AFL Season Recap
This past Saturday the Scottsdale Scorpions were able to hold off the Peoria Javelinas by a 3-2 score in the finale of the 2010 Arizona Fall League season. The Scorpions won the AFL Championship behind a number of strong performances from prospects sent to the league by the Washington Nationals. Top prospect and 2010 #1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper drove in a run with a second inning RBI single. Starting pitcher Sammy Solis, 2010 second round draft pick and Arizona native, pitched four solid innings allowing only three hits for the win. Shortstop and the recipient of the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award Steve Lombardozzi drove in the winning run with a double in the bottom of the fourth inning. The trio, along with catcher Derek Norris, made up a sizeable portion of the Scorpions starting lineup and were all vital to the game’s final outcome and provided some hope for the Nationals going ahead into the future.
In addition to the standout performances in the AFL finale by the Nationals’ prospects, there were a number of other impressive performances across the league over the past few weeks. Considering the AFL is the hands down home for the most premier talent amongst all of the winter leagues, let’s recap the other notable things that took place this season.
Seattle Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley was honored with the AFL’s MVP award after leading the league in numerous offensive categories: .424 batting average, .581 on base percentage, .758 slugging percentage, 1.338 OPS, and 28 runs scored. He was also 5 for 5 in stolen base attempts. Ackley, who was drafted #2 overall in 2009, struggled at the onset of his first professional season but was able to not only turn that performance around but climb quickly through Seattle’s minor league system. He would reach AAA Tacoma by year’s end which is where he will likely begin the 2011 campaign. Ackley will come to Spring Training with a chance to win the starting job for the Mariners but it’s likely that the team will give him a few weeks of additional seasoning before handing the job over to him.
Lombardozzi, who as I mentioned previously took home the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, was a 19th round pick in the 2008 draft. He has moved slowly through Washington’s minor leagues, only reaching AA Harrisburg in the last month of the 2010 season. The switch hitter batted .293/.385/.439 in Arizona which is remarkably consistent with his line in each stop he’s made throughout his minor league career. The award he won has been given out annually since 2004 to the player that exhibits superior sportsmanship, unselfishness, hard work, and leadership. It is named in honor of Dernell Stenson who was tragically murdered during the 2003 AFL season in an attempted car-jacking.
Typically speaking the league is usually a haven for hitters and a struggle for pitchers. But from a statistical standpoint there some interesting names atop the league leaders. Toronto Blue Jays left hander Mark Rzepczynski, while technically no longer a prospect due to his time with Toronto this season, led the league with a 1.16 ERA over 31.0 innings pitched (which also led the league). He also tied for the lead with 4 wins, sharing the spot with San Francisco lefty Ryan Verdugo, Arizona righty Josh Collmenter, Cleveland lefty Scott Barnes, and Oakland righty Travis Banwart. Detroit’s 2010 first round draft pick Chance Ruffin led all relievers with 4 saves. Collmenter and Tampa Bay right Alex Cobb led the way with 30 strikeouts apiece.
Offensively we know that Ackley took the top spot in many categories. Minnesota outfielder Ben Revere led the way with 13 stolen bases without getting caught once. Pittsburgh’s Andrew Lambo and Arizona’s Mark Krauss tied for the lead with 23 RBI apiece. Toronto’s Adam Loewen and San Francisco’s Conor Gillaspie led the way with 5 home runs.
Finally, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo polled a number of the scouts that were consistently in attendance as the league’s season progressed. He came up with a list of 20 names who truly stood out over the course of the season. The list is definitely worth a look as it contains some interesting names, some of which we may see in a Major League uniform sometime during the 2011 season.