Scout’s View: AFL Opening Day

Therron Brockish has more than 20 years of experience as a college coach and as an amateur scout. He served as an assistant coach at Wayne State, Ball State and Arizona Christian and as head coach at Iowa Western CC, and he worked for six years as an area scout with the Philadelphia Phillies, signing big leaguers Jason Donald, Tuffy Gosewisch and Lou Marson during that time. Now he’s sharing his scouting expertise with Baseball America readers throughout the Arizona Fall League schedule.


GLENDALE, Ariz.—With the excitement of the Major League playoffs in full force, the Arizona Fall League kicked off Tuesday in three Major League spring training stadiums.

Despite experimental rules implemented by MLB to speed up the game, the 2014 AFL opened in typical fashion as the Mesa Solar Sox and Glendale Desert Dogs combined for 12 runs, 18 hits and 3 errors in a game that took two hours, 44 minutes. Glendale came out on top, 9-3.

The only thing atypical about the game was the weather. Temperatures in the low-mid-100-degree range are the norm for 12:35 p.m. starts in early October in Arizona. Cloud cover with a slight chance of rain meant a game-time temperature of 90 degrees, 10-15 degrees cooler than normal. Scouts and fans are usually searching for the small shaded areas where the awning extends into the stands for the early part of the AFL season, but on Tuesday those groups sat in the lower levels near home plate.

Pregame

Pregame starts nearly three hours before the first pitch as the home team opens with infield practice followed by batting practice. The visiting team then has batting practice for 45 minutes followed by their infield routine, approximately 50 minutes prior to first pitch. Gates are opened 60 minutes prior to game time with autograph seekers scurrying to the outfield railing along each line to catch the players before they head into the clubhouse. The demographics of fans at the games are a mixture of scouts, retirees and fans seeking autographs from the next wave of major leaguers. Tuesday’s attendance was approximately 125.

Game

Chris Bassitt (Photo by Bill Mitchell).

Chris Bassitt (Photo by Bill Mitchell).

Tuesday’s game at Glendale opened with a hometown pitcher, Zach Davies (Orioles) from Gilbert, Ariz., taking the mound for the Desert Dogs. Two errors in the first three hitters put Davies in a jam but he managed to work out of the first inning without allowing a run. However, Davies’ command was off and three walks and a hit led to two earned runs and an early exit in the second inning for the Arizona product.

Enter Chris Bassitt (White Sox) whose fastball checked in at 94-95 mph with a hard 85-87 slider. Bassitt pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing the Desert Dogs’ offense to get going. Corey Seager (Dodgers) picked up where he left off as the 2014 Cal League MVP. Seager laced two doubles with runners on base and walked twice as he showed good plate discipline and didn’t miss pitches in his strike zone.

The other offensive star for Glendale hit behind Seager: first baseman Steven Moya (Tigers). The lefthanded Moya showed a smooth stroke and proved that Solar Sox pitchers should not throw inside to him as he hit three lasers into right field for two singles and a double and three RBIs.

Jason Esposito (Orioles) hit the first homer of the AFL season with a line drive that barely got over the left field fence. He also had a triple to deep center.

Meanwhile, Desert Dogs pitchers slammed the door with six shutout inning from the third to eighth innings. Parker Bridwell (Orioles) relieved Bassitt and was equally as dominant. Bridwell’s fastball sat 94-96 with an 82-83 mph slurve and an effective change. He pitched two innings of no-hit baseball. Brooks Hall (Brewers) and Zac Reininger (Tigers) both flashed fastballs up to 93 with each pitching an inning of no-hit baseball.

For the Solar Sox, starter Felipe Rivero (Nationals) showed good stuff with a fastball range of 94-96 and an 89 mph cutter, but the lefthander’s command was his demise as he walked two hitters and left his fastball in the middle of the plate too often as hitters capitalized on balls up and over the middle. Solar Sox reliever Mark Sappington (Angels) showed the best velocity of the game with his fastball touching 97 with two strikeouts in one inning of relief for the Sox.

Offensively, the Solar Sox could manage only four hits, with just one extra base hit.