The end of a season is always bittersweet, and that is especially true for the Arizona Fall League. For six week in October and November, the some of the best prospects in all of baseball all head out to Arizona and play in one of the most enjoyable leagues baseball has to offer. 58% of all players that step foot on the fields of the Arizona Fall League have reached the big leagues, 231 have been MLB All-Stars, 15 have won MVPs (including both MVPs this year), and six have taken home the Cy Young (including both this year).
Before the ballgame, Yadiel Rivera of the Milwaukee Brewers was given the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. The other players nominated were Nicky Delmonico, Carlos Esteves, Pierce Johnson, Montreal Robertson, and Chad Wallach.
After receiving the EyePromise EDGE PRO Batting Title Award earlier in the pregame festivities, Adam Engel of the Chicago White Sox edged out Gary Sanchez, Jeimer Candelario, Raimel Tapia, Mac Williamson, and Ryan Butler for the Joe Black MVP Award. Engel led the league in all three triple slash categories going .403/.523/.642, while finishing second in doubles with nine and stolen bases with ten.
There was still one award to be handed out on the day, and that was to name the 2015 Arizona Fall League Champions. The ballgame was between the West Division champions Surprise Saguaros, who went 19-11, and the Scottsdale Scorpions, who went 18-12.
The game was certainly a bit sloppy, with seven errors in the game, four by Surprise and three by Scottsdale, but it was still a highly competitive ballgame. Emotions were clearly running high, and there was no better example of that as Clint Frazier breaking his bat in the dugout after being called out for contacting the ball with his bat in, what was ruled, fair territory on a bunt attempt.
The game started off looking like a pitcher’s duel despite a matchup between the two highest scoring teams in the league, but that ended in the fourth inning. Dominic Ficociello doubled in Christian Arroyo to open the scoring. Adam Brett Walker II singled in Sam Travis before Carlos Asuaje brought in Ficociello on a sacrifice fly for a three run top of the fourth. Scottsdale expanded the lead on a huge triple from Mac Williamson that scored Christian Arroyo, and Surprise was suddenly down four and looked like they were in trouble.
It looked like Surprise was going to get back into the game when they managed to load the bases with nobody out. Yadiel Rivera did manage to drive in Bubba Starling, but he did so by grounding into a double play and Aledmys Diaz was called out on strikes to end the best chance to put up a crooked score as Surprise would have all day.
Just because they were not able to put up a crooked score at any point, doesn’t mean they were not able to get back into the game. Dustin Fowler drove in fellow New York Yankee Tyler Austin and Ramon Torres hit a sacrifice fly that scored Starling and suddenly it was a 4-3 ballgame.
Walker II wasted no time giving the Scorpions the cushion back when he doubled in Williamson and Ficociello in the eighth inning, turning the ballgame over to his fellow Minnesota Twins, Jake Reed and Nick Burdi, to close out the eighth and ninth inning.
Burdi did allow a huge home run off the bat of breakout prospect Dustin Fowler, but then got Ramon Torres to ground out and Yadiel Rivera struck out looking. Aledmys Diaz then stepped to the plate to try and keep Surprise alive, but wound up popping out in left field foul territory where shortstop Christian Arroyo made a phenomenal grab to secure the title.
Look for team by team breakdowns over the coming week to find out how your favorite team’s prospects faired in the AFL this season.