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The (Desert)Dogs of War...

The foliage is turning in New England. Denver has had its first snow. But here in Arizona, the most obvious sign of the changing seasons is that you now only need one oven-glove to touch the steering-wheel of your car.

Well, that and the arrival of the Arizona Fall League. A week or so into it, let's take a look and see how the Arizona prospects have performed so far. There have only been a handful of games as yet, so statistics are still unreliable, but it seems the AFL has been a hitters' paradise, even more than usual this year. As a result, currently twelve players are batting at .400 or above, with 16+ at-bats

To no-one's real surprise (not here, anyway), Stephen Drew leads the entire league, with a crisp .556 BA, having gone 10-for-18 to date. And it's not at the expense of power, since he's hit four homers. [Though this is still someway behind AFL leader, Brandon Wood, who has an amazing eight homers in 37 at-bats, and must be a shoo-in for the AFL record of 12. He's "only" hitting .444, however...]

It's good to see Drew back on track, after a worrying slump (.218 in 100+ ABs] following his promotion to Double-A Tennessee. Said Drew of that downturn: "My timing was off. Plus, I did get a little tired. But toward the end of the last week that we had, I started to get my strength back. But you can't do nothing about it because the season ends." Not for him, it isn't, and who knows - a good season here and Spring Training could solve our shortstop problem for the next, oh, decade or so. ;-)

Of course, he's not the only Arizona prospect playing: just the best-paid one. Dan Uggla - for some reason, playing for tha Javelinas, rather than the Desert Dogs like the rest of the Diamondback prospects [it's more like a zoo than a baseball league] - is chasing Drew hard, going 9-for-18 with 3 homers and 8 RBIs to date. Miguel Montero, our uber-catcher prospect, has only had 11 at-bats, but already has five hits and two home runs. And Jarred Ball is 6-for-16, also with a pair of round-trippers. Alex Frazier is the only one not to have joined the hit-parade, but has just five at-bats to his name, so plenty of time yet.

As you can imagine, being sent to pitch in the AFL is more a sentence than a reward. Half the team currently have a overall ERA north of 6.60, led by the Saguaros who have allowed 65 earned runs in only six games. Bill Murphy has made one start, allowing seven hits and four earned runs in four innings, while closer Casey Daigle has appeared twice, giving up a hit, a walk and an earned run in two innings of work. Doug Slaten has playing in three, but has allowed eight hits and two walks in four innings, giving him an ERA of 11.25.

I'm hoping to see a game next week - looking at the Tuesday night one pitting our boys in the Desert Dogs against the River Rafters, if anyone else fancies going, let me know. Went to one last year, and it was a very pleasant night. They actually broadcast an afternoon AFL game on the Internet, which is nice, though you seem to need a fast Internet connection to avoid it breaking up.

I don't usually mention other sports here, but the news that Amare Stoudemire's knee is being operated on, and he'll miss 50-odd games, has smacked down the Phoenix Suns' season even before it begins. The Arizona Cardinals are 1-4. The Coyotes have lost three of their first four games, and no-one really cares. Looks like the D'backs might be the best team in town once more in 2006...