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
AFL Week 1 Review for Peoria Javelinas PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Sunday, 12 October 2014 00:28

As noted in my opening day column the Javelinas (prospects from the Royals, Braves, Cardinals, Indians, and Rays) eked out a 5-4 win over the Surprise Saguaros who share Surprise Stadium for home games.

The Javelinas have had quite an elevator ride in their first week of play. Wednesday they played the Saguaros again, this time as the home team and lost 8-2 in a game that was never close as starter Jaime Schultz (RHP/TB) was rocked for three runs in the first inning and two more in the second. Meanwhile Saguaro starter Keith Couch (RHP/BOS) was good enough giving up two runs on four hits but no walks in four innings. Two Cincinnati prospects led the Surprise offense as Kyle Waldrop (1B/CIN) was 3-5 with two RBI and a run scored and Jesse Winker (OF/CIN) homered in a 2-3 day with two RBI and two runs. Boston outfielder Rusney Castillo was 2-4 and scored two runs from the leadoff spot but did seem a little anxious with many of his swings. Rangers’ outfielder Nick Williams was 2-5 with two RBI and a run scored. Raul Mondesi (SS/KC) was 2-4 with a double and a single and showed his quickness – definitely high on any long term list.

On Thursday the Javelinas were the home team hosting the Scottsdale Scorpions (Giants, Mets, Phillies, Pirates, and Yankee farmhands). This was a good day of the Javelinas as they jumped out to a four run lead over the Scorpions treating Scottsdale starter Ryan O’Sullivan (RHP/PHL former Angel sent to Philly for Joe Blanton) to five hits and four runs on five hard hit doubles in the first inning. They would finish with seven doubles in the game – ten is the AFL record. The star in the eleven run outburst was Indians top prospect shortstop Francisco Lindor who had a double, single, and long HR (went over the RF bullpen onto the berm so 400 feet easily) in the first three innings. He couldn’t manage the cycle, getting a single in the fourth inning and finishing 4-for-6 with two RBI, two runs and a stolen base. Javelinas starter Aaron Northcraft (RH/ATL) had a strong three innings giving up just one single and one walk in his three innings.

The Javelinas West division lead, tied at 2-1 didn’t last long as they were on the wrong end of the lopsided score in their Friday matchup versus the Salt River Rafters (Diamondback, Rockie, Marlin, Twin, and Astro prospects). The game started with a great duel between visiting SP Jayson Aquino (RH/COL) and the Javelinas Tyrell Jenkins (RH/STL) who both threw four very impressive shutout innings. But in the top of the fifth inning the Rafters erupted for 11 runs off three Javelina pitchers on eight hits and five walks capped off by a 400+ foot grand slam over the RF bullpen by the hitting star of this game, Andrew Halpin (OF/HOU) who was 4-for-5 for the game. At least Aquino got the W for his four one- hit innings with no walks and three strikeouts, while Jenkins who gave up just four hits while striking out four had to wonder what would have happened if he could have pitched one more frame.

Saturday night the Javelinas played their first game out of Surprise, traveling to Mesa to play the Solar Sox (Cubs, Angels, Athletics, Blue Jays, and Nationals) in an evening tilt. They lost 6-3, the only offense coming from Tony Wolters (C, CLE) whose bases loaded double in the top of the seventh inning scored all three runs. With the loss the Javelinas finish the first week one game behind the Saguaros in the West Division.

PS – while I normally only write about games and players I have seen live, I will occasionally add a comment about a noteworthy performance that happened in another game. While there may have been more the one I think most fantasy players would be interested in was Houston SP Mark Appel’s start this week in which the pitched three shutout innings giving up only one hit and one walk.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 October 2014 08:02
Opening Day in Surprise PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 00:00

­­­It was a gorgeous if slightly overcast day at Surprise Stadium Tuesday as the two teams headquartered at the Rangers/Royals complex met in the first game of the 2014 Arizona Fall League.

And both teams have some very good players, as noted in my preview columns, and others who announced themselves in the first game.

Both starting pitchers – Kyle Zimmer (KC) and Taijuan Walker (SEA) gave glimpses of the stuff they will bring to the major leagues. Walker, a late addition to the Mariners prospects here this year and who will likely be limited to 30 innings pitched, won today’s battle while Zimmer didn’t have his good command, and pitching up in the strike zone is not a formula for success. But throwing easily at 95/96 with a good curve in the 80s bodes well for future outings.

Peoria hitters that impressed were third baseman Hunter Dozier (KC) who went 2-for-4 with a two run double, catcher Justin O’Conner (TB) who went 3-for-5 and made a nice throw to pick off a Saguaro runner at first base and outfielder C.J. McElroy (STL) who went 3-for-4 and showed good speed on the bases and in left field. On the Surprise side, 17-year-old shortstop Michael De Leon did not shine on opening day, going 0-for-3 at the plate with a bad bunt that was a popup to the pitcher in addition to making two errors in the field.

On offense for the home team Saguaros, first baseman Patrick Kivlehan (SEA) had a home run into the left field bullpen while outfielder Hunter Renfroe (SD) went 2-for-4 and scored a run.

