Fall/Winter League Update
Truer things couldn't have been said for week two of the Arizona Fall League, as the Javelinas continue to lead the league in batting average (.324), but are dead last in ERA at 6.83, more than a run and a quarter higher than the next team.
This result has left them with a 1-6 record on the week and manager Mike Goff, who works within the Mariners organization, was even ejected on Friday night's game for arguing balls and strikes. Suffice to say, it's not a good time to be a Javelinas pitcher.
But it's hard to find too much fault in the numbers that Jared Thomas has been putting up. The lefty from Michigan earned AFL Pitcher of the Week honors for week one after a 1.80 ERA and a win in five innings of work.
This week has yielded similar results. On the 12th versus Phoenix, the lefty from Michigan held the Desert Dogs to just a walk over the course of 2.2 innings. Two days later, he shut down Mesa in an inning's worth of work and was the only Peoria pitcher not to give up a run in the game.
The only time he ran into trouble was on Saturday when he gave up a couple of runs on two hits and two walks in an inning and two-thirds.
The end result has been a 2.61 ERA and a .250 opposing batting average. It's a bit early to make any judgments, but the early returns with Thomas are looking good.
Similarly, Jon Huber pitched better in week two than in week one. Currently a member of the Javelinas' rotation, Huber got the start on Wednesday and allowed just two hits and a walk against the Mesa Solar Sox in three innings of work. He also struck out two in the process.
Huber came to Arizona looking to miss bats with a little more frequency. Mesa may have the second worst team average in the league at .283, but a solid outing is just that and it should help the 23-year-old's confidence.
On the other side of the coin, there's right-hander Brett Evert. Coming over from the Atlanta Braves via the waiver wire, Evert hoped to regain some consistency pitching in a more set role. Unfortunately, he missed the first week of play after cutting his foot while training for the off season.
Whether this impacted his performance this week or not is unknown, but his outings certainly weren't pretty. Evert absorbed two of the losses on the week despite pitching for just one out in each game. He wasn't helped at all by his defense or the guys who relieved him, but there's no positive way of looking at five hits, two walks, and eight runs in just two-thirds of an inning.
The native of Salem, Oregon will turn 24 in the coming week. Hopefully, he'll get his control back as an early birthday present.
Meanwhile, the bats of Mariners prospects continue to drive the Javelinas' offense, at least as much as they're able to. With the lack of top pitching prospects in the AFL, Peoria's well-balanced lineup is taking full advantage.
Third baseman Greg Dobbs was resting a sore back for the first week of play, but in the few games he's played in, he's shown two things that they were lacking in his game- power and the ability to take walks.
The 26-year-old showed off both these traits on the 13th when he went 2-for-3 with a solo shot and a walk. A day later, he hit a triple that bounced off the center field wall in the first inning, then scored on a sacrifice fly.
Dobbs' best game thus far game was on Saturday as the Javelinas' starting DH. Leading the offensive attack, the was 3-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored. Most notable was his bases loaded double in the fourth, but it was his two-run single in the ninth that gave the Javelinas the lead over the Scorpions, 8-6. They would go on to win it, 9-6, their first victory in a week.
Dobbs would rank in the top five in average (.417) and slugging (.708) if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
Michael Morse has also stepped up his game a bit, at least from the offensive end of things. In Monday night's game he was 2-for-4 and drove in a run in the first inning to give the team an early lead. Then, in Friday's game, he added three hits, including an RBI triple off the wall, and scored twice.
Perhaps more interesting in that contest was his involvement in one of the rarest defensive feats in the game of baseball- the triple play. With Richard Stahl (BAL) on the mound, Royce Huffman (HOU) lined out to Stahl, who quickly tossed it to second. Morse snatched it, tagged the base, and then threw to first, catching the runner and completing the play. One up, three down.
All has not been perfect with Morse's defense, however, as he committed another error in the previous night's game. Regardless, turning a triple play is a nice way to make up for it.
As for Shin-soo Choo, he's just been doing what he always does- line drive here, stolen base there. A prime example of this came in Monday's game where he was 3-4 with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored, leading a sixteen hit attack. It should come as little surprise that he's fifth in batting average at .407 and third in OBP at .529
Unfortunately, he was also caught twice in that same game and while he's tied for the league lead in stolen bases at four, the success rate thus far is a drop-off from the 81.3% he was putting up during the regular season.
Goff remains confident in the speed of Choo and has even started the 22-year-old in center field a few times. Just don't expect it to be a recurring thing; it's partially to help him get accustomed to playing a corner in larger parks.
Further to the south, the Venezuelan Winter League kicked off this Thursday, and the Mariners are well represented. The first few games haven't produced a great deal of action, but southpaw reliever Cesar Jimenez quickly endeared himself to the fans of the Lara Cardenales by keeping a strong Tigres offense hitless through an inning and two-thirds of work in the season opener.
On the other hand, right-hander Renee Cortez, who has given up three runs in three innings of work thus far on two walks and four hits, including two home runs. The long balls are pretty uncharacteristic for a guy who has only allowed a jack every twelve innings for his career. Cortez will have to focus on getting back to the basics and keeping the ball down.
Look for more VWL action in the coming week, as more hitters and pitchers settle into their roles and the full schedule of games begin.
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