Nov 142013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-21Arizona-Fall-League-2013-22Arizona-Fall-League-2013-23
Steven Souza Jr. homers off Alex Meyer in the 2nd inning to give Mesa the early 2-0 lead (Photo Credit: Lee Magenheim)

The race for the Arizona Fall League East Divison title will come down to the final day of the season, as Mesa edged Glendale, 3-2 and Salt River paddled Scottsdale, 8-5.

Steve Souza’s two-run blast was the catalyst for the victory and came off former teammate Alex Meyer in their first matchup as opponents, as the two never faced each other this season in the Eastern League. It was the sole hit for the 24-y.o. who finished the game at 1-for-4 with a strikeout and extended his hit streak to seven games.

Matt Skole also appeared in the game, playing third base where he had a putout and two assists. He would score what would prove to be the decisive run a fourth-inning triple that the Desert Dogs misplayed into a Little League HR with an error. Skole also singled in the 2nd inning to go 2-for-3 for the game with a walk and a strikeout.

Richie Mirowski gave up the first Glendale run in the 5th on a double, wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly but struck out two of the final three batters he faced. It was just the third run he’s allowed in nine appearances this fall.

The win, which was Mesa’s fifth straight, improved the Solar Sox to 18-11-1 but just a 1/2 game better than the 18-12 Rafters. In head-to-head play, Salt River has defeated Mesa four times in six games. An 11-inning-tie between the Solar Sox and the Desert Dogs on Opening Day is what separates the top two teams in the AFL East.

As speculated earlier this week, Sammy Solis will be given the start today as Mesa visits Glendale for the season finale. A Solar Sox win or a Rafters loss will clinch a spot in the AFL Championship game, which will be held Saturday in Scottsdale against the AFL West-winning Surprise Sagauros.

Nov 092013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-19With five runs scored early and another solid outing from Sammy Solis, the Solar Sox snapped a three-game skid with a 6-1 win over the Saguaros.

Solis went four and 1/3rd innings, leaving with one out in the 5th after letting up two of the five singles he allowed. He would finish with one run allowed, one walk, and five strikeouts. He threw 74 pitches, 48 for strikes and earned his fourth win.

Kenny Faulk, the first man out of the Mesa ‘pen couldn’t strand both runners, walking the first two batters he faced to force in the lone Surprise run. Adrian Nieto bailed him out with a pickoff at first to squash the rally as the Tigers farmhand got the final out with a flyball to left.

Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole joined Nieto in the starting lineup.

Goodwin continues to blister the ball, going 3-for-4 with a stand-up triple and two RBIs while playing centerfield, where he played error-free and made three putouts.

Skole was the DH but whiffed three times and walked once. He now has 17K’s in 14 games and is hitting .152 (7-for-46) though he’s drawn 14 walks (tied for 3rd) to maintain a respectable .350 on-base percentage.

Nieto singled once — just his third hit against a LHP — and struck out twice in five ABs. He gave up his first passed ball of the fall but had six putouts.

The Solar Sox finish out the week with rematch against the Saguaros this afternoon in Surprise. Matt Purke (2-1, 3.79) is scheduled to make his sixth and perhaps final start, opposed by Cleveland prospect Will Roberts (0-1, 5.31).

Nov 082013
 

Arizona Fall League 19Just one Nationals farmhand got into yesterday’s game in the Arizona Fall League, in which the Solar Sox dropped a third straight game, losing 5-4 in 11 innings to Glendale.

Matt Skole batted fourth but went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts to drop his AFL average to .125 (4-for-32) in 13 games. He played first base and handled all ten chances, making nine putouts and one assist.

The loss drops Mesa to 13-11-1, just a ½ game ahead of second-place Salt River. Sammy Solis is scheduled to start this afternoon as the Solar Sox host the Saguaros, who have the AFL’s best record at 16-8 and lead the AFL West by 4½ games with six games left on the slate.

Nov 062013
 

Baseball America for NPPNo sense vamping when this list has probably been tweeted dozens of times by now. (Last year’s revised ranking in parentheses.)

