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  1. Matt Wallner continued to display his big power in Week 3 of the Arizona Fall League season with two more home runs, but Minnesota Twins hitting prospects playing with him in the desert combined to go 0-for-20 after having strong starts. Pitchers also had a rough go in Week 3, but one continued to impress while a pair of relievers did have nice bounce-back outings. Overall on the week the Scottsdale Scorpions had just two wins in six games and are now 5-11 on the season. They will look to put together their first winning record of the AFL campaign in Week 4. Matt Wallner: 3 games, 2-for-9, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K; .278/.400/.611 (1.011 OPS) overall. While Wallner only had two hits on the week, they were both big ones and raised his OPS during the AFL season over .100 points from Week 2 to Week 3. Wallner played right field and batted sixth in the lineup in Scottsdale’s first game of the week, a 7-6 loss to Glendale on Monday. Down 6-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Wallner drew a walk that put runners on first and second base before another walk loaded the bases. He then trotted home on Jeter Downs’ grand slam that pulled the Scorpions within one run. He was the final out of the game when he grounded out to the pitcher with the tying run on first base. He finished this one 0-for-4 with one walk, the run scored, and one strikeout. In Tuesday’s 11-2 loss to Surprise Wallner was one of the few bright spots for Scottsdale as he scored both of their runs and as a team managed just five hits. In his first at-bat with one out in the second inning, Wallner blasted a moonshot solo home run to right field. His third home run of the AFL season made the score 2-1. He also drew a walk in the ninth inning and came around to score on a single three batters later. In the game Wallner was 1-for-3 with two runs scored, the home run, a walk, and one strikeout. He played left field and again batted sixth. The final action of the week for Wallner came in Thursday’s 11-4 win over Mesa where he batted fifth in the lineup and was back in right field. He struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat but didn’t waste any time in his second one to lead off the third inning. He took a big hack at the first pitch he saw and drove it over the fence the opposite way, giving his team a 5-1 lead at the time. The game got a little interesting for Wallner from there. In the fifth and sixth innings he was hit by pitches in both at-bats. The second of those resulted in an RBI, but hit him in the face. He was subsequently removed from the game, requiring some stitches but avoiding anything serious. In total, he reached base three times in the win, finishing with a 1-for-2 batting line with the home run, one strikeout, and two HBP’s and finished his week tied for second in the league in home runs with four in 36 at-bats on the season. Zach Featherstone: 2 appearances, 1 2/3 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K; 8.44 ERA, 2.25 WHIP (5 1/3 IP) overall. Featherstone established a bit of a theme for Twins relief pitchers in AFL games this week with a forgettable first appearance that was followed by a rebound effort. He was the first reliever out of the bullpen in Monday’s loss to Glendale to start the fifth inning. He struck out the first hitter he faced and then got out number two on a liner to center. But from there it was walk, single, single, single, and another walk before he was pulled with two runs already in and responsible for the bases being loaded. Two more runs would be charged to him before the inning was over and Scottsdale was down 5-1 after five. Back in action for the Scorpions 11-4 win over the Solar Sox on Thursday, Featherstone was tabbed this time to pitch the eighth inning with his team up by seven. It was a one-two-three effort requiring thirteen pitches, with the final two hitters going down swinging. In 5 1/3 innings thus far for Featherstone, he has a 9:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio he’ll look to improve upon in the season’s final three weeks. Andrew Bechtold: 3 games, 0-for-9, R, 6 BB, 3 K; .235/.366/.324 (.689 OPS) overall. Although Bechtold didn’t collect a hit on the week as he was moved up in the lineup, he did draw an impressive six walks in his three games, raising his OBP on the AFL season to .366. In their 7-6 loss to the Desert Dogs on Monday, Bechtold was 0-for-3 but drew the first two of those free passes while serving as the DH and batting fifth in front of Wallner. He drew those walks in the fourth and sixth innings but made it no farther than first base. Playing third base and moving up to third in the lineup in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Salt River, Bechtold drew three walks and struck out twice in his five plate appearances. After drawing a free pass in the first inning and being among those to load the bases, Bechtold got to third base with just one out, but Scottsdale was only able to score one run in front of him for an early lead. His other walks came in the third inning (stranded on second) and the ninth (that put the tying run in scoring position), but was unable to notch a run scored on the game. Bechtold’s final game of the week came in Friday’s 6-5 win over Glendale, where he batted cleanup and played catcher. He was 0-for-4 on the game, but drew his final base on balls of the week in the eighth inning and later scored on a two-run double that ended up being big runs for the Scorpions as the game went to extra innings before they were able to win it in the eleventh. Kody Funderburk: 1 start, 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K; 10.29 ERA, 2.71 WHIP (7 IP) overall. The left-handed Funderburk was tabbed to start Tuesday’s game against Surprise, which they ended up losing big. He was saddled with his second loss of the AFL season. The Saguaros got to him early with the first three hitters of the game reaching base, the third with an RBI single to open the game’s scoring. Another RBI single later in the frame put the Scorpions in a 2-0 hole before their first at-bat. The second inning was much easier for Funderburk. He needed just six pitches to record three outs in one-two-three fashion, picking up a swinging strikeout to end the frame. The third inning was more like the first, except this time the hits came more in the form of doubles. After a leadoff single Funderburk got his second strikeout of the outing, but the consecutive doubles that followed led to two more runs. To finish the inning and his outing, he did notch his fourth strikeout (swinging) on three pitches. Michael Helman: 3 games, 0-for-11, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K; .214/.333/.250 (.583 OPS) overall. Like Bechtold, Helman did not have a hit in his three games, but due to a few base on balls did score a couple of runs in his time on the field in Week 3, including a game winner. He had to wait until Wednesday’s game against Salt River to see some action. He batted eighth and played left field. His at-bats included a pair of pop-outs to the infield, a lineout to center, and one strikeout. His next game was on Friday in the Scorpions extra-inning win over Glendale. His two walks in five plate appearances helped them win the game. The first of those free passes came in the seventh inning, and he would score the second run of the inning to tie the game at three. In the eighth his second walk loaded the bases before a Christian Koss double scored two to put the Scorpions ahead 5-4 at the time. After lining into a double play to end the 10th inning, Helman started the 11th on second base with the game still tied, after a (intentional?!) balk moved him to third, Helman was able to trot home for the walk-off winning run on a Koss single to right field. He played second base this time around and again batted eighth in the lineup. Helman was again in the lineup, batting sixth and playing center field, for the Scorpions in Saturday’s 8-4 loss to Surprise. It was an 0-for-4 effort a game the Scorpions outhit the Saguaros 10-7 as a team. He reached base on an error to leadoff the second inning, grounded out to third in the fourth, popped out to first in the sixth, and flew out to center in the seventh to account for all his plate appearances. Cody Laweryson: 2 appearances, 2 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K; 1.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP (9 IP) overall. After impressing with strikeouts in the season’s first two weeks, Laweryson got his job done in different fashion in Week 3, lowering his ERA to 1.00 on the AFL season in the process with just one strikeout in two appearances. In Wednesday's 3-2 loss against Salt River, Laweryson was brought on to start the sixth inning with the score already 3-2. The first batter reached base on an error, but he was able to retire the next three hitters with a strikeout and two more grounders to keep his team in front. He threw 15 pitches, with nine going for strikes (2 swinging) in this outing. With his team down 6-1 after a bases loaded two-run single in the seventh, Laweryson was summoned with runners on first and second base and two outs in Saturday’s 8-4 loss to the Saguaros. Looking to limit the damage in the frame any further, Laweryson did allow his first big hit of the AFL season, a two-run double to the first batter he faced that made it 8-1, but he was not responsible for those runners. He got a lineout to end the inning after that and with a clean slate in the eighth delivered a scoreless frame. He allowed two hits in his 1 1/3 innings in this one and will look to get back to punching out hitters in Week 4. Evan Sisk: 2 appearances, 2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K; 14.40 ERA, 2.60 WHIP (5 IP) overall. Like Featherstone before him, Sisk had a rough first appearance followed by a solid second in Week 3 of AFL action. In their big loss on Tuesday, Sisk was brought in from the bullpen to start the fifth inning with the score already 7-1 Surprise. He got the first two outs on a grounder and flyout around a walk, before a single put runners on first and second, and a double to the next hitter brought them both home for a 9-1 Saguaros lead. Another walk prompted a mound visit before he got the final out of the inning on a fly ball to center field. In the Scorpions extra-inning win over Glendale on Friday, Sisk was tabbed for the sixth inning with the score 2-1 in favor of the Desert Dogs. He made quick work of the hitters he faced, retiring them in order with the first of those two outs coming via strikeouts on foul tips that teammate Bechtold held onto as the catcher. Check back every week to see how Minnesota Twins prospects played during the AFL season, and please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who are there! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  2. Overall on the week the Scottsdale Scorpions had just two wins in six games and are now 5-11 on the season. They will look to put together their first winning record of the AFL campaign in Week 4. Matt Wallner: 3 games, 2-for-9, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K; .278/.400/.611 (1.011 OPS) overall. While Wallner only had two hits on the week, they were both big ones and raised his OPS during the AFL season over .100 points from Week 2 to Week 3. Wallner played right field and batted sixth in the lineup in Scottsdale’s first game of the week, a 7-6 loss to Glendale on Monday. Down 6-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Wallner drew a walk that put runners on first and second base before another walk loaded the bases. He then trotted home on Jeter Downs’ grand slam that pulled the Scorpions within one run. He was the final out of the game when he grounded out to the pitcher with the tying run on first base. He finished this one 0-for-4 with one walk, the run scored, and one strikeout. In Tuesday’s 11-2 loss to Surprise Wallner was one of the few bright spots for Scottsdale as he scored both of their runs and as a team managed just five hits. In his first at-bat with one out in the second inning, Wallner blasted a moonshot solo home run to right field. His third home run of the AFL season made the score 2-1. He also drew a walk in the ninth inning and came around to score on a single three batters later. In the game Wallner was 1-for-3 with two runs scored, the home run, a walk, and one strikeout. He played left field and again batted sixth. The final action of the week for Wallner came in Thursday’s 11-4 win over Mesa where he batted fifth in the lineup and was back in right field. He struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat but didn’t waste any time in his second one to lead off the third inning. He took a big hack at the first pitch he saw and drove it over the fence the opposite way, giving his team a 5-1 lead at the time. The game got a little interesting for Wallner from there. In the fifth and sixth innings he was hit by pitches in both at-bats. The second of those resulted in an RBI, but hit him in the face. He was subsequently removed from the game, requiring some stitches but avoiding anything serious. In total, he reached base three times in the win, finishing with a 1-for-2 batting line with the home run, one strikeout, and two HBP’s and finished his week tied for second in the league in home runs with four in 36 at-bats on the season. Zach Featherstone: 2 appearances, 1 2/3 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K; 8.44 ERA, 2.25 WHIP (5 1/3 IP) overall. Featherstone established a bit of a theme for Twins relief pitchers in AFL games this week with a forgettable first appearance that was followed by a rebound effort. He was the first reliever out of the bullpen in Monday’s loss to Glendale to start the fifth inning. He struck out the first hitter he faced and then got out number two on a liner to center. But from there it was walk, single, single, single, and another walk before he was pulled with two runs already in and responsible for the bases being loaded. Two more runs would be charged to him before the inning was over and Scottsdale was down 5-1 after five. Back in action for the Scorpions 11-4 win over the Solar Sox on Thursday, Featherstone was tabbed