Results tagged ‘ Arizona Fall League ’

Aneurysm Awareness Week and the AFL

As if a new week of Arizona Fall League action wasn’t enough, games starting today have some extra meaning, thanks to a joint effort by the AFL and the Joe Niekro Foundation.

It was three years ago today that Joe Niekro, the All-Star and knuckleball expert,  had a brain aneurysm that cost him his life. His daughter, Natalie, has worked tirelessly to set up the foundatoin to raise awareness and money for aneurysm research.

Here’s how the week will work. Joe Niekro played for seven Major League teams over the course of his career. Any time any pitcher strikes out a batter this week in the AFL, four different sponsors will donate $36 each to the foundation. For those of you who don’t want to do the math, that’s $144 for eavery K.

Natalie herself will throw out the first pitch at three different games during the week. Then, on Nov. 7 — Joe Niekro’s birthday — she’ll be at the Rising Stars Showcase (which will be broadcast on the MLB Network) to accept the check from the fund-raising effort. You can read more about the effort in the story I wrote that went up today.

I’m going to keep a running tally on here of how much has been raised via the strikeout efforts by those seven organizations’ pitchers. Here are the teams and the pitchers with each club:

Cubs (Solar Sox) — Andrew Cashner, John Gaub, Blake Parker, James Russell
Padres (Saguaros) — Mike DeMark, Steve Garrison, Brandon Gomes, Evan Scribner
Tigers (Javelinas) — Scot Drucker, Andrew Oliver, Thad Weber, Robbie Weinhardt
Braves (Saguaros) — Lee Hyde, Craig Kimbrel, Jeff Lyman, Mike Minor,
Astros (Saguaros) — Evan Englebrook, Chia-Jen Lo, Wilton Lopez, Daniel Meszaros
Yankees (Rafters) — Grant Duff, Michael Dunn, Ian Kennedy, Zach Kroenke,
Twins (Solar Sox) — Alex Burnett, Steve Hirschfeld, Mike McCardell, Spencer Steedley

Today, Mike McCardell will get things going. He’s starting for Mesa today. 

AFL Stars of the Day

Hey guys, I’m going to keep this brief because I’ll be back a little alter on today to talk about a few things that are a little more important (in life), so stay tuned.

Hitter

Brandon Snyder, 1B, Orioles (Desert Dogs): There was just a tiny bit of offense in Phoenix on Wednesday as the Desert Dogs piled up 17 runs on 17 hits. There could be many choices for a Hitter of the Day from the DD lineup, what with Grant Desme homering twice to give him five for the AFL season, Josh Bell going 4-for-5 including his first homer bringing his average up to a league-leading .600. But they pale in comparison to the week’s worth of stats Snyder compiled in one game. The 2005 first rounder went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers and seven — that’s right, seven — RBIs. He hit a two-run shot in the third against Nick Hill and a three-run homer in the seventh off of Phillippe Aumont. His 12 RBIs now lead the AFL and he’s sixth in both SLG and OPS while his .481 average places him fourth in the circuit. Not only does he have a six-game hitting streak going, but he’s picked up multiple hits in four consecutive contests.

Pitcher

Thumbnail image for gutierrez.jpg

Danny Gutierrez, RHP, Rangers (Rafters): Well, he gave up a hit this time, but he is the first B3 two-time winner of Star of the Day. Gutierrez picked up his second win by tossing 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball. He gave up two hits and two walks, while striking out one, but managed to not allow any runs  to cross the plate for the second straight outing. His 6 2/3 total innings are the most of any pitcher in the league thus far to have not allowed an earned run. That’s no small feat in a league where three teams are hitting over .320 and a fourth is at .299.

AFL Stars of the Day

We’ve got some new action on Twitter, folks:

Twins 1B Chris Parmelee — @CParmeleeAFL

Go and follow him, please. More to come in the coming days…

Going to be brief today and get right to the Stars O’ the Day

Hitter

Andrew Lambo
, OF, Javelinas (Dodgers): This was a tough call since there were fouLambo.jpgr different hitters on Tuesday to collect four hits. All of them — Bryan Petersen and Starlin Castro atop the Mesa lineup, Carlos Rivero for the Saguaros and Lambo’s teammate Jonathan Lucroy — deserve some credit. Lucroy was a perfect 4-for-4 with a home run in the Javs’ crazy 14-10 victory over the Solar Sox. I decided to give the nod to Lambo for his 3-for-6 effort, his 4 RBIs and his three runs scored. Lambo’s grand slam in the fifth was part of a massive eight-run inning for Peoria that put the club up 11-6. Lambo, coming off a so-so year in Double-A in which he hit .256 with 11 HR and a .717 OPS, has started his AFL campaign by going 11-for-23 with a 1.452 OPS (2 HR, 5 total XBH). He’s fourth in OPS and tied for second in RBIs