1. Lucas Giolio, RHP (2)
2. A.J. Cole, RHP (4)
3. Brian Goodwin, CF (3)
4. Matt Skole, 1B/3B (5)
5. Robbie Ray, LHP (–)
6. Sammy Solis, LHP (9)
7. Michael Taylor, CF (–)
8. Jake Johansen, RHP (’13 Draft Pick)
9. Nathan Karns, RHP (6)
10. Steve Souza, OF (–)

Frankly, I was initially confused as to how an injured position player and a coming-off-surgery pitcher could move up in the rankings. This, of course, is no disrespect to them, but simple logic dictates that getting hurt and/or losing a year of development is the kind of thing that drops your stock, not improves it. This was Fitt’s answer to my question about that rationale for ranking them higher in 2014 than 2013:

I think Skole is in the same No. 4* slot he was last year (and remember that Anthony Rendon graduated to the big leagues). I did not dock Skole for being hurt — it was a fluke injury, and he returned strong this fall. I still think he’s a quality power-hitting prospect, and I ranked him accordingly. As for Solis, I got very encouraging reports on him coming off that surgery, and I expect him to move very quickly next year (assuming he can stay healthy — which is a legitimate question, given his track record). At this point, I think he has a better chance to stick as a big league starter than Karns, who strikes me as more of a power reliever ultimately. So I moved Solis ahead of Karns. I can’t say I’m overly excited about any of those guys — Solis is 25 now and still has yet to reach Double-A, after all. I don’t think this is a great top 10 after the top of the list, although I do like some of the depth in the 11-30 range.
* Skole was initially ranked #4 in December 2012, then moved to #5 when BA revised the list in March 2013

I give Fitt credit answering honestly, particularly in remarking about how the talent thins out rapidly after the first few guys, which has been the case for about two years now. For those wondering, Fitt said that he wrestled with a cluster of Tony Renda, Matt Purke, Billy Burns, and Zach Walters before deciding upon Souza for the #10 spot. There are certainly arguments that can be made for any of those five against the other four and it may be bit revealing of your personal biases, too. Fitt, it appears, likes Souza’s five-tool promise over Burns’s speed, Purke’s LHSP capabilities, Renda’s bat/eye, Walter’s power, etc.

One new wrinkle to this year’s rankings is a list of the Top 15 players under the age of 25, which you can find in the free article along with a list of the best tools, prospects of the year and top draft picks from the past 10 years. And of course, the top bonuses paid, for which Robin Leach Fitt remains enamored of the decision of the Nationals to spend heavily just as they were hitting rock bottom.

The projections for where the 2014 Top 10 will begin (or finish) next season were as follows:
AAA – Cole, Goodwin, Karns, Souza
AA – Skole, Ray, Solis, Taylor
Low-A – Giolito
Not specified – Johansen

I personally believe Cole will probably return to Harrisburg and be moved up in May or June; likewise for Johansen with Hagerstown as his starting point — but lately the Nats have been more aggressive, so it could be Syracuse and Potomac, respectively. As mentioned in the comments, where a prospect starts is not nearly as important as where he finishes.

Nov 062013
 

A seven-run 3rd put the Solar Sox up the creek as they were paddled by the Rafters, 7-0 last night in Arizona.

Mesa collected just four singles while committing five errors and hitting into four double plays. Two Nationals position players and one reliever got into the game:

  • Matt Skole started at 3B and batted 5th. He singled in three trips to the plate and collected one assist and one putout (both in the 8th inning)
  • Adrian Nieto started at C and batted 8th. He also went 1-for-3 and picked off a runner at first base in the 2nd inning. He finished with two assists and seven putouts.
  • Richie Mirowski pitched the final two innings, giving up a run on two hits and a walk. He struck out one and threw 35 pitches, 22 for strikes.

With the loss, Mesa’s lead over second-place Salt River returns to 1½ games with eight to play… and no more matchups between the two teams. The Solar Sox host the Desert Dogs this afternoon, then travel to Glendale tomorrow. They return to Mesa on Friday to play against the Surprise Saguaros, which is the next scheduled start for Sammy Solis.

Nov 022013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-2Sammy Solis gave up two unearned runs in the top of the 1st and the Solar Sox were unable to catch up, losing to the Javelinas by a score of 5-4.

The 25-y.o. southpaw went four full innings, allowing three hits and one walk total. He struck out four and hit a batter and threw 71 pitches, 40 for strikes.