this time to pitch the eighth inning with his team up by seven. It was a one-two-three effort requiring thirteen pitches, with the final two hitters going down swinging. In 5 1/3 innings thus far for Featherstone, he has a 9:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio he’ll look to improve upon in the season’s final three weeks. Andrew Bechtold: 3 games, 0-for-9, R, 6 BB, 3 K; .235/.366/.324 (.689 OPS) overall. Although Bechtold didn’t collect a hit on the week as he was moved up in the lineup, he did draw an impressive six walks in his three games, raising his OBP on the AFL season to .366. In their 7-6 loss to the Desert Dogs on Monday, Bechtold was 0-for-3 but drew the first two of those free passes while serving as the DH and batting fifth in front of Wallner. He drew those walks in the fourth and sixth innings but made it no farther than first base. Playing third base and moving up to third in the lineup in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Salt River, Bechtold drew three walks and struck out twice in his five plate appearances. After drawing a free pass in the first inning and being among those to load the bases, Bechtold got to third base with just one out, but Scottsdale was only able to score one run in front of him for an early lead. His other walks came in the third inning (stranded on second) and the ninth (that put the tying run in scoring position), but was unable to notch a run scored on the game. Bechtold’s final game of the week came in Friday’s 6-5 win over Glendale, where he batted cleanup and played catcher. He was 0-for-4 on the game, but drew his final base on balls of the week in the eighth inning and later scored on a two-run double that ended up being big runs for the Scorpions as the game went to extra innings before they were able to win it in the eleventh. Kody Funderburk: 1 start, 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K; 10.29 ERA, 2.71 WHIP (7 IP) overall. The left-handed Funderburk was tabbed to start Tuesday’s game against Surprise, which they ended up losing big. He was saddled with his second loss of the AFL season. The Saguaros got to him early with the first three hitters of the game reaching base, the third with an RBI single to open the game’s scoring. Another RBI single later in the frame put the Scorpions in a 2-0 hole before their first at-bat. The second inning was much easier for Funderburk. He needed just six pitches to record three outs in one-two-three fashion, picking up a swinging strikeout to end the frame. The third inning was more like the first, except this time the hits came more in the form of doubles. After a leadoff single Funderburk got his second strikeout of the outing, but the consecutive doubles that followed led to two more runs. To finish the inning and his outing, he did notch his fourth strikeout (swinging) on three pitches. Michael Helman: 3 games, 0-for-11, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K; .214/.333/.250 (.583 OPS) overall. Like Bechtold, Helman did not have a hit in his three games, but due to a few base on balls did score a couple of runs in his time on the field in Week 3, including a game winner. He had to wait until Wednesday’s game against Salt River to see some action. He batted eighth and played left field. His at-bats included a pair of pop-outs to the infield, a lineout to center, and one strikeout. His next game was on Friday in the Scorpions extra-inning win over Glendale. His two walks in five plate appearances helped them win the game. The first of those free passes came in the seventh inning, and he would score the second run of the inning to tie the game at three. In the eighth his second walk loaded the bases before a Christian Koss double scored two to put the Scorpions ahead 5-4 at the time. After lining into a double play to end the 10th inning, Helman started the 11th on second base with the game still tied, after a (intentional?!) balk moved him to third, Helman was able to trot home for the walk-off winning run on a Koss single to right field. He played second base this time around and again batted eighth in the lineup. Helman was again in the lineup, batting sixth and playing center field, for the Scorpions in Saturday’s 8-4 loss to Surprise. It was an 0-for-4 effort a game the Scorpions outhit the Saguaros 10-7 as a team. He reached base on an error to leadoff the second inning, grounded out to third in the fourth, popped out to first in the sixth, and flew out to center in the seventh to account for all his plate appearances. Cody Laweryson: 2 appearances, 2 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K; 1.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP (9 IP) overall. After impressing with strikeouts in the season’s first two weeks, Laweryson got his job done in different fashion in Week 3, lowering his ERA to 1.00 on the AFL season in the process with just one strikeout in two appearances. In Wednesday's 3-2 loss against Salt River, Laweryson was brought on to start the sixth inning with the score already 3-2. The first batter reached base on an error, but he was able to retire the next three hitters with a strikeout and two more grounders to keep his team in front. He threw 15 pitches, with nine going for strikes (2 swinging) in this outing. With his team down 6-1 after a bases loaded two-run single in the seventh, Laweryson was summoned with runners on first and second base and two outs in Saturday’s 8-4 loss to the Saguaros. Looking to limit the damage in the frame any further, Laweryson did allow his first big hit of the AFL season, a two-run double to the first batter he faced that made it 8-1, but he was not responsible for those runners. He got a lineout to end the inning after that and with a clean slate in the eighth delivered a scoreless frame. He allowed two hits in his 1 1/3 innings in this one and will look to get back to punching out hitters in Week 4. Evan Sisk: 2 appearances, 2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K; 14.40 ERA, 2.60 WHIP (5 IP) overall. Like Featherstone before him, Sisk had a rough first appearance followed by a solid second in Week 3 of AFL action. In their big loss on Tuesday, Sisk was brought in from the bullpen to start the fifth inning with the score already 7-1 Surprise. He got the first two outs on a grounder and flyout around a walk, before a single put runners on first and second, and a double to the next hitter brought them both home for a 9-1 Saguaros lead. Another walk prompted a mound visit before he got the final out of the inning on a fly ball to center field. In the Scorpions extra-inning win over Glendale on Friday, Sisk was tabbed for the sixth inning with the score 2-1 in favor of the Desert Dogs. He made quick work of the hitters he faced, retiring them in order with the first of those two outs coming via strikeouts on foul tips that teammate Bechtold held onto as the catcher. Check back every week to see how Minnesota Twins prospects played during the AFL season, and please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who are there! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. 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! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY: — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  4. 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! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY: — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. ....and last week. You thought that the Twins were going to disappear from your lives until next year? Think again. Contrary to popular belief, your favorite players don’t retreat into a cave until spring training. This local Twins fan (internet lurker) will be bringing you a recurring series of what your favorite current and former Twins are doing in the off-season. From fabulous vacations to prepping for another postseason run and the mundane tasks of every day, you’ll find it all here. Taylor Rogers watched Tyler Rogers Pitch for the First Time Despite a heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the Dodgers, the silver lining was that Taylor finally got to watch Tyler pitch in person for the first time. There’s nothing quite as heartwarming as one brother trolling another. Taylor also had fun playing the Parent Trap on Giants fans by pretending to be Tyler in the stands during Game 1. We knew that we had a talented lefty on our hands, but who knew that Taylor was also a comedian by night. Eddie Rosario was a Postseason Darling There is no question about it: Eddie Rosario has been the star of the NLCS. He’s currently batting .400 in the postseason with a .864 OPS. This is a different Rosario than even the one we saw in the postseason with the Twins. Minnesota’s beloved Eddie has, as they say, “leveled up”. There may be something else to it though. Baseball players, such as Rosario, are just like us. Minnesota may not have a horse in this NLCS race, but this entire state is behind Eddie on his World Series quest. Max Kepler sat on some logs ….and ate some candy Randy Dobnak had some questions Matt Wallner, Zach Featherstone, Michael Helman, Andrew Bechtold, Evan Sisk, Cody Laweryson, and Kody Funderburk, all played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League The 2021 Arizona Fall League opened last week. Although the Scottsdale Scorpions have started slowly, each prospect has been exciting to watch. We’ve got you on all of the coverage and recaps from the first week that you need on the AFL season. View full article
  6. Taylor Rogers watched Tyler Rogers Pitch for the First Time Despite a heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the Dodgers, the silver lining was that Taylor finally got to watch Tyler pitch in person for the first time. There’s nothing quite as heartwarming as one brother trolling another. Taylor also had fun playing the Parent Trap on Giants fans by pretending to be Tyler in the stands during Game 1. We knew that we had a talented lefty on our hands, but who knew that Taylor was also a comedian by night. Eddie Rosario was a Postseason Darling There is no question about it: Eddie Rosario has been the star of the NLCS. He’s currently batting .400 in the postseason with a .864 OPS. This is a different Rosario than even the one we saw in the postseason with the Twins. Minnesota’s beloved Eddie has, as they say, “leveled up”. There may be something else to it though. Baseball players, such as Rosario, are just like us. Minnesota may not have a horse in this NLCS race, but this entire state is behind Eddie on his World Series quest. Max Kepler sat on some logs ….and ate some candy Randy Dobnak had some questions Matt Wallner, Zach Featherstone, Michael Helman, Andrew Bechtold, Evan Sisk, Cody Laweryson, and Kody Funderburk, all played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League The 2021 Arizona Fall League opened last week. Although the Scottsdale Scorpions have started slowly, each prospect has been exciting to watch. We’ve got you on all of the coverage and recaps from the first week that you need on the AFL season.
  7. After having wrapped up their East division title in week five and a place in the Arizona Fall League Championship Game, the Salt River Rafters closed out their regular season with two wins, one loss, and a tie in week six. They finished with the top record in the league at 17-11-1 (.607 winning percentage) and faced the West Division winning Surprise Saguaros on Saturday for the title. To find out how all your #MNTwinsInTheAFL closed out their regular seasons, and how that title game went down, keep reading! (This report includes the games played through 10/26 and the end of the AFL season)(links to each players overall AFL stats provided by clicking their name) Royce Lewis: 3 games, 4-for-12, 2 R, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 K, SB; .353/.411/.565 (overall) Lewis got the start in center field in Monday’s 11-7 win over Glendale and after reaching base on a fielders choice in the top of the first, proceeded to steal his fifth base before being stranded on second. In the third inning with the Desert Dogs up 2-0, Lewis got the Rafters on the board with an RBI single before his teammates added four more to go up 5-2. Glendale took back the lead 7-5 going into the ninth inning however, but Lewis again sparked his team with an RBI double to make it 7-6 before they tacked on five more for the final of 11-7. It was another fantastic performance for Lewis, but it wasn’t the best one in this game from Twins prospects —we’ll get to that later. After a few days of rest, Lewis was back in center field on Thursday against the Mesa Solar Sox and batting third in the lineup. He singled in his first at-bat of the game, but both teams were woefully deficient on offense throughout as this one ended in a 0-0 tie. The teams combined to go 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, left 18 men on base, and struck out 18 times versus just two walks. Finishing out the regular season on Friday against Peoria, Lewis made the start at another new position in the AFL, but you’ll be pleased to learn it was at shortstop. He also batted cleanup in this abbreviated seven inning game and delivered an RBI single in the fifth inning that made the score 5-1 Rafters. As the shortstop, Lewis committed a fielding error on the first batted ball of the game and had only one other opportunity for the rest of it. He had this to say afterwards, as the Rafters still had one more game to go on Saturday: Lewis ended his impressive AFL season by being named the league’s MVP, adding further hardware to his mantle from an impressive fall campaign. He was named the hitter of the week once and also took home the MVP award during the Fall Stars Game where he hit a home run. He paced the league in hits (30) and runs scored (21) while also ranking top three in doubles (9), RBI (20), total bases (48), batting average (.353), slugging percentage (.565), and OPS (.975). If you have found yourself unimpressed with Lewis after the regular minor league season in which he admittedly struggled, my advice now is to get over it. This was the most outstanding showing by a Minnesota Twins prospect in the Arizona Fall League since I’ve been recapping it in this fashion as a blogger, which was long before your favorite website Twins Daily came into existence. Get excited, because no matter what position Lewis shows up in the majors at, he’s going to be an impact player. Don’t just take my word for it either: Dakota Chalmers: 1 start, 3.