innings with Surprise), but he’s also fanned 12 of his 35 batters faced in the fall.
John Rave, OF: A plus runner, Rave has gotten a lot of reps in center field on a Surprise roster that also boasted other promising outfielders like Johan Rojas and Jhailyn Ortiz. The 2019 fifth-rounder also set a career high with 23 steals during the regular season at the upper levels of the Minors.
Colt Keith, 3B (No. 6): A right shoulder injury limited the 21-year-old third baseman to 48 games at High-A. He’s fit in well in the Fall League with a .314/.456/.431 line and more walks (15) than strikeouts (14) in 16 games with Salt River.
Joey Wentz, LHP (No. 24): Will not participate.
Tyler Mattison, RHP (No. 25): Mattison has used his mid-90s fastball and promising mid-80s changeup to solid effect in the desert, striking out 16 over 10 1/3 innings. He has also walked eight in the same span as he finds his way in the Salt River bullpen.
Austin Martin, SS (No. 12): Will not participate.
Edouard Julien, 2B (No. 14): The 2019 18th-rounder has been one of the pleasant surprises of this fall. He showed a good hit tool and approach with a .300 average and 98 walks in 113 games at Double-A Wichita during the regular season but has added some pop in the desert with five homers that put him tied atop the AFL leaderboard.
Francis Peguero, RHP: Acquired from the Reds alongside Sonny Gray in the spring, Peguero has flashed velo in the 93-95 mph range this fall while he’s worked on the velo and shape of his slider. While focusing on the breaking ball, he’s pitched to a 2.45 ERA in nine appearances (11 innings) with Glendale.
Adam Hackenberg, C (No. 29): The 2021 18th-rounder has already climbed to Double-A on the strength of his agile defensive work and above-average throwing arm. It’s been a tough offensive go in the Fall League (.178 average, .548 OPS in 15 games), though it comes at the end of a long first full season.
Moises Castillo, INF: Will not participate.
Werner Blakely, 3B/SS (No. 15): After being limited to only 55 games at Single-A with hamstring and hand injuries, Blakely jumped to the Fall League at just 20 years old. He’s posted a .250/.371/.365 line with six doubles in 15 games with Scottsdale while continuing his move to third base.
Matt Ruppenthal, RHP: The 2017 17th-rounder out of Vanderbilt has been nearly untouchable with his low-90s sinker, slider and curve with Surprise. He has struck out 15 batters in 10 1/3 innings and has limited opposing batters to a .061 average in that span.
J.T. Ginn, RHP (No. 9): Will not participate.
Lawrence Butler, OF (No. 14): The left-handed slugger has walked as many times as he’s struck out (14) through 17 games with Mesa, leading to a healthy .394 OBP. He is in the AFL to make up for lost time due to an arm injury that limited him to 81 games at High-A Lansing.
Mason Miller, RHP (No. 20): Will not participate.
Bryan Woo, RHP (No. 15): Woo underwent Tommy John surgery at Cal Poly in the spring of 2021, just before he went in the sixth round to the Mariners. After rehabbing to begin the year, he’s looked like he’s in midseason form in Arizona with a mid-90s fastball, upper-80s change and mid-80s slider. His 0.84 ERA ranks sixth among AFL qualifiers.
Robert Perez Jr., OF (No. 21): Perez’s weekend was already eventful with the Home Run Derby on his schedule, and it got even more so when he won the AL side of the Final 2 vote on Friday. The right-handed slugger is hitting .246/.356/.443 with three homers in 18 games for Peoria after going deep a career-best 27 times during the regular season.
Jorge Benitez, LHP: The 23-year-old southpaw was sent to the Fall League to work on the command of his low-90s fastball alongside his curve and change and has mostly succeeded with a 1.50 ERA, .186 average-against and 10 strikeouts in 12 innings.
Luisangel Acuña, SS (No. 7): The brother of Braves star Ronald, the 20-year-old infielder continues to build his own strong resume with above-average speed, impressive defensive ability at short and good offensive potential. The latter skill hasn’t quite shown up during his time regularly in Arizona, where he has a .697 OPS in 80 plate appearances, but the potential is there for much more as he matures.
Kumar Rocker, RHP (No. 8): Will not participate.
Grant Wolfram, LHP: Wolfram’s 93-97 mph fastball, mid-80s slider and 27.3 percent K rate at Double-A this season gave hope for the southpaw’s trip to Surprise, and he’s perhaps even exceeded expectations with a 1.86 ERA, 13 strikeouts and only two walks in 9 2/3 frames.
