AFL Report – Week 3: Miller Piles Up Hits, Bullpen Dazzles
Image courtesy of Linwood Ferguson (photo of Sean Miller)To find out just how good each of the Minnesota Twins prospects performed in week 3 of the AFL season, keep reading!
(links provided to each player’s overall AFL stats by clicking their name)
Tyler Jay: 2 appearances, 2.0IP, 2 H’s, 3 K’s; 3.18 ERA (overall).
In Tuesday’s win, Jay got the ball for the bottom of the sixth inning with his team up 3-0. He started his outing with a strikeout but then got himself into some trouble, surrendering a double and single that put runners on second and third. Instead of giving up any runs, he went right after the next two hitters and bulldogged it, striking them both out on three pitches with the K’s coming on a pair of 93 MPH swing-and-miss fastballs. His strikeout to start the frame also came on just three pitches, with an 83 MPH backdoor slider sending the hitter back to the dugout. 14 of his 17 pitches went for strikes in the outing.
In the 6-5 loss to Scorpions on Friday, Jay again was summoned for the sixth inning, this time with his team down 4-2. The first batter reached on an infield error, but Jay retired the next three hitters for a scoreless inning. 13 of his 17 pitches in this one went for strikes as Jay continues to demonstrate his strong control after a tough season.
LaMonte Wade: 4 games, 4-14, 3 R’s, 2 BB’s, 2 K’s; .250/.362/.375 (overall).
In Monday’s 4-3 win against the Salt River Rafters, Wade batted second and played in right field. He drew a walk in the third inning but was retired on a double-play ball from the next batter. In the fifth, his single was the second of three consecutive to start the inning, and he was on third base when the Saguaros attempted a double steal. He was thrown out at home to end the inning, and the Surprise was only able to score one with the bases loaded and no outs. He finished this game 1-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
Against the Rafters again on Tuesday, Wade batted fifth in the lineup and was in right field yet again. In typical fashion he picked up a single, scored a run, and drew another walk to finish his day 1-3. After singling in the fifth, Wade stole his first base in the AFL and then scored on a double for the first run of the game in the 4-3 win.
In a 10-5 loss versus the Glendale Desert Dogs on Thursday, Wade finished 1-5 with a run scored batting second. His hit came in the first inning with a single and he didn’t reach base again until the ninth when he grounded into a fielder’s choice. The next batter tripled to bring him in for the Saguaros final run and a tally in his overall stat line.
Wade finished his week on Friday with yet typical day. In the 6-5 loss he went 1-3 with a run scored and was also hit by a pitch to reach multiple times. That HBP loaded the bases for Surprise in the sixth inning, and the next hitter cleared them with a triple that put them out front 5-4. He singled in the top of the eighth, but was later thrown out at home representing the tying run as unfortunately this was the game where an appearance went awry for a Twins reliever.
Chris Paul: 3 games, 3-10, 2 R’s, 2B, HR, RBI, BB, 3 K’s; .306/.359/.443 (overall).
Paul started his week 3 with a bang after winning the Bowman Hitting Challenge on Saturday, as he slugged his first AFL home run in Monday’s win against Salt River. His solo shot led off the bottom of the fourth inning and tied the game at two. Paul was also hit by a pitch in this one, so he reached base multiple times.
Paul was the only Twins prospect to appear in Wednesday’s 6-4 win over Glendale, but he wasn’t able to make much of an impact, finishing 0-4 with a strikeout.
In their loss on Friday to Scottsdale, Paul was back in the cleanup spot after batting fifth in the prior two games, and stood in at third base instead of first. He led off the top of the second inning with a double, but ended up stranded on third base. In the sixth inning he drew a walk and scored on the same triple as Wade that put Surprise out front briefly. He also singled in the eighth inning but was erased on a double play ball.
Andrew Vasquez: two appearances, 2.2IP, 0 H’s, BB, K; 1.23 ERA (overall).
Vasquez got the eighth inning in the Twins bullpen game on Tuesday, and threw 21 pitches (12 for strikes) in a scoreless inning. He did walk a batter, but no damage was done in a good appearance in the 4-3 win.
In Friday’s 6-5 loss, Vasquez was summoned in the middle of the fourth inning as starter Zach Lovvorn ran into trouble. With two runs already in and runners on first and second, Vasquez came on and…hit his first batter to load the bases. But he still wasn’t the pitcher who gave up runs in this game, as he got the next hitter to line into an inning-ending double play. Back out for the fifth, Vasquez pitched a one-two-three inning, striking out the first batter of the frame to close out his week.
Ryan Eades: 2 appearances, 2.0IP, H, 4 K’s; 0.00 ERA (overall).
In Tuesday’s win Eades was the first Twins prospect called in from the bullpen for the fifth inning and was untouchable against the middle of the Rafters lineup, striking out all three hitters he faced. 10 of his 12 pitches went for strikes, and they included three swinging strikes and only a few pitches hitters managed to foul off. The K’s came on two high fastballs at 92 MPH, and a curveball in the dirt for a swing-and-miss.