The closer for the Javelinas in the first game was a pitcher we didn’t know much about, but Samuel Tuivailala (STL) introduced himself by throwing a very easy 97 in a 1-2-3 ninth.

We are supposed to get rain Tuesday night – hopefully not enough to bother the opening day assignment of Diamondbacks prospect Archie Bradley, but perhaps enough overnight to give us some soggy grounds on Wednesday when these same two teams will battle.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 October 2014 08:03
Surprise Saguaros – AFL Preview PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 00:00
This is the final team preview for the Arizona Fall league teams who start play today.

The Surprise Saguaros, featuring prospects from the Mariners, Padres, Rangers, Red Sox and Reds, will play their home games in Surprise Stadium, the spring training home of both the Rangers and Royals.

The Saguaros will be managed by Delino DeShields (CIN) with hitting coach Jody Davis (SD) and pitching coaches Jeff Andrews (TEX) and Andrew Lorraine (SEA).

Leading the Seattle contingent will be their #2 prospect, third baseman D.J. Peterson out of Gilbert, AZ who the Mariners originally drafted out of high school in the 33rd round in 2010. But Peterson elected to go to college at the University of New Mexico where he was a 1st team All American in both his sophomore and junior years, so Seattle drafted him 12th in the first round in the 2013 draft. He signed right away and in 208 at-bats between Low-A Everett and Class-A Clinton hit .303 with 13 home runs. Peterson more than doubled his at-bats between High- A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, hitting a combined .297/.360/.552 with 31 HR and 111 RBI and was named the Mariners’ co-Minor League Player of the Year.

His teammate at both stops, first baseman Patrick Kivlehan, the Mariners #6 prospect, had a fine year himself, hitting 20 HR with 103 RBI and was given the Unsung Hero Award for Mariner minor leaguers.

The Padres are sending two of their top five prospects on lists with second year outfielder Hunter Renfroe at #4 and first year shortstop Trea Turner who is #5. Renfroe, an All American out of Mississippi State, was drafted 13th in the first round in 2013, signed early and got in 170 at-bats between short season Eugene and Low-A Fort Wayne, hitting .271/.305/.459 with six home runs and 14 doubles. He started 2014 at High-A Lake Elsinore where a blazing .295/.370/.565 line with 16 HR, 40 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases earned him Mid-Season All Star honors and a trip to the Futures game. Renfroe then moved up to Double-A San Antonio in just his second professional season.

Trea Turner (SS), who along with fellow first round pick Carlos Rodon led North Carolina State to the College World Series, followed Renfroe’s path exactly being the 13th pick this year, starting at Eugene and then being promoted to Fort Wayne. Turner hit a combined .323/.406/.448 and had both 23 extra-base hits and stolen bases – not a huge surprise on the swipes as Turner was graded at 80/80 on his speed.

While the Texas Rangers have promoted or traded a lot of prospects from one of the top minor league systems, they still have plenty of talent on the Farm. Their AFL contingent this year is led by their #4 prospect according to, outfielder Nick Williams, who played a few games on rehab in the AZL rookie league and was promoted late to Double-A Frisco but saw the majority of the 2014 season at Low-A Hickory in the South Atlantic league. At Hickory, Williams hit .292/.343/.491 in 377 at-bats with 13 home runs and 68 RBI and stole five bases. Williams just turned 21 last month, so while he would be expected to start 2015 at Double-A Frisco, he might see some at-bats in Arlington by the end of the year and defensively can handle any of the outfield spots.

The Cincinnati Reds have two high profile prospects on the Surprise squad, #2 prospect outfielder Jesse Winker and #5 prospect RHP Nick Howard. Winker has a smooth left-handed swing that will add more power but between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola this year hit .287/.399/.518 with 15 home runs and 20 doubles. He also swiped five bags.

Howard, 21 this season, was drafted in June out of the University of Virginia where he was the Cavaliers’ closer when he wasn’t in the lineup, profiles as an MLB starter with a fastball in the mid-90s (can touch 98) and a sometimes good slider (can become flat at times). He will need to develop his changeup to be successful but the Reds have confidence he can be successful in the big leagues eventually.

rusney-castilloLast but not least is the $72 million former Cuban outfielder who isn’t even listed as a Red Sawks prospect having been promoted through several stops to arrive in Fenway in September. Rusney Castillo, who just turned 20 last month, showed more than enough in those 36 at-bats to convince Boston that he will be in their outfield next spring. The left-handed batter had two home runs, six RBI, and three stolen bases in those ten games, hitting .333/.400/.528 and putting fantasy players on notice. It will be interesting to see how he does in the desert this fall.

Thanks for reading the AFL previews. Starting next week, I will have my first hand observations and thoughts in the AFL Blog along with news, notes, and quotes several times each week. Remember that if you can’t make it down here (and really all fantasy devotees should), the Fall Stars game on November 1 and the League Championship game on November 15 will both be carried live on the MLB Network.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 08:22
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