Justyn-Henry Malloy, OF (No. 11): Winner of the Fall Stars’ Final 2 Vote for the NL, Malloy’s meteoric rise in 2022 continues. A sixth-round selection in the 2021 Draft out of Georgia Tech, the 22-year-old posted an OPS of at least .825 across three levels, concluding the year with Triple-A Gwinnett. His plus plate discipline has been on display with Scottsdale as his 15 walks are tied for fourth in the league and have led to a .439 on-base percentage.
Austin Smith, RHP: Smith has ridden a high-octane fastball-slider combo right into Fall Stars Game festivities. An 18th-round selection in the 2021 Draft out of the University of Arizona, Smith spent the regular season closing games for High-A Rome. His stuff has been difficult to square up, as evidenced by not yielding a homer through his first 26 outings; thus far in the AFL, he has limited opposing batters to a .200 average.
Jose Salas, INF (No. 5): The 19-year-old is one of the youngest participants in the Fall League, a familiar feeling after spending nearly half of this past regular season at High-A Beloit. Salas logged just one plate appearance all year against a younger hurler, expediting his development. Miami inked the Florida native (who moved to Venezuela as a teenager) for $2.8 million in 2019 and has aggressively deployed the switch-hitter all across the infield since his stateside debut last year.
Mike Vasil, RHP (No. 11; can’t participate): Forearm tightness over the summer opened the door for Vasil to join the Fall League as a way to cap his first full pro campaign. Having somewhat revamped himself upon joining the Mets organization, the 22-year-old has taken his new-look pitch arsenal and adroitly deployed it over the past month. The 6-foot-5 righty compiled 10.7 K/9 and a 3.53 ERA across 18 appearances between Single-A St. Lucie and High-A Brooklyn this year.
Josh Walker, LHP: A conversion to relief this past season has enabled the 6-foot-6 southpaw to focus on his fastball/slider combo and stack up strikeouts. After whiffing 38 batters in 22 innings – and 47.5% of right-handed batters – across three levels in the regular season, the 37th-round selection from the 2017 Draft has put himself on the Mets’ radar.
Drew Millas, C (No. 30): Second time’s a charm for Millas. Another two-time Fall League participant, the switch-hitting backstop has done a complete 180-degree turn from last year, collecting 13 RBIs in 13 games. Known traditionally for his defensive acumen and receiving skills, the 24-year-old is looking to hone his offensive repertoire after reaching Double-A Harrisburg this year.
Orlando Ribalta, RHP: The quickest path for any reliever to earn honors is to simply not allow any runs, which has exactly been Ribalta’s experience in the Fall League. Through eight appearances, the 24-year-old has limited opposing batters to a .194 average while posting a 0.77 WHIP. At 6-foot-7, the 12th-round selection from the 2019 Draft makes for an imposing presence at the back end of any bullpen. He split the regular season between Single-A Fredericksburg and High-A Wilmington, posting a 3.40 ERA with a pair of saves.
Johan Rojas, OF (No. 5; can’t participate): Prior to exiting the Fall League following a shoulder ailment and personal matter, the speedy outfielder went a perfect 13-for-13 on steal attempts. He split the regular season between High-A Jersey Shore and Double-A Reading and amassed 62 stolen bases, which ranked him eighth in the Minors. The 22-year-old raised his average by 30 points upon his promotion, while continuing to impress as a defender in center field.
Cristian Hernandez, RHP: The 22-year-old took off this season at Jersey Shore upon a transition to the bullpen in June. Hernandez has rolled his success to Surprise, where he has yielded just one earned run over 11 frames. While the Venezuela native has just a low-90s heater, he mixes in a sharp high-70s breaking pitch to keep batters off-balance.
Jeferson Quero, C (No. 7): Quero has backed up his reputation as an advanced defensive catcher for his age during his time with Glendale. Throwing out 10 of 20 runners attempting to swipe a bag in his first 11 games, the 20-year-old has backed up his two highest-rated tools per MLB Pipeline – arm and field, both of which grade out at 60. His bat also played upon a promotion to High-A Wisconsin in August, as he collected a .313 average and .530 slugging percentage despite being more than three years younger than his competition.
Abner Uribe, RHP (No. 26): Whereas not much went right for Uribe during the 2021 iteration of the Fall League, not much has gone wrong in ‘22. Still armed with a triple-digit heater, Uribe has continued to deploy his slider/cutter as an exemplary secondary offering. Walks have been a bugaboo throughout his pro career (50 in 65 innings), but he has been largely able to locate with Glendale, walking just two batters in 10 frames. A torn left meniscus ended his regular season with Double-A Biloxi in April, but the 22-year-old has showcased his top-tier stuff and will earn a Fall Stars nod for it.