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K; 1-2, 5.09 ERA, 1.64 WHIP (overall) Chalmers made his final start of regular season play in Monday’s win over the Desert Dogs, finishing 3 2/3 innings. He allowed single runs in each of the first and second frames on RBI doubles before tossing a scoreless third inning after his offense gave him a 5-2 lead. Back out for the fourth a solo home run cut the lead to two and he walked a batter before picking up a strikeout to end his day. He mixed in four total strikeouts that pushed his total on the season to 25 in 17 2/3 innings to lead the Rafters staff. He threw 71 pitches on the game, with 42 going for strikes (59%). There was both good-to-great and bad-to-worse outings on Chalmers ledger during the AFL season, but after throwing just 34 2/3 innings in 2018 in his return from Tommy John surgery it’s hard to view his AFL performance as anything but positive. He showed a consistent high-90’s fastball and swing and miss breaking ball, and when he had command of them was dominant. That’s nothing new in relation to his prospect profile, but it was a solid step toward the 2020 season which will tell a lot more as he distances himself further from his surgery. Ben Rortvedt: Did not play; .111/.200/.111 (overall) While a knee injury Rortvedt had been playing with during the latter portion of the 2019 season ultimately put an end to his time in the AFL. Before that he had continued to showcase his defensive chops as a catcher while also bringing an improved bat. He’ll be ready to go when pitchers and catchers report to spring training and after reaching Double-A in 2019 will be looking to solidify his place near the top of the minor league depth chart among Twins catchers. Luke Raley: 3 games, 3-for-10, R, HR, 5 RBI, BB, 2 K; .244/.312/.439 (overall) After an impressive week 5 showing, Raley continued his emergence in the first game of week 6 with a 2-for-4 effort at the plate that out-shined his MVP teammate as alluded to above. His two hits included a two-RBI single in the third that made it 5-2 at the time, then his three-run home run in the ninth punctuated a six-run inning for the Rafters as they went back ahead for good 11-7. He also drew a walk in the sixth inning with the score tied at five, but while attempting to score the go-ahead run from third on a grounder he was thrown out at home. In Thursday’s 0-0 pitching duel with Mesa, Raley batted sixth in the lineup and was in right field. He finished 0-for-3 with a strikeout but reached base in the ninth when he was hit by a pitch. Closing out the regular season on Friday against the Javelinas Raley batted fifth behind Lewis and also finished 1-for-3. His single led off the second inning against top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley and the inning ended with him stranded on third. After missing several months of the minor league season due to an ankle injury, the AFL was mostly about making up time for Raley. It took him some time to get going but when he did, he was a force in the Rafters lineup. Over his final 10 games he had at least one hit in eight of them, and they included two doubles, three home runs, and eight RBI. His OPS in that time frame was over 1.000 as he slashed .333/.400/.639. Eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December, I expect Raley will get protected and should debut with the Twins at some point during the 2020 season. Moises Gomez: 1 appearance, 1.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 BB, K; 0-1, 6.55 ERA, 2.09 WHIP (overall) Gomez saw his final action of the AFL season in Monday’s victory over Glendale, but it didn’t end as he probably would have liked. Coming on in relief of Chalmers in the fourth inning, Gomez inherited a runner in scoring position and walked his first batter before getting a ground out to keep his team up by two runs. Back out for the fifth inning Gomez got the first two hitters before trouble began to brew. He would walk the next three hitters to load the bases and end his outing. Two of those runners ended up coming around to score after his exit, to tie the game at five. After a fantastic minor league season that saw him come in third in Twins Daily’s MiLB Relief Pitcher of the Year voting, Gomez got a nice reward and challenge by being sent to the AFL after spending less than half of the year in Fort Myers. While his 15 strikeouts in 11 total innings was nice, he also allowed runs in six of nine appearances and gave up nine free passes. I’d project he’ll start the 2020 season back with the Miracle, but if he shows improved command could again find himself promoted midsummer. Jovani Moran: 1 appearance, 1.0 IP, 2 K; 0-1, 7.00 ERA, 2.11 WHIP (overall) Moran’s final appearance of the AFL season came in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to Glendale when he entered the game to start the eighth inning with the Desert Dogs up 6-4. The left-hander delivered a one-two-three inning, striking out two in the process to end his season on a high note. He needed just twelve pitches and got both of those K’s on 94 MPH fastballs that hitters swung through near the top of the zone. Moran’s showing in the AFL was very similar to Gomez’s, in that he racked up strikeouts (14 in nine total innings) but also gave up walks and runs in bunches. His final outing this week was the first on the season that he did not issue at least one walk. Moran pitched with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos for all of the 2019 season but did miss a few months during the summer with two separate trips to the injured list. He made up some innings in the AFL, but I’d expect him to be back with Pensacola at the start of the 2020 season looking to rediscover his magic from 2018. Zach Neff: 2 appearances, 2.1 IP, H; 1-0, 1 Save, 1.38 ERA, 0.54 WHIP (overall) Neff was called upon two more times in the season’s final week, appearing in Monday’s win over the Desert Dogs and Thursday’s tie against the Solar Sox. In Monday’s contest Neff was summoned with two outs in the fifth inning after Gomez had loaded the bases with three consecutive walks. He allowed a two-run single to the first batter he faced that tied the game at five, but then got a lineout to end the inning. Starting clean in the sixth inning, Neff delivered a one-two-three frame, getting two ground outs and an infield pop out on thirteen pitches. He was charged with a blown save for giving up the game-tying hit in the fifth. In Thursday’s scoreless tie, Neff was called upon for the eighth inning and again delivered a one-two-three outing, getting each batter to pop out in the infield and requiring only five pitches to do so. That was the theme for Neff during the AFL season, recording outs in uber-efficient fashion and limiting baserunners. His 0.54 WHIP in league play ranked second on his team, and he recorded 12 strikeouts compared to just one walk in nine appearances and 13 innings pitched. He’s certainly raised his profile with his performance against the top competition of the AFL and will look to continue that into the 2020 season. Perhaps with a bump to Double-A to start the year on the merits of his AFL showing. AFL Championship Game As the East division champions for the second year in a row, the Salt River Rafters had one more game to play on Saturday for all the marbles in the AFL Championship against the West division winning Surprise Saguaros. On the mound to start the game for the Rafters was the Twins very own Dakota Chalmers, and he came out in the first inning determined to give his team his best effort. He needed 24 pitches and had full counts to three of the four hitters in the opening frame, but after walking the first hitter of the game he came back to finish off the next three with strikeouts. In the second he again walked the leadoff man, this time on four pitches, but needed just six more in the inning to get the three outs and keep the game scoreless. In the bottom of the third a leadoff walk would finally catch up to him as that batter stole second base and then came around to score on a single and early 1-0 lead for Surprise. After that single Chalmers was lifted and finished with a line of one earned run on one hit and three walks in 2 1/3 innings, along with striking out three. The Rafters lineup picked him up in the top of the fourth however, as they erupted for five runs of their own to put the game out of reach. Royce Lewis led off the inning but grounded out before a hit batter, wild pitch, and single tied the game at one. Luke Raley and Colton Welker then drew walks to load the bases, and two batters later with two outs, Marlins outfield prospect Jerar Encarnacion broke it open with a grand slam and 5-1 lead that would stand until the end. Lewis tallied two hits in five at-bats on the game, including a double in the seventh inning and single to lead off the ninth. After that double in the seventh, Lewis got caught in a rundown between home and third on a comebacker to the pitcher for the inning's second out, but it would not matter. Lewis played third base and batted second in the lineup for the game. Luke Raley started the game in left field and batted fifth in the lineup, finishing 0-for-2 with a run scored and a walk. He was also hit by a pitch in the second inning. Raley was on third base when Encarnacion blasted the game-winning grand slam. Reliever Zach Neff also got into the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, when he was brought on to face the left-handed hitting top of the Saguaros lineup with two outs. He allowed a double on a 3-2 breaking ball that he left over the heart of the plate but got the next hitter to chase a fastball out of the zone for an easy ground ball to first. The Rafters then took care of business in the ninth to bring home the hardware! Congratulations to all of the Minnesota Twins prospects, and those of the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks on a great season and thanks for following along during the AFL season with me! Other AFL and Minor League Links: -MLB Pipelines AFL Championship Game recap. -The Rafters home complex, Salt River Fields, was home to the automated ball-strike (ABS) system throughout AFL play, and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo spoke with several players and prospects, including Royce Lewis, on how the system fared during the season. -Pensacola Blue Wahoos Senior Writer Bill Vilona on Royce Lewis and winning the AFL MVP award. -Vilona also caught up with Twins pitcher Devin Smeltzer to recap his dream season that started with the Blue Wahoos. -MLB.com’s Jim Callis details eight players who stood out during the AFL Championship Game. -The Athletic’s Dan Hayes caught up with Royce Lewis to talk about his so-called struggles during the minor league season, his success in the AFL, and what he’ll be doing during the offseason (paywall). Please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who are there! Click here to view the article
  8. (links to each players overall AFL stats provided by clicking their name) Royce Lewis: 3 games, 4-for-12, 2 R, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 K, SB; .353/.411/.565 (overall) Lewis got the start in center field in Monday’s 11-7 win over Glendale and after reaching base on a fielders choice in the top of the first, proceeded to steal his fifth base before being stranded on second. In the third inning with the Desert Dogs up 2-0, Lewis got the Rafters on the board with an RBI single before his teammates added four more to go up 5-2. Glendale took back the lead 7-5 going into the ninth inning however, but Lewis again sparked his team with an RBI double to make it 7-6 before they tacked on five more for the final of 11-7. It was another fantastic performance for Lewis, but it wasn’t the best one in this game from Twins prospects —we’ll get to that later. After a few days of rest, Lewis was back in center field on Thursday against the Mesa Solar Sox and batting third in the lineup. He singled in his first at-bat of the game, but both teams were woefully deficient on offense throughout as this one ended in a 0-0 tie. The teams combined to go 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, left 18 men on base, and struck out 18 times versus just two walks. Finishing out the regular season on Friday against Peoria, Lewis made the start at another new position in the AFL, but you’ll be pleased to learn it was at shortstop. He also batted cleanup in this abbreviated seven inning game and delivered an RBI single in the fifth inning that made the score 5-1 Rafters. As the shortstop, Lewis committed a fielding error on the first batted ball of the game and had only one other opportunity for the rest of it. He had this to say afterwards, as the Rafters still had one more game to go on Saturday: https://twitter.com/MLBPipeline/status/1186699172449312770 Lewis ended his impressive AFL season by being named the league’s MVP, adding further hardware to his mantle from an impressive fall campaign. He was named the hitter of the week once and also took home the MVP award during the Fall Stars Game where he hit a home run. He paced the league in hits (30) and runs scored (21) while also ranking top three in doubles (9), RBI (20), total bases (48), batting average (.353), slugging percentage (.565), and OPS (.975). If you have found yourself unimpressed with Lewis after the regular minor league season in which he admittedly struggled, my advice now is to get over it. This was the most outstanding showing by a Minnesota Twins prospect in the Arizona Fall League since I’ve been recapping it in this fashion as a blogger, which was long before your favorite website Twins Daily came into existence. Get excited, because no matter what position Lewis shows up in the majors at, he’s going to be an impact player. Don’t just take my word for it either: https://twitter.com/BerniePleskoff/status/1188138808740462592 Dakota Chalmers: 1 start, 3.