The championship game
Five Diamondbacks played a part in the championship game on Saturday, combining to score four runs. Evan Marzilli played center field and lead off, getting a triple in five AB and driving in a run as well as crossing home-plate. Peter O'Brien caught the game, and was hitless in three at-bats, but did walk twice and scored a run. And 3B Brandon Drury scored twice, going 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. On the mound, Jimmy Sherfy and Enrique Burgos each faced one batter and retired them. Burgos got the honor of getting the final out of 2014, fanning pinch-hitter Patrick Leonard to end the ninth and give the title to Salt River.
The title was the second for the Salt River Rafters, who were previously AFL champions in 2011; they also reached the final in 2012, losing to Peoria, so this victory was revenge of sorts. The Rafters qualified for the final by winning the Eastern division, finishing with a record of 17-11 (plus four ties), which put them 2.5 games in front of the Mesa Solar Sox. The Javelinas, meanwhile, snatched victory in the Western division, with their victory over the Surprise Solar Sox on the final day giving them the title by .001 of win percentage.
The Diamondback prospects
The best offensive numbers were turned in by O'Brien. While hitting .256 wasn't particularly impressive, that doesn't show the good plate-discipline and power he displayed. In the former, he led the team with 17 walks, and the resulting on-base percentage of .393 was tops in the AFL among those with 75+ at-bats. His five home-runs were also the most on the Rafters, and just one off the league lead, by the Padres' Hunter Renfroe and league MVP, Greg Bird of the Yankees. O'Brien's .904 OPS was third in the AFL (again, min. 75 AB), behind that same pair. MLB.com's Jim Callis said "His power and arm strength are formidable tools, though his defense remains problematic."
Marzilli also had a solid campaign, a line of .303/.376/.382 in 25 games and 76 at-bats, giving him an OPS of .758. That's 38 points higher than he managed during the regular season at Visalia and Mobile, though it seems like he did get more than his share BABIP help, However, he was also effective on the base-paths, stealing seven bags in eight attempts, Not so good a fall for Drury, who hit only .219, though 13 walks and eight extra-base hits (including three homers) helped get his OBP to .312, and his OPS to .687. But in a league where the average OPS is around .720, that still has to be considered a disappointing month.
On the pitching front, top prospect Archie Bradley's numbers, on the surface, were also underwhelming. In his 17.2 innings of work, he allowed 28 hits, with a K:BB ratio of only 12:11, and an ERA of 7.71. However, as Callis points out, "his main concern was logging innings, after he missed time with elbow issues during the regular season." Bradley was also throwing a slider for the first time in his career, so the numbers aren't important if he can work it into his arsenal. He said after appearing in the AFL All-Star Game, "I feel like it's improving my fastball and my other pitches because I'm able to throw that and hitters haven't seen it before."
The three relievers we had on the Rafters roster did better. Leading the list is Sherfy, who allowed only a single run in his nine appearances, with a K:BB ratio of 10:3 over his 9.2 innings of work (and all three walks came in one outing!), holding opposing batters to a .156 average. Kaleb Fleck showed an impressive strikeout rate, fanning a dozen in 8,2 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits and four walks for an ERA of 3.12. And finally, Enrique Burgos looked good early on, but seemed to struggle in extended outings, all six runs he allowed coming in games where he was asked to work more than an inning. He threw 12.1 innings with an 11:4 K:BB ratio and a 3.65 ERA.
That may be the end of the American baseball season [at least, at the pro level], but baseball is continuing for some Diamondback players, in Central and South America as well as in Australia. I think we'll save an update in depth on them for another day. But in the light of this week's acquisition of Jeremy Hellickson, I think it's worth mentioning that Randall Delgado is working as a starter for Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League...