Javier Baez, James Paxton Stand Out In Arizona Fall League Openers

The Arizona Fall League’s 2012 season began on Tuesday with a full slate of games. Among the most impressive debuts was that of one of the league’s youngest players. Cubs’ 2011 first-round pick Javier Baez homered and doubled in his Arizona Fall League debut.

Here’s a look at some of the good, bad and the in-between from the first day of the Arizona Fall League season.

The Good

• Shortstop Javier Baez (Cubs) went 2-for-4 with a home run and double for the most impressive first day in the AFL. Baez did strike out in his other two at-bats. In the field, Baez was involved in only two assists and one putout, but he handled all three opportunities flawlessly.

• Lefthander James Paxton (Mariners) is trying to catch up for some lost time as he missed part of the Southern League season with a calf injury. So far, so good. Paxton was dominating, striking out five while allowing one hit and one walk in three innings. His fastball sat at 92-94 mph and touched 96 mph.

• Despite throwing less than 50 percent strikes, righthander Justin Marks (Royals) threw three scoreless innings, allowing no hits and two walks. Marks wasn't able to match Paxton's velocity, but he did sit at 90-92 mph.

• Right fielder Nick Castellanos (Tigers) went 2-for-5 although he did strike out twice as well. Castellanos continued to show his love of the opposite field, as his two hits went to center and right field.

• Right fielder Kent Matthes’ (Rockies) attempts to put a rough 2012 season behind him got off to a good start, as he went 2-for-4 with a home run. Mathes saw his batting average and on-base percentage both drop by more than 100 points in his move up to Double-A Tulsa this year.

• Shortstop Chris Owings couldn’t match Baez’s production, but it was still quite a good day for the 21-year-old. Owings went 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI.

• Righthander Kevin Rhoderick (Cubs) struck out three of the six batters he faced in a scoreless 1 2/3 innings of work. More importantly, he threw strikes. Rhoderick missed the zone with only five of the 23 pitches he threw. In Double-A this year, Rhoderick, a former Oregon State pitcher, walked 47 batters in 57 2/3 innings. With a 91-93 mph fastball with good life and a solid slider, Rhoderick just needs to throw enough strikes to stay ahead of batters instead of falling behind.

• Right fielder Rymer Liriano (Padres) went 2-for-3 with a double and run scored. Some scouts worried about how Liriano’s approach would play against more advanced pitching, and his numbers did drop off after his promotion to Double-A, so Liriano’s Fall League season will be well worth watching.

• Big Giants lefthander Chris Gloor is a touch-and-feel lefty who lacks a plus pitch but has had some success thanks to his ability to sink the baseball and hit his spots. That was working for him again on Tuesday as he struck out five in four scoreless innings.

• First baseman Andy Wilkins (White Sox) homered.

The Bad

• Lefthander Eric Eadington (Dodgers) gave up home runs to Matthes and Wilkins in one inning of work. The inning could have been worse, but Eadington did pick a runner off of first base and worked with catcher Brian Ward to throw out Trayce Thompson trying to steal.

• Lefthander Santos Rodriguez (White Sox) walked two batters, gave up two hits and threw a pair of wild pitches.

Didi Gregorius (Reds) is considered the best defensive shortstop in the Reds system but on Tuesday he committed a pair of errors where he couldn’t field balls smoothly.

• Command troubles ruined righthander Dellin Betances' (Yankees) 2012 regular season. His command wasn’t any better in his first AFL outing. Betances threw 13 strikes in 28 pitches while giving up a pair of walks, a double to Max Stassi and a pair of runs in 1 2/3 innings.

And The So-So

• Righthander Jarred Cosart (Astros) threw plenty of strikes (31 in 50 pitches) and struck out two, but he also allowed two of the three baserunners who reached against him to score.

• Righthander Tony Zych (Cubs) struck out the only batter he faced on three pitches.

• Designated hitter Mike O’Neill (Cardinals) drew a pair of walks, which is pretty much par for the course for the leadoff hitter who led the minors in on-base percentage this year. He did strike out once, which was a very rare occurrence during the regular season.