AFL Update: Oct. 31, 2017

A four-run 6th broke open a one-run game as Mesa doubled up Salt River, 8-4 yesterday in the Arizona Fall League.

Kyle McGowin got the start and the Jack Morris win with two runs allowed on two homers and four hits total over three innings. He walked none and struck out four while throwing 53 pitches, 32 for strikes.

Austen Williams was the first man out of the Sox ‘pen and earned a hold with two scoreless innings. He issued a walk and struck out one while throwing 34 pitches, 21 for strikes.

Victor Robles, who led off and played center field, reached base three times with a pair of walks and… wait for it… a single (you were expecting something else?). He drove in one run on a sacrifice fly and was picked off first.

Kelvin Gutierrez (picture from earlier this month) returned to action with a bang as he tripled in two in his first at-bat and walked in the 6th. He played third base but had no defensive touches.

Taylor Gushue was the designated hitter and lived up the to the title with a 4th-inning, which extended his modest hit streak to three games. He did, however, strike out twice (nos. 11 and 12 in 10 games).

The two teams switch venues for an afternoon game with Mesa playing host. The Solar Sox are on a three-game win streak and have a 1½ game lead in the AFL East.

AFL Update: Oct. 29, 2017

The Solar Sox scored seven in the 8th to turn a 6-2 deficit into a 9-7 win to close out the week.

Daniel Johnson was the sole Nationals position player to appear in the game, but he was 0-for-5 with one whiff. Defensively, he made two putouts and had five touches total.

Dakota Bacus was the first reliever out of the Mesa bullpen but was stung for a two-run homer in his sole inning of work. He labored through 21 pitches (12 strikes) to get through the 4th.

Jimmy Cordero (pictured above) gave up a hit but maintained his 0.00 ERA with a scoreless inning while striking out the side. He threw 14 pitches, 11 for strikes.

The Solar Sox return to action tomorrow in Salt River as they play five day games this week before Saturday’s Fall Stars game. Be on the lookout for a case of Hellenic flu to get Victor Robles into the game as a replacement.

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 28, 2017

Victor Robles doubled to lead off the game as the Solar Sox put up two in the 1st en route to a 5-1 win over the Desert Dogs.

Robles, however, stuck three times in the four plate appearances that followed to finish at 1-for-5.

Taylor Gushue, who led off off MLB’s roundup on the Nats in the AFL yesterday, also started again behind the plate and got a single in four AB’s to get hits in back-to-back appearances for the first time.

Mesa returns home to rematch against Glendale to finish out the week. The Solar Sox lead the AFL East by a ½ game with an 8-7 record.

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WINTER LEAGUE UPDATE
Still pretty early, but no need to reinvent the wheel – Byron Kerr has the deal on how the guys have done so far.

HARRISBURG SENATORS
Next week will be the magnesium citrate, but this week we have the castor oil. For those of you too young or too healthy… the 2017 Senators weren’t as bad as the 2017 Chiefs, but they weren’t much better.

Like the 2016 edition, there was an enormous amount of roster churn – 52 different players, 13 pitchers who made five or more starts, and 16 position players who made 100 or more plate appearances. But the talent level wasn’t as high in 2017, and consequently the Sens finished with the second-worst record in the Eastern League at 60-80 (i.e. just 6½ games better than the Chiefs).

The pitching went from the third-best in the E.L. to the second-worst (4.79 R/G) while the hitting improved to near-league average (4.20 vs. 4.32) BUT both the hitters and pitchers were the oldest in the league by a year and a half or more, on average.

For the sixth straight year, it’s a combined list. And in keeping with a theme this year, unranked.

Erick Fedde, RHP 3.04/3.24/1.12, 8.63 K/IP in 56⅓IP (17G, 7GS)
Jose Marmolejos, 1B/LF .288/.361/.458, 14HR in 107G
Raudy Read, C .265/.312/.455, 17HR in 108G
Phillips Valdez, RHRP 2.72/2.92/1.16 in 43IP (25G)

An honorable mention to Ryan Brinley, who had a decent FIP at 2.96, but was otherwise unremarkable in his second go ’round the Eastern League. Likewise for Drew Ward, who nearly set a team record for strikeouts (131) and barely cracked into double digits for HR’s at 10.

