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AFL Report – Week 2: Paul Walks Off to Start Week, Wins Hitting Challenge to End It

(This report includes the games played through 10/22)

Week two of the Arizona Fall League season saw the Surprise Saguaros compile a 2-3 record, with one prospect catching most of the headlines. He delivered a walk-off hit to start the week off on the right foot for his team, and ended it with a contest- winning performance in the Bowman Hitting Challenge on Saturday. The Saguaros also lost a couple of close games, including one in extra innings and another where they blew a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth.

After a stellar first week, the pitchers also hit a few bumps in the road in their appearances, but there were still some good performances from them as well.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (photo of Chris Paul)
To learn how all the Minnesota Twins prospects fared in week 2, keep reading!

(links provided to each player’s overall AFL stats by clicking their name)

Tyler Jay: 2 appearances, 1.2 IP, 5 H’s, 2 ERs, BB, K; 4.91 ERA (overall).

In week two Jay made appearances in the Saguaros 10-3 win over Peoria on Tuesday and their 7-6 meltdown loss to Mesa on Friday, but he wasn’t as sharp as in week one.

In Tuesday’s victory, Jay came on for the bottom of the fifth inning with his Surprise team up 5-2. He recorded the first out with a swinging K on a 1-2 breaking ball before allowing a double to the next hitter that put a runner in scoring position. This was followed by a single to left field that put runners on the corners and Jay in a bit of a jam. He got exactly what he needed to escape unscathed however, as he induced an inning-ending double play ball to the next hitter.

On Friday Jay again came out for the bottom of the sixth inning, this time with his team up 3-0, but he ran into trouble right away. The first hitter clubbed a ground-rule double which he followed with an off-target pitch that went for a passed ball to put that runner on third. He got a ground out before walking a batter to put runners on the corners. Consecutive singles then scored two runs to bring Mesa within one and summoned the pitching coach from the dugout. After that visit Jay plunked a batter to load the bases before getting an infield pop-up for his second out and an end to his day. Ryan Eades then came on for the third out.

LaMonte Wade: 3 games, 4-12, R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, K; .231/.333/.423 (overall).

Wade played right field in three games on the week for Surprise, batting ninth, seventh and second in the lineup in those contests.

In Monday’s 9-8 come-from-behind victory against Scottsdale, Wade finished 1-4 with an RBI and one strikeout. The RBI came in the fifth inning right after Scorpions starter Justus Sheffield was removed from the game with runners on first and second. His ground ball through the left side closed the gap to 4-2 and Surprise would add another run before the inning was over.

Wade had a forgettable day in 6-4 loss to Peoria on Wednesday, finishing 0-4 with three ground outs (including a double play) and fly out.

He came back to close out the week with his best game so far in the AFL season, as he joined in on the show of power from the Saguaros lineup in building a 6-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning against the Solar Sox on Friday. He followed teammate Nicky Lopez’s double to start the game with a double of his own to give the Saguaros the early 1-0 lead. In the fifth inning he added a single to his line on a “pop up to the catcher” (which I’d like to know how that happened), before blasting his first AFL home run in the seventh that made the score 6-2. It was the second solo home run of the inning for Surprise and as a team they dropped four bombs in the game. Unfortunately, for all those offensive efforts, Saguaros reliever Jordan Hicks gave up four runs in the bottom of the ninth to end up on the losing end of a walk off.

Of local note in Friday’s box score, is Coon Rapids, MN native Logan Shore of the Oakland Athletics organization made the start for Mesa.

Chris Paul: 3 games, 3-14, 2 R’s, RBI, 5 K’s; .308/.333/.346 (overall).

Paul saw action in each of the same games as Wade during week two, batting in the middle of the lineup, and got to play hero in their win on Monday versus Scottsdale.

With the score 8-3 in favor of the Scorpions in the bottom of the eighth, Paul followed a walk by the Saguaros leadoff man with a single for his first hit of the game. They were both driven in by a triple from teammate Kevin Padio that brought them within three before Pidio scampered home on a ground out to put them within striking distance in the bottom of the ninth. A walk, hit by pitch, and bases clearing double brought Paul up again with the game tied and a runner in scoring position. He delivered the walk-off win with a single to center field to complete the five-run comeback for Surprise. The win also marked the first time Paul played third base during the AFL season.

In Wednesday’s tilt, Paul again had an opportunity in the bottom of the ninth with a runner in scoring position and his team down 6-4, but he didn’t have the same result in this one as he was called out on strikes to end the game. He fared even worse than Wade in this one, finishing 0-5 game with two K’s and multiple missed opportunities.

