Now that we’re a full week into the Arizona Fall League as well as the Mexican and Venezuelan winter leagues, we have some performances, injuries, and news items that are worth noting. At the very least, it should give you something to read while ignoring the latest installment of the Conan Blimp.
In AFL action, Michael Taylor of the A’s has come out of the gate with a bang, showing off the power that he displayed last season but apparently got lost somewhere along his travels from Philadelphia to Toronto to Oakland last off-season. He’s posted a .421/.522/.842 line through five games this fall, already slugging two home runs. Taylor hit a disappointing six homers this season after pounding 20 and 19 in the previous two years, respectively. He’s tied for the early AFL lead with Giants second base prospect Charlie Culberson, who leads the league in total bases. None of them are to be outdone, however, by Ben Revere, the Twins outfield prospect who is off to a red-hot start, going 12-for-23 in his first six games, and stealing four bases in the process.
In the past, the AFL has at times been known known as a haven for hitters, leaving pitchers susceptible to offensive onslaughts and box scores that look like they came via metal bats. So far this fall, however, pitchers are holding their own, with some downright excelling in the warm, hitter-friendly climate. As week two of the season begins and pitchers have had their second turn in the rotation come around, Alex Cobb of the Rays has been among the most impressive of those toeing the rubber. Cobb has posted a 1.29 ERA through seven innings of work, striking out seven batters along the way, after an impressive season in Double-A.
Some teams use the AFL as a chance to get new draftees into game action if they signed too late to appear in regular season leagues. Chance Ruffin of the Tigers falls into that category, making his first professional appearances while serving as the closer for the Surprise Rafters, but getting touched up for four earned runs in three appearances so far. The Reds used a similar tactic with Mike Leake last year, and it led to a spot in their rotation.
Also slated to make his first professional appearance today is Bryce Harper. After a successful stint in the instructional league, the Nationals have added Harper to the taxi squad of the Scottsdale Scorpions, meaning Harper will be with the team throughout the remainder of the AFL season, but is only eligible to play in games on Wednesdays and Saturdays, unless someone on the regular roster gets injured. Harper, who just turned 18 last weekend, is a year-and-a-half younger than the next youngest player in the league.