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K; 1-2, 5.09 ERA, 1.64 WHIP (overall) Chalmers made his final start of regular season play in Monday’s win over the Desert Dogs, finishing 3 2/3 innings. He allowed single runs in each of the first and second frames on RBI doubles before tossing a scoreless third inning after his offense gave him a 5-2 lead. Back out for the fourth a solo home run cut the lead to two and he walked a batter before picking up a strikeout to end his day. He mixed in four total strikeouts that pushed his total on the season to 25 in 17 2/3 innings to lead the Rafters staff. He threw 71 pitches on the game, with 42 going for strikes (59%). There was both good-to-great and bad-to-worse outings on Chalmers ledger during the AFL season, but after throwing just 34 2/3 innings in 2018 in his return from Tommy John surgery it’s hard to view his AFL performance as anything but positive. He showed a consistent high-90’s fastball and swing and miss breaking ball, and when he had command of them was dominant. That’s nothing new in relation to his prospect profile, but it was a solid step toward the 2020 season which will tell a lot more as he distances himself further from his surgery. Ben Rortvedt: Did not play; .111/.200/.111 (overall) While a knee injury Rortvedt had been playing with during the latter portion of the 2019 season ultimately put an end to his time in the AFL. Before that he had continued to showcase his defensive chops as a catcher while also bringing an improved bat. He’ll be ready to go when pitchers and catchers report to spring training and after reaching Double-A in 2019 will be looking to solidify his place near the top of the minor league depth chart among Twins catchers. Luke Raley: 3 games, 3-for-10, R, HR, 5 RBI, BB, 2 K; .244/.312/.439 (overall) After an impressive week 5 showing, Raley continued his emergence in the first game of week 6 with a 2-for-4 effort at the plate that out-shined his MVP teammate as alluded to above. His two hits included a two-RBI single in the third that made it 5-2 at the time, then his three-run home run in the ninth punctuated a six-run inning for the Rafters as they went back ahead for good 11-7. He also drew a walk in the sixth inning with the score tied at five, but while attempting to score the go-ahead run from third on a grounder he was thrown out at home. In Thursday’s 0-0 pitching duel with Mesa, Raley batted sixth in the lineup and was in right field. He finished 0-for-3 with a strikeout but reached base in the ninth when he was hit by a pitch. Closing out the regular season on Friday against the Javelinas Raley batted fifth behind Lewis and also finished 1-for-3. His single led off the second inning against top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley and the inning ended with him stranded on third. After missing several months of the minor league season due to an ankle injury, the AFL was mostly about making up time for Raley. It took him some time to get going but when he did, he was a force in the Rafters lineup. Over his final 10 games he had at least one hit in eight of them, and they included two doubles, three home runs, and eight RBI. His OPS in that time frame was over 1.000 as he slashed .333/.400/.639. Eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December, I expect Raley will get protected and should debut with the Twins at some point during the 2020 season. Moises Gomez: 1 appearance, 1.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 BB, K; 0-1, 6.55 ERA, 2.09 WHIP (overall) Gomez saw his final action of the AFL season in Monday’s victory over Glendale, but it didn’t end as he probably would have liked. Coming on in relief of Chalmers in the fourth inning, Gomez inherited a runner in scoring position and walked his first batter before getting a ground out to keep his team up by two runs. Back out for the fifth inning Gomez got the first two hitters before trouble began to brew. He would walk the next three hitters to load the bases and end his outing. Two of those runners ended up coming around to score after his exit, to tie the game at five. After a fantastic minor league season that saw him come in third in Twins Daily’s MiLB Relief Pitcher of the Year voting, Gomez got a nice reward and challenge by being sent to the AFL after spending less than half of the year in Fort Myers. While his 15 strikeouts in 11 total innings was nice, he also allowed runs in six of nine appearances and gave up nine free passes. I’d project he’ll start the 2020 season back with the Miracle, but if he shows improved command could again find himself promoted midsummer. Jovani Moran: 1 appearance, 1.0 IP, 2 K; 0-1, 7.00 ERA, 2.11 WHIP (overall) Moran’s final appearance of the AFL season came in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to Glendale when he entered the game to start the eighth inning with the Desert Dogs up 6-4. The left-hander delivered a one-two-three inning, striking out two in the process to end his season on a high note. He needed just twelve pitches and got both of those K’s on 94 MPH fastballs that hitters swung through near the top of the zone. Moran’s showing in the AFL was very similar to Gomez’s, in that he racked up strikeouts (14 in nine total innings) but also gave up walks and runs in bunches. His final outing this week was the first on the season that he did not issue at least one walk. Moran pitched with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos for all of the 2019 season but did miss a few months during the summer with two separate trips to the injured list. He made up some innings in the AFL, but I’d expect him to be back with Pensacola at the start of the 2020 season looking to rediscover his magic from 2018. Zach Neff: 2 appearances, 2.1 IP, H; 1-0, 1 Save, 1.38 ERA, 0.54 WHIP (overall) Neff was called upon two more times in the season’s final week, appearing in Monday’s win over the Desert Dogs and Thursday’s tie against the Solar Sox. In Monday’s contest Neff was summoned with two outs in the fifth inning after Gomez had loaded the bases with three consecutive walks. He allowed a two-run single to the first batter he faced that tied the game at five, but then got a lineout to end the inning. Starting clean in the sixth inning, Neff delivered a one-two-three frame, getting two ground outs and an infield pop out on thirteen pitches. He was charged with a blown save for giving up the game-tying hit in the fifth. In Thursday’s scoreless tie, Neff was called upon for the eighth inning and again delivered a one-two-three outing, getting each batter to pop out in the infield and requiring only five pitches to do so. That was the theme for Neff during the AFL season, recording outs in uber-efficient fashion and limiting baserunners. His 0.54 WHIP in league play ranked second on his team, and he recorded 12 strikeouts compared to just one walk in nine appearances and 13 innings pitched. He’s certainly raised his profile with his performance against the top competition of the AFL and will look to continue that into the 2020 season. Perhaps with a bump to Double-A to start the year on the merits of his AFL showing. AFL Championship Game As the East division champions for the second year in a row, the Salt River Rafters had one more game to play on Saturday for all the marbles in the AFL Championship against the West division winning Surprise Saguaros. On the mound to start the game for the Rafters was the Twins very own Dakota Chalmers, and he came out in the first inning determined to give his team his best effort. He needed 24 pitches and had full counts to three of the four hitters in the opening frame, but after walking the first hitter of the game he came back to finish off the next three with strikeouts. In the second he again walked the leadoff man, this time on four pitches, but needed just six more in the inning to get the three outs and keep the game scoreless. In the bottom of the third a leadoff walk would finally catch up to him as that batter stole second base and then came around to score on a single and early 1-0 lead for Surprise. After that single Chalmers was lifted and finished with a line of one earned run on one hit and three walks in 2 1/3 innings, along with striking out three. The Rafters lineup picked him up in the top of the fourth however, as they erupted for five runs of their own to put the game out of reach. Royce Lewis led off the inning but grounded out before a hit batter, wild pitch, and single tied the game at one. Luke Raley and Colton Welker then drew walks to load the bases, and two batters later with two outs, Marlins outfield prospect Jerar Encarnacion broke it open with a grand slam and 5-1 lead that would stand until the end. Lewis tallied two hits in five at-bats on the game, including a double in the seventh inning and single to lead off the ninth. After that double in the seventh, Lewis got caught in a rundown between home and third on a comebacker to the pitcher for the inning's second out, but it would not matter. Lewis played third base and batted second in the lineup for the game. Luke Raley started the game in left field and batted fifth in the lineup, finishing 0-for-2 with a run scored and a walk. He was also hit by a pitch in the second inning. Raley was on third base when Encarnacion blasted the game-winning grand slam. Reliever Zach Neff also got into the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, when he was brought on to face the left-handed hitting top of the Saguaros lineup with two outs. He allowed a double on a 3-2 breaking ball that he left over the heart of the plate but got the next hitter to chase a fastball out of the zone for an easy ground ball to first. The Rafters then took care of business in the ninth to bring home the hardware! https://twitter.com/wboor/status/1188195897785499648 Congratulations to all of the Minnesota Twins prospects, and those of the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks on a great season and thanks for following along during the AFL season with me! Other AFL and Minor League Links: -MLB Pipelines AFL Championship Game recap. -The Rafters home complex, Salt River Fields, was home to the automated ball-strike (ABS) system throughout AFL play, and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo spoke with several players and prospects, including Royce Lewis, on how the system fared during the season. -Pensacola Blue Wahoos Senior Writer Bill Vilona on Royce Lewis and winning the AFL MVP award. -Vilona also caught up with Twins pitcher Devin Smeltzer to recap his dream season that started with the Blue Wahoos. -MLB.com’s Jim Callis details eight players who stood out during the AFL Championship Game. -The Athletic’s Dan Hayes caught up with Royce Lewis to talk about his so-called struggles during the minor league season, his success in the AFL, and what he’ll be doing during the offseason (paywall). Please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who are there!
  9. As has been customary on teams Lewis plays on, a championship was the culmination of all the hard work for the Salt River squad. Contributing two hits in the trophy clinching victory, Lewis ended on the same high note he’d played at throughout the fall slate. Still fresh with emotion and reflection following the action, I caught up with the 2017 draft pick to check in. Twins Daily: After dealing with somewhat of a frustrating season, how excited were you to get a reset in Arizona and have a chance to showcase your ability against some of the best prospects in baseball? Royce Lewis: I was more excited for the multitude of reps I would be getting against some of the most dominant pitchers. TD: With the Fall League being composed of talent from multiple levels, how did you feel it stacked up against what you saw at Pensacola this year? Was it a step up or did it feel somewhat like an All-Star team collection of talent? RL: It felt like I was playing in a Futures Stars game each and every day! https://twitter.com/MLBPipeline/status/1183179301740580864 TD: What do you feel like you can attribute the level of success you saw in the Fall League to? An MVP is incredibly impressive. How were you able to continue a high level of production against that level of talent, through the entire schedule. RL: I was able to be more consistent and get hits with runners in scoring position. I consistently put myself in the right situations, in the right counts, and at the right times. TD: A few different outlets have touched on your swing. It’s one of the smoothest to the ball, but the main talking point is your leg kick. Have the Twins tweaked it at all, or do you feel like it will need to evolve as you continue towards the majors? RL: They (the Twins) started to begin to making adjustments in the beginning of the season and in the second half let me go back to being more like myself. You can always evolve, no matter how good you are, in every attribute in every skill of the game so I think everyone is always making adjustments and minor tweaks! TD: Now with something like 9 months of baseball behind you in 2019, how would you define and categorize your season? What were you proud of and where do you want to work on adjusting for 2020? RL: It was a great season of ascension and growth. I was proud of my ability to stay healthy and in shape. As usual continue working on all parts of my game to be better each and every day. TD: Looking at just your experience in Arizona, what’s something you feel like you can take away and utilize specifically to help your game reach the next level? RL: I enjoyed showcasing my ability to play multiple positions on the field, like fellow teammate Luis Arraez. TD: With Spring Training 2020 a few months out, what are you looking forward to providing some relaxation this offseason? Obviously, you’ll have plenty of baseball activities to get you ready for the year ahead, but what is 20-year-old Royce looking forward to off the field? RL: Fantasy football, sleeping in without an alarm, and eating the house down!!! https://twitter.com/wboor/status/1188195897785499648 Lewis will almost assuredly begin 2020 at Double-A Pensacola, but as with any elite prospect, the stop in Triple-A could be an abbreviated one. The Twins should be the favorites to repeat in the AL Central Division, and adding a talent like Lewis down the stretch may provide quite the boost to a team already poised to be very good.
