Saturday night was the annual Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game where the top prospects gather together to play an All Star like game against each other. This year the Royals had two players selected to play in the game. Those two players were Khalil Lee and Meibrys Viloria.
Neither player started the game but both came in and made an impact. Viloria subbed into the 7 hole in the lineup for Keibert Ruiz to catch and Lee subbed into the 9 hole for Estevan Florial playing RF.
Two plays into the game for Lee and Luis Barrera hit a ball to his right into the RCF gap. Lee cut it off and threw a perfect strike to second for the tag of Barrera who tried to take second. It was a perfect throw.
To lead off the bottom of the 6th, Viloria faced LHP Devin Smeltzer of the Twins. Viloria worked the count full before striking out on a pitch up and in that really ate him up. Smeltzer has a lower arm slot that creates a really tough angle on LHHs. Smeltzer struck out Luis Robert following before Lee came to bat. Lee worked the count full as well before taking ball four on a slider away. It was a tough pitch and I was excited to see Lee lay off the pitch. Lee was able to show off his speed a few pitches later when Cole Tucker hit a ground ball through the hole behind Lee allowing him to go first to third. Lee looked extremely athletic running. He scored when Yu Chang tripled to RF.
In the top of the 7th Caz Cameron hit a long foul ball into foul territory. Lee ran a long way and made a sliding catch deep in foul territory. Then it was Viloria’s turn to show off his throwing capabilities. With two outs, Nico Hoerner decided to try to steal second. Viloria’s throw was right on the money and the inning was over.
In the top of the 8th there were no direct plays that either Royals prospect was involved in that stood out but there was an important thing that Viloria did that needs to be mentioned. With a runner on third, the pitcher buried a slider that Viloria blocked softly in front. Pitchers have the confidence to throw their best off speed and chase pitches to Viloria. He will block them. There are times when you can’t throw balls that break into the dirt with runners on third because you are afraid that the opponent will get a free run. But Viloria showed that he can handle tough breaking stuff in the dirt and not allow those runs to score. This is a big deal for the confidence of the pitching staffs going forward and allows them their full arsenal with runners on third in close games.
Viloria lead off the bottom of the 8th facing a tough LHP from Boston. Viloria has always done a great job with his eye and it allowed him to get into a 2-0 hitter’s count. He took two swings designed to do damage and missed both times. He then adjusted his swing to stay inside the ball and flipped a single over the infield into CF. The next hitter struck out bringing up Lee. He swung and missed at a 1-0 change away. He then was able to get back into a hitter’s count before chopping a ball to second base that took a tough hop allowing Lee to reach on the error. Both Royals prospects were left on base.
In the top of the 9th, Daz Cameron made it to second base. He tried to steal and Viloria threw a 1.68 and hosed him. You shall not steal against Meibrys Viloria.
With two outs in the top of the 9th, Lee caught a line drive hit slightly to his right. It was an easy play that he made even more routine.
The AFL West team went into the bottom of the 9th inning down 6-5. The West, by the way, is who Lee and Viloria play for. The West was able to tie the game up and with two outs and the winning run on third, Viloria came to bat. Viloria then made his final bid for MVP to go along with two runners thrown out on the bases. Viloria worked a 3-1 count before he drove a ball into the RCF gap for the game winning RBI single. Viloria tends to bat flip every swing but this flip was a little more emphatic as the West won on a walk off.
The two Royals prospects had a good showing. They threw out three runners on the bases, made a sliding catch, and went a combined 2-3 with the game winning single, RBI, and a BB.
I still would have liked to see Scott Blewett get the chance to pitch in this game, but that’s a different story and just like the All Star Game, someone gets snubbed every year.