In Friday’s walk-off loss to Mesa, Paul led off the fourth inning with an infield single on a slow-roller to third, then promptly trotted home on a two-run shot from Andrew Knizner that gave Surprise a 3-0 lead. Paul finished 1-4 with three strikeouts leading into the Bowman Hitting Challenge on Saturday.

It was there that Paul bookended his week with another memorable performance. He won the unique contest with a score of 2,750 points, edging New York Mets prospect Tomas Nido. Unlike a true home run derby, points are awarded in the event for hitting obstacles scattered throughout the field, and looks like a blast to participate in! Congrats Chris, and don’t blow all the prize money in one place!

Andrew Vasquez: Two appearances, 2.2IP, 2 H’s, ER, 3 K’s; 1.93 ERA (overall).

Vasquez again saw action in two games in week two, going more than one inning for the first time in the AFL on Monday against Scottsdale, and one more inning in a 6-4 extra-inning loss to Mesa on Thursday.

He came on in the middle of the top of the fifth on Monday after one run had scored and runners remained on first on third. He struck out the first man he faced, but uncorked a wild pitch to the second that allowed an inherited runner to score and make it 4-1 Scorpions. He then got a ground out to end the inning and came back out for the sixth. He did his thing in this frame, setting the opposition down in order. In his 1.2 innings, 13 of his 20 pitches went for strikes, including three swinging strikes on his lone K of the outing.

In Thursday’s tilt, Vasquez was called upon for the top of the seventh with the Saguaros up 4-3. He was charged with a blown save as he surrendered the tying run before escaping the jam of his own making. The leadoff man singled to start it, then advanced to second base on a balk. Vasquez then got the first out of the inning with a looking strikeout but that was followed by an RBI double. A wild pitch then advanced that runner to third, but he was bailed out on a grounder to the second baseman with the infield in that cut that runner down at home. He then plunked a batter to put runners on first and second before he notched his second K to escape with minimal damage given what had transpired.

Ryan Eades: 2 appearances, 2.1IP, 3 H’s, K; 0.00 ERA (overall).

Eades also was summoned from the bullpen in two games during the week, with his appearances coming against Peoria on Tuesday and Mesa on Friday.

In the 10-3 win against the Javelinas he got the eighth inning, needing just twelve pitches (nine strikes) to record three outs. He struck out the first hitter of the inning and got a ground out for two quick outs before giving up a single, but ended the inning by inducing a grounder to the next hitter.

In Friday’s heart-wrenching loss to Mesa, Eades picked up his first hold in the AFL with a scoreless 1.1 innings. After Jay had allowed in two runs in the sixth, it was Eades job to escape the bases-loaded jam with no further damage. He did so by getting a fly out to center field then worked around a couple of singles in the seventh for a scoreless inning before the bottom fell out for the Saguaros in the ninth.

Tom Hackimer: 2 appearances, 3.0IP, 3 H’s, ER, 2 K’s; 2.25 ERA (overall).

In two appearances on the week, Hackimer totaled 3.0 innings pitched as he also went multiple frames for the first time during the AFL season.

In Monday’s dramatic win he came on after Vasquez for the top of the seventh inning with the score 4-3 in favor of Scottsdale. The first batter hit a hard ground ball that Paul deflected at third base and that ended up a single, but Hackimer got the next batter to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. Then some hard contact came in the form of consecutive doubles that increased the Scorpions lead to 5-3 before he got a strikeout to end the two-out rally.

In Thursday’s 6-4 loss against Mesa that included free baseball, Hackimer saw his first multi-inning appearance in the AFL. He was summoned in the top of the eighth inning with the score tied at four and set the Solar Sox lineup down in order, including a swinging strikeout. Back out for the ninth, he made quick work of the 1-2-3 hitters for Mesa, needing just eleven pitches to record another one-two-three inning.

Hackimer was replaced for the top of the tenth, and with a runner starting the inning on second base, Mesa quickly scored the go-ahead run with a lead off single, and added some insurance with a home run to pull out the 6-4 victory against the good guys.

Sean Miller: 3 games (2 starts), 3-10, 2 R’s, 2B, BB, K; .211/.250/.263 (overall).

Miller played in three games during the AFL season’s second week, making the start on Wednesday as the second baseman and batting second, and on Thursday as the DH batting ninth. He entered Tuesday’s contest in the sixth inning as a defensive replacement, and made the most of his hitting opportunities.