Pitcher

Braddock.jpgZach Braddock, LHP, Javelinas (Brewers): In a 14-10 game, any pitcher who gets people out deserves an award. Braddock did let an inherited runner to score when he entered in the seventh and allowed a single to Ryan Kalish. That would be the only hit he’d allow in his two innings of work, pitching out of a one-out bases-loaded jam in the seventh and retiring the side in order in the eighth. He didn’t walk a batter and he struck out three. Coming off a year in which he relieved full time for the first time and posted a 1.79 ERA and .193 batting average against, the lefty has made three scoreless appearances this fall, totalling 3 2/3 IP.

AFL Star of the Day/Another New blogger

The roll of AFL players sharing their experiences continues to grow. Go leave a comment for Brewers pitcher Josh Butler, will you?

The latest leaders on MLBlogs were just listed for the entire regular season and B3 finished No. 27. Not too shabby. Thanks to all who helped make sure I finished ahead of Tommy Lasorda. Keep coming back. I’d love to see B3 crack the Top 25 by the time when the year-end leaders are posted.

Now on to the Stars of the Day for Monday:

Hitter


Josh Bell, 3B, Phoenix (Orioles): Bell, who came to the O’s at the trading deadline in thejosh_bell.jpg George Sherrill deal, has been ridiculously hot. He went 4-for-5 on Monday with a double, a triple, an RBI and three runs scored. He’s tied for the league lead with a .533 batting average and he’s second with a 1.478 OPS. He’s gone 7-for-9 over his last two games. Bell is coming off a very solid 2009 campaign in Double-A, finsing with a .295 average, 20 homers, a .516 SLG and .892 OPS. He slugged .570 with a .917 OPS in 33 games after coming to the Orioles organization.

Pitcher

erbe.jpgBrandon Erbe, RHP, Phoenix (Orioles): It’s an O’s sweep. Erbe made his AFL debut a good one, tossing two perfect innings while striking out two. The Desert Dogs, not shockingly, are now 5-1. Erbe missed considerable time with a shoulder injury. When he was on the mound in Double-A, the 21-year old was nasty, with a 2.34 ERA and .170 batting average against.

AFL over the weekend

Greetings all. Lots to talk about.

Let’s start with our continued efforts to provide AFL interactivity online. First, in the blogosphere, head over and say hello to Jeff Lyman, the Braves reliever who just posted for the first time. You guys have done a great job in leaving comments for the Giants’ Steven Edlefsen, so do the same for Jeff, will you?

And on Twitter, we’ve had a veritable explosion. Rather than just point out the new ones, here’s a complete list of all the AFLers who are “tweeting” from Arizona:

Richie Lentz, Red Sox — @RLentzAFL
CJ Retherford, White Sox — @CJRetherfordAFL
Jonathan Gaston, Astros — @JGastonAFL
Scot Drucker, Tigers — @Utbaseball30
Garrett Parcell, Marlins — @GParcellAFL
Hank Conger, Angels — @HCongerAFL
Trayvon Robinson, Dodgers — @TRobinsonAFL
Joseph Dunigan, Mariners — @JDuniganAFL
Drew Storen, Nationals — @drewstoren

Drew’s also blogging, so if 140 characters isn’t enough for you, check out his thoughts over on Notes from NatsTown.

Rather than go back and hand out Stars of the Day for Friday and Saturday, I figured I’d look at the first week of AFL action and nominate some candidates for Player and the Pitcher of the Week. Feel free to vote for your own in comments. The AFL might be doing an official version of that later today, but here are my own thoughts:

Player of the Week Nominees

Brandon Laird, Yankees: Starting off 10-for-16 isn’t too shabby. That’s a .625 batting average and he’s got a 1.500 OPS. He went 9-for-11 in his first two games and though he had just one hit in his third game, it was a homer and his 3 RBIs in that game give him 7 in the early going.

Mike Stanton, Marlins: Sure, he strikes out a bit (6 in 4 games), but he’s also hitting .533 (8-for-15) during his four-game hitting streak. He hit a monster homer on Oct. 17 and expect more of that before the AFL is over. He’s got three steals to boot.

