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Twins AFL Report - Week 4: Funderburk, Laweryson, and Sisk Shove

Steve Lein

With the power-hitting Matt Wallner sitting out the first half of the week after being hit in the face by a pitch last Thursday, it was a trio of Minnesota Twins pitchers who shined in Week 4 of the Arizona Fall League season. A starting pitcher even picked up two of their team’s three wins on the week.

Overall the Scottsdale Scorpions had their first .500 or better record over their six games, going 3-3 while facing the same team three days in a row to close it out. They’ll look to continue that upward trend as a squad in Week 5.

Matt Wallner: 2 games, 1-for-9, 2B, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 4 K; .269/.381/.596 (.977 OPS) overall.
Wallner didn’t see his first action of the week until Thursday, in the Scorpions 6-0 loss to the Peoria Javelinas, as he recovered from being hit in the face by a pitch last week. He batted sixth in the lineup and played left field in the game. He flew out to center field in the second inning, was called out on strikes in the fifth and eighth innings, and grounded out in the ninth for the final out of the contest to finish 0-for-4. On defense, he collected an outfield assist by cutting down a runner at second base trying to stretch a single into a double. There were few opportunities for Scottsdale in the game, as they finished just 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and left only six men on base as a team.

His second game of the week came in Saturday’s 11-7 win over Peoria, where he was the cleanup hitter and on the other side of the outfield in right. He got the Scorpions started with a two-run double in the bottom of the first inning to tie the game at two. It was his first double of the AFL season.

Zach Featherstone: 2 appearances, 2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K; 9.82 ERA, 2.45 WHIP 7 1/3 IP) overall.
The left-hander made two relief appearances on the week with the first of those coming in Monday’s 8-3 win over the Surprise Saguaros. With his team out front by five runs, he was summoned to finish the game for the Scorpions in the ninth. He walked the first man he faced in the frame but then got two quick outs, including a strikeout, before a single and another walk loaded the bases to make it a little interesting. But he recovered on the next hitter, getting a fly out to finish the game in the win column for Scottsdale.

His second outing of the week was in Friday’s 12-1 loss to the Javelinas. With the score 3-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Featherstone got the call as the second reliever of the game for the Scorpions. A pair of one-out singles put runners on base before he allowed a three-run home run to Jose Cabellero that broke the game open for Peoria. He then retired the next two hitters he faced, including a strikeout to end his inning, but the homerun he allowed was a bit of a catalyst for Peoria as they scored six more runs in the final two innings. 

Andrew Bechtold: 3 games, 3-for-13, 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI, BB, 5 K; .231/.333/.308 (.641 OPS) overall.
Bechtold played in three games last week, playing a different position on the field in each as he continues to display his versatility around the infield.

In Tuesday’s 10-9 win in extra-innings over Salt River Bechtold batted seventh and served as the catcher. Though he finished 0-for-5 in this one, his RBI groundout in a four-run eighth inning helped the Scorpions take a 9-8 lead going into the final frame. As the catcher, he also threw a runner out at second base on a steal attempt in the seventh inning after the Rafters had taken an 8-4 lead with a two-run home run.

Bechtold was at first base and batting cleanup in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to Mesa, where he finished his day 1-for-4 with a pair of RBI’s. With the score tied at one in the third inning, Bechtold came to the plate with runners on second and third, and drove an 0-2 pitch into center field for a two-run single and 3-1 lead for his team. His other at-bats included a fly out and two strikeouts, and on defense he had a throwing error attempting to deliver the ball to the pitcher covering first base.

The final action of the week for Bechtold came in the Scorpions 11-7 win on Saturday against Peoria, where he was back to batting seventh but on the other side of the diamond at third base. He drew a walk to lead off the second inning and scored Scottsdale’s first run of the inning three batters later that gave them a 3-2 lead. In the third inning his one-out double got a rally started and trotted home again on a three-run home run from teammate Will Wilson. Bechtold then capped the Scorpions scoring on the game with a two-run single in the eighth inning that was too hot to handle for the shortstop, as he could only deflect the ball into center field. He finished 2-for-4 with his fourth double, walk, two runs scored, and two RBI for a strong finish to his week. 

Kody Funderburk: 2 starts, 7 2/3 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, BB, 12 K; 7.36 ERA, 2.11 WHIP (14 2/3 IP) overall.
Funderburk was tabbed for two starts on the week, and he collected the win in both of them, evening his win-loss record in AFL play to 2-2.

