Rising Stars Game Turns Into Futures Sequel

The Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars Game didn’t have Stephen Strasburg in it, as the 2009 No. 1 draft pick and Nationals phenom was scratched from his appearance by a stiff neck.

Mike Minor, the lefthander out of Vanderbilt whom the Braves drafted six picks after Strasburg, probably wishes he’d slept the wrong way too.

Minor gave up seven runs in the first inning, including giving up a three-run homer to Brandon Allen (Diamondbacks) to dead center field. That set the tone for the evening, an entertaining all-star game with plenty of offense and tools on display. Minor’s West Division club overcame the East’s seven-spot in the first, capping the rally for an 8-7 victory with a two-run eighth-inning home run by Matt McBryde (Indians) off Strasburg’s fellow Nationals prospect, righthander Drew Storen.

The game featured four homers—Allen’s blast and McBryde’s game-winner bookended a pair of homers to left by the West’s Carlos Triunfel (Mariners) and Chris Heisey (Reds). Triunfel’s homer followed a foul ball off of his foot that for a moment seemed likely to sideline the Dominican teenager.

However, the most impressive performer of the night may have been a pitcher nonetheless. Righthander Tanner Scheppers (Rangers), a 2009 supplemental first-round pick, continued to look hale and hearty after a shoulder injury knocked him down the 2008 draft and prompted plenty of teams to pass on him in the ’09 draft. Scheppers’ quick arm pumped fastballs into the upper 90s in his one inning of work, including a five-pitch strikeout of Allen in which every heater was 97-98 mph.

Actually, the most impressive performer was probably the AFL itself. With a crowd of 4,450 on hand, there were actually some fans to join the scouts in the stands, and the game was a tremendous showcase for young talent on par with the midseason Futures Game. The fourth installment of the game also was shown on MLB Network, and it looks like the Rising Stars Game is on its way to becoming an important fixture on the industry calendar.