  10. (This report includes the games played through 11/18 and the end of the AFL season) The Rafters went just 1-3 in their final four games, but that was enough thanks to their prior efforts. The Twins hitters had a solid week as they combined for a .374/.412/.438 slash line, and one continued his encouraging upward trend to finish his season strong. The pitchers didn’t fare quite as well, as they combined for a 6.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in nine innings pitched. To find out how all the Twins prospects finished their AFL campaigns and how the championship game went for the Rafters, keep reading! (links provided to each player’s overall AFL stats by clicking their name) Griffin Jax: 1 start, 4.0 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, 2 K; 3.86 ERA, 1.52 WHIP (overall). Jax put an end to his AFL season by starting Thursday’s 4-2 loss against the Glendale Desert Dogs after the Rafters had already punched their ticket to the championship game. After Salt River scored two in the top of the first, he gave those runs back with a rough inning of his own. The leadoff man singled and came around to score on a triple before another single tied the game. After another single and a mound visit he got a grounder to keep the game knotted after one. From there he was able to work around any baserunners, holding Glendale scoreless for the rest of his outing. He allowed a single and a walk in the second but got a double play ball to quash it. In the third he navigated around a one-out single with another ground ball and a K. In his final frame he walked a batter, but he was then cut-down trying to steal second base, so he faced just three hitters. On the game he threw 72 pitches, with 43 going for strikes. I’d say it was a mixed bag for Jax in the AFL as he walked a lot of batters and his WHIP wasn’t great for a starting pitcher, but he also didn’t give up a lot of earned runs. His 21 innings pitched ranked fourth on the team and his 3.86 ERA ranked third among the six pitchers who made starts for Salt River. I wouldn’t say his performance upped his stock any, but he’s pitched so little as a professional to this point there’s still plenty to work on and improve. Travis Blankenhorn: 2 games, 4-for-8, 2 R, BB, 3 K; .224/.352/.241 (overall). The (super?) utility man got in two of his teams four games on the week, again playing the outfield in Tuesday’s loss to the Scottsdale Scorpions, and was back at second base in their division clinching win against Glendale on Wednesday. Batting ninth and playing in left against the Scorpions, Blankenhorn helped start a two-out rally for the Rafters in the seventh inning with the game still tied at zero. His single put a runner into scoring position for the top of their order, and his teammate brought them both in with a triple for 2-0 lead. It went downhill from there for Salt River and one of Blankenhorn’s organizational teammates as they ended up losing 4-2 and postponing their division title hopes for another day. He finished 1-for-4 while striking out three times. They were able to take care of the division on Wednesday, with Blankenhorn taking the leadoff spot in the lineup. He led off the bottom of the first for the Rafters with a bunt single, drew a walk in the third, singled in the fifth, reached on an error in the seventh, and singled in the eighth to be a model of that spot in the batting order. He scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and his team held on to punch their ticket to the AFL Championship with a 4-3 win. The most noteworthy aspect of Blankenhorn’s time in the AFL, for me, was the time he spent playing in the outfield on Tommy Watkin’s squad. I’d expect he gets some more run there during the 2019 minor league season, and due to his overall athleticism, he could turn into a nice super-utility type in the future if the Twins pursue that any further. You would like to see a slugging percentage that outpaces an on-base percentage by .100 points instead of the other way around in AFL play, but the uptick in walks and relative lack of strikeouts was a good sign. The overall slash numbers weren’t there by any stretch, but he also had some big games in other ways that don’t necessarily stand out statistically. Hector Lujan: 2 appearances, 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (0 earned), BB, 2 K; 5.59 ERA, 1.86 WHIP (overall). The righthander made his first appearance of the week in Monday’s 5-4 loss to Peoria, and unfortunately he contributed to the negative effort, but it wasn’t all his fault. After the Javelina’s had tied it at three in the bottom of the ninth (foreshadowing the championship game), Lujan was summoned for the bottom of the tenth with Salt River now up by one. The runner starting the frame on second base moved to third on a fly ball for the first out then scampered home after a wild pitch to tie the game once again. After a single and a strikeout, the final batter of the game send a line drive into center field and it was misplayed, allowing that runner to score all the way from first. Despite no earned runs allowed, Lujan was saddled with a blown save and a loss. In his second appearance of the week, Lujan was the first pitcher summoned in relief of Griffin Jax in Thursday’s loss to Glendale. Out for the start of the fifth, Lujan delivered a one-two-three inning, punctuating the effort with a strikeout for the third out. Back out for the sixth he got a ground out but followed it up with a walk and resulting in an end to his AFL season. Lujan could definitely take his time in the AFL as a learning experience as he faced stiffer competition than he ever had to this point in his minor league career. He was put into a tough spot in some games and things just didn’t go his way. He’s been very good in Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers the past two seasons, and he’ll see if he can continue that trend in Double A next year. Jaylin Davis: 2 games, 2-for-8, R, 2B (2), RBI, K; .279/.323/.311 (overall). To close out his AFL season, Davis also appeared in two games on the week and continued a positive second half of the schedule. In Monday’s loss to Peoria he batted seventh in the lineup and finished 1-for-4. His one-out double in the seventh led to him scoring the go-ahead run before the Javelina’s tied it in the ninth and win it in the tenth. It was his second double in the league. In their win on Wednesday against Glendale Davis again finished 1-for-4 while slotted sixth in the batting order. He was responsible for getting the Rafters on the scoreboard in the fourth inning, when his single drove in a runner to tie the game at one. Salt River made it interesting again in the bottom of the ninth, but the defense cut a tying runner down at home before finishing off the Desert Dogs and clinching their division. It was a tale of two halves for Davis in the AFL, as in the first three weeks of the season he combined to go 7-for-32 (.219) with one walk compared to an alarming fifteen strikeouts in eight games. But he then finished the final three weeks by going 10-for-29 (.345) with two doubles and two walks while only striking out six times in seven games. Like Blankenhorn, his OBP outpaced his slugging percentage and the overall numbers aren’t necessarily apparent, but the adjustments made by him were. Devin Smeltzer: 1 appearance, 0.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB; 5.87 ERA, 2.35 WHIP (overall). Smeltzer got just one appearance in the season’s final week and it’s probably one he’d like to forget before starting his offseason routine. It came in Monday’s extra-inning loss to the Javelina’s where he was the first man out of the bullpen after the Rafter’s starter went the first five innings. Salt River had a 2-0 lead at the time, and Smeltzer was greeted by a bunt that went for a single on his first pitch and maybe threw him off a little bit. He followed that by issuing a walk before a double tied the game at two. A single to the next batter brought an end to his outing in which he was charged with a blown save. Like his fellow reliever Lujan, Smeltzer can reflect on his time in the AFL as a great learning experience as he continues a transition into relief pitching. He got knocked around a little bit with a WHIP of 2.35 in only 7.2 innings but should have a good idea on what he can and can’t do against the more advanced hitters he might continue to face at Double A in 2019. Adam Bray: 2 appearances, 2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 K; 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP (overall). The reliever’s first appearance of the week came in Tuesday’s loss to Scottsdale, and it was of the multiple inning variety. With the game tied at zero in the fifth inning, he was summoned from the bullpen with two outs and a runner in scoring position. He got his man to end the threat and back out for the sixth he delivered a one-two-three inning including a pair of strikeouts. With his pitch count still low he again came out for the seventh and got the first man out (five in a row) before a couple of singles brought on another pitching change. That pitcher gave up a double to score both of the runners Bray was responsible for, so his line looks a little worse than it was. In total he went 1 2/3, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out two. In Thursday’s loss to the Desert Dogs Bray finished the game for the Rafters, again coming in from the bullpen in the middle of the inning. This time it was after Glendale had already scored two runs on a triple to take a 4-2 lead. With no outs and a runner on third, Bray got a ground out, strikeout, and a tapper back to him on the mound to keep the score as it was and finish his AFL season with a clean outing. Bray was the best performing of the Twins relievers sent to Arizona by far and one of the better one’s on the Rafters staff. His 13 2/3 innings pitched ranked second among his bullpen peers and his 2.63 ERA third. He went 1-0 in his 10 appearance and was also one of three relievers on the team to pick up a save. I’d expect the Minnesota native to get a crack at Double A to start next season. AFL Championship Game: With the Salt River Rafters crowned the East Division winners of the AFL, they faced off against the West winning Peoria Javelina’s in the title game on Saturday. Unfortunately, none of the Twins prospects appeared in the game, and hopefully that’s only because Tommy Watkins didn’t want to seem like he was playing favorites… (I kid) Maybe he should have though, as his team couldn’t quite close it out. The Rafters took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of RBI singles while their starter, Jordan Yamamoto of the Miami Marlins, kept Peoria at bay for four innings. The first run came courtesy of Miami Marlins’ prospect Monte Harrison in the second, and they took a 2-0 lead in the fourth thanks to the Washington Nationals’ Daniel Johnson. Salt River took that 2-0 lead all the way into the bottom of the ninth inning, then things turned the other way for Peoria. A leadoff walk, double, and a wild pitch brought in the first run of the game for the Javelinas and with nobody out they had the tying run on third base before an RBI single brought the game into extra innings. It was the bottom of the tenth when Peoria walked it off in dramatic fashion. With one out, Atlanta Braves prospect Braxton Davidson stepped into the batter’s box, and did this: https://twitter.com/MLBazFallLeague/status/1063937061038616577 Along with an epic bat flip, Davidson also injured himself rounding the bases so instead of being able to celebrate with this teammates on the field and in the clubhouse, he was carted off to the hospital. Originally feared to be a broken foot, it luckily appears that is not the case. Congrats to the Peoria Javelina’s, and thank you for following the Twins prospects in the AFL with me! Please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who were there!
  11. Minnesota Twins prospects finished their AFL regular season with the Salt River Rafters in the best way they could, by helping their team win the East Division and a spot in the circuit’s championship game.(This report includes the games played through 11/18 and the end of the AFL season) The Rafters went just 1-3 in their final four games, but that was enough thanks to their prior efforts. The Twins hitters had a solid week as they combined for a .374/.412/.438 slash line, and one continued his encouraging upward trend to finish his season strong. The pitchers didn’t fare quite as well, as they combined for a 6.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in nine innings pitched. To find out how all the Twins prospects finished their AFL campaigns and how the championship game went for the Rafters, keep reading! (links provided to each player’s overall AFL stats by clicking their name) Griffin Jax: 1 start, 4.0 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, 2 K; 3.86 ERA, 1.52 WHIP (overall). Jax put an end to his AFL season by starting Thursday’s 4-2 loss against the Glendale Desert Dogs after the Rafters had already punched their ticket to the championship game. After Salt River scored two in the top of the first, he gave those runs back with a rough inning of his own. The leadoff man singled and came around to score on a triple before another single tied the game. After another single and a mound visit he got a grounder to keep the game knotted after one. From there he was able to work around any baserunners, holding Glendale scoreless for the rest of his outing. He allowed a single and a walk in the second but got a double play ball to quash it. In the third he navigated around a one-out single with another ground ball and a K. In his final frame he walked a batter, but he was then cut-down trying to steal second base, so he faced just three hitters. On the game he threw 72 pitches, with 43 going for strikes. I’d say it was a mixed bag for Jax in the AFL as he walked a lot of batters and his WHIP wasn’t great for a starting pitcher, but he also didn’t give up a lot of earned runs. His 21 innings pitched ranked fourth on the team and his 3.86 ERA ranked third among the six pitchers who made starts for Salt River. I wouldn’t say his performance upped his stock any, but he’s pitched so little as a professional to this point there’s still plenty to work on and improve. Travis Blankenhorn: 2 games, 4-for-8, 2 R, BB, 3 K; .224/.352/.241 (overall). The (super?) utility man got in two of his teams four games on the week, again playing the outfield in Tuesday’s loss to the Scottsdale Scorpions, and was back at second base in their division clinching win against Glendale on Wednesday. Batting ninth and playing in left against the Scorpions, Blankenhorn helped start a two-out rally for the Rafters in the seventh inning with the game still tied at zero. His single put a runner into scoring position for the top of their order, and his teammate brought them both in with a triple for 2-0 lead. It went downhill from there for Salt River and one of Blankenhorn’s organizational teammates as they ended up losing 4-2 and postponing their division title hopes for another day. He finished 1-for-4 while striking out three times. They were able to take care of the division on Wednesday, with Blankenhorn taking the leadoff spot in the lineup. He led off the bottom of the first for the Rafters with a bunt single, drew a walk in the third, singled in the fifth, reached on an error in the seventh, and singled in the eighth to be a model of that spot in the batting order. He scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and his team held on to punch their ticket to the AFL Championship with a 4-3 win. The most noteworthy aspect of Blankenhorn’s time in the AFL, for me, was the time he spent playing in the outfield on Tommy Watkin’s squad. I’d expect he gets some more run there during the 2019 minor league season, and due to his overall athleticism, he could turn into a nice super-utility type in the future if the Twins pursue that any further. You would like to see a slugging percentage that outpaces an on-base percentage by .100 points instead of the other way around in AFL play, but the uptick in walks and relative lack of strikeouts was a good sign. The overall slash numbers weren’t there by any stretch, but he also had some big games in other ways that don’t necessarily stand out statistically. Hector Lujan: 2 appearances, 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (0 earned), BB, 2 K; 5.59 ERA, 1.86 WHIP (overall). The righthander made his first appearance of the week in Monday’s 5-4 loss to Peoria, and unfortunately he contributed to the negative effort, but it wasn’t all his fault. After the Javelina’s had tied it at three in the bottom of the ninth (foreshadowing the championship game), Lujan was summoned for the bottom of the tenth