In the seventh inning after entering the game to play shortstop, Miller drew a walk and scored on a double from the next hitter that made the score 8-2 Saguaros. In the top of the ninth he grounded out in his other plate appearance.

In Wednesday’s 6-4 loss, Miller collected three hits in the top third of the lineup in his best game in the AFL so far. In the bottom of the first Miller followed a single from the leadoff man with a single of his own and got as far as second base. He then led off the bottom of the sixth inning with another single but didn’t move up any further. His biggest hit of the game came when he again led off an inning, this time in the eighth with the score 4-1 in favor of Peoria. He doubled to put himself into scoring position and two batters later another double brought him home to close the gap to 4-2. Like Paul, Miller also came up in the bottom of the ninth and represented the tying run, but flew out to center field for the inning's second out as they fell short of another comeback.

Other AFL/Minor League Links:

- After being selected in the third round of the 2017 draft and being given an above slot bonus to pry him away from LSU, Blayne Enlow was fantastic in the Gulf Coast League for the Twins. For his efforts, Baseball America named him to their GCL Top 20 Prospect list.

- The Minnesota Twins announced their 2017 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, with Mitch Garver taking home the first honor, and Aaron Slegers the second. Garver finished first in Twins Daily’s Hitter of the Year voting, while Slegers finished third in our Starting Pitcher of the Year tally.

- After his regular season that was cut short due to injury, Tyler Jay’s performance in the first week of the season was a positive development for the outlook on his health.


Please feel free to ask questions and discuss the performances during the last week!

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3 Comments

Slegers is a nice story, but he sure looked overmatched in MLB.Does he project to do anything in the bigs?Garver seems like he has the talent, but I am not sure that I see the Twins really giving him the chance in the bigs. 

​Enlow is very interesting.What is his expected arrival?

​Finally for all you experts - what is a realistic expectation for the Arizona League players?For some reason I am not expecting any of them to make the majors. 

 

Slegers is a nice story, but he sure looked overmatched in MLB.Does he project to do anything in the bigs?Garver seems like he has the talent, but I am not sure that I see the Twins really giving him the chance in the bigs. 

​Enlow is very interesting.What is his expected arrival?

​Finally for all you experts - what is a realistic expectation for the Arizona League players?For some reason I am not expecting any of them to make the majors. 

 

Regarding Slegers... he can be a 4-6 starter in the big leagues. His 3 MLB starts? 1 was fantastic. 1 was really non-good, and the third was solid, especially considering he hadn't pitched in like 3+ weeks.

 

I do wonder if they'll hand over the backup spot to Garver or if they'll bring back Gimenez. I do think they can co-exist, with Garver being the #2 first baseman, a RH DH, and the #2/3 catcher. That can definitely work.

 

Enlow is a long ways away, at least 3 and probably 4-5 years out. 

 

As for the AFL guys, clearly Jay has a chance to be really, really good. Wade has a chance to be a decent starting OF and almost certainly at least a 4th OF. Eades can be a long reliever/middle relief guy. Hackimer can be Hildenberger-like. I think Vasquez is underrated and he's left-handed. Miller and Paul can be utility/role player types. 

    • birdwatcher, caninatl04 and DelusionalTwinsFan like this

 

Slegers is a nice story, but he sure looked overmatched in MLB.Does he project to do anything in the bigs?Garver seems like he has the talent, but I am not sure that I see the Twins really giving him the chance in the bigs. 

​Enlow is very interesting.What is his expected arrival?

​Finally for all you experts - what is a realistic expectation for the Arizona League players?For some reason I am not expecting any of them to make the majors. 

 

Slegers can be a back-end guy. He does have a pedigree, was Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. Nice to have around when needed.

 

Garver will get his chance. I hope he's the backup C next year, and fills in elsewhere as needed so he gets over 100 games. He's definitely on the team moving forward I think.

 

As any HS pitcher, Enlow will be a ways off. I'm curious to see if they'll put him in Cedar Rapids by May, or if they hold off until the Appy season. Would venture it's the latter. 

 

I would expect multiple players from the AFL season to play in the majors. Last year Garver, Randy Rosario, and John Curtiss were in the AFL and debuted this season. Taylor Rogers was in the AFL in 2015 and debuted in 2016.  Your 2017 starting outfield of Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, and Byron Buxton all played on the 2014 team and debuted in 2015.

 

You can argue about the difference in talent level among those names, but I'd venture it's a healthy percentage of AFL players that end up in the majors in some capacity.

    • birdwatcher and caninatl04 like this

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