SCOTTSDALE—With each passing game, Victor Reyes continues to impress in the Arizona Fall League.
Reyes went 2-for-4 with a double, a run, two RBIs and a stolen base and made a diving, game-saving catch in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday night, leading Salt River to a 7-6 win over Scottsdale in 11 innings.
The switch-hitting Diamondbacks outfielder raised his AFL slash line to .313/.333/.422 with the performance. It was his fifth multi-hit effort in his last 10 games.
"He just keeps raising his level of play to his competition, which is great to see," said Salt River manager J.R. House, who was also Reyes' manager the last two seasons at high Class A Visalia and Double-A Jackson. "He has a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. He always ends up having nice numbers offensively."
Reyes signed with the Braves for $365,000 in 2011 and was traded to the Diamondbacks for a competitive balance round B pick in 2015.
At every level, in both organizations, he has hit. The 23-year-old Venezuelan entered the Fall League with a career .298 batting average and .347 on-base percentage in six minor league seasons.
To further enhance his offensive game, Reyes prioritized becoming better basetsealer in the Fall League.
It's been so far so good. Reyes' stolen base in the seventh inning gave him eight steals in nine tries in the AFL.
"I'm just trying my best to be aggressive on the bases," Reyes said through a translator, "and it's paid off."
Power is the final piece of Reyes' offensive puzzle. Physical with long levers at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, Reyes has only 12 career home runs.
However, he showed there is plenty of thump in his bat with a screaming double off the wall in right-center against Reds righthander Wendolyn Bautista in the third inning, a lined shot that pounded the fence loud enough the impact could be heard all the way back behind home plate. The blistering knock brought in two runs to give the Rafters an early lead.
"The funny thing is, he only hit four (home runs) this year, but the ones that he hit, I mean they were crushed. Like big-time power," House said. "It just doesn't happen very often."
Reyes' offense provided plenty of highlights, but it was his defense that made the biggest impact. With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and the bases loaded, Reyes made a tremendous diving catch along the left-field foul line to prevent Angels outfielder Troy Montgomery's blooper from falling in. Instead of the game-winning run trotting home, Reyes' grab sent the game to extra innings, where Salt River was able to eke out a win.
"I was really just focused on the game, focused on the moment, focused on trying to make every single play that came my way," Reyes said. "I was focused in that instant and made the play."
With consistent contact, effective speed and highlight-reel play in the outfield, Reyes has emerged as one of the AFL's top performers this fall, and made himself a player to watch moving forward.
"I don't know what it evolves to," House said. "You'd like to be able see him be more than just a fourth outfielder. He's a switch hitter that can run and has those tough ABs. He's going to write his own ticket as far as he goes, but he has all the tools you want in a Major League Baseball player."
NEWS AND NOTES
—Reds third baseman Taylor Sparks continued his torrid stretch, blasting a first-inning home run well beyond the fence in left field, where it is 360 feet down the line. It was Sparks' third homer in his last five games and his third multi-hit effort in his last five contests, too.
—The longest home run of the night belonged to Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander. The 23-year-old dropped the bat head for a titanic, mesmerizing blast down the right-field line that cleared the elevated tower at the edge of the ballpark and left the stadium entirely. It was Santander's first home run in 16 AFL games.
—Brewers outfielder Corey Ray drove in the winning run in the 11th inning when he drilled a hanging breaking ball from Reds lefthander Brennan Bernardino the opposite way into the left-center gap, scoring Ryan Mountcastle and giving Ray an RBI double. The knock extended Ray's AFL hitting streak to 10 games.
—Matt Thaiss made three sharp plays at first base, including a diving stop to his right in the fourth inning and a nifty scoop on a bad throw from Kyle Holder to end the top of the ninth. Thaiss, who caught in college at Virginia but was moved to first base when the Angels drafted him 16th overall in 2016, is wrapping up his first full season as a first baseman.