Chris Heisey, Reds: Heisey’s following up a 20-20 season with a hot start in Arizona. The outfielder is also off to an 8-for-15 start. His 15 total bases tie him for the league lead (two doubles, a triple and a homer).

Andrew Lambo, Dodgers: He’s tied with Heisey with 15 total bases, having gone 8-for-17 in four games. He’s got five RBIs and two steals as well.

Casper Wells, Tigers: In three games, Wells has gone 7-for-13 with a 1.533 OPS and 6 RBIs. Three of his seven hits have been for extra bases.

Russ Mitchell, Dodgers: He’s tied for the league lead with his 8 RBIs and he’s got 2 homers as well. His 1.667 OPS tops all AFL hitters.

Clearly, there are plenty of hitting candidates for the week. But what about the pitchers?

Pitcher of the Week Nominees

Chia-Jen Lo, Astros: He’s been close to perfect in his two outings thus far. In four total innings, he’s yielded just one hit and one hit batter while walking none and striking out six. The 6 K’s lead the AFL.

Donnie Veal, Pirates:
It was just one outing, but it was perfect. The lefty went two innings in his stint and struck out three, giving up no hits and more importantly for him, no walks.

Dustin Richardson, Red Sox:  He’s made two appearances thus far and over 3 1/3 IP, has allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out five.

Sergio Santos, White Sox:  Like Lo, he’s gone four innings without allowing a run. He has yielded five hits, but hasn’t walked anyone and has struck out four. Plus, it’s a cool story since Santos played in the Fall League a few years back as a shortstop.

Stephen Strasburg, Nationals:
I’m checking the fine print, but I think I’m contractually obligated to mention him every time I talk about pitching in the AFL this fall. Besides, now I can include him in my Tags. In his “pro debut” of sorts, Strasburg went 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out two. He goes again on Thursday in Peoria, so you can check out the Pitch FX on Gameday to see just how his stuff is playing.

AFL Day 3: Mous on the loose

Before we get to the Star of the Day, some more on the player interactivity front.

We’re starting to get players up and running on Twitter. So far, two have taken the plunge, so he gets a special shout out:

Dodgers OF Trayvon Robinson can be followed @TRobinsonAFL.
Mariners OF Joe Dunivan can be followed @JDuniganAFL

Go and give them a follow, would you?

Now, on to our Stars of the Day

Hitter

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Surprise (Royals): The Rafters are now 3-0 thanks to their 18 hits onmoustakas.jpg
Thursday. Moustakas, the Royals top pick from 2007, went 3-for-5 with a
homer, two doubles and 7 RBIs. That’s a week for some people. Honorable
mention goes to Yankees prospect Brandon Laird (Gerald’s brother). He
went 5-for-5 in this game and is now 9-for-11 in two AFL contests.

Pitcher

gutierrez.jpgDanny Gutierrez, RHP, Surprise (Rangers): While that win over Mesa may have been more about offense (12-5), Gutierrez’s start should not be overlooked.While the Rafters were getting out to a 3-0 lead, Gutierrez was putting up zeroes over three innings. And that’s not just in runs. The right-hander didn’t allow a hit during his outing, walking two and striking out two.

Evidently, there’s some kid named Strasburg pitching tonight. Haven’t heard much about him, though.

AFL Day 2: Star of the Day/New blogger

Before we get into yesterday’s action, I want to encourage everyone to go check out the first of what we hope to be many players detailing their experiences via blog and Twitter. So everyone welcome in Giants reliever Steven Edlefsen, who posted for the first time on the Giants AFL blog. Go leave him some comments so he feels welcome, will you?

Looks like Day 2 was pitching-dominant, huh? Still, we can find a hitting Star of the Day while picking out one pitcher:

Hitter

petersen.jpg
Bryan Petersen, OF, Mesa (Marlins): In his first taste of AFL action Petersen led off for the Solar Sox. And while they lost to Phoenix to fall to 1-1, it wasn’t Petersen’s fault. The 2007 fourth-rounder went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a home run. He also scored both of Mesa’s runs. Oddly, it was the only home run of the day. Not sure who would know this, but I have to think that’s a rarity in AFL history.

