AFL Wrap Up: Desert Dogs Victorious

The Arizona Fall League wrapped up on Sunday, and it ended on a good note for the Tigers; as the Phoenix Desert Dogs clinched the AFL title on Sunday afternoon. How'd the season end up for the Tigers down in the desert?

The Desert Dogs won the league title on Sunday afternoon, pulling out a 6-2 victory over the Grand Canyon Rafters. And who helped lead the way? None other than the Tigers own Virgil Vasquez and Brent Clevlen.

Clevlen had a pair of hits and three RBI; a two-run, two-out single in the fifth that added to the Desert Dogs lead, and a solo home run in the eighth that put the exclamation mark on the victory. Vasquez picked up the win as the starter, giving up a run over five innings of work, including just two hits, no walks, and four strikeouts.

Clevlen didn't have a great fall season, finishing up the season with a .250/.384/.326 line. Certainly, the Tigers were pleased with his patience at the plate, but concern continues to surround Clevlen's power production. Everyone can see that he has the power swing, but he's struggled at times to replicate that and make adjustments at the plate. Clevlen still has a bright future and is one of the organization's top prospects, but the Tigers expect more than three extra base hits in nearly 100 at bats.

Vasquez meanwhile had one shaky start to begin the fall season, and then was dominant from that point forward. After getting rocked in his debut outing, giving up eight runs in 1 2/3 innings, Vasquez pitched 24 straight shutout innings. It's no coincidence that his performance from that point forward was a big reason why he got the ball with the championship on the line. With more than six strikeouts per nine innings, and a nearly 4:1 K:BB ratio, Vasquez certainly made his case for not being overlooked in the Tigers' wealth of pitching in the minors.

After a hot start, Kody Kirkland faded as the season went on, finishing up the year with a flat .200 average and an OPS of just .675. Kirkland, who spent his time at third base, also led the team in errors with seven, increasing the possibility that Kirkland will see a position shift in the next year or so, as he simply has not been able to turn the corner defensively at the hot corner. Kirkland still display his power though; he was tied for 4th on the team with eight extra base hits.

Finally, Mike Rabelo's fall season didn't last long, as he made just two appearances before leaving the team.

Plenty has been said about how impressive Virgil Vasquez was in his AFL performance, but Jordan Tata wasn't a slouch either. Tata went 1-2, but sported a 2.63 ERA over his six starts, putting him second among starters in ERA on the team. Tata remains a strong possibility to make the Tigers' roster out of spring training (and for good this time).

Corey Hamman was used as one of the team's reliable middle relievers, and showed the ability to adapt to that role, despite being shifted from the rotation to the bullpen and back throughout his career. Hamman had a 2.77 ERA over 15 appearances, and averaged 7.6 K's over 9 innings.

Preston Larrison's adjustment to the bullpen didn't go quite as well, as his ERA was 6.17 for the season, over 13 appearances. Larrison's WHIP was high (1.89), and he had just nine strikeouts compared to six walks. It certainly was a fall league to forget for Preston.

And while that wraps up the Arizona Fall League, there is plenty of baseball still to be played, as the Venezuelan and Dominican Winter Leagues get underway. And as always, TigsTown will be providing up-to-date coverage of the Tiger prospects participating throughout the baseball landscape.

Paul Wezner is the founder and Senior Editor of You can contact him at

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