After a phenomenal string of pitching performances on Opening Day Thursday, it was the hitters' turn to dominate the minor-league action on Friday. I'll put it this way: after last night's explosion, Arizona's #5 prospect (in my opinion) is now hitting .875/.900/1.375 through his two games at Triple-A Reno - yes, that's a BA/OBP/SLG line, with this prospect having reached base nine of ten times to kick off the season. With a few fans mourning Arizona's lack of a traditional lead-off hitter, there's plenty of promise in this young outfielder:
Snakelet of the Day:
A.J. Pollock (Triple-A): 5-5, 3 2B, SB, 3 R, RBI
Triple-A: Reno 9, Colorado Springs 5. (2-0) As mentioned in the opening paragraph, A.J. Pollock has had perhaps the closest thing to a perfect two games at the plate as you can imagine to kick off the 2012 season. After his 5-5 day with three doubles, Pollock is now 7-8 with four doubles, two walks, and no strikeouts, while also adding a stolen base in Friday's game. Conveniently enough, the rest of Reno's offensive output came in the hitters immediately following Pollock. Fellow outfielder and two-hole hitter Evan Frey reached base three times - including a double of his own - while shortstop Cody Ransom provided some additional thunder by falling a triple short of the cycle and drawing a walk. The rest of the lineup? Five hits, all singles.
Starter Chris Jakubauskas had a solid outing in an unforgiving environment, allowing just three hits, a walk, and one run over six strong innings. Reliever Mike DeMark continued his strong stint in the Arizona organization with a scoreless, two-strikeout inning, though Bryan Woodall had a rough Triple-A debut, getting through his first inning unscathed but coming undone in the ninth, getting just one out while being charged with four runs. Daniel Stange came on to clean up the mess, though, and Reno came away with a comfortable victory.
Double-A: Mobile 4, Mississippi 1. (2-0) The heart of the lineup delivered in this game, with David Nick chipping in a double, Matt Davidson doubling, drawing a walk, and getting hit by a pitch, and Marc Krauss delivering a three-run blast that secured the lead in the eighth inning. That proved to be more than enough cushion after Charles Brewer put in a strong 2012 debut, with six one-running innings of work. Brewer allowed just four hits and one walk while fanning six, keeping the ball on the ground effectively to generate six groundouts.
Lefty reliever Eury De La Rosa - aggressively promoted to Double-A for 2012 after spending most of 2011 at South Bend - worked a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout. De La Rosa isn't built like a typical power reliever - he's listed at just 5'9", 167 pounds - but gets plenty behind his fastball and has a big arm for a left-hander. This is pure speculation, but there may not be too many bullets in his arm at that velocity and stature, so perhaps the organization is trying to push him towards the majors as quickly as possible. Stud relief prospect Evan Marshall finished off the final two frames, fanning two.
Hi-A: Visalia 9, Bakersfield 3. (1-1) It's been nice to see left fielder Bobby Borchering get off to a fast start, as he delivered a pair of doubles to help power the Rawhide offense in this game. Jonathan Griffin has also impressed, following in the footsteps of Paul Goldschmidt as a big, power-hitting first baseman to jump straight from Rookie-level Missoula to Hi-A Visalia. Griffin collected two hits and a walk, including a two-run home run in the ninth inning. Catcher Raywilly Gomez collected three hits, including a double - he was the most impressive bat in the South Bend lineup (outside of Zach Walters, who's now in the Nationals organization) to me a year ago, and could put up some good numbers in the Cal League.
Nonetheless, the biggest story in the Visalia game was the incredible full-season debut of left-hander Andrew Chafin, the third player taken by Arizona in the 2011 draft. Coming off of a dominant season with Kent State, the fireballer whiffed nine batters in just five innings, surrendering one run on two hits and two walks. Left-hander Mike Belfiore, apparently now a full-time reliever, worked two perfect innings with three strikeouts - an encouraging start to the year after college overuse haunted him over his first two full-season professional campaigns. Unfortunately, the transition to relief didn't go as smoothly for Eric Smith, who allowed a two-run home run in the ninth, his only inning of work.
Low-A: South Bend 2, Bowling Green 5. (0-2) The offense was lackluster again, with seven hits spread across seven different hitters but just two going for extra-bases. Starting pitcher Jeffrey Shields didn't have a great outing, either, walking more than he struck out (2 BB, 1 K) over five innings. Shields gave up seven hits and three runs, although just two of the runs were earned. Left-handed reliever Keith Hessler was touched-up for a pair of runs in 1.1 innings, walking two but striking out three. Given the talent level of the Hot Rods' lineup, this has proven to be a tall task for the first series of the season.