Zavier Warren, 1B/3B: Warren entered the Fall League with a clean slate after a rough season between Wisconsin and Biloxi, and he has taken full advantage. Sixth in the league in on-base percentage, the third-round pick in the 2020 Draft out of Central Michigan has displayed tremendous plate discipline and ranks tied for 10th in hits (20).
Jordan Walker, OF (No. 1, MLB No. 6): If there is a “must-see” player in the Fall League, Walker holds the distinction for 2022: He has already reeled off an incredible 99.5 mph throw from the outfield, collected four of the five hardest-hit balls on record and mashed tape-measure shots en route to tying for the league lead with five homers. In addition to getting a crash course on outfield play, the 2020 first-round pick has brought his top-tier bat to the middle of the Salt River order as well: he had amassed a .961 OPS, surpassing the .898 OPS mark he compiled this season with Double-A Springfield.
Masyn Winn, SS (No. 2, MLB No. 51): Winn and Walker, who have developed a kindred bond, have been inextricably linked since they made up the top of the Cardinals’ 2020 Draft class. While Walker has mashed his way through the Fall League, Winn has been an offensive dynamo that has walked more (12) than he has struck out (nine), leading to a .448 on-base percentage. After swiping 28 bags with Springfield (43 in total during the regular season), he has picked right back up with Salt River, notching eight swipes in nine attempts.
Tink Hence, RHP (No. 6, MLB No. 91): The 20-year-old is coming off a spectacular first full pro campaign, having recorded a 1.38 ERA and 13.9 K/9 with Single-A Palm Beach. The second-round selection from the 2020 Draft allowed one earned run or fewer in 14 of his 16 starts. Armed with a heavy high-90s heater, Hence also mixes in a 60-grade curveball and a developing changeup.
Connor Thomas, LHP (No. 24): Far and away the Fall League’s strikeout leader, Thomas has enjoyed a rare punchout spate; after whiffing just 7.3 batters per nine during the regular season with Triple-A Memphis, the southpaw has flipped the script en route to emerging as Salt River’s best pitcher. At just 5-foot-11, the fifth-round pick in the 2019 Draft from Georgia Tech has displayed excellent command as a pro and isn’t afraid to pitch to contact, as shown by his 60.5 percent ground-ball rate in ‘21 and 51 percent this past year.
Matt Mervis, 1B (No. 21): For those wondering if Mervis could continue mashing his way through pitching in 2022, the Fall League has been a firm nod in the affirmative. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Duke in ‘20, the slugging left-hander entered the AFL having led the Minors in extra-base hits (78), total bases (310) and RBIs (119) this season. After clobbering 36 homers between three levels, the 24-year-old is tied for the circuit’s home run (five) lead. His .608 slugging percentage ranks him fourth on the fall circuit.
Bailey Horn, LHP: A transition to the bullpen has done wonders for Horn, who spent most of the season racking up strikeouts for Double-A Tennessee. Amassing 12.5 K/9 at the level has put the fifth-round selection in the 2020 Draft out of Auburn on Chicago’s radar as he operates with a mid-90s heater and mid-80s slider. He held the AFL opposition scoreless through his first seven appearances, and has recorded a .150 average against with Mesa.
Henry Davis, C (No. 1, MLB No. 19): Less than 18 months removed from being the No. 1 overall pick, Davis has notched his first pro All-Star honor. Known for his top-tier bat coming out of Louisville, the 23-year-old has impressed during the Fall League for his preparation and game management skills behind the dish. Hit-by-pitches have significantly sidetracked his first full season in the Pittsburgh system – 25 in total, with a left wrist injury to boot – but he has socked seven of his 13 hits for extra bases in the fall.
Quinn Priester, RHP (No. 3, MLB No. 44; can’t participate): An oblique injury kept Priester from making his season debut until June, but he compiled a 3.29 ERA across four levels throughout his age-21 campaign. The club’s first-round pick (18th overall) in the 2019 Draft, the righty yielded two earned runs or fewer in 14 of his 19 starts while continuing his ground-ball-inducing ways.
Nick Gonzales, 2B (No. 5, MLB No. 93): Not only is Gonzales a two-time AFL participant, he is now a multi-time Fall League All-Star. Plantar fasciitis on his right heel cost Gonzales much of his summer with Double-A Altoona, but the 23-year-old still managed to compile a 127 wRC+ and .812 OPS across 71 games. Selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2020 Draft out of New Mexico State, Gonzales has displayed a keen eye at every level to go along with his potentially premium hit tool.
