The Arizona Fall League continues to be a treasure and a joy for baseball purists. If you live in Arizona and have never been to an AZFL game, you are missing a golden opportunity to see dozens of ballplayers who will be making their MLB Debut in the next year or two in a pure, intimate baseball environment. Tickets are just $9, parking is usually free, concessions are just the basics, (Hot Dogs, Pretzels, Nachos and a soda or a beer, stuff like that) It’s open seating. Sit wherever you want. Want to hear the buzz of a fastball as it crosses the plate ? Go sit right on the netting in the first row behind home plate. (Just to the left or right, usually most center positions are for the scouts).
Want to be closer to the players, go sit right on the first couple of rows behind the dugouts. Is it foul balls you are after ? Then sit down the line a bit and run around mostly unobstructed after them .
There are 6 teams, each team comprised of about 6 players from 5 different organizations. The Diamondbacks Prospects play on the Salt River Rafters. There are usually 2 games during the day and one at night. The season opened this past Tuesday, and runs through November 17. Schedule HERE.
Last night was the first night I could make it out, and it was no accident that it was Jon Duplantier’s debut. I was really looking forward to seeing him pitch and while the outing was short, just 2 innings, he did not disappoint. Throwing to Diamondbacks catching prospect Dom Miroglio , JD worked fast, threw strikes, and had very good command of both his fast ball and his breaking pitches. He never even had a 3 ball count, let alone walk a batter. He induced mostly ground balls and swings and misses, or buckled knees with a sharp breaking ball. Here is a look at his warm up pitches. Sorry, not great quality.
Longer look at warmup pitches pic.twitter.com/I7qxE9gH3X— Jack Sommers (@shoewizard59) October 13, 2018
The first batter he faced grounded out to shortstop.
My first live looks at Jon Duplantier pic.twitter.com/RMSjSFJGME— Jack Sommers (@shoewizard59) October 13, 2018
The next batter also hit a ground ball, a medium one hopper towards the hole between 3rd and short. The 3rd baseman ranged over and made an awkward attempt to field the ball, having it clank off his glove and trickle into LF. I think he actually overran it. Somehow that was called a hit. But no matter, JD struck out the next two batters swinging to end the inning, throwing 14 pitches, 10 for strikes.
In his 2nd inning of work he ran into a little bit of trouble. The lead off batter hit a sharp ground ball single to right through the shift. The next batter hit a line drive base hit to right, putting runners on first and 2nd with nobody out. JD induced a weak tapper back to the mound from the next batter and spun to throw to start the double play, but had to double clutch because BOTH 2b and SS were right next to bag. He got off an accurate throw which was taken by the shortstop, who still had plenty of time to complete the double play. But the SS threw it away , allowing the lead runner to score.
No matter, JD got the next batter to pop up weakly to RF, and then retired the last batter on a wicked sharp curveball, completely locking up the hitter.
He threw 19 pitches in the inning, 13 of them for strikes, and that was the end of his night.
Facing 9 batters, he induced 4 ground balls, 1 popup, 1 line drive, and struck out 3. He looked in control the entire time, and his pitching motion looked more fluid than I have seen it described in various scouting reports.
Overall, I came away very impressed. I have my doubts he will be in the early season rotation for the Diamondbacks next year. I’m pretty sure he’ll need time to build up to be able to go 6+ innings when called upon. I wouldn’t rush him if I were the Dbacks. Watching him pitch I was reminded how in the “olden days” teams would bring up minor league starters to work long relief to cut their teeth against MLB hitters before building them up to full innings workloads as starters. It’s seldom done these days, but perhaps the DBacks could consider such a move with this particular prospect some point during the 2019 campaign.
As for the rest of the game, The Scorpions beat the Rafters 6-2. BOX SCORE . Mets CF prospect Desmond Lindsay was the star of the game from my view, hitting 2 home runs. Notably one on a high fly ball down the line to right and the second on a lower trajectory smash down the left field line. Power to all fields obviously. Astro’s 3b prospect Abraham Toro-Hernandez , who was DH’ing last night , had 3 hits, including a long homerun to left that featured a bat flip.
One other point of note. They are using 15 second pitch clock, and 30 seconds in between batters, and 2:15 seconds in between innings. Several times balls and strikes were called because either the pitcher did not come set in time, or the batter didn’t get in the box in time. Last nights TOG was a briskly paced 2:35. Nice !