Surprise, Ariz.––On Saturday, baseball’s top prospects put on a show in the eleventh annual Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Despite an active performance by the offense with a combined total of 16 runs scored, the game was dominated by strong pitching, specifically that of Brent Honeywell and Michael Kopech of the West team who retired the first 12 hitters of the game.
The back-to-back shutdown performances of the young prospects to start the game set the West squad up for a win, the final score 12-4.
Honeywell, the Rays’ No. 2 prospect and MLB’s No. 39 prospect, started for the West unscathed, twirling two perfect innings.
In his quick outing, he managed to display all five of his pitches––including his screwball, the pitch that has begun to define the 21-year-old right-hander throughout his time in the AFL.
“The screwball is a story, but what about this fastball I got?” joked Honeywell.
That fastball reached speeds up to 98 mph and contributed to three of his six strikeouts. Paired with his screwball that sits in the high-70s, Honeywell flummoxed the East for one of his most outstanding performances of the fall.
“You face really good hitters and really good pitchers in the Fall League in general and then you get to the Fall Stars Game and you’re facing the best of the best. It’s a lot of fun to see how my stuff played,” said Honeywell.
The young pitcher felt dialed in coming into his start after another dominant performance in which he pitched four shutout innings against the Salt River Rafters the previous week.
This is the same pitcher whose ERA topped 16.62 after his second AFL start.
“I was worried about throwing hard,” said Honeywell. “I got out here after being home––a couple weeks not throwing off a mound, not doing very much… it bounced me back a bit and my arm felt lazy. Then, I was facing guys that I’ve never seen in the box and I was getting runners on base. I don’t like doing that.”
Michael Kopech, the No. 4 prospect for the Red Sox took the mound in the third inning and used his first pitch, a 100-mph fastball, to catch the attention of the 5,344 fans in attendance.
Kopech responded to Honeywell’s two perfect innings with a set his own in which he topped 100 mph five times and sat in the high-90s. His arsenal also included a 89 mph slider and a 91 mph changeup to throw hitters off of his fastball.
“I’m incredibly honored to be here. Some of the best guys in minor league baseball are here and I expect to see a good bit of these guys in the show pretty soon. It’s fun to come out here and pitch, especially to be able to compete and do well,” said Kopech.
After four innings by Honeywell and Kopech, the West led the East 8-0 and spent the rest of the game expanding upon their lead.