Noelvi Marte, 3B/SS (No. 2, MLB No. 17): The centerpiece of the Luis Castillo deal this summer with Seattle, Marte was the highest-rated prospect on the move at the 2022 Trade Deadline. With Cincinnati possessing a plethora of talented shortstops (fellow Fall League participant Matt McLain among them), the club has had the 21-year-old begin a transition to the hot corner during his time with Glendale. After swatting 19 homers and swiping 23 bags at High-A this year, Marte nearly helped lead Spain to a World Baseball Classic berth.
Rece Hinds, OF (No. 18): It’s been a year of adjustments for Hinds, who battled a left hamate fracture in addition to transitioning to the outfield in 2022. He closed the regular season by getting a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga just after turning 22 years old. His extra-base hit pop has shown up with the Desert Dogs, as eight of his 18 hits have earned him multiple bags.
Jordan Lawlar, SS (No. 3, MLB No. 12; can’t participate): A strong start to the Fall League was quickly sunk when Lawlar sustained a fractured left scapula following a hit-by-pitch on Oct. 21. Despite the injury, the expectation remains that the potential five-tool shortstop will be ready for Spring Training. The sixth overall pick in the 2021 Draft pushed his way to Double-A Amarillo in his first full season – which included 16 homers and 39 stolen bases across four levels – before suiting up at Chase Field for the first time during the AFL’s tripleheader at the home of the D-backs.
Justin Martinez, RHP (No. 30): Power stuff in short spades has allowed Martinez to zoom up Arizona’s organizational ladder. Armed with a fastball that sits in the high-90s and a mid-80s slider, the 21-year-old has thrown just 61 innings stateside but being Rule 5 Draft-eligible might lead to him making a push as a relief candidate in the big leagues. Fall League hitters have been entirely stymied by the former outfielder, who has held the opposition to a .115 average over seven appearances.
Andy Pages, OF (No. 5, MLB No. 66): Playing his home games at Los Angeles’ Spring Training Complex (Camelback Ranch), the 21-year-old has provided a glimpse of the power that is on the horizon. The Cuban native mashed 26 homers with Double-A Tulsa this season – and 31 with High-A Great Lakes last year – adding four more roundtrippers in the Fall League. Regarded as a blossoming all-around hitter, Pages has recorded an .859 OPS and is 10th in the league in total bases (34).
Tyler Myrick, RHP: The 24-year-old has emerged as Scottsdale’s co-closer during the Fall League, keeping batters in check with 0.64 WHIP. A 14th-round selection in the 2021 Draft out of Florida International, Myrick spent most of the season at Single-A San Jose before impressing in a one-month stint with High-A Eugene (1.00 ERA) to close the year.
Spencer Bivens, RHP: It’s been a meteoric rise for Bivens, who pitched collegiately at Rogers State University before playing in France in 2019. Having spent the past three years in various independent league circuits, San Francisco inked the 6-foot-5 righty in May. The 28-year-old spent most of the year at Single-A, but he also made six appearances for Triple-A Sacramento, striking out 48 batters in 43 1/3 innings while in the Giants’ system.
Jackson Merrill, SS (No. 1, MLB No. 83): Despite not having faced pitching above the Single-A level prior to arriving in Arizona, Merrill has largely held his own. The third-youngest player on an Opening Day AFL roster, the 6-foot-3 shortstop was hampered by wrist and hamstring injuries that limited him to just 45 games with Lake Elsinore during the regular season. But when healthy, the club’s first-round pick from 2021 was clicking on all cylinders with a .398 wOBA. Well regarded by San Diego for his makeup, Merrill has consistently hit at the heart of the Peoria order throughout the Fall League.
Zac Veen, OF (No. 1, MLB No. 23): Whereas Veen scuffled in his first taste of Double-A this season, he has shown to be every bit of Colorado’s top prospect during his stint with Salt River. Named the AFL’s first Hitter of the Week, the 2020 first-round pick (ninth overall) has been among the top bats in Arizona. In addition to his .353 average and .927 OPS, he leads the league with 16 stolen bases, the most on the fall circuit since 2011. Still just 20 years old, the lefty-swinging outfielder is fresh off leading the Northwest League with 50 steals despite playing in just 92 games prior to his graduation.
Grant Lavigne, 1B (No. 13): Much in the same ilk that fellow first baseman Michael Toglia (No. 14) put himself on the big league radar last season with a strong Fall League, Lavigne has displayed his advanced hit tool over the past month. He sits tied for seventh in the league with a .347 average and is one of just six qualified batters with an OPS north of 1.000. A competitive balance A selection in 2018 out of a New Hampshire high school, Lavigne posted a 146 wRC+ with High-A Spokane prior to concluding the year with Double-A Hartford.