The Arizona Fall League wrapped up regular season play on Thursday, with championship game being scheduled for this afternoon. Unfortunately, the Glendale Desert Dogs did not qualify to make it there. The Desert Dogs season got off to a rough start as they opened up AFL play with an eight-game losing streak. Things would start to come together for the Desert Dogs as they finished with an overall record of 12-18, putting them in second place of the Arizona Fall League West Division. Despite the early end to the season, White Sox prospects still had plenty of positives to takeaway from the AFL.
Let’s take a look at how the White Sox prospects performed during the 2018 AFL season:
Rivera got off to a hot start in the AFL when he went 2-3 in the opening game with a RBI double. He also showed quite a bit of patience early, however, that dwindled down towards the end of the season as we saw more of his aggressive approach at the plate. His most impressive game came on October 25 when he went 4-6 with a RBI in a 21-8 beat down against the Surprise Saguaros. Laz Rivera finished the season hitting .215/.271/.246 with 2 doubles, 7 RBI, 3 BB, and 13 K.
Defensively, Laz Rivera played a lot of second-base and shortstop. He definitely looked more comfortable at short and had quite a few Gold Glove caliber plays there. He held his ground as second-base as well, showing how he can contribute at multiple positions. Overall, I thought Rivera had a decent AFL season despite not being in the lineup on a regular basis. He was looking great when he was showing more patience at the plate, so hopefully he can continue to add some patience to his approach as he moves through the minor league system.
Luis Basabe was the prospect I was looking forward to seeing the most in the Arizona Fall League. Unfortunately, he did not get much playing time and frequently had multiple days off in between games. In 15 games, Basabe hit .180/.333/.180 with 9 singles and 2 RBI. He was very aggressive at the plate, striking out 16 times and frequently swinging at the first pitch. However, he came close to matching that strikeout total in walks with 12 of them.
In the field, Luis Basabe looked great and that continues to seem like it will carry over to whatever level he plays at. He played both center field and left field, and his ability to play multiple outfield spots will earn him consistent playing time with any affiliate and at the major league level. I was hoping to see more of him during the Arizona Fall League, especially because he’s at the point where he has an opportunity to head to Charlotte with an impressive Spring. He managed to have a very impressive 2017 Spring Training, so hopefully he can repeat that again this year.
Luis Robert was incredible this fall. I wrote about how he exceeded his expectations and he did it against the toughest competition he’s seen so far. It was very refreshing to see him perform at a high level and to see him look healthy for the first time. In 18 games, Luis Robert hit .324/.367/.432 with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 10 RBI, 5 BB, 13 K, 5 SB, and 0 CS. He was constantly a threat at the plate, in the field, and on the base paths.
Luis Robert missed some time with hamstring tightness, but that didn’t slow him down at the plate. He put together a 14-game hit streak which was the longest streak in the AFL since 2014. He was named the AFL’s hitter of the week from November 5-10 where he hit an even .400 during that stretch. Robert was exciting to watch from start to finish during the AFL season. He will have a lot of momentum to carry over into Spring Training. If he can continue to stay healthy, I expect him to have a breakout year during the upcoming season. With the constant display of speed, the little surge of power, and the ability to hit for a high average, Luis Robert showed plenty of flashes of the great player he can become during his time in Arizona.
The main goal for Zack Burdi during the Arizona Fall League was to get extra reps on the mound before Spring Training. After recovering from Tommy John surgery, Burdi got some rehab appearances in the Arizona Rookie League before being scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League. Unfortunately, Burdi’s AFL season came to an early end as he was removed from the roster with “general fatigue.”
Zack Burdi is dealing with a loss in velocity after his surgery. His fastball was sitting around 94 mph during his time in Arizona and I thought he handled that adjustment pretty well. Burdi tossed 4.2 innings in the AFL and gave up 2 hits, 3 runs, 0 earned runs, 1 walk, and had 5 strikeouts. All three of his runs he gave up came in his first appearance of the season. He kept the ball on the ground during that game, but his defense was unable to help him out. He showed a good control of his arsenal during his short time with the Desert Dogs. Now, he will get a little extra rest as he gets ready for Spring Training.
Zach Thompson quietly put together a very impressive AFL season. In 11 games, he posted a 2.70 ERA with 15 strikeouts and 6 walks in 13.1 IP. He had a streak of five consecutive appearances where he did not allow an earned run. In one of those appearances, he struck out five batters through two innings of work. He was one of the more reliable arms in the Desert Dogs’ bullpen. Thompson was used primarily as a high-leverage reliever and he got the opportunity to close games out once Burdi was removed from the roster. After coming off an impressive 2018 season, Zach Thompson continued to make a positive impact during the Arizona Fall League.
Tanner Banks had a bit of a roller coaster ride during the Arizona Fall League. He tossed a scoreless appearance out of the bullpen during his AFL debut, and would be used as a starting pitcher during the rest of his season. Banks gave up 30 hits, 11 earned runs, issued 5 walks, had 10 strikeouts, and posted a 4.43 ERA in 22.1 IP. He had back-to-back scoreless outings to start the season, but would get roughed up in the following three starts. However, he ended his season on a positive note when he tossed five innings of one-run baseball against the Salt River Rafters.
Danny Dopico is another guy who had a roller coaster AFