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Twins AFL Report - Week 2: Laweryson Continues to Pile Up the Punch Outs


Week two for Minnesota Twins prospects in the Arizona Fall League included one hitter continuing to show his power, infielders racking up hits, two pitchers making a start during the week with one of them continuing to flash elite strikeout numbers in the early going.

Overall on the week, the Scottsdale Scorpions went just 1-5 and gave up runs in bunches in several of their games. They will look to rebound as a team in week three.

Matt Wallner: 4 games, 5-for-16, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 9 K; .296/.375/.519 (.894 OPS) overall.
Wallner started off week two just as he finished week one, with a home run in Monday’s 7-6 loss to Salt River. His second blast of the fall season led off the second inning and put Scottsdale up 1-0 early in the game.

After a day off, Wallner was back in the lineup on Wednesday, hitting third and playing right field in the Scorpions 11-9 loss to the Solar Sox. His first four at-bats included a pop-out to the catcher and three strikeouts, but helped start their attempt at a comeback with a single on an 0-2 pitch in the ninth. He would later come around to score the Scorpions final run of the game.

In Thursday’s 17-2 loss to Surprise Wallner in left field and batting third again. You can tell from the score there wasn’t much going right for the Scorpions in this one, but Wallner contributed one of their two runs batted in with a sacrifice fly in the third inning. For the game he was 0-for-2 with a walk and a pair of strikeouts.

Wallner’s final game of the week came in Friday’s 10-8 loss to the Peoria Javelinas. As the cleanup hitter in this one, he would finish 1-for-4 with three strikeouts. He singled in the fifth inning and drew a walk to load the bases in the ninth, but would end up stranded in scoring position both times.

Zach Featherstone: 2 appearances, 1 2/3 IP, H, 1 BB, 2 K; 2.45 ERA, 1.91 WHIP overall.
The left-hander saw action in two games on the week, with his first appearance coming in Tuesday’s 12-4 win over the Desert Dogs. He was the first reliever summoned and pitched a scoreless fourth inning. He allowed a single and struck out two hitters in the outing.

In Thursday’s blowout loss to the Saguaros, Featherstone was the last reliever called upon and got the final two outs of the game for the Scorpions. After six of the first seven hitters of the eighth inning reached base and four runs had already scored, he was brought in with runners on first and second. He got a flyout then walked one to reload the bases before a pair of wild pitches got away from him and two more runs came across home plate for Surprise. He got a groundout later in that at-bat to finally end the onslaught.

Andrew Bechtold: 4 games, 6-for-17, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 BB, 8 K; .320/.346.440 (.786 OPS) overall.
Bechtold was the designated hitter and batted sixth in Monday’s loss to the Rafters, but like Wallner, he had a big game as they combined for five of the Scorpions 10 hits on the day. Bechtold finished 2-for-4 with a run scored and RBI. His double in the fourth inning put Scottsdale in front 2-1, and he scored his run on a double a batter later. Leading off the sixth inning Bechtold clubbed another double to center field, but ended up stranded on second base. He also drew a walk in the second inning.

In Wednesday's game against Mesa, Bechtold moved up into the cleanup spot behind Wallner.. He played first base in this one and had another two-hit day. He singled in both the first and eighth innings and scored a run in the eighth when the Scorpions cut the Solar Sox lead to 9-7.

Bechtold’s third game of the week was on Thursday and he was the catcher, batting fifth. He finished 1-for-4 to collect one of the Scorpions four hits on the game. He singled in the second inning and was left on base. He also grounded out in the fourth, flew out in the sixth, and struck out in the ninth. Behind the dish he allowed one passed ball and three bases were stolen by the Saguaros. 

In Saturday’s 8-1 loss to Salt River Bechtold was at third base and again hitting cleanup in the lineup. He extended his hitting streak to his first six games in the AFL with a 1-for-4 effort. He singled in the first inning to drive in the Scorpions only run of the game. Unfortunately, in his other three at-bats, he struck out but has otherwise been impressive thus far in Arizona with a .320 batting average.

Kody Funderburk: 1 start, 2 IP, 2 H, 3 R (0 earned), 3 BB, K; 9.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP overall.
Funderburk made the start in Wednesday’s loss to Mesa after allowing three unearned runs in his two innings. He walked the first two batters of the game but came back with a strikeout before inducing a double-play ball for a scoreless inning. In the second, it was a walk and single followed by an error on Bechtold at first base that allowed the first unearned run to score. An RBI groundout and RBI single later in the inning accounted for the other two before Funderburk got the final out on a grounder to third to cap his outing. In his two innings he allowed two hits, walked three, and struck out one.

Michael Helman: 3 games, 3-for-11, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 SB; .353/.450/.412 (.862 OPS) overall.
Helman saw action in three games on the week, playing third base, second base, and center field in the games on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. He batted ninth in all three contests and collected three more hits to keep his batting average in AFL play above .350 thus far.

Against Mesa on Wednesday Helman picked up singles in the third and eighth innings. He led off the third inning with his first of the game, and would score from first on a double from the next batter to cut the Mesa lead to 3-2 at the time. His second single in the eighth was of the RBI variety and made the score 9-6 Solar Sox. In all he finished 2-for-5 with one strikeout as a hitter, but also had two errors in the field.

In the all-around clunker of a game against Surprise on Thursday Helman was 0-for-3 with a lineout, fly out, and groundout, his first AFL game without a hit so far on the season.

Against Peoria on Friday, Helman got back to his hitting ways, and also caused some havoc on the base paths. In his first at-bat in the third inning he drew a walk and promptly stole second base. He would then score Scottsdale’s first run of the game on a single before they took a 3-1 lead on a home run from early standout Jeter Downs. In the fourth Helman delivered an RBI single to make it 4-1 and he again took second base to get himself into scoring position, though he wouldn’t make it any farther around the bases. He finished this game 1-for-3 with the run scored, an RBI, walk, and the two stolen bases for a nice finish to his week.

