With just two weeks remaining in the Arizona Fall League campaign, the Salt River Rafters continue to win. They're 8-2 in their last ten games, and with a 15-5-3 record hold a 4.5 game lead over the second place team in the East division. The Rafters will take on that opponent tonight, the Mesa Solar Sox, and the game will be streamed live on MLB.com at 7:35pm central.
How have our boys done so far? Here are the stat lines.
Because of how the schedule has fallen since our last update, there have been just three games played. Last week's review was later than usual due to my vacation, Saturday was the Fall Stars Game, and there aren't any AFL games on Sundays, so the changes have been fewer this time around.
Still, it's worth making note of four players.
Jones made one relief appearance and looked like he was back on the horse after a couple of difficult trips to the hill. In Thursday's contest he pitched one inning, striking out two and issuing a walk. The command is an issue that's worth watching after his blowup the previous Thursday, but in a small sample size one really great or one really poor game can really skew numbers as they relate to the overall performance. It was just good to see Jones pick up a couple of strikeouts, his first in two weeks, and hopefully we'll be talking a lot about him as 2015 wears on.
While he hasn't made an appearance for the Rafters since our last update, Reed was one of two Twins prospects playing in Saturday's Fall Stars Game. He came on for the seventh innings with a 5-2 lead and didn't allow a run. Nick Williams lined out on a 2-1 pitch, Justin O'Conner rolled over for an easy groundout, Jace Peterson went up the middle for a two-out single, and then Kyle Waldrop (not THAT Kyle Waldrop) grounded back to Reed who threw on to first for the final out of the inning.
One thing that was apparent was that Reed is confident working up in the strike zone. He threw 13 pitches to four batters, and just three of them were at the knees or lower. Five were at belly button level or higher. All four batters put a ball in play, and all four were either at the belt or higher. You have to like the confidence, but as we've seen from previous Twins pitchers who like to work up in the zone (Phil Hughes this year, Scott Baker in the past) it's a strategy that can bite back if pitches stray a little lower than desired.
The hits just keep on coming. Kepler's only game since the last update was yesterday's win for the Rafters, where Kepler was 2-for-4. He's hitting the ball hard, he's tallied a few extra-base hits, he's taking walks - it's great to see him doing so well.
In the absence of Byron Buxton from the Fall Stars Game, Rosario was given a spot and started the game in left field. He was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and a walk.
But in the Rafters' season, he continues to rake. His hitting streak is up to eight games, and he's added a double, stolen base, and run batted in. He's hitting right-handed pitchers well in the AFL, but in 17 at-bats versus lefties he's collected eight hits (.471 batting average) with a pair of doubles. It's unfortunate that Buxton has experienced another injury, but Kepler and Rosario are giving position player lovers plenty to cheer about as the AFL season wears on.