Pioneer notes: Fairchild shows maturity

Reds second-rounder flashing his potential early on with Mustangs

Stuart Fairchild hit .360 with 17 homers this spring for Wake Forest, which fell to Florida in the NCAA Super Regionals. (Wake Forest University)

By Fritz Neighbor / Special to MiLB.com | July 7, 2017 10:00 AM ET

The thing to remember about Stuart Fairchild is he might not be at his best right away.

That's how it was at Wake Forest for the Reds' 2017 second-round pick, who is now a center fielder for the Billings Mustangs.

He broke his ankle the summer before his first year at Wake and spent fall ball leaning on crutches -- and other stuff.

"I'd prop my leg up on the scooter and take [soft toss]," Fairchild said. "Just doing whatever I could to get better in the fall, because I couldn't scrimmage. It worked out."

Now, with his average sitting at .225 through 10 professional games, he can draw on that experience to get over the hump.

Mustangs manager Ray Martinez expects as much. Fairchild came in with the reputation as a line-drive, contact hitter, and one positive is that the right-handed batter has fanned once in his first 33 at-bats.

"Getting closer to the Draft we did know a little bit about him," Martinez said. "He has a good approach. He's very, very solid defensively, runs well. He's going to be a good ballplayer.

"He takes the ball away pretty well [at the plate], lets it travel. He gives you good ABs. He's just a very mature hitter right now."

Fairchild recovered from that ankle injury nicely, hitting .349 as a freshman at Wake Forest. Then his average fell to .293 as a sophomore before he bounced back to hit .360 with 17 home runs this spring. The Demon Deacons lost to eventual national champion Florida in an NCAA Super Regional.

"I actually found out I'd been drafted about 30 seconds after our final game against Florida," Fairchild said. "We'd just gotten knocked out. Our media guy came up and told me I'd been picked by the Reds. Funny how that worked out."

He'd been drafted before -- in the 38th round by the Nationals after a standout high school career in Seattle. He never thought about anything but college in 2014, and it's paid off.

"I was pretty confident," Fairchild said. "I feel like I underperformed by junior year -- that wasn't the player I thought I was. When I saw all my numbers jump up my junior year, I wasn't too surprised.

"I knew I'd put in the work to make that happen."

Fairchild hadn't seen North Carolina before a recruiting visit to Wake Forest, and his arrival in Billings marked his first trip to Montana. The Atlantic Coast Conference prepared him for the Pioneer League in another way: bus trips.

"It's eight hours to Louisville," he said. "Florida State, nine. No big deal."

In brief

Mendoza on the loose: First Shael Mendoza had a pair of five-hit games, then the Grand Junction second baseman added a couple four-hit nights. The 20-year-old left-handed hitter has a .473 average, which is eye-catching enough. Then there are his 13 steals in his first 12 games with the Rockies' farm club. That puts the second-year player out of the Dominican Republic (San Pedro De Marcos) on a higher pace than Thomas Goodwin set in 1989, when he stole 60 bases. The Pioneer League season lasts 76 games. (Goodwin, a first-round pick by the Dodgers in '89, went on to steal 369 bases in the Major Leagues.)

Already gone: Another 20-year-old Dominican, Cristian Santana, was tearing up the Pioneer League to the tune of a .583 batting average before getting promoted to Great Lakes of the Midwest League. Santana is in his fourth-year of professional ball, out of San Cristobal. The third baseman is hitting .421 in his first five games with the Great Lakes Loons.

Fritz Neighbor is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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