Odds and Ends

Just a few days left in the Arizona Fall League season and it’s coming down to the wire to determine who’ll be in the championship game on Saturday (which, by the way, we’ll be broadcasting live on MLB.com — 12:30 p.m. Arizona time). We know that the Phoenix Desert Dogs will be there. Of course, we could have predicted that on Opening Day — it’s almost to the point where they should get an automatic bid, no? The Desert Dogs, despite different personnel and even different organizations feeding players there (outside of the A’s, who are the constant), will be going for their fifth straight AFL crown.

Who they will be playing is still up in the air. The Mesa Solar Sox and the Peoria Saguaros are currently tied atop the American Division. With all due respect to the Sags, I’m kind of hoping to see the Solar Sox there. Why? I’m glad you asked.

The biggest reason is Tommy Hanson. Have you seen his line in the AFL? It’s the kind of thing that makes you do a double-take, especially considering it’s such a hitter-friendly league:

5-0, 0.63 ERA, 28 2/3 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 7 BB, 49 K

That’s just silly stuff there. His WHIP is 0.59. If things end as is, he’ll win the AFL pitching triple crown. He’s twice had double-digit strikeouts and whiffed nine in two other contests, worth noting because he’s never gone more than five innings. And it doesn’t even include his dominant outing at the Rising Stars Showcase, during which he fired three hitless innings and struck out seven. It’s led to some good debate: Can/should a pitcher win AFL MVP? I don’t even know if that’s allowed, as there has been a Pitcher of the Year award in the past. In general, I don’t favor a pitcher winning MVP honors in any league. And in the AFL, they usually only pitch every six days and are on fairly tight pitch counts. But Hanson has been so ridiculously good and has been so much better than any other pitcher, he at least warrants a conversation.

Oh, and he’s slated to start the championship game on Saturday if Mesa makes it. I saw him pitch in that Rising Stars Showcase and would love to get one more shot at watching him throw.

He’s not the only draw for me from the Mesa roster. There are a trio of hitters I’d pay to see take some swings on championship Saturday. The first is Logan Morrison, who’s impressed scouts all season long. The Marlins first baseman leads the AFL as of today with a .426 average. He’s tied for second in RBIs, fourth in slugging and total bases and fifth in OPS. Then there’s the Phillies’ Jason Donald. Not only is Donald learning new positions in the infield, he’s third in the league with a .422 average and 1.251 OPS. He’s in the top four in both SLG and OBP and in the top 10 in a few other categories. Finally, we’ve got Braves catcher Tyler Flowers. If the league MVP were given for per game production, it’d be no contest. Flowers has played in 19 games (by comparison, Donald and Morrison have each played 23), yet is still tied for the league lead in total bases (72). He tops the league with 12 homers, SLG (an insane 1.014) and OPS (1.477), all while hitting .394 (sixth best).

In other words, you’ve got 4 MVP candidates on one team.

OK, before I go, I want to recommend a new feature my colleague Lisa Winston has over on her blog, got milb?  She’s begun what promises to be an entertaining and informative offseason feature called Beyond the Boxscore: Getting to Know… The first subject is Matt Young of the Braves. As much work as we all do in finding out the on-field skills of players, who the scouts like and who the future stars are, Lisa always does a fantastic job of digging deeper than that, and relaying what the person behind the player is like. These BTB Q&A’s do just that, so go check it out.

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