Desert Dogs Win 5th AFL Title

The Phoenix Desert Dogs beat the Mesa Solar Sox 10-4 on Saturday to capture their fifth straight Arizona Fall League championship. Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Evan Frey drove in a run in the fifth, sixth, and seventh inning to help propel the Dogs to victory.

Evan Frey won the Position Player of the Year Award before he completed some of his best work of the 2008 season.  Sure, his .288 batting average, .350 on-base percentage, and .384 slugging average were all lower marks than the speedy centerfielder achieved either at Low-A South Bend or Hi-A Visalia this year. But in the Arizona Fall League, Frey mostly faced the best pitching that Double-A had to offer during the season; each organization is only allowed to send one sub-AA player to the AFL, and Frey was the Diamondbacks' choice.

That choice paid off for the Desert Dogs throughout the season, but especially on Saturday.  Frey, normally the sparkplug centerfielder leading off for Phoenix, batted eighth and manned right field for the championship game.  This allowed Rockies prospect Eric Young Jr. - who enjoyed a ridiculously productive fall (.430 BA 5 HR 37 R 20 SB 1 CS) - to lead off the game.

Young would fail to produce a run in the championship game, but Frey drove in a run in three consecutive innings, including both the first and the last that the Desert Dogs would score.  A groundout, sharp grounder up the middle, and bloop double to left accounted for Frey's three RBI in a role that he's not accustomed to.

"I think that's going to be my main goal throughout my career, to set the table," Frey told FutureBacks earlier in the season.  "My main goal is to get on base, make the defense think about me a little bit, and score a lot of runs for our team."

Once Frey got to Visalia, it became evident that this little table-setter could put a charge into the ball when necessary.  After beginning his time there 6-for-36, he belted three home runs in his next 17 games and hit .321 for the remainder of the summer.

"Whenever I moved up to the Cal League, it took me a bit to get adjusted," Frey admitted in a recent interview with Will Carroll. "The pitching was different; I saw a lot of offspeed.  But once I got adjusted, I liked hitting out there with the light air and the parks that jumped a little bit better."   

Indeed, Frey had worked hard this past offseason on increasing his strength, so that now he is more of a gap-to-gap hitter than a strictly singles hitter.  He'll begin a similar regimen this winter, but not before taking some well-deserved time off.

"I played a lot of ball this year, so I'll probably take it easy," said Frey, who played 165 games and stole 44 bases total between South Bend, Visalia, and Phoenix in 2008.  "Then I'll get back in the weight room, try to get a little stronger, a little faster, then start hitting again January 1st."

It will be difficult for Frey to top his '08 performance next year.  For now, he has raised his game to become one of the top prospects in the Diamondbacks organization.

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