Keep reading to find out how each of the Twins prospects performed during the opening week of the AFL season!
(links to each players overall AFL stats provided by clicking their name)
Royce Lewis: 4 games, 5-for-15, 4 R, 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 K; .333/.412/.800 (overall)
Lewis was one of the biggest stars of the AFL in the first week of the season, and that’s because he crushed two homers, scored four runs, and drove in six over his first four games of the season.
Also noteworthy, and as I had predicted in the AFL preview article last week and Nate Palmer discussed earlier today, he did not play any game at the shortstop position. Instead, he was at the hot corner for three games, and in center field in the other.
He started the season off with a bang in Wednesday’s 10-6 loss to Peoria with a two-run double in the bottom of the first inning, then drew a walk and singled in four other plate appearances on the day.
In Thursday’s 4-1 win over Mesa, Lewis put together a highlight reel while playing in the outfield for just the second time in his career. He robbed a hitter of extra bases to run down a fly ball, then came up to bat in the bottom half of that inning and clubbed his first home run:
After getting a day off Lewis was back at third base on Saturday and hitting in the three-hole for the Rafters lineup. It didn’t click on this day for him, as he finished 0-for-4 with 3 K's as the Rafters were bludgeoned 12-0 by the Saguaros, but that “slump” only lasted one game.
In Sunday’s 11-4 win over Scottsdale, Lewis finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored, two RBIs and a walk, while again hitting third for Salt River. He also punctuated his first week in the prestigious circuit by getting the Rafters on the board first with his second home run:
Dakota Chalmers: 1 start, 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 4 K; 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP (overall)
Chalmers got the start for the Rafters on Friday in their 4-1 loss against Surprise and was efficient in his three innings against the Saguaros lineup. He struck out two in the first inning, worked around a double and a pair of errors in the second by inducing an inning-ending double-play ball, then struck out two more in the third to end his day. Of his 43 pitches on the game, 30 went for strikes (69.8%), including six of the swinging variety.
Ben Rortvedt: 2 games (1 start), 0-for-3; .000/.000/.000 (overall)
Rortvedt’s first game action came as a defensive replacement in the season opener, as he entered the game at catcher in the eighth inning against Peoria. He was on deck when Lewis popped out to end the game.
In Friday’s loss with Chalmers on the mound he got his first start at catcher, batting eighth. He grounded out to second base in all three of his plate appearances and was again on deck when the final out of the game was made.
I made it a point to highlight Rortvedt’s defense, and especially his arm, in my preview article and he showed it off in both his appearances on the week. After entering the game on Wednesday, he caught Seattle Mariner’s second base prospect Jose Caballero, who had swiped 33 bases in just 69 games during the minor league season, attempting to steal second. Then on Friday he also cut down Surprise’s leadoff hitter and Kansas City Royals speedster, Brewer Hicklen, who had also stolen 39 bases in the minors on the year.
Luke Raley: 4 games, 3-for-17, 3 R, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, 4 K; .176/.167/.353 (overall)
Raley started four games on the week, playing in right field in two, left field in one, and getting penciled in at DH in the other. He batted fifth in his first two games, before sliding down to sixth and seventh in the batting order to end the week.
In the opening day game, he finished 0-for-5 with two K's, but also scored a run as he reached on an error in the first inning. He followed that up with a 0-for-4 night the next day against Mesa, reaching base once on a fielder’s choice. He got his first hit on Sunday against Surprise with a double in the sixth inning to drive in the Rafters only run of the game.
In Sunday’s win against Scottsdale, Raley added two more hits, including a triple to lead off the eighth inning before picking up an RBI with a sac fly in the ninth to end his week on a high note.
Moises Gomez: 2 appearances, 2.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R (1 earned) 4 BB, 3 K; 3.38 ERA, 2.63 WHIP (overall).
Gomez was the first Twins pitcher to make an appearance in the AFL this year, coming in for the eighth inning of their opening day tilt against Peoria when Rortvedt took over behind the plate. He struck out the first batter he faced, gave up a single before Rortvedt threw out the runner stealing, then tacked on another K to end the inning. Back out for the ninth he walked the leadoff man before getting another K and a ground ball for two outs, but an error and another walk ended his day at 1 2/3 innings.
He pitched again on Saturday in the blowout loss to Surprise, finishing the game for the Rafters but not before being responsible for three of their twelve runs allowed on the day. He got a fly out to start the inning, but then two singles and a walk were followed by consecutive errors, including one on Gomez that led to his first two runs allowed. A bases-loaded walk led to the third before he induced a grounder that turned two to stop the bleeding.
Jovani Moran: 2 appearances, 2.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R (2 earned), 3 BB, 4 K; 9.00 ERA, 2.50 WHIP (overall).
The lefty made his first appearance of the week in Thursday’s win over Mesa, coming on for the top of the sixth with his team up 4-0. He promptly struck out the first two hitters of the inning on just eight pitches before giving up a single and a four-pitch walk. The next batter sent a grounder toward first base, but it was misplayed for an error to load the bases before another walk to score the Solar Sox lone run of the game. After a mound visit, he struck out another batter for the third out.
In Sunday’s thrashing of Scottsdale, Moran came on for the eighth inning and again got himself into trouble. A leadoff walk, single, and wild pitch put runners on second and third before a grounder scored one and a sac fly another. He then struck out a hitter to end the inning with his team still up big 11-4.
Zach Neff: 1 appearance, 1.1 IP, H, 2 K; 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP (overall).
The Twins other left-handed prospect in the AFL made just one appearance on the week, and it came in Friday’s loss to the Saguaros. After Rafter’s pitcher Antonio Santos had allowed consecutive two-out singles in the fifth, he came on to keep their deficit at two, and did so by getting a fly out. Back out for the sixth he struck out the first two hitters of the inning before allowing a single, but that was it as he got the next man to fly out to center.
Other AFL and Minor League Links:
-MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo caught up with Royce Lewis after his big first week to discuss what Lewis is looking to accomplish in the AFL, and also talks about all the other Twins prospects in Arizona.
-For a great AFL Twitter follow (and tons of video of prospects) follow William Boor of MLB.com and MLB Pipeline:
Please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who are there!