Folks interested in seeing the full team’s statistics can find them here.

Transaction Update

No Nationals got into yesterday’s 19-4 debacle in Peoria but we do a have a few transactions to pass along…

ELECTED FREE AGENCY
• 1B Clint Robinson
• RHP Jacob Turner

RE-SIGNED
• IF Bryan Mejia
• C Adderling Ruiz
• LHP Hector Silvestre

No real surprises here – the guys that left might hook on elsewhere, the guys that didn’t felt like they wouldn’t (or their agents did).

AFL Update: Oct. 26, 2017

A three-run 4th broke open a 2-1 game as Mesa doubled up Peoria, 6-3.

For a second straight game, there was a sizable Nats presence in the lineup.

Taylor Gushue, who started behind the plate, singled and homered (pictured above) to have his first multihit game of the fall. He also scored twice. Defensively he threw out one out three baserunners trying to steal.

Daniel Johnson, the Solar Sox right fielder, singled, stole second, and scored in the 1st inning. He finished 1-for-4 and made one putout.

Victor Robles led off but went hitless with both the bat and the body in four trips to the plate. He had three putouts in center field.

Austen Williams was the first man out of the Sox ‘pen and gave up a run on one hit and a one walk over two innings.

The two teams rematch this afternoon and will switch venues, so we’ll see tomorrow how Mesa played in Peoria.

AFL Update: Oct. 25, 2017

Victor Robles homered with two out in the 3rd to tie it at 1-1 but that was it for the Solar Sox, as they let in two runs late to lose, 3-1 to the Scorpions.

Kyle McGowin (pictured above) allowed one run on eight hits over four innings for a no-decision. He walked none and struck out six, and despite the large number of hits, got his 12 outs on just 52 pitches (40 for strikes).

Robles, who was the DH, went 1-for-4 overall with a strikeout. He was joined in the lineup by Daniel Johnson (RF) and Taylor Gushue (C), but the two combined to go 0-for-7 with two strikeouts.

Dakota Bacus and Jimmy Cordero also appeared in relief. Bacus struck out the side in the 6th on 11 pitches while Cordero worked around an error to lead off the 7th and threw 10 of 12 pitches for strikes to maintain his 0.00 ERA.

After 12 games, the Solar Sox are 6-6 and are tied for 1st place atop the AFL East*. Mesa remains home this afternoon to host Peoria.
* Don’t get too excited – four teams are 6-6, one is 5-7, the other is 7-5

AFL Update: Oct. 24, 2017

The Nationals’ top prospect returned to action with a bang last night, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored, two strikeouts, a walk, and a stolen base in a 5-2 Mesa win over Scottsdale.

Robles, the only National to appear in the game, was not hit by a pitch. Defensively, he made two putouts and fielded a double and a triple in center field.

The Solar Sox return home to rematch against the Scorpions this afternoon. Kyle McGowin is expected to start.

AFL/Offseason Update: Oct. 21, 2017

Daniel Johnson’s third hit in as many at-bats started the Solar Sox’s four-run rally to erase a 6-2 deficit to and walk off with a 7-6 win over the Saguaros.

Johnson also doubled in the 6th and singled in the 7th to finish 3-for-5 and raise expectations and scored twice. Defensively, he made just a single putout in left field.

Austen Williams was the only other National to appear in the game. He was the first man out of the Mesa ‘pen but after a scoreless 5th, he was dinged for a 430’ shot to left-center in the 6th and another solo shot in the 7th before he was lifted with two outs.

Williams gave up three hits total but struck out four over his two and 2/3rds innings of work.

Mesa returns to action with a Monday night game against Scottsdale.