Cody Laweryson: 2 appearances (1 start), 4 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K; 1.35 ERA, 0.90 WHIP overall.
Laweryson pitched in two games on the week, including a start in Friday’s loss to the Javelina’s.

His first game of the week was in Tuesday’s win over Glendale where he pitched the seventh and eighth innings. He allowed a single to the first hitter he faced, but then retired the other six he faced in a row, including two strikeouts. 

In his start on Friday he was sharp for the first two innings, striking out four hitters and allowing only two baserunners after an error from his third baseman and a walk in the second inning. Back out for the third he surrendered a single and a double around a lineout before being replaced by the bullpen. In his 2 1/3 innings he was charged with one run on two hits and a walk while striking out four.

So far on the season Laweryson leads the Scorpions pitching staff in innings pitched (6 2/3), and strikeouts, and his 12 K’s rank second among all pitchers in the AFL.

Evan Sisk: 2 appearances, 1 2/3 IP, 3 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 5 K; 18.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP overall.
Sisk made two relief outings on the week and was roughed up a little in each, though strikeouts came in bunches in one of those outings.

In Monday’s loss to Salt River Sisk was unable to record an out in the sixth inning and by the time it was over the Rafters had taken a 5-4 lead. A leadoff double was followed by two walks and a hit batter before he was removed. Responsible for the bases being loaded, three more runs would end up being charged to him and the Scorpions were not able to fully recover the rest of the way.

On Thursday Sisk was the first reliever summoned after the Scorpions starter went 3 1/3 innings and he struck out the first hitter he faced. But that was then followed by a single and a two-run home run that put Surprise out front 6-2. He then hit a batter before picking up his second strikeout to end the inning. In the fifth it was a lot better for the lefty to end week two on a high note as all three hitters went down swinging on pitches up in the zone. In his 1 2/3 innings in this one, he allowed two runs on two hits and a walk, but all five of his outs came on K’s.

Check back every week to see how Minnesota Twins prospects have played during the AFL season, and please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who are there!

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Wallner is still as advertised: good power, lots of Ks, but so far makes enough contact and shows enough patience to be effective. Glad to see him getting ABs in the AFL; looking forward to seeing how he does at AA next year and whether he can still make enough contact to be effective. The power plays, and I can live with Ks if he'll still make enough contact.

Good for Laweryson in taking advantage of the innings and opportunity. Might be small sample size, but performance still counts. He gave up too many hits in high A this year, but he could be someone who got really hurt by the missed development year and needed time to get back on track.

Wallner was the only "real" prospect the Twins sent to the AFL, IMHO. The rest are there on a "we like something about you, now go prove it" tickets. Helmen & Bechtold are doing pretty well, Laweryson is showing his ability to hunt Ks. Sisk, Funderburk, and Featherstone need to do better with the opportunity.

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Going to agree with everything jmlease1 stated with a small exception, that being Laweryson's hits allowed in 2021. While you always prefer your pitcher to have fewer hits than IP, one hit per has always been considered about right or at least acceptable, yes? Laweryson did that almost exactly; 59 in 58.2, 19 walks are solid and his 73 SO are excellent. Not sure how his ERA is as high as it was 4.91, but have to assume a few key hits and the 6HR hurt him.

He seems very similar to Gipson-Long, Gross and others who were mid-round selections with the look, stuff, potential, etc, that they like and identify. This is a great opportunity for him and could be a springboard for 2022. Excited to see how he continues.

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5 hours ago, jmlease1 said:

Wallner is still as advertised: good power, lots of Ks, but so far makes enough contact and shows enough patience to be effective. Glad to see him getting ABs in the AFL; looking forward to seeing how he does at AA next year and whether he can still make enough contact to be effective. The power plays, and I can live with Ks if he'll still make enough contact.

Good for Laweryson in taking advantage of the innings and opportunity. Might be small sample size, but performance still counts. He gave up too many hits in high A this year, but he could be someone who got really hurt by the missed development year and needed time to get back on track.

Wallner was the only "real" prospect the Twins sent to the AFL, IMHO. The rest are there on a "we like something about you, now go prove it" tickets. Helmen & Bechtold are doing pretty well, Laweryson is showing his ability to hunt Ks. Sisk, Funderburk, and Featherstone need to do better with the opportunity.

I actually disagree that Wallner makes "enough" contact. Unless he improves bat to ball contact consistently, I'm afraid he won't make it past AAA... 

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15 hours ago, DocBauer said:

Going to agree with everything jmlease1 stated with a small exception, that being Laweryson's hits allowed in 2021. While you always prefer your pitcher to have fewer hits than IP, one hit per has always been considered about right or at least acceptable, yes? Laweryson did that almost exactly; 59 in 58.2, 19 walks are solid and his 73 SO are excellent. Not sure how his ERA is as high as it was 4.91, but have to assume a few key hits and the 6HR hurt him.

He seems very similar to Gipson-Long, Gross and others who were mid-round selections with the look, stuff, potential, etc, that they like and identify. This is a great opportunity for him and could be a springboard for 2022. Excited to see how he continues.

Laweryson was our Short Season Pitcher of the Year award winner back in 2019. After not pitching competitively in 2020 and missing two months to start 2021, there was likely a lot of rust to shake off. His WHIP definitely rose as he allowed almost double the rate of hits as he did in 2019, but the strikeout to walk ratio in 2021 was still near a very solid 4:1 and his FIP was 3.84. 2022 will be a big year for him and I love to see results in the AFL like he has had so far!

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