Appel Shining in Arizona Fall League PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Monday, 20 October 2014 00:00

Mark Appel was a very good pitcher at Stanford University and drafted in the first round in 2012 after his junior year. Appel made the decision to return for his senior year and in the 2013 MLB First Year Player draft (as Bud Selig would say), he was the first overall pick by the Houston Astros.

Appel’s first 38 professional innings featured a 33-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio but otherwise not eye popping numbers. In 2014, Appel started at High-A Lancaster, a very unfriendly pitching venue (as is most of the California League), and predictably did not have great numbers. He was then promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi where he improved somewhat. Still, the best stat was his K/BB ratio which was a combined 78-to-24 in 83.3 innings pitched. Still, we knew the 6’5” righty was better than the ERA and WHIP numbers from his first few stops suggested.

Today was Appel’s third AFL start. In his previous two starts, he had pitched three then four shutout innings but his record was 0-0, just like his ERA. In Surprise Stadium, Appel threw five shutout innings, giving up just two hits with no walks and four strikeouts and was the winning pitcher in a 4-2 Rafter win over the Javelinas.

While I knew Appel had given up just the two hits in facing just 17 batters, I didn’t realize until Francisco Lindor’s third at-bat in the 6th inning when he lined a single to centerfield that he had the only two hits off Appel. Lindor finished the game 3-for-4 with a double and two singles, a run scored and a stolen base from the leadoff spot for Peoria.

The Rafters leadoff hitter was Minnesota outfielder Byron Buxton, who was 1-for-4 with a walk, an RBI and a stolen base. Buxton and Arizona Diamondback third baseman Brandon Drury had the only RBIs for the Rafters as they scored their first two runs in the first inning on four walks and a two-run throwing error by Javelinas catcher Justin O’Conner.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 08:52
A Trip to Salt River Fields PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Saturday, 18 October 2014 23:31

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort is the tremendous spring training facility used by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies developed in Scottsdale on the Pima Indian reservation land that is just across the loop 101 freeway from Talking Stick.

It is a tremendous spring training venue which has drawn record crowds and thus a very good venue for an AFL team. It is also wired with all the newest tech toys which is why the time saving measures being tested by MLB to speed up the pace of major league games are tested only at Salt River. Last night’s game was just the third AFL game to have a clock on the pitchers but there were no infractions as not only does the measure just require the pitcher to be set but the young pitchers are getting used to it and most of the players like the pace of the games. "I like it," said Eddie Rosario, an excellent prospect from the Minnesota Twins commenting on the new, sped-up game. "Very nice, very nice."

Rosario liked everything about the 3-3 11-inning tie between the Peoria Javelinas and home town Salt River Rafters, going 3-for-6 with a run scored and two stolen bases.

The best hitters from the Javelinas were young Royals shortstop Raul Mondesi, who had a double and triple in his 2-for-5 line with a run scored and a stolen base, and Jordan Smith (OF/CLE), who was 2-for-4 with a single and a double for Peoria.

On Thursday, I was at Surprise Stadium to see the visiting Scottsdale Scorpions play the Surprise Saguaros – a pair of 5-4 teams, but Scottsdale is two games behind the Salt River Rafters in the East Division while the Saguaros lead the West Division by two games.

The headline for the game might well have read “Bird Takes Flight in Surprise” as Yankee prospect Gregory Bird hit two long home runs to the centerfield berm, a two-run blast and a solo shot. Fortunately for the home team, those were the only three runs the Scorpions produced. Meanwhile, the Saguaros scored seven runs on nine hits in their eight at-bats. Patrick Kivlehan (1B/SEA) was 2-for-4 with the only home run for the Surprise squad who scored their two first inning runs on three Scorpion errors.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 October 2014 22:38
AFL Broadcast Schedule - Thursday & Friday PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:17

Thursday and Friday’s Arizona Fall League games from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick will be streamed live online via the following outlets:

The websites of the big league affiliates of the Rafters and the visiting Glendale Desert Dogs (Thursday) and Peoria Javelinas (Friday) which would be Astros, DBacks, Rockies, Marlins, Twins, Brewers, Dodgers, Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Braves, Cardinals, Indians, Royals, and Rays.

