Image credit: Stuart Fairchild (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After batting .130 in April, Stuart Fairchild knew something had to change.
The Reds’ outfield prospect pored over video and talked extensively with his coaches. He took to the cage and spent hours working on his swing.
Eventually, he diagnosed the problem.
“I was just getting going really late, and it wasn’t giving me time to recognize the pitch, basically,” said Fairchild, the Reds’ No. 10 prospect. “I started getting into my gather earlier and it’s made a world of difference.”
With his timing adjusted, Fairchild hit .285/.374/.484 from May through the end of the regular season with high Class A Daytona and Double-A Chattanooga. He’s carried it over to the Arizona Fall League.
Fairchild went 3-for-4 with two runs scored to lead visiting Glendale to a 6-5 victory over host Salt River on Wednesday night. The 23-year-old center fielder is up to a .387 batting average and .940 OPS in AFL play.
“I made that timing adjustment and you just see the ball so much better,” he said. “It was like an immediate ‘This works.’”
A second-round pick in 2017 out of Wake Forest, Fairchild opened with a walk in the first inning and singled in the third. With the bases loaded in the fifth, he hit a sharp grounder and quickly raced down the line to force a rushed throw on the attempted double play turn at second base, resulting in a two-run throwing error.
He singled, stole second and came around to score in the seventh and added another single for good measure in the ninth.
“Every game he’s getting a few hits here and there,” said Glendale catcher Tyler Stephenson, a teammate of Fairchild’s in the Reds’ system. “That’s who he is. He can hit.”
Altogether, Fairchild has a hit in his last seven AFL games despite irregular playing time as a member of the taxi squad, meaning he only plays on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
With the adjustments he’s made and the ensuing performing, those April struggles feel very, very long ago.
“It’s a good feeling knowing you’re playing against a lot of really good players and you can compete with them and hold your own,” Fairchild said. “That’s definitely a confidence boost.”
NEWS AND NOTES
— Stephenson, the Reds’ No. 5 prospect, went 2-for-5 with an RBI double. It was his seventh double in only 13 AFL games.
“It’s a great opportunity to show who I am,” said Stephenson, the 11th overall pick in the 2015 draft. “The last month of the season some things kind of clicked and I got a good feel and I’ve continued that to here.”
Stephenson, 23, hit .361 with a .989 OPS his final 19 games of the regular season with Double-A Chattanooga. He has hit .347 with a .908 OPS in the AFL.
— Rays’ No. 7 prospect Shane Baz showed the top velocity of the night, sitting 96-99 mph on his fastball while working the seventh inning in relief for Salt River. Baz, the No. 70 prospect on the BA Top 100, still surrendered two hits and a run despite his big fastball and now has an 8.18 ERA over eight AFL appearances.
— Cardinals outfield prospect Conner Capel hit a two-run home run to right field in the fifth inning and hit an RBI double to left in the seventh inning for Glendale. The 22-year-old outfielder is on a six-game hitting streak and has three homers in his last three games.