Matt Skole batted cleanup and played first base, but went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. He had two putouts and two assists and made no errors.

Adrian Nieto caught and hit sixth but was also hitless. Two bases were stolen against him and the Mesa pitchers, who struck out 11 for all of Nieto’s putouts.

Steven Souza Jr., the newest member of the Washington 40-man roster, followed Nieto in the lineup in the seven spot and went 1-for-4 with a run scored and a strikeout. He played centerfield and snagged three flyballs.

The loss, combined with a Salt River win, narrows the gap between first and second place to just 1½ games with 10 to go for the fall campaign. The Solar Sox return to action next week as they take on the Rafters on Monday and Tuesday.

Oct 312013
 

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Three Nationals farmhands combined for four hits and three RBI as Mesa stopped a three-game slide with a 7-0 shutout of Scottsdale.

Brian Goodwin, the #1 Washington prospect according to MLB.com, led off and played centerfield. Offensively, He went 2-for-5 with a run scored, a double and an RBI single. Defensively, he had no putouts or assists.

Matt Skole ended an 0-for-13 sequence with a second-inning bomb that scored teammate Steve Souza Jr. ahead of him. He finished at 1-for-4 for the game and had 14 putouts at first base, but committed his first error on a missed catch.

Souza, who has hit safely in six of seven games this fall, singled once in five trips to the plate and struck out twice. He caught four flyballs while patrolling left field.

Richie Mirowski was the first man out of the Solar Sox ‘pen and worked around three singles in his two scoreless innings pitched, striking out two.

The two teams switch venues and rematch in Mesa this afternoon. A loss by the second-place Salt River returned the margin between the Rafters and the Solar Sox to 2½ games with 12 games left to play.

Oct 292013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-2013-5Mesa rallied for two in the bottom of the 8th cut a three-run deficit to one, but could get no closer in a 3-2 loss to Salt River.

Just two Nationals got into the game yesterday — Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole.

Goodwin returned to his usual spots in the lineup (No. 2) and the field (CF) and went 1-for-3 — one of just five hits the Solar Sox managed against the Rafters — but was caught stealing. Defensively, the Nats top outfield prospect had three putouts and no assists.

Skole’s tailspin continued with an 0-for-3 game, though he did draw a walk while batting 8th. The 24-y.o. corner IF is hitless (0-for-12) in his last four games. He played third base and had one putout (foul popup to end the 4th) and one assist (groundout to end the 5th).

The loss shaves Mesa’s lead over second-place Salt River to 2½ games with the two teams rematching tonight in Salt River. Matt Purke is scheduled to make his fourth start of the fall season.

Oct 282013
 

With an off day on Sunday, here’s a little something extra from our intrepid photographer, Lee Magenheim. Naturally, the focus of the updates is on the game action, but the players will talk about the extra coaching they receive. Here’s a glimpse at some of what Lee saw last week in the mornings.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-1Adrian Nieto, working with Cubs coach (and former catcher) Brian Harper.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-2
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-3Steve Souza Jr., working out at 1B.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-4Matt Skole getting ready to hit.
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-5Lord, please deliver me from the those convenience-store breakfast burritos I ate this morning…
Scenes-From-Arizona-2013-6

Oct 272013
 

Arizona-Fall-League-13Surprise struck for three runs twice while holding Mesa to four hits in a 6-1 Solar Sox loss to close out the week.

A total of five Nationals got into the game yesterday:

• Sammy Solis started and took the loss, giving up the first three runs in the 1st and finishing with six hits allowed over three innings. He walked one and struck out two, tossing 61 pitches with 40 going for strikes.

• Robert Benincasa (pictured) also pitched, setting the side down in order in the 9th while recording a strikeout.

• Brian Goodwin batted leadoff as the DH. He singled once and struck out twice in four AB’s.

• Matt Skole took the No. 6 slot in the lineup but went just 0-for-2 with a walk. Defensively, he played 1B and took part in two DP’s, including a 3-6-3 number in the 8th.

• Steve Souza Jr. followed Skole in the lineup and went 1-for-3 but was caught stealing for the first time. He played left field and made two putouts.

Mesa (10-5-1) remains atop the AFL East by 3½ games over Scottsdale and Salt River (both 7-9) with 15 games remaining on the schedule.