On Friday, Eades pitched the eighth inning, finishing the game for Surprise in the 6-5 loss. He got two quick outs on just four pitches, including a three-pitch K, before surrendering a single on a grounder through the left side of the infield. He got the next batter to line out, finishing the inning on just seven pitches (six for strikes) and punctuating an efficient and dominant week for the right-hander.
Tom Hackimer: 2 appearances, 2.0IP, 2 H’s, 2 ER’s, 4 BB, 3 K’s; 4.50 ERA (overall).
Hackimer came in the game after Jay on Tuesday, pitching the seventh inning in their win against Salt River. Like Eades and Jay before him, Hackimer delivered a scoreless frame to keep the shutout intact to that point. He did give up a one-out double, but followed that with a groundout and a three-pitch strikeout on a 93 MPH fastball to slam the door. Surprise may have felt better about this game if they had another Twins prospect to run out there, as in the ninth the only non-Twins reliever gave up three runs on five hits that made it interesting.
Since you haven’t read about the prospect who got wild yet, you would be correct in assuming it didn’t go as well for Hackimer in Friday’s 6-5 loss to the Scorpions. Hackimer again followed Jay in this one, coming on for the seventh inning with the Surprise up 5-4. He retired the first batter of the inning before things went off the rails – but I’m not blaming the pitcher after looking hard at what transpired. Two walks book-ended a single to load the bases and it looked like Hackimer might get out unscathed as he got the second out with a big K. Unfortunately for him (and I suggest you check out the Gameday pitch locations), he appeared to continue to be squeezed by the home plate umpire and two more walks brought in two runs before he got the final out with another K. If you don’t want to investigate the link above, I counted nine pitches tracked inside the zone that were called balls by the umpire, and you could argue as many as 17 called balls (17!) were strike-worthy (half his total pitches). Most are borderline I’ll concede, but something is amiss when that many show up in one inning. Here’s the most egregious example, for quick reference:
It’s quite amazing how many similar pitches like that were tracked, and is why only 13 of Hackimer’s 34 total pitches went for strikes in the outing. Maybe that ump doesn’t like submariners?! I really don’t know how to explain it beyond that and the result was unfortunate for Hackimer and his Saguaros team.
Sean Miller: 2 games, 5-7, 2 R’s, 2 RBI, BB, K, SB (1); .346/.393/.385 (overall).
If I told you Sean Miller was top 10 in the AFL in batting average after week 3, would you believe me?
Well, I aint lyin’…
Miller took advantage of his two starts on the week to pile up five hits in seven at-bats, raising his average to .346, which would rank 10th in the circuit if he had enough plate appearances.
Batting ninth and playing second base in their 4-3 win over Salt River on Tuesday, Miller went 2-4 with a run scored and an RBI to help turn his team’s lineup over. He may have gotten a little lucky, as both those hits were deflected by infielders, but you can’t argue with the results. His single in the fifth inning brought in a runner to make the score 2-0, and he followed that by stealing second base (his first SB of the AFL season) and scoring their third run of the frame.
In Surprise’s 10-5 loss to Glendale on Thursday Miller really stood out, going 3-3 with a walk to reach base each time he stepped in the batter’s box. He drew a walk in his first plate appearance in the third inning, then singled in each of his final three at-bats. He drove in one in the fourth that put his team out front 2-0 before the Desert Dogs pulled away late. In the ninth after his third single, Miller scored along with Wade on a triple that accounted for their final tally of five runs in the loss.
Other AFL/Minor League Links:
- John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com started his offseason review of Team Top 20 Prospects lists, with the Minnesota Twins. I have always loved how John looks at prospects and while they may be short on elite talent, there is a ton of depth. I’m not sure I’ll put him that quite that high on a list, but I love where Brent Rooker comes in.
- Also on MinorLeagueBall.com, Wayne Cavadi takes a deeper look at three Twins prospects you should know. They are the AFL’s Tyler Jay (2018 will be big year for him), Gabriel Moya who saw action late with the MLB team, and Lewis Thorpe who is one of my personal cheeseballs.
Thorpe was dominant when I watched him in Cedar Rapids and was a great interview, but injury and illness have delayed his timeline a full two years. Don’t forget about him!
- Moya also was named a winner of one of MiLB.com’s MiLBY awards, for Top Relief Pitcher during the 2017 season. To recap just how dominant he was for two organizations in AA, Moya made 47 appearances, pitching 58.1 innings and allowing just 30 hits and 15 walks while piling up 87 strikeouts on the year. He went 6-1 and converted all 24 of his save opportunities, finishing the season with a 0.77 ERA and WHIP before holding his own in 6.1 innings with the Twins.
- Check out a great read on Tyler Jay and what he went through this season with injuries. While thoracic outlet syndrome was often in the notes on why he was missing in action, we found out later in the season that wasn’t the case. Jay cites unclean mechanics, and in the most interesting note to me, perhaps the fact he put on 20 pounds coming into the season.
- Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com looks at all the Twins prospects participating in the AFL, with even more details on Tyler Jay and how starting helped him gain confidence in his changeup and how he viewed being switched to the bullpen for the 2017 season.
Please feel free to ask questions and discuss the performances during the last week!
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