Pitcher

Donnie Veal, LHP, Scottsdale (Pirates): The Pirates’ lefty, a Rule 5 pick a year ago, hasveal.jpg often had command problems throughout his career, though the stuff has always been there. That’s why the Buccos held onto him all year. Well, he couldn’t have been much better than he was in his AFL debut. Veal was perfect through two innings, striking out three. He threw 18 pitches, 14 for strikes. Thanks to the pitch f/x on Gameday (for all games held in Peoria and Surprise), we know his 4-seam fastball was in the 93-95 mph range and his curve was 79-81 mph. Two of his strikeouts came on swings and misses at that curve and he froze Jason Heyward with a fastball after two straight curves. Nice work by Veal… I wonder if he’ll be working on the changeup at all as the fall unfolds. The icing on the cake is that our blogger, Mr. Edlefsen, got the win when the Scorpions scored twice in the 10th inning after he tossed a scoreless ninth.

AFL Day 1: Star of the Day/more on Japanese pitching

Gotta love the start of the Arizona Fall League season. I’ve done this in year’s past and, sadly, haven’t always kept up with it. But I’m going to give it a shot. Each day I’m going to award 2 Star of the Day Awards, one for a hitter and one for a pitcher, based on the previous day’s performances.

But first, some more info on the Japanese pitchers who are playing in the AFL. I wrote a story about the quintet of arms who came over from NPB (This does not include Ryohei Tanaka, who started for the Phoenix Desert Dogs on Tuesday; he was with Double-A Bowie in the Orioles system in 2009). I reached out to some scouts in Asia and was able to get a little more information on some of the arms other than what I talked about in the story.

Hiroshi Katayama: A scout other than the one I spoke to for the story feels he’s never been able to show an ability to be consistent on the mound. But he pointed out he’s a really good hitter and perhaps should convert to being a position player.

Toshiyuki Yanuki: The 25-year-old was drafted from an industrial league team and was a rookie this past year. He tops out at 92 mph and throws a curve. He needs to improve his fastball command if he wants to have a career in the Japanese big leagues.

Takanobu Tsujiuchi: The lefty can crank it up to 95-mph, but a stiff body has led to injury issues. If he can stay healthy, he’s one to watch.

Tooru Murata: Scouts haven’t seen him much since he hasn’t gotten to pitch a lot in the Minor Leagues. The scout I spoke to saw him in college, three years ago, but didn’t like his lack of command. He did toss a perfect inning in relief for Scottsdale on Tuesday. He pitched in the Hawaiian League in 2006.

OK, on to the STARS OF THE DAY

Hitter

Ike Davis, 1B, Rafters (Mets): He played at two levels. Then he helped Team USA win theike.jpg gold medal in the IBAF World Cup in Europe. After a brief rest, he picked up right where he left off on Tuesday. Hitting third and playing first for Surprise, he went 4-for-6 with a grand slam off 2009 draftee Andy Oliver, two doubles and a single. Oh, and he drove in six. Guess he’s happy to be back in Arizona, where he played for three years at ASU

.
Pitcher

bierd.jpgRandor Bierd, RHP, Solar Sox (Red Sox): This one wasn’t as clear cut to me as the hitting nod, with several pitchers impressing on Day 1 (I was tempted to go with Sergio Santos, who tossed two scoreless innings in relief and struck out three while hitting 96 mph on the gun. Not bad for a converted shortstop). But, in the end, it’s hard not to go with Bierd, who started and won for Mesa against Phoenix and put up three hitless innings. He only struck out one, but he also only walked one.

If you have any nominations for AFL Stars of the Day, please let me know. I’ll always consider alternatives. And if you happen to go out there, if you send me your first-person reports, I’ll post them here on the blog.

AFL news: Strasburg to debut in Fall League

I know I promised some info on the AFLAC All-American Game played last weekend, but that’ll keep. Instead, I want to talk about the Arizona Fall League.

Now, I always like talking about the AFL. As I’ve been saying for years, I think it’s the best-kept secret in baseball. It should be a great vacation destination for baseball fans, but it tends to be relatively desolate on the fan front.

That might change, at least in terms of people paying attention to the elite finishing school for Minor Leaguers. That’s because it seems likely that Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 Draft, will make his unofficial pro debut in the AFL, which begins its 18th season on Oct. 13.

Strasburg, of course, made headlines when he agreed to a record-setting $15-million-plusstrasburg.jpg Major League contract with the Nationals right at the signing deadline. He was introduced to Nats fans at a press conference/event on Friday. Now it appears the first time he’ll represent the organization on the mound will be in the desert. He’ll be a member of the Phoenix Desert Dogs, who will be aiming for their sixth straight AFL title. The odds seem pretty good that he’d be a part of the Rising Stars Showcase, set to be held in Surprise, Arizona on Nov. 7.