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SYRACUSE CHIEFS SALE PRICE REVEALED
While this may not concern us for much longer, it is interesting to note what the Mets have offered for the Syracuse Chiefs: $18 million, which works out to about $1,400 per share. Not bad for some of the folks who bought them at $10 per. The upshot is that it’s difficult to believe that the Potomac Nationals, who do not have a lease for an NAPBL-compliant facility, are worth $20 million as was claimed during the latest windmill tilt this past summer.

THE POTOMAC NATIONALS
Most of the drama was off the field—for those wondering, the resolution is yet another waiver—as the P-Nats on the field were, to be blunt, a disappointment.

Even with Victor Robles and Daniel Johnson atop the lineup, the team had difficulty scoring (4.07 R/G) because there were lots of hot streaks but few of them were concurrent. Taylor Gushue, Kelvin Gutierrez, and Edwin Lora were all scorching the ball in April but then cooled considerably by mid-May, with Lora the most extreme flash-freeze as he went from a .362/.451/.551 April to .186/.226/.237 August. Only Gutierrez ever showed any signs of breaking out of his funk, but his roll was slowed by an ankle injury that took him out of the lineup from June 9 to August 21.

On the mound, the team boasted of an all-Dominican rotation that purported to boast of the team’s post-Smiley success but quickly turned into an MBA-like exercise of trying to squeeze some ROI out of a sunk cost. There were flashes of brilliance from Joan Baez and Jefry Rodriguez, which turned out to be chemically aided in the latter, and Wirkin Estevez did make the jump to AA (as he should have at the age of 25), but watching Luis Reyes and Hector Silvestre pitch was like watching Sisyphus and the boulder.

Perhaps more maddening was the organization’s insistence on signing washed-up pitchers to plug the holes caused by injuries. It’s one thing to go for a free agent to avoid having to make a social promotion from Hagerstown, but quite another to get a pitcher who is out of work after mid-May (read: not even good enough for the independent leagues). It’s what detectives might call a clue.

Thanks in large part to semi-decent relief pitching and older southpaws (Matt Crownover, Grant Borne) the team actually had slightly better than league-average pitching (4.21 vs. 4.26 R/G).

Like Auburn, it’s just a single, unranked list of players instead of a Top 5 list…

Joan Baez, RHSP 3-1, 1.88 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in August
Grant Borne, LHSP 2.50/3.01/1.10 in 14G, 10GS
Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B .288/.347/.414, 2HR, 3SB in 58G
Jakson Reetz, C .236/.327/.371, .986 FA, 39%CS rate
Victor Robles, CF .289/.377/.495, 17HBP, 16SB in 77G

…but I’m reasonably certain there’s no debate as to who would be #1.

As always, folks who would like to see the full team stats can find them here.

AFL Update: Oct. 20, 2017

Taylor Gushue broke his 0-for-20 skid with a 10th-inning RBI single that broke a 4-4 tie as the Solar Sox took this one, 6-4.

Gushue finished 1-for-5 with two whiffs but also committed his second error of the fall campaign.

Daniel Johnson continues to rake with a 3-for-5 effort, scoring a run and stealing his fourth base. Through six games, the 22-y.o. is 9-for-26 (.346) with a triple, two walks, and three RBIs.

Jimmy Cordero picked up with win with two scoreless innings pitched, one hit allowed, and one strikeout out. He threw 20 pitches, 14 for strikes.

The two teams rematch this afternoon in Mesa, the final game this week before tomorrow’s Hitting Challenge at Sloan Park.

AFL Update: Oct. 19, 2017

The Solar Sox took an early 2-0 lead and scored three in the 8th, but in between it was all the Rafters, who paddled them for a 6-5 loss.

Just two Nationals got into yesterday’s game:

• Taylor Gushue (pictured above) got the start as the designated hitter but went 0-for-4 without a strikeout.

• Dakota Bacus gave up two runs on three hits in his lone inning of work and was charged with the loss.

Mesa visits Surprise today and then hosts the Saguaros tomorrow to finish out the week. Saturday is the annual Hitting Challenge, which will be held in Mesa this year.