Both nights’ broadcasts will begin at 9:30 PM ET and will feature live video and audio by Dan Acheson of the AFL.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 14:33
Week Two in the Arizona Fall League PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Thursday, 16 October 2014 12:40

Early week two highlights involved two pitchers previously mentioned in this blog last week.

On Monday night Kyle Zimmer (RHP/KC) fanned eleven Desert Dogs at Camelback Ranch Stadium in five shutout innings. The game which went the maximum eleven innings ending in a 2-2 tie saw thirty two Dogs and Javelinas strike out.

On Tuesday Mark Appel (RHP/HOU) was even better than his first start hurling four shutout innings with just one hit and two walks while striking out six Surprise Saguaros. Appel was also a historical footnote as the first AFL pitcher who had a ball called him for not delivering the first pitch of an inning within the new guidelines being tested here this fall.

I was in Surprise Tuesday as the Peoria Javelinas hosted the Glendale Desert Dogs – rolled over might be a better term as the Javelinas managed just three singles against six Glendale pitchers in getting shutout 9-0. Tim Anderson (SS/CWS) was 3-4 for the Desert Dogs with a double and two singles and scored two runs. Steven Moya (OF/DET) previously mentioned had a bases loaded triple amongst his four RBI while going 2-5.

On Wednesday the Javelinas faced the one win Mesa Solar Sox but a strong outing by starting pitcher C.J. Edwards (RHP/CHC) – three shutout innings with just one hit and one walk with three strikeouts getting the Sox started on a 5-2 win. Back to back doubles by Cal Towey (3B/LAA) and Addison Russell (SS/CHC) put the first two runs on the board in the second inning. By the way for those of you in NL only leagues, Russell made an appearance at second base this week – we will have to see if the Cubs want to increase their infield flexibility by moving him there next spring. Oakland fly chaser Boog Powell (no relation) hit his second home run in two days, this one a 400 foot shot over the right field bullpen on to the berm with two runners aboard.

And congratulations to the AFL players of the week from Week 1:

Cincinnati outfielder Jesse Winker hit 455 in the first week of play with a home run, two doubles, and seven RBI to take down the award for hitters.

Jake Reed (RHP/MIN) who was drafted in the fifth round in June by the Twins out of Oregon played in two levels this summer with a combined 3-0 with eight saves, an ERA of 0.29 and thirty nine strikeouts while walking just three in thirty one innings pitched. In the first week of AFL play Reed had a win and a save in three shutout innings for the Salt River Rafters giving up just two hits and a walk while striking out five.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 October 2014 08:01
Lured By the Pitching Matchup PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Tuesday, 14 October 2014 09:52

\Monday was the last day of my three-day weekend in the AFL but I was lured to the ballpark by a marquee pitching matchup – Archie Bradley (RHP/AZ) of the Salt River Rafters against Taijuan Walker (RHP/SEA) of the Surprise Saguaros.

On a beautiful, sunny 84 degree day, things went well for the first two innings. Bradley hit a batter and gave up a single but that was it as he was throwing easily, hitting 95-97 on the stadium radar gun with his curve resting at 80-81. Walker easily matched that, giving up just one walk while resting at 97 with a better curve at 74-76.

In the top of the third, Walker hit a batter and gave up a single to Byron Buxton (OF/MIN), with one run scoring on a force out. Bradley was not as sharp, giving up two singles, a walk, a sac fly, another walk and another single to plate three runs. That was Bradley’s last frame and the totals were 3 IP, 5 hits, one walk, three earned runs and three strikeouts.

Walker pitched through the fifth inning, giving up just the one run, two hits and two walks while striking out six Rafters. Alas, the Surprise bullpen would surrender Walker’s 4-1 lead and win by allowing the Rafters to score six runs in the top of the seventh inning. Two of those runs came in on Pete O'Brien’s (C/AZ) third homer in his first six games.

At least I saw a few good innings from two young pitchers we will see on fantasy teams for many years.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 October 2014 08:01
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