Week four of the Arizona Fall League kicked off Monday with plenty of solid pitching matchups. I was at the Salt River Rafters vs. the Glendale Desert Dogs game, where Kyle Freeland (Colorado Rockies #9 prospect) faced off against Brandon Brennan (Chicago White Sox #30 prospect). I was excited to get a second look at Freeland, and he did not disappoint.
His fastball was sitting 92-93 mph and he was commanding it all day. His changeup was working 84-85 mph and did a solid job of keeping hitters off balance. His slider was also working well today at 89-90 mph. He scattered five hits over five innings, just one for extra bases, and struck out four without allowing a free pass. When runners were on base, he did a good job of altering the amount of time he held onto the ball before delivering, not allowing any runners to get good jumps off him. He even picked off Jacob Scavuzzo with an excellent step off move that was both quick and accurate.
The Rafters gave Freeland his second win of the fall in the 5-0 win, and the offense really looked good. The first run came in the top of the second inning via a sacrifice fly from Raimel Tapia that scored Daniel Palka, who was on base all day long. In the top of the fifth inning, Roemon Fields singled, stole second (another theme of the day), and scored from second on a Chris Bostick RBI single. Then in the next inning, Palka got his third hit of the day, Spencer Kieboom drew a walk, and Rowdy Tellez connected for his third home run of the fall.
Palka was one of the offensive stars of the game, hitting two doubles and a single, all to center or left field. What made that impressive was the Desert Dogs were playing him to pull all day with a shift that left only third baseman J.D. Davis on the left side of the infield.
The Rafters also stole six bags off Los Angeles Dodgers’ prospect Kyle Farmer, three of which were steals of third base. Fields had two steals, as did Bostick, while Palka and Jeff McNeil each had one. Fields was thrown out stealing second in the first inning, but that was largely thanks to a quick delivery from Brandon Brennan, as Farmer’s pop time was regularly 2.05-2.10 on the day. Farmer has seen time at third base in the past and, if he continues to allow runners to steal bags on him at such a high frequency, he may be relegated exclusively to third base.
Dominic Smith hit a ground-rule double in the seventh inning, but was clearly in pain after the swing. He ran to first holding what looked like his left wrist and slowly walked to second after the ball cleared the wall. He was removed from the game, replaced by Jordan Patterson, and went straight to the clubhouse during the next half inning. Earlier in the day, Smith was named to the Fall Stars Game roster, so this will definitely be something to keep an eye on.
Offensively for the Desert Dogs, it was not a terrible day, as they did manage eight hits, but were still shut out on the day. They started four Houston Astros, but with unimpressive results. The only two Desert Dogs to go hitless on the day happened to be Astros’ prospects, A.J. Reed and J.D. Davis, while Derek Fisher went 1-4 but struck out three times. Chan Jong Moon was the lone Astros prospect not to strikeout on the day, but was the only Desert Dog to ground into a double play. On the positive side, he and Phillies’ prospect Andrew Knapp had the only extra-base hits for the Glendale club, both with a double.
With the win, Salt River improves to 10-6 and are tied for the lead with Scottsdale at the top of the East Division standings, while Glendale falls to 8-7, just mere percentage points ahead of Surprise for the lead in the West Division.