with Salt River now up by one. The runner starting the frame on second base moved to third on a fly ball for the first out then scampered home after a wild pitch to tie the game once again. After a single and a strikeout, the final batter of the game send a line drive into center field and it was misplayed, allowing that runner to score all the way from first. Despite no earned runs allowed, Lujan was saddled with a blown save and a loss. In his second appearance of the week, Lujan was the first pitcher summoned in relief of Griffin Jax in Thursday’s loss to Glendale. Out for the start of the fifth, Lujan delivered a one-two-three inning, punctuating the effort with a strikeout for the third out. Back out for the sixth he got a ground out but followed it up with a walk and resulting in an end to his AFL season. Lujan could definitely take his time in the AFL as a learning experience as he faced stiffer competition than he ever had to this point in his minor league career. He was put into a tough spot in some games and things just didn’t go his way. He’s been very good in Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers the past two seasons, and he’ll see if he can continue that trend in Double A next year. Jaylin Davis: 2 games, 2-for-8, R, 2B (2), RBI, K; .279/.323/.311 (overall). To close out his AFL season, Davis also appeared in two games on the week and continued a positive second half of the schedule. In Monday’s loss to Peoria he batted seventh in the lineup and finished 1-for-4. His one-out double in the seventh led to him scoring the go-ahead run before the Javelina’s tied it in the ninth and win it in the tenth. It was his second double in the league. In their win on Wednesday against Glendale Davis again finished 1-for-4 while slotted sixth in the batting order. He was responsible for getting the Rafters on the scoreboard in the fourth inning, when his single drove in a runner to tie the game at one. Salt River made it interesting again in the bottom of the ninth, but the defense cut a tying runner down at home before finishing off the Desert Dogs and clinching their division. It was a tale of two halves for Davis in the AFL, as in the first three weeks of the season he combined to go 7-for-32 (.219) with one walk compared to an alarming fifteen strikeouts in eight games. But he then finished the final three weeks by going 10-for-29 (.345) with two doubles and two walks while only striking out six times in seven games. Like Blankenhorn, his OBP outpaced his slugging percentage and the overall numbers aren’t necessarily apparent, but the adjustments made by him were. Devin Smeltzer: 1 appearance, 0.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB; 5.87 ERA, 2.35 WHIP (overall). Smeltzer got just one appearance in the season’s final week and it’s probably one he’d like to forget before starting his offseason routine. It came in Monday’s extra-inning loss to the Javelina’s where he was the first man out of the bullpen after the Rafter’s starter went the first five innings. Salt River had a 2-0 lead at the time, and Smeltzer was greeted by a bunt that went for a single on his first pitch and maybe threw him off a little bit. He followed that by issuing a walk before a double tied the game at two. A single to the next batter brought an end to his outing in which he was charged with a blown save. Like his fellow reliever Lujan, Smeltzer can reflect on his time in the AFL as a great learning experience as he continues a transition into relief pitching. He got knocked around a little bit with a WHIP of 2.35 in only 7.2 innings but should have a good idea on what he can and can’t do against the more advanced hitters he might continue to face at Double A in 2019. Adam Bray: 2 appearances, 2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 K; 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP (overall). The reliever’s first appearance of the week came in Tuesday’s loss to Scottsdale, and it was of the multiple inning variety. With the game tied at zero in the fifth inning, he was summoned from the bullpen with two outs and a runner in scoring position. He got his man to end the threat and back out for the sixth he delivered a one-two-three inning including a pair of strikeouts. With his pitch count still low he again came out for the seventh and got the first man out (five in a row) before a couple of singles brought on another pitching change. That pitcher gave up a double to score both of the runners Bray was responsible for, so his line looks a little worse than it was. In total he went 1 2/3, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out two. In Thursday’s loss to the Desert Dogs Bray finished the game for the Rafters, again coming in from the bullpen in the middle of the inning. This time it was after Glendale had already scored two runs on a triple to take a 4-2 lead. With no outs and a runner on third, Bray got a ground out, strikeout, and a tapper back to him on the mound to keep the score as it was and finish his AFL season with a clean outing. Bray was the best performing of the Twins relievers sent to Arizona by far and one of the better one’s on the Rafters staff. His 13 2/3 innings pitched ranked second among his bullpen peers and his 2.63 ERA third. He went 1-0 in his 10 appearance and was also one of three relievers on the team to pick up a save. I’d expect the Minnesota native to get a crack at Double A to start next season. AFL Championship Game: With the Salt River Rafters crowned the East Division winners of the AFL, they faced off against the West winning Peoria Javelina’s in the title game on Saturday. Unfortunately, none of the Twins prospects appeared in the game, and hopefully that’s only because Tommy Watkins didn’t want to seem like he was playing favorites… (I kid) Maybe he should have though, as his team couldn’t quite close it out. The Rafters took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of RBI singles while their starter, Jordan Yamamoto of the Miami Marlins, kept Peoria at bay for four innings. The first run came courtesy of Miami Marlins’ prospect Monte Harrison in the second, and they took a 2-0 lead in the fourth thanks to the Washington Nationals’ Daniel Johnson. Salt River took that 2-0 lead all the way into the bottom of the ninth inning, then things turned the other way for Peoria. A leadoff walk, double, and a wild pitch brought in the first run of the game for the Javelinas and with nobody out they had the tying run on third base before an RBI single brought the game into extra innings. It was the bottom of the tenth when Peoria walked it off in dramatic fashion. With one out, Atlanta Braves prospect Braxton Davidson stepped into the batter’s box, and did this: Along with an epic bat flip, Davidson also injured himself rounding the bases so instead of being able to celebrate with this teammates on the field and in the clubhouse, he was carted off to the hospital. Originally feared to be a broken foot, it luckily appears that is not the case. Congrats to the Peoria Javelina’s, and thank you for following the Twins prospects in the AFL with me! Please feel free to ask questions about the AFL and the players who were there! Click here to view the article
  12. Sean Miller may not be a household name to all Twins fans, but the infielder has done a nice job so far in the Arizona Fall League. He has hit hit .333 as he has ten hits through his first eight games. Miller, the Twins 10th-round pick in 2015 out of USC-Aiken, turned 23 three weeks ago and spent the 2017 season with the Ft. Myers Miracle playing both middle infield positions.In June of 2016, I interviewed Sean Miller in Cedar Rapids. Today, we catch up with him and discuss his 2017 season, his time in the Arizona Fall League and more. Again, thank you to Sean for taking time out of his busy Arizona schedule to answer our questions. Let’s get to it. Seth Stohs (SS): Let’s start with where you are now. How did you find out about being invited to the Arizona Fall League? Is it something you had thought about growing up or in the minor leagues? Sean Miller (SM): I found out when I was at the mall with my girlfriend. Lep (Twins minor league coordinator Joel Lepel) called me, and it was such a great, rewarding feeling. Obviously it's something I've always read about and imagined myself doing! And now that I have the opportunity to be a part of the AFL, I'm just trying to take it all in. SS: Before heading to Arizona, what were some of your goals, or what did you want to try to accomplish in the Fall League? SM: My goals before heading here were to try and extend my at-bats. I have the same goal I've always had, which is to hopefully prove some people wrong. SS: The AFL season is about half over. What has the experience been like so far, and what have you found out about yourself from playing there so far? SM: The AFL experience has been awesome. I've already made lifelong friends. I've honestly found out that keeping a positive outlook on this game can change your own outlook on everything. SS: It’s been a couple of months since the end of the regular season, have you been able to put together your overall thoughts on your 2017 season in Ft. Myers? SM: My overall thoughts on the 2017 season are all positive! Playing for Doug (Mientkiewicz), Sing (Miracle hitting coach Steve Singleton), and Henry (Bonilla, pitching coach) was the most fun I've ever had playing ball. I've matured more as a player this year than I could have ever imagined. SS: You played a lot of shortstop and second base, but you also got to play a little in center field. What was it like standing out there for a few games? SM: At first, playing center field was crazy to me. But the more I was out there, the easier it got. Doug told me to play it like I was playing in the backyard which made it easier. SS: Tell me a little bit about playing for Doug Mientkiewicz and the coaches in Ft. Myers this year. SM: Like I said earlier, playing for Doug, Sing, and Henry was the most fun I've had playing the game. Those guys love what they do, and their passion for the game spreads to the players. playing for Doug, Henry, and Sing was an absolute blast. This year flew by playing for them. SS: What was the atmosphere like, especially in the second half when the Miracle took off and made their run into the playoffs? SM: The second half was so much fun. We were lucky enough to get some studs on our team to help us make a run. That shows us how deep this org really is. The atmosphere was great. We just played good baseball. Obviously winning was expected, but we actually learned how to win and play the game the right way. SS: In your opinion, what are your strengths on the field? What areas have you made the most improvement in? SM: I think my strengths on the field are that I can play defense with anybody, at any position. I'm trying to improve my ABs, And put some offensive numbers up like I know I can. SS: What are some areas of your game that you focused on in the AFL and will be throughout your offseason? SM: I'm trying to focus on the pitchers, and position players I'm getting a chance to play with and against. The guys down here are just so good, I try to make improvements on my game based on what I learn watching these guys play. SS: Whether on the baseball field or elsewhere, what is the best piece of advice that you have been given? SM: The best piece of advice I have been given is from my dad, who played pro ball for six years. He's always told me things went south for him when he lived in the past, or in the future. So regardless of what's going on with anything that has to do with baseball, I try to take it day by day. Obviously this isn't just baseball advice, this is the way I try to live life. SS: What are some of the things you do to get away from baseball? Any big, fun plans for once your offseason starts after the AFL? SM: The one thing I really enjoy is playing golf. I'll go out at 4 pm and play nine holes by myself three days a week. That's a week to week thing because golf frustrates me more than anything besides baseball. Thank you to Sean Miller for taking time out of his busy Arizona schedule to answer our questions. Please feel free to discuss in the comments below. Click here to view the article
  13. In June of 2016, I interviewed Sean Miller in Cedar Rapids. Today, we catch up with him and discuss his 2017 season, his time in the Arizona Fall League and more. Again, thank you to Sean for taking time out of his busy Arizona schedule to answer our questions. Let’s get to it. Seth Stohs (SS): Let’s start with where you are now. How did you find out about being invited to the Arizona Fall League? Is it something you had thought about growing up or in the minor leagues? Sean Miller (SM): I found out when I was at the mall with my girlfriend. Lep (Twins minor league coordinator Joel Lepel) called me, and it was such a great, rewarding feeling. Obviously it's something I've always read about and imagined myself doing! And now that I have the opportunity to be a part of the AFL, I'm just trying to take it all in. SS: Before heading to Arizona, what were some of your goals, or what did you want to try to accomplish in the Fall League? SM: My goals before heading here were to try and extend my at-bats. I have the same goal I've always had, which is to hopefully prove some people wrong. SS: The AFL season is about half over. What has the experience been like so far, and what have you found out about yourself from playing there so far? SM: The AFL experience has been awesome. I've already made lifelong friends. I've honestly found out that keeping a positive outlook on this game can change your own outlook on everything. SS: It’s been a couple of months since the end of the regular season, have you been able to put together your overall thoughts on your 2017 season in Ft. Myers? SM: My overall thoughts on the 2017 season are all positive! Playing for Doug (Mientkiewicz), Sing (Miracle hitting coach Steve Singleton), and Henry (Bonilla, pitching coach) was the most fun I've ever had playing ball. I've matured more as a player this year than I could have ever imagined. SS: You played a lot of shortstop and second base, but you also got to play a little in center field. What was it like standing out there for a few games? SM: At first, playing center field was crazy to me. But the more I was out there, the easier it got. Doug told me to play it like I was playing in the backyard which made it easier. SS: Tell me a little bit about playing for Doug Mientkiewicz and the coaches in Ft. Myers this year. SM: Like I said earlier, playing for Doug, Sing, and Henry was the most fun I've had playing the game. Those guys love what they do, and their passion for the game spreads to the players. playing for Doug, Henry, and Sing was an absolute blast. This year flew by playing for them. SS: What was the atmosphere like, especially in the second half when the Miracle took off and made their run into the playoffs? SM: The second half was so much fun. We were lucky enough to get some studs on our team to help us make a run. That shows us how deep this org really is. The atmosphere was great. We just played good baseball. Obviously winning was expected, but we actually learned how to win and play the game the right way. SS: In your opinion, what are your strengths on the field? What areas have you made the most improvement in? SM: I think my strengths on the field are that I can play defense with anybody, at any position. I'm trying to improve my ABs, And put some offensive numbers up like I know I can. SS: What are some areas of your game that you focused on in the AFL and will be throughout your offseason? SM: I'm trying to focus on the pitchers, and position players I'm getting a chance to play with and against. The guys down here are just so good, I try to make improvements on my game based on what I learn watching these guys play. SS: Whether on the baseball field or elsewhere, what is the best piece of advice that you have been given? SM: The best piece of advice I have been given is from my dad, who played pro ball for six years. He's always told me things went south for him when he lived in the past, or in the future. So regardless of what's going on with anything that has to do with baseball, I try to take it day by day. Obviously this isn't just baseball advice, this is the way I try to live life. SS: What are some of the things you do to get away from baseball? Any big, fun plans for once your offseason starts after the AFL? SM: The one thing I really enjoy is playing golf. I'll go out at 4 pm and play nine holes by myself three days a week. That's a week to week thing because golf frustrates me more than anything besides baseball. Thank you to Sean Miller for taking time out of his busy Arizona schedule to answer our questions. Please feel free to discuss in the comments below.
  14. Age: 23 (DOB: 9/28/91) 2015 Stats (MLB): .283/.308/.424 (.732), 5 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR (AAA) .242/.280/.379 (.659), 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR ETA: 2015 2014 Preseason Ranking: 5, 2015 Preseason Ranking: 8 What's To Like Rosario's best tool has always been his hitting ability. Throughout his younger years in the minors, he made consistent contact and saw brief power outputs, leading the Appalachian League in home runs during his second season. For his minor league career, he's hit .291/.340/.480 while averaging 10 home runs and over 17 doubles per season. After serving a 50-game suspension to start the 2014 season, Rosario struggled with hitting for the first time in his career (.237 in 316 AB). Minnesota sent him to the Arizona Fall League for the second consecutive year and he knocked the cover off the ball. Across 24 games, he batted .330/.345/.410 with four doubles, two triples, 18 RBI and 10 steals. This included going 4-for-5 with a home run and a double in the AFL title game. Before the emergence of Brian Dozier and some other middle infield prospects, the Twins attempted to move Rosario to second base. He has since been moved back to the outfield where he has shown the ability to play all three outfield positions. His strong arm and defense flexibility should help him stick at the big league level. What's Left To Work On As Rosario got closer to the big leagues, in AA-New Britain, his offensive production declined. His on-base percentage dipped below .300 for the first time in his career and his OPS was under .675. With Byron Buxton penciled in as the center fielder, it likely means Rosario will be pushed to a corner outfield spot. This means he will need to hit for a high average and improve his power numbers from recent years. Rosario wasn't exactly pounding down the door to the big leagues when the Twins called him up this season. In 95 at-bats, he was limited to a .242 batting average and a .280 on-base percentage. He had combined for six extra-base hits but these marks were well below his minor league average. Except for his AFL output, his time in the minors hadn't been great since returning from his drug suspension. What's Next Rosario made his big league debut at the beginning of May and he got off to a hot start by hitting .298/.317/.421 with 10 RBI in 18 games. Things have cooled off a little in June but his OBP is still over .300 and his slugging percentage has gone up thanks to seven of his 18 hits being for extra bases. He's spent time in both left and right field and it seems like the Twins could go with an outfield that includes Rosario, Buxton and Hunter for the rest of the season. Rosario's stock has risen higher than some other players who were thought of more highly in recent years. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia have showcased their flaws over the last couple of seasons and the Twins seem ready to turn things over to a different crop of young players. If Rosario can continue to produce and play solid defense, there's no reason to think he won't be in a corner outfield spot for the rest of the season. He might never be an All-Star but he has the chance to be a solid everyday player and teams need those types of players to remain competitive.
  15. Age: 23 (DOB: 9/28/1991) 2014 Stats (A+/AA): .243/.286/.387, 20-2B, 3-3B, 8-HR, 40 RBI ETA: 2015 2014 Ranking: 5 What’s To Like Rosario’s hit tool has always been his ticket to the big leagues. Entering the 2014 season, he was a career .307 hitter in the minors. Last season saw a dip in his average (.243 over 346 AB) as he struggled to adjust to Double-A pitching after missing the season’s first 50 games. Even with the rough numbers, he’s still gotten on base over 34% of the time during his career. His quick hands allow him to hit the ball to all fields and he’s shown the ability at times to drive the ball. After heading back to the Arizona Fall League for the second straight year, he shined by hitting .330/.345/.410 with four doubles, two triples, 18 RBI and 10 steals. A few years after being asked to switch to second base, Rosario is back playing as an outfielder. He’s shown the ability to play all three outfield positions and his arm is strong. His flexibility to play multiple positions could help him in the long run. What’s Left To Work On One of Rosario’s calling cards has been his aggressiveness at the plate. This served him well in the lower levels of the minors but he’ll need to be able to improve his walk rate to keep his OBP higher as he moves through the system. With other stronger defensive center fielders in the system, it seems likely that he’ll have to play a corner outfield spot in Minnesota. That means he’ll have to show he can hit for power. This past season at Double-A his home run total doubled (from four to eight) in only 27 more at-bats. However, his slugging percentage dipped by 70 points. Another thing to keep an eye on is the fact that he came back from his drug suspension and for the first time in his career, didn't hit. His AFL numbers offer some promise that he might have come out of his slump but there is definitely some cause for concern. What’s Next Rosario will likely be headed back to Double-A to start next season with the assumption that he’ll move up to Triple-A at some point during the year. Minnesota’s outfield situation is a little murky so there’s a good chance he’ll make his big league debut in 2015 after being added to the 40-man roster. In the majors, he could be used at all three outfield positions but it seems likely that he’ll be slotted into a corner outfield role with Byron Buxton the likely center field option. If Rosario’s personal issues are behind him, he should get his professional career back on track in 2015. He has a great ability to hit the ball and he can use his speed to be an above average outfielder and a threat on the bases. His hit tool might be the best in the Twins system and that should be enough to get him to the major leagues. He might never win an MVP but he could make an All-Star team or two if he continues to progress.
  16. Steve Buhr is in Arizona, taking in a couple of Fall League games. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JimCrikket. A year ago, Jake Reed was beginning intrasquad workouts in Eugene, Oregon, as he prepared for his junior year at the University of Oregon. In the subsequent 12 months, the Twins' prospect has seen a lot of the U.S.A. while pitching for the Ducks, then the Twins Rookie level team in Elizabethton, Tennessee, followed by the Cedar Rapids Kernels, and a trip to Fort Myers for instructional league. Now, he's a member of the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.Reed was the Twins' fifth round draft pick back in June, which means you won't find him on any of last offseason's "Top Twins Prospects" lists. You won't likely have to look too far down this year's lists to find his name, however. After signing with the Twins, he made four appearances in Elizabethton before being promoted to Cedar Rapids. Between the two stops, he put up a 0.29 ERA over 20 relief appearances. He struck out 39 batters, while walking just three. That kind of work earned him a coveted spot in the Arizona Fall League where, as difficult as it may be to believe, he's actually improved his ERA to a perfect 0.00 in his first six appearances for the Rafters. As you might expect, Reed is pretty happy with how his professional career has thus far gone. "It's been just a great experience," Reed said on Tuesday, before the Rafters beat up the Glendale Desert Dogs 14-2. "Just from the time I got drafted, with my parents there in Eugene with me, to sitting here now in Arizona. To still be playing in the fall, it's pretty special. It's been a great ride. I couldn't have wished for a better first half-season." Reed was one of two Twins prospects, along with outfielder and top Twins prospect, Byron Buxton, who were named to represent their team in the AFL's "Fall Stars Game" this Saturday. Not bad for a guy who was surprised when Kernels manager Jake Mauer and pitching coach Ivan Arteaga gave him the news that he was headed to Arizona this fall. "When {Mauer) called me in, there was a couple weeks left in the season. I knew the Miracle were going to be in the playoffs, so I thought I was maybe going to be going up there to help them," Reed recalled. "But they sat me down and originally Ivan kind of played a joke on me and asked if I wanted to go play (winter ball) for him in Venezuela. I was like, 'oh yeah, make four grand a month,' and I said, 'absolutely.' He said, 'No we were just kidding. We're sending you to fall league.'" Most AFL players have at least reached Class AA, but organizations are allowed a very limited number of roster spots for players who have not reached beyond Class A ball. That says something about how the Twins view Reed. Mauer and Arteaga told Reed that the Twins minor league director, Brad Steil, had contacted them and asked whether they thought Reed was ready for AFL, where he'd be facing a number of the top prospects in baseball. "They thought I was," said Reed. "They asked me if I wanted to and obviously I wasn't going to turn that down. "It was a big surprise for me. I was pretty shocked. I'm not saying I don't think I deserved it, but with the guys that come out here normally, it's the bigger prospects and it's my first half season, so in that aspect, I didn't expect it much." http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/JakeReed2.pngJake Reed gives a helping hand to a grounds crew member who took a corner a bit sharpOften, organizations are cautious about sending pitchers to Arizona the year they are drafted due to the number of innings they've racked up on their arms, between their final college season in the spring and their first partial season of professional ball in the summer. That wasn't an issue for Reed, however. "I'd started my first two years of college so I was accustomed to going 100 innings a year and I threw 40 maybe in college and 30 in the summer, so I was only at 70. I had more in my tank. The inning limit hasn't been an issue at all." It's not like they overtax the arms in Arizona, anyway. Each club carries about 20 pitchers to make sure none of them are overworked. Even relievers, like Reed, typically will pitch an inning or two and then get a couple days off before their next appearance. Fall League is an opportunity for Reed to show what he's got in front of a large group of scouts from literally every organization in professional baseball, but it's also a chance to hone his craft. Reed was told the Twins wanted him to work on his change-up, on "tightening up" his breaking ball and on stopping the running game. Of course, his 0.75 WHIP means he's not getting many opportunities to work on controlling that running game this fall. "I haven't thrown a change-up much," Reed admitted, "but my breaking ball, at times, has been a lot better than it had been. I think the biggest thing, though, is just maintaining the command that I had all summer. Getting ahead of guys, not walking guys. "As long as I keep throwing strikes, I think I'll keep doing all right." While Reed and half a dozen other Twins farmhands have been toiling in the Arizona sun, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan has been looking for a new manager. Reed and the others are following that story closely, as you can imagine. "Absolutely," Reed confirmed. "Ultimately, that's where we want to end up and ultimately, we want that to be our manager. Right now it seems kind of far-fetched, but hopefully, that's the guy we're going to be playing for eventually. "Yeah, we all follow everybody on Twitter, so we all see what's going on. We keep up with it. All the Twins are next to one another in the locker room. Whenever we see a new Tweet about another guy, we're always talking about it. But you know what, we trust Terry (Ryan), we trust everybody else in our organization to get somebody that will turn this thing around for us. We hope to be a big part of that, especially the young guys in our organization." http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/JakeReed3.pngJake Reed watching team mate Vincent Velasquez (Astros) warm upReed and the others are getting a little taste of what it's like to be treated like a big leaguer during their time in Arizona. Games are played at major league spring training facilities and Salt River plays their games at the complex shared by the Diamondbacks and Rockies. The Rafters use the D'Backs' big league clubhouse. It didn't take Reed long after arriving to figure out he was no longer at the Twins' minor league facility in Fort Myers, where he had been working during his time in the postseason instructional league. "The facilities in Ft. Myers are great, don't get me wrong, but going from a big locker room with hundreds of lockers to the big league locker room at a big league facility, it honestly kind of took my breath away," Reed said. "There're 12 TVs in there, I mean everything you can imagine in a locker room. Unbelievable. Then obviously, getting to play here every day, it doesn't get old, for sure." Reed had a chance earlier in the summer to get another glimpse of what it means to be a major leaguer. Joe Mauer and Rick Nolasco had concurrent rehabilitation assignments in Cedar Rapids and that experience stands out in Reed's mind as a highlight of his time with the Kernels. "When Joe and Ricky came, that was pretty special. Joe Mauer is such a great guy, and Ricky is, too, but just having him in the locker room was pretty special. Just seeing him go about his work and how he respected the game when he was playing and how he talked to other guys on the other team when they'd ask him questions. Just a great guy. "On his way out, before he left, he went around the locker room and shook everybody's hand. So that was unbelievable to me, a guy of that stature being able to take the time to shake every single person's hand in the locker room was pretty special." The Twins are already showing signs that they may be rebuilding their big league bullpen in 2015. Reed's performance at all levels this year has him in position to be fast-tracked by the organization if he can keep performing. Reed's success has even altered his own expectations of himself heading toward 2015. "It's definitely different now than it was when I signed and playing in Cedar Rapids," he acknowledged. "I don't know what's out of the picture for next year, because I haven't had the chance to talk to Terry or anybody else in the organization. They want to see guys excel in the minor leagues and prove that they're ready for the big leagues, but I'm not sure. I'm sure I'll have a better idea here pretty soon. We'll see what happens. We'll see where I go for spring training. There's just a lot up in the air." Reed has not heard, yet, whether he'll be getting an invitation to the Twins' big league spring training camp. "No, that's the thing, too. I think I'll have a better idea here pretty soon, because it's kind of important when you want to get your body ready for a certain time, you want to be in shape for a certain time. So hopefully I find out soon." Reed started to say he would not be disappointed if he doesn't get the invitation to the big league camp in February, but then smiled and corrected himself. "I will be disappointed," he admitted, "but I'll understand. Ultimately, it's not up to me, I just need to keep pitching well and hopefully it works out in my favor." But that's a matter for another day. Right now, Reed has a couple more weeks of pitching in the Arizona heat and then a well-deserved break. "I've literally been pitching for over a year straight," Reed said, alluding to having started his workouts at Oregon a year ago. "I'm starting to kind of feel it now. A break off of throwing would be nice." Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers by the middle of February, so it may not be a very long break for Jake Reed. Click here to view the article
  17. Reed was the Twins' fifth round draft pick back in June, which means you won't find him on any of last offseason's "Top Twins Prospects" lists. You won't likely have to look too far down this year's lists to find his name, however. After signing with the Twins, he made four appearances in Elizabethton before being promoted to Cedar Rapids. Between the two stops, he put up a 0.29 ERA over 20 relief appearances. He struck out 39 batters, while walking just three. That kind of work earned him a coveted spot in the Arizona Fall League where, as difficult as it may be to believe, he's actually improved his ERA to a perfect 0.00 in his first six appearances for the Rafters. As you might expect, Reed is pretty happy with how his professional career has thus far gone. "It's been just a great experience," Reed said on Tuesday, before the Rafters beat up the Glendale Desert Dogs 14-2. "Just from the time I got drafted, with my parents there in Eugene with me, to sitting here now in Arizona. To still be playing in the fall, it's pretty special. It's been a great ride. I couldn't have wished for a better first half-season." Reed was one of two Twins prospects, along with outfielder and top Twins prospect, Byron Buxton, who were named to represent their team in the AFL's "Fall Stars Game" this Saturday. Not bad for a guy who was surprised when Kernels manager Jake Mauer and pitching coach Ivan Arteaga gave him the news that he was headed to Arizona this fall. "When {Mauer) called me in, there was a couple weeks left in the season. I knew the Miracle were going to be in the playoffs, so I thought I was maybe going to be going up there to help them," Reed recalled. "But they sat me down and originally Ivan kind of played a joke on me and asked if I wanted to go play (winter ball) for him in Venezuela. I was like, 'oh yeah, make four grand a month,' and I said, 'absolutely.' He said, 'No we were just kidding. We're sending you to fall league.'" Most AFL players have at least reached Class AA, but organizations are allowed a very limited number of roster spots for players who have not reached beyond Class A ball. That says something about how the Twins view Reed. Mauer and Arteaga told Reed that the Twins minor league director, Brad Steil, had contacted them and asked whether they thought Reed was ready for AFL, where he'd be facing a number of the top prospects in baseball. "They thought I was," said Reed. "They asked me if I wanted to and obviously I wasn't going to turn that down. "It was a big surprise for me. I was pretty shocked. I'm not saying I don't think I deserved it, but with the guys that come out here normally, it's the bigger prospects and it's my first half season, so in that aspect, I didn't expect it much." http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/JakeReed2.png Jake Reed gives a helping hand to a grounds crew member who took a corner a bit sharp Often, organizations are cautious about sending pitchers to Arizona the year they are drafted due to the number of innings they've racked up on their arms, between their final college season in the spring and their first partial season of professional ball in the summer. That wasn't an issue for Reed, however. "I'd started my first two years of college so I was accustomed to going 100 innings a year and I threw 40 maybe in college and 30 in the summer, so I was only at 70. I had more in my tank. The inning limit hasn't been an issue at all." It's not like they overtax the arms in Arizona, anyway. Each club carries about 20 pitchers to make sure none of them are overworked. Even relievers, like Reed, typically will pitch an inning or two and then get a couple days off before their next appearance. Fall League is an opportunity for Reed to show what he's got in front of a large group of scouts from literally every organization in professional baseball, but it's also a chance to hone his craft. Reed was told the Twins wanted him to work on his change-up, on "tightening up" his breaking ball and on stopping the running game. Of course, his 0.75 WHIP means he's not getting many opportunities to work on controlling that running game this fall. "I haven't thrown a change-up much," Reed admitted, "but my breaking ball, at times, has been a lot better than it had been. I think the biggest thing, though, is just maintaining the command that I had all summer. Getting ahead of guys, not walking guys. "As long as I keep throwing strikes, I think I'll keep doing all right." While Reed and half a dozen other Twins farmhands have been toiling in the Arizona sun, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan has been looking for a new manager. Reed and the others are following that story closely, as you can imagine. "Absolutely," Reed confirmed. "Ultimately, that's where we want to end up and ultimately, we want that to be our manager. Right now it seems kind of far-fetched, but hopefully, that's the guy we're going to be playing for eventually. "Yeah, we all follow everybody on Twitter, so we all see what's going on. We keep up with it. All the Twins are next to one another in the locker room. Whenever we see a new Tweet about another guy, we're always talking about it. But you know what, we trust Terry (Ryan), we trust everybody else in our organization to get somebody that will turn this thing around for us. We hope to be a big part of that, especially the young guys in our organization." http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/JakeReed3.png Jake Reed watching team mate Vincent Velasquez (Astros) warm up Reed and the others are getting a little taste of what it's like to be treated like a big leaguer during their time in Arizona. Games are played at major league spring training facilities and Salt River plays their games at the complex shared by the Diamondbacks and Rockies. The Rafters use the D'Backs' big league clubhouse. It didn't take Reed long after arriving to figure out he was no longer at the Twins' minor league facility in Fort Myers, where he had been working during his time in the postseason instructional league. "The facilities in Ft. Myers are great, don't get me wrong, but going from a big locker room with hundreds of lockers to the big league locker room at a big league facility, it honestly kind of took my breath away," Reed said. "There're 12 TVs in there, I mean everything you can imagine in a locker room. Unbelievable. Then obviously, getting to play here every day, it doesn't get old, for sure." Reed had a chance earlier in the summer to get another glimpse of what it means to be a major leaguer. Joe Mauer and Rick Nolasco had concurrent rehabilitation assignments in Cedar Rapids and that experience stands out in Reed's mind as a highlight of his time with the Kernels. "When Joe and Ricky came, that was pretty special. Joe Mauer is such a great guy, and Ricky is, too, but just having him in the locker room was pretty special. Just seeing him go about his work and how he respected the game when he was playing and how he talked to other guys on the other team when they'd ask him questions. Just a great guy. "On his way out, before he left, he went around the locker room and shook everybody's hand. So that was unbelievable to me, a guy of that stature being able to take the time to shake every single person's hand in the locker room was pretty special." The Twins are already showing signs that they may be rebuilding their big league bullpen in 2015. Reed's performance at all levels this year has him in position to be fast-tracked by the organization if he can keep performing. Reed's success has even altered his own expectations of himself heading toward 2015. "It's definitely different now than it was when I signed and playing in Cedar Rapids," he acknowledged. "I don't know what's out of the picture for next year, because I haven't had the chance to talk to Terry or anybody else in the organization. They want to see guys excel in the minor leagues and prove that they're ready for the big leagues, but I'm not sure. I'm sure I'll have a better idea here pretty soon. We'll see what happens. We'll see where I go for spring training. There's just a lot up in the air." Reed has not heard, yet, whether he'll be getting an invitation to the Twins' big league spring training camp. "No, that's the thing, too. I think I'll have a better idea here pretty soon, because it's kind of important when you want to get your body ready for a certain time, you want to be in shape for a certain time. So hopefully I find out soon." Reed started to say he would not be disappointed if he doesn't get the invitation to the big league camp in February, but then smiled and corrected himself. "I will be disappointed," he admitted, "but I'll understand. Ultimately, it's not up to me, I just need to keep pitching well and hopefully it works out in my favor." But that's a matter for another day. Right now, Reed has a couple more weeks of pitching in the Arizona heat and then a well-deserved break. "I've literally been pitching for over a year straight," Reed said, alluding to having started his workouts at Oregon a year ago. "I'm starting to kind of feel it now. A break off of throwing would be nice." Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers by the middle of February, so it may not be a very long break for Jake Reed.
  18. http://cdn2.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1270945/8129494285_0937d28151_medium.jpg Peoria at Salt River - 10-26-12 After Thursday's game at one of the older stadiums in the Arizona circuit, Friday's game took me to the newest, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Built on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, Arizona, it's a state of the art facility that opened in the spring of 2011. The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockiesshare the facility for spring training with the Rockies entrance in right field and the Diamondbacks in left. The Twinswould do well to mirror some of the features here with the Hammond remodel, especially the outfield lawn viewing. If you're ever in Arizona for spring training, I'd recommend having it on your agenda. The practice and training areas seem to be designed with fans (or scouts) in mind as there are several observation areas. http://cdn2.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1270951/8129372143_4d205b0608_medium.jpg The only Minnesota Twin in the line-up on Friday was Evan Bigley playing left field batting seventh. I'd seen a few stories on how he'd been performing and seen that his stats weren't stellar, so I wasn't expecting too much, but he had a good day. He went 2-3 with a walk with one of the hits an RBI double. Peoria rallied late but fell short. Final: Rafters 8, Peoria 7. http://cdn0.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1270963/8129506721_efa824e405_medium.jpg Peoria at Surprise 10-27-12 Saturday's game was in the far northwestern part of the valley at Surprise Stadium. Surprise is also a newer facility. Open since 2003, it houses spring training for the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals. The architecture reminded me more of the facilities in Florida than the usual desert designs. They have an outfield lawn area along with nice wide concourses. It's also the first minor or spring training facility I recall being in where the upper level roof/canopy didn't appear to be metal. Foul balls to the roof were not accompanied by the usual metal clang. No auto-glass sponsor needed. There were two Twins players in the starting line-up, Nate Roberts in left field leading off and Evan Bigley in center field batting seventh. Caleb Thielbar would also pitch in relief. While I was happy to see Evan in the line-up again, it meant Billy Hamilton was out,so my dream of seeing him steal a base was over for this trip. Guess I'll have to wait for him to make it to the majors. http://cdn0.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1270969/8129582558_b7fc183733_medium.jpg Nate Roberts (and his stellar mustache) continued with his best Joe Mauer impression with a 2-4 day to bring his AFL average to .522 (two singles). I'm not sure how his arm is supposed to rate but on the defensive side of things, he had a strong throw to the plate for a close play. Unfortunately the runner was safe, but it was closer than I thought it would be initially. http://cdn2.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1270975/8129417697_b7f92de6f1_medium.jpg Evan Bigley was 0-2 on the day with a walk and strikeout. The bottom five hitters in the Peoria line-up went hit-less on the day, so the Surprise pitchers must have eaten their Wheaties Saturday morning. Former St Paul Saint, Caleb Thielbar, replaced the Peoria starter with two outs in the 3rd inning. After a fly out to end the third he pitched a scoreless 4th inning with a fly out, two singles, then a line out double play. In 6.2 AFL innings he has a 10.80 ERA, so it was nice to see him get the double play to keep the inning scoreless. http://cdn1.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1270981/678532560_medium.jpg My uncle deflected a foul ball hit by Didi Gregorius which then landed under our seats. After the game, Michael Tonkin, Caleb, Evan and Nate were kind enough to sign it. I wish I could have stayed one day longer since I'm missing Kyle Gibson by a day, but I enjoyed seeing the rest of the Twins players while I've been here. The crowds are non-existent at these games so if you like watching prospects, head to the AFL. Today's final was Surprise 4, Peoria 1 Full picture sets are available on Flickr - Salt River and Surprise Originally posted at Twinkietown
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