In his 3 2/3 IP in Monday’s 8-3 win over Surprise, Funderburk was charged with two runs on seven hits and one walk, while striking out six Saguaros. As you can tell from that pitching line, he dealt with a lot of baserunners, but was able to limit some of the damage with big strikeouts. In the first frame, a single and a walk put multiple runners on base, but he bore down and struck out two hitters to end the threat. In the second he allowed one run after a double and an RBI single, but after another single he got another strikeout to keep the Saguaros tally at just one. In the third inning it was a one-out triple that led to another run, but he got the other three hitters he faced out, including another K to end the inning. In the fourth he got two quick strikeouts before a pair of singles ended his outing, but it was enough to be awarded the win by AFL/exhibition rules and encouraging outing compared to his first few weeks.

He continued that upward trajectory in Saturday’s 11-7 win over the Peoria Javelinas, striking out another six hitters while this time finishing four innings. In all he allowed two runs on four hits and walked none. The Javelinas got to him early with a pair of runs in the first on three hits, but he got out of the jam by picking off a runner at first base. He allowed only a single in the second inning, then the third and fourth frames were both of the one-two-three variety, including two strikeouts in each. When his day was done his team was up 8-2 and the win would again be his.

Michael Helman: 4 games, 5-for-15, 2B, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 2 SB; .256/.347/.302 (.649 OPS) overall.
Helman saw the most action of any Twins player this week, playing in four games and collecting five hits in total.

On Monday, his 2-for-5 effort came out of the leadoff spot in the batting order while he played center field. He doubled to lead off the third inning, stole third base, and then scampered home on another double for a 3-1 lead. In the fourth, he singled and stole second base before being left stranded after two runs had already scored. The double was his second of the AFL season and is the second time he’s stolen two bases in a game thus far.

Back in action again on Thursday against Peoria, Helman was flipped in the order to batting ninth, and was back roaming center field. Though his team was shutout in the game, Helman collected two of their seven total hits with singles in each of the sixth and eighth innings, finishing 2-for-3 on the day.

He played for a third day in a row on Friday, again against Peoria in another blowout loss. He again batted ninth and played center field, closing his week with an 0-for-3 effort. His plate appearances included a ground out to first, pop out to short, and fly out to right field as the Scorpions had only five hits and three walks in the game as a team. On defense he also had a throwing error trying to gun down a runner at home in the seventh inning.

Cody Laweryson: 1 appearance, 2 2/3 IP, H, ER, BB, 3 K; 4.15 ERA, 1.23 WHIP (13 IP) overall.
After impressing in the the first half of the AFL season Laweryson saw action in just one game during Week 4, though he did go multiple frames.

His lone appearance came in Thursday’s shutout loss to the Javelinas and he was summoned in the middle of the second inning after four consecutive walks had led to one run and the bases were still loaded. He got a ground ball that should have ended the threat there, but a throwing error from the shortstop allowed one more run to score and extended the inning. On his next pitch he got another groundball and this time the shortstop didn’t misfire. Laweryson went on to retire seven men in a row, including three strikeouts through the third and fourth innings. He even came out for the fifth, but a leadoff walk and ground out put an end to his day after 44 pitches. Overall he struck out three, including two in the fourth inning, in his 2 2/3 innings pitched. He was charged with an earned run as the next reliever gave up an RBI double to the first hitter he faced that made the score 5-0 Peoria. 

Evan Sisk: 2 appearances, 2 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K; 8.64 ERA, 1.56 WHIP (8 1/3 IP) overall.
Sisk saw action in two of the Scorpions wins on the week, pitching middle innings in both Tuesday’s and Saturday’s games.

In the first, he was called in from the bullpen with two outs in the fifth inning after a bases-clearing double. He got his batter to fly out to right field to end the inning without any further damage. Back out for the sixth he retired the side in order, including a strikeout to punctuate his perfect outing.

In the second game on Saturday, Sisk was brought on to start the seventh inning, and needed just 11 pitches to retire the side. He got two groundballs and a strikeout to complete a perfect week and lower both his ERA and WHIP on the AFL season substantially.

After a rough introduction to the AFL, Sisk has retired all ten hitters he has faced in his last three outings, including four of them via strikeout.

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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I'm encouraged by Laweryson and thinking he will make a Gross, Gibson-Long type of upward trajectory move in 2022.

Not sure what to make of or what to expect from Funderburk and Featherstone. Neither is pitching great, SSS of course, but the K's keep coming so there is SOMETHING there to work with and be encouraged about.

Great to see Wallner wasn't hurt badly and had a solid week with a great finish.

Echo Roger's comment  about Sisk, who we know so little about.

Bechtold and Helman, as of now, are clearly utility types with some potential value, including some pop and speed in Newman's case. I don't knkw how they figure in 2022 or further, but I like that they, like their teammates, are getting some extra  time to build for next year and hopefully use this experience to "springboard".

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