For the past quarter-century, the Arizona Fall League has served as a springboard for players to leap up to the big leagues and reach stardom there. Since 2006, the AFL has gathered all of the future stars on one field for the Fall Stars Game. The rosters for this year's edition were announced on Monday, and as usual, they are jam packed with talent.
The 12th edition of the Fall Stars Game will take place at Salt River Fields at 5 p.m. local time (8 p.m. ET) on Saturday, and it will be broadcast on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com. The collection of talent on the East and West teams currently includes a total of 10 members of MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list.
Three of the top 10 prospects will be participating, starting with No. 2 overall prospectVictor Robles of the Nationals, the outfielder on the East squad who just joined the AFL after being on Washington's National League Division Series roster. Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna, the No. 5 prospect, will be in the opposing outfield, as will Astros prospect Kyle Tucker (No. 7).
Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller is the highest-ranked pitching prospect in the AFL, and he is in the game as a member of the West. His Top 100 counterpart on the East is Yankees lefty Justus Sheffield. The other Top 100 Prospects playing in the game are Brewers outfielder Corey Ray on the East, while the West roster has the Indians' Francisco Mejia, the Padres' Luis Urias, Yusniel Diaz of the Dodgers and Michael Chavis from the Red Sox.
"It's an honor to come here and be recognized as one of the best here," Ray said. "It's an honor and a testament to the hard work I've put in, and hopefully I'm an MLB All-Star one day.
"You play against the talent and you admire because guys are really good, so just to play against the guys and play with the guys and pick their brains. Hopefully I can take something from that game that will make me a better baseball player."
This kind of game isn't new for eight of the participants. That group played in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Miami this past July. In addition to Top 100 players Robles, Acuna, Tucker, Mejia (he also went in 2016) and Ray, Orioles lefty Tanner Scott and Padres first baseman Josh Naylor played in that super-prospect game. Including Scott and Naylor, there are 30 additional prospects not on the Top 100 list who are on their individual team's Top 30, helping to make the game one-stop shopping for prospect fans. Angels No. 3 prospect Matt Thaiss and D-backs No. 19Victor Reyes replaced Astros No. 4 prospectYordan Alvarez and Giants No. 2 prospect Chris Shaw on the East squad.
"My first reaction was shocked," said Braden Bishop, No. 5 on the Mariners' Top 30. "I think anytime you can put yourself in this league alone, it's an honor. But then when you get named to something like that, it definitely takes you back for a second. I'm honored and I think it's going to be a great experience."
This slightly different fall classic has a strong track record of predicting big league success. One Dodgers prospect who homered in last year's Fall Stars Game just finished playing in the World Series and is almost certainly going to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Yep, that would be Cody Bellinger. The 2015 edition of the game featured Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, while current Major League stars like Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager played in the game in '14.