It also could be a springboard to a quick rise to the big leagues. A year ago, Orioles first-rounder Brian Matusz got his first taste of pro ball in the AFL and landed in Baltimore’s rotation after the All-Star break.

Strasburg will not be the only high pick from the 2009 Draft likely to be a part of the Fall League this season. Fellow National pitcher, and No. 10 pick overall, Drew Storen, is also expected to pitch for the Desert Dogs. The reliever out of Stanford has gotten off to an outstanding start to his pro career, signing quickly and already up in Double-A. Through Saturday’s games, the right-hander had a 2.35 ERA and seven saves in 30 2/3 IP across three levels. He’s held hitters to a .180 batting average and had a ridiculous 42:5 K:BB ratio. He’s yet to give up a run in six Double-A innings.

No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley should get a chance to take his hacks against the Nationals’ duo. The newest member of the Mariners organization, out of the University of North Carolina, will go to instructs in Peoria and then stay to play for the Javelinas. Joining him in Peoria, but on the other AFL team there — the Saguaros — will be No. 7 pick, LHP Mike Minor (Braves), and the No. 8 overall selection, RHP Mike Leake. Leake, of course, will be in familiar surroundings after starring for three years in Tempe for Arizona State.

Official rosters will be released in the near future and if this early news in any indication, the Arizona Fall League could be ready for its best season in what’s been a very, very successful run.

AFL Championship preview extravaganza

OK, maybe that’s overstating things, but I really wanted to use the word extravaganza…

Keep an eye out for my “official” championship preview story over on MLB.com and mlbfallball.com. Should be up in a little while.

But I figured, why wait? They’ll be on the story, but in case you were curious, here are the starting lineups for the game:

Mesa

1. Matt Young LF
2. Jason Donald SS
3. Logan Morrison DH
4. Jeff Larish 1B
5. Tyler Flowers C
6. Scott Cousins CF
7. Casper Wells RF
8. Van Pope 3B
9. Will Rhymes 2b
Tommy Hanson RHP

Phoenix

1. Eric Young Jr. CF
2. Steve Tolleson SS
3. J.P. Arencibia C
4. Mike McKenry DH
5. Josh Donaldson 1B
6. Dustin Martin LF
7. Chris Nelson 2B
8. Danny Valencia 3B
9. Evan Frey RF
Jeff Manship RHP

Noticeably absent from the Desert Dogs lineup is Sean Doolittle. He’d normally hit cleanup and probably play a corner OF spot (maybe 1B), but he had prior commitments and will not be at the game.

You think these guys aren’t taking this seriously? Take a look at some of these quotes, some of which are in the story and some which didn’t make the cut:

Eric Young Jr.: “It’s always a great time when you play in a championship game. Both teams are going to be pumped up to play. There will be more fans in the stands and that  brings more excitement. With what Tommy Hanson’s brought to the table this fall and in the Minors, he’s a real good pitcher. You have to bring your A game. If you can’t get pumped up for that, you don’t need to be in this business.”

Tommy Hanson: “It’s definitely an honor to get to throw in the championship game, especially for this team. Hopefully, I’ll do what I’ve been doing during the whole fall and give us a chance to win a ring. Now we’re at a point where we’re playing to win. We’ll do what it takes to try to win.”

Logan Morrison: “It’s the end of the season and we only want one game to do it, but we all want to get it done. The only way I can play is to be competitive. If I’m not competitive, I’m not going to do my best.”

Rocket Wheeler: “It’s what we’ve played for all year. We’ve played loose and played hard. They’ve played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. It’s a credit to these kids. We set the example early, but they went out and did it.”

Stan Cliburn: When they started putting rings out in this league, any time you play in a league sanctioned by Major League Baseball, you’re playing for a championship. The fall league is no exception. Our players, from day one, we knew reaching that championship would be a goal. They’re all excited about it. I set the tone early, that we’re down here for a purpose, not only to develop you, but to win baseball games. The Phoenix Desert Dogs have a little run going. I kept hearing, ‘Stan, you have a tradition to keep up.’ Getting that opportunity is what it’s all about.”

Be sure to watch all the action on MLB.com at 2:30 p.m. ET. It’ll be me and Vinny Micucci with the call. More later…

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