Salt River Rafters down Mesa Solar Sox 6-5 to open 20th Arizona Fall League Campaignby Fabian Ardaya on Oct. 10, 2012, under Arizona Fall League
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.–The lights are out, the fall is setting in, the prospects are ready, and the scouts have their radar guns. It’s time for the Arizona Fall League, which this year is celebrating its 20th Anniversary.
The Arizona Fall League is held annually to host some of the greatest talent the minor leagues have to offer in a showcase of talent and ability prior to the trade-filled winter meetings.
For these prospects, expectations are high. However, that doesn’t deter the level of excitement for plays like Corey Dickerson, Colorado Rockies prospect and the designated hitter for the Salt River Rafters.
“I can’t put any pressure on myself,” Dickerson said.
Prior to the game, there was a ceremony honoring many AFL alumni, including former major leaguers Travis Lee and Joe Borowski, and current D-Back Miguel Montero.
“I think this league does a great job of getting top notch players from each organization,” AFL alum and current D-Backs analyst Joe Borowski said. “This is usually what you’re gonna see in the future in the big leagues.”
“The most important thing is you get experience and refine your skills. You get to play against higher level talent from other organizations so if you are gonna be one of the better prospects in your organization, it only makes sense to play against the other top prospects from other organizations so you could hone your skills that much better.”
Fox Spots Arizona reporter and pre-game host Todd Walsh was also on hand to report on his broadcasting partner’s ceremony and had high praises about the league.
“The concept is brilliant,” Walsh said. “It gives these guys a chance to be showcased beyond the regular season. This is the perfect setting for it, the combination of teams I think is really unique, and it’s also an opportunity to showcase managers. It’s kind of a cool break from the major leagues. “Roland Hemond is the guy who came up with the idea for it, and that’s a hall of fame mind, so I would trust him on anything baseball.”
“Those are some pretty big names that have played in this league, and I think it’s a great testament to what this league’s all about.”
As the night cap for the day’s earlier games, the first game at Salt River Fields pitted the Salt River Rafters against the Mesa Solar Sox. The Rafters are composed of prospects from the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Blue Jays, Nationals, and White Sox. The Solar Sox prospects are from the Dodgers, Cubs, Orioles, Tigers, and the Astros.
The Rafter’s starter was Tyler Chatwood, fresh off an extended stay in the majors with the Rockies. Facing him was Astros prospect Jarred Cosart, who kept hitters off-balance early on with his unorthodox delivery.
Both pitchers appeared to be cruising through one, as the ball hadn’t left the infield through 1 2/3 innings until Javier Baez stepped up against Chatwood. The Cubs prospect, who has been receiving high praise as the top Cubs prospect, promptly stepped up and drove a hanging breaking ball well over the 410 ft. fence in straightaway center.
The Solar Sox would strike again in the third, as Nick Castellanos (no.10 prospect in baseball) would hit a single that would drive in Rafael Ynoa, who reached on an error by Rafter shortstop Chris Owings.
It was in the fourth when, after being perfect through the first 3, Cosart began being knocked around. The inning began with a Jake Marisnick line drive right back at the pitcher, who reacted in time to make the catch. After that, he was never the same. Cosart would surrender 2 straight hits and then walked Andy Wilkins to set up Trace Thompson, who tied the game at two with a single.
Both teams came to life in the fifth, as the Solar Sox would take advantage of a wild Santos Rodriguez, who threw two wild pitches. Driving in the two runs would be Baez, who once again nailed the ball down the left filed line for a two-RBI double. The Rafters responded in the bottom half, as solo homers by Wilikns and Kent Matthes tied the ball game.
Mesa came back fighting in the 8th, as Ynoa would drive in Aaron Westlake on a Cory Riordan fastball back up the middle. But once again answering the door was Matt Williams’ fiery club, as a Matthes double would tie the ball game, and then the shortstop Owings would make up for his early error with a huge RBI triple to take the lead.
Matt Williams elected to bring in D-Backs prospect Eric Smith to close, and he retired the Solar Sox 1-2-3 to end the game.