AFL Update: Week One

While everyone's focus in Detroit is on the Tigers, one of the few things Tiger fans typically have to follow right now is the club's representatives in the Arizona Fall League, a group of players that typically will be looking to crack the big league club come spring time. How are the Tigers showing for Phoenix Desert Dogs through week one?

Brent Clevlen hasn't had a great start, but on Monday he had his first big showing, going 1-for-3, with a solo home run, two walks and two runs scored. Clevlen, who has actually been getting a lot of work in center field, now leads the team with seven runs scored. And while no one will confuse Clevlen with a leadoff hitter, his continued patience is encouraging. His .200 average isn't quite there, but with only a handful of at bats, it's hard to be too disappointed this early.

Meanwhile, Clevlen's teammate at Erie, Kody Kirkland has continued the status quo of hitting for plenty of power, but making very little contact in the process. In 12 at bats, Kirkland has three hits, all three of which were doubles. His extra base hit power, along with taking a pair of walks, has left Kirkland with a .900 OPS early on in the season.

The final position player for the Desert Dogs from the Tiger organization is catcher Mike Rabelo, who after a strong '06 season, will likely be looking to make a push for big league playing time next season. Rabelo has gotten just one hit so far in seven at bats, but as always, with such a small sample size, it's difficult to find much to fault, especially when he closed out the first week tied for the team lead in RBI with three.

On top of the three position players, the Tigers also have four pitchers getting work in with the Sea Dogs, including one of the organization's top pitching prospects; Jordan Tata. Tata gave up a run over three innings in his first start, and topped that off with five strikeouts; but he still took the loss.

Virgil Vasquez also is working as a starter, but his first outing was ugly to say the least. Vasquez gave up eight runs, all earned, while making it through just an inning and two-thirds before heading to the showers – certainly not the type of showing the Tigers were hoping for in his first go of it.

Preston Larrison had been a starter throughout his career as a pitcher, but recently, the Tigers had been having him work out of the ‘pen, and he's continued that in the AFL. He's been solid so far, making a pair of appearances, allowing one run in over those two innings of work. The key for Larrison this fall will be to learn how to effectively retire hitters, especially when just facing a few, after not having the same stuff he did a few years ago.

The final member of the group is Corey Hamman, who remains a sleeper prospect in the organization, despite not having the name recognition of a number of other prospects. After two scoreless appearances, Hamman gave up his first earned run on Monday, allowing a run on two hits in his third inning of work this fall, bumping his ERA up to a flat 3.0.

As a quick note for the overall team, the Phoenix Sea Dogs currently sport a 3-3 record, putting them in first place in the East division. They've wrapped up the first week of their five week season, which ends on November 16th.


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