A Pair of One Run Games in the Arizona Fall League on Friday

There are few places you can catch two games stocked full of prospects in a single day, but that is possible often in the Arizona Fall League. My day started with the Mesa Solar Sox against the Glendale Desert Dogs, and is started with a bang in the bottom of the first inning. Pierce Johnson may be ranked as the number seven Chicago Cubs prospect, but he has struggled thus far in the AFL, an ERA of 6.00 coming into the day and that only got worse. He walked the first two batters of the game before Kyle Farmer of the Los Angeles Dodgers came to the plate. Farmer has had his troubles behind the plate this fall, but has been hitting well, and he showed off his power with a big three run home run to open up the scoring.

After Andrew Knapp flew out to right, another Dodger came to the plate, Jacob Scavuzzo. Speaking with Scavuzzo before the game, he was happy with the way he had been hitting the ball thus far, and rightfully so given he entered the day with .378 average. He has been striking out too much, but he is facing a higher level of pitching than he has before, given he was promoted to High-A during the season, but even the outs he puts in play have been hard hit. Then on an 0-2 count against Johnson, Scavuzzo hit a frozen rope over the bullpen in left field to give the Desert Dogs a 4-0 first inning lead.

Johnson then got Nicky Delmonico looking before walking Derek Fisher and being removed from the game having recorded just two outs and giving up four runs.

The Solar Sox made the game interesting in the top of the third, stringing hit after hit together with Renato Nunez, Casey Gillaspie, and Daniel Robertson each driving in a run in the inning. The Desert Dogs got all three runs back in the fourth and fifth inning when Farmer drove in his fourth run of the day on an RBI single in the fourth, then Adam Engel doubling in Drew Stankiewicz and Austin Meadows bringing in Jake Peter on a fielder’s choice to first.

Again it was a four run lead for the Desert Dogs, but Mesa started the comeback again in the eight. Jake Bauers came through with an RBI double and was later driven in by Cael Brockmeyer to narrow the Glendale lead to just two, and that is when things really got interesting.

Keegan Yuhl entered the game in the top of the ninth looking for his first save of the AFL, but allowed a leadoff walk to Caleb Adams, who later advanced to third on a Mark Zagunis single, his third hit of the day to go along with two walks and reaching base safely all five times he came to the plate on Friday.

The next batter was Austin Dean, but it was by far the most eventful at bat of the day. After ripping a ball just foul down the third base line, the third base umpire started hollering back into the Desert Dogs dugout, which had been vocal all day long. Ralston Cash was the one drawing the attention of the umpire this time and eventually got himself tossed. Manager Bill Haselman came out to defend his player and, while walking back down the steps of the dugout, got run himself. Either not realizing it, or simply not abiding by the ejection, he set up in his normal spot of the dugout before the crew chief had to come down and holler for him to get out of the dugout and leave the field. This led to him coming out fired up and a heated exchange that could clearly be heard by the majority the 461 in attendance.

After the ejections were finalized and Haselman finally made his way off the field, Dean finished his plate appearance that resulted in a strike out, which brought up Renato Nunez. Nunez had big, violent swings all day that make it easy to see where his above average power comes from, but he also came through with his second RBI single of the day to narrow the lead to one. Yuhl was removed from the game at this point and Peter Tago came in with runners at first and second and just one out and Casey Gillaspie at the plate, but Gillaspie grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.

It was then time to head to Scottsdale for the evening game between the Salt River Rafters and Scottsdale Scorpions, and a pitching matchup of Yoan Lopez and Aldaberto Mejia. Lopez looked as good as advertised, going five innings and striking out six while allowing two runs on six hits and three walks. He has very quick arm action and the ball gets on hitters quick. I did not get any velocities on Lopez, but have seen him sitting 96 MPH and he looked every bit of that Friday night.

Scottsdale was the first team on the scoreboard with Austin Slater doubling in Clint Frazier, but Mike Gerber was thrown out at home on an excellent relay from Daniel Palka to Jeff McNeil to Oscar Hernandez.

Salt River answered in a big way in the top of the fourth scoring three runs. Rowdy Tellez scored on a ball hit by Emilio Guerrero that was a potential double play ball, but Christian Arroyo dropped the ball fed to him by Austin Slater. The San Francisco Giants double play combination came through with a double play on the next batter, Oscar Hernandez, but Gabby Guerrero was able to score from third on the play. Later in the inning Roemon Fields drove in Raimel Tapia to give the Rafters a 3-1 lead.

After the Rafters took the lead, Adam Brett Walker II took over for the Scorpions. He got a run back in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI single. Emilio Guerrero drove in another run for the Rafter in the top of the sixth to take another two run lead. Then, in the bottom of the sixth and the bases loaded, Walker II ripped a double into the left center gap scoring all three runners and advanced to third on a very heads up base running play as he was reading and anticipating the throw all the way.

That finalized the scoring for the night, giving the Scorpions a 5-4 win. Walker II wound up with four RBIs and reached base in three of his four trips to the plate. Clint Frazier, Austin Slater, and Dominic Ficociello also had two hits each for the Scorpions, while Rowdy Tellez and Raimel Tapia both had two hits for the Rafters.

One player that has really stood out each time I have seen him this fall is Ficociello. The switch-hitting first baseman has a very smooth swing and can work to all fields. He does not have the power you expect from a first baseman, but he has shown good gap power. At 6’4” and 205 lbs., he is currently very long, but he does not look to have the body that will add a whole lot of strength. He has a good glove at first, and I see a ceiling of a guy like James Loney.

With Mesa’s loss, their record falls to 5-16, a winning percentage of .238, on pace to be the worst record in Arizona Fall League history, a record currently held by the Maryvale Saguaros in 2002 with a winning percentage of .256. Their elimination number is just three despite the championship game still two weeks away, Saturday November 21st.

Peoria also lost to Surprise on the day giving Surprise a three game lead in the West Division, while Scottsdale’s win over Salt River gives them a one game lead in the East Division heading into the Fall Stars Game Saturday night on MLB Network.

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