AFL Wrapup: Nick Castellanos’ Great Start Continues

Here's a look at Thursday's AFL action.

The Good:

• Righthander Kyle Gibson (Twins) return from Tommy John surgery took an encouraging turn. Gibson struck out eight in five scoreless innings. BA correspondent Peter Wardell reports from the game that Gibson was able to run his 92-94 mph fastball up and in on righthanders, breaking a couple of bats. He also showed an effective 84-86 mph slider that was a very useful out pitch. Wardell also shot some video from Gibson's outing.

• Righthander Seth Blair (Cardinals) missed most of the 2012 season after having surgery to remove a tumor from above the knuckle on the middle finger of his pitching hand. So for Blair, the Arizona Fall League is a chance to get back some of the innings he missed during the regular season. His first outing was an encouraging sign. Blair allowed one hit and one unearned run while walking two and striking out five in three innings of work. His fastball sat at 91-93 mph, touching 96.

• Outfielder Mike O'Neill (Cardinals) just keeps doing what he does, which is working counts, drawing walks and generally making himself a pest to pitchers. O'Neill had a pair of hits and two walks in five plate appearances. He also stole a base. In two games O'Neill is hitting .400 with four walks and a .667 on-base percentage.

Nick Tropeano (Astros) struck out three in two perfect innings of work. Tropeano's 92-94 mph fastball helped get him ahead of hitters, but two of his three strikeouts came on his changeup.

• Rightfielder Cesar Puello (Mets) is another prospect using the Fall League to catch up for missed time. Puello went 2-for-5 with his second steal in two games.

• The first week of the AFL has had a theme of big first baseman picking up surprising triples. On Wednesday it was Jonathan Singleton (Astros) with a triple and on Thursday it was Donald Lutz (Reds). Lutz managed to pick up the triple despite losing his shoe rounding first base. He also had a pair of singles.

• Catcher Mike Zunino (Mariners) went 0-for-3 with a walk at the plate, but he did throw out shortstop Hak-Ju Lee (Rays) attempting to steal. Wardell recorded Zunino's pop time as 1.93 on the caught stealing.

• Second baseman Carlos Sanchez (White Sox) had three hits in four at-bats, raising his average to .571. White Sox teammate first baseman Andy Wilkins went 3-for-5.

• Lefthander Grant Dayton (Marlins) struck out the side in one inning of work. Dayton struggled to hit his spots, but his fastball had enough movement that he was able to swings and misses on pitch in the zone.

• Right fielder Rymer Liriano (Padres) had two more hits and two RBIs, raising his average to .444. He also stole his second base in two games.

• Right fielder Nick Castellanos (Tigers) continued his excellent start to his AFL season. Castellanos took an Edwin Carl (Royals) curveball and launched it over the center field fence in the ninth inning to give his Mesa club a victory.

The Bad

• Righthander Dae-Eun Rhee (Cubs) didn't fool a lot of hitters in the Southern League this year–he gave up 168 hits in 142 innings. The story was much of the same on Thursday. With a fastball that sat at 89-92 mph, Rhee gave up six hits and two runs in two innings.

• Wardell reports that it was a rough day behind the plate for J.T. Realmuto (Marlins). He went 0-for-3 at the plate, but his rougher work came behind the plate. When attempting to throw out Nate Roberts (Twins) at third base on a double steal, his throw bounced in front of the bag and skipped into left field, allowing Roberts and Didi Gregorius (Reds) to score. He also gave up a wild pitch on a Scott McGough (Marlins) slider that skipped off his shoulder pad, which allowed Liriano to score.

• Designated hitter Brian Fletcher (Royals) struck out in four his five at-bats.

• Lefthander Brian Flynn (Marlins) threw plenty of strikes (23 in 28 pitches), but maybe he needs to miss the zone a little bit more. Flynn gave up five hits and two runs in three innings of work.

Wardell is tweeting from Arizona Fall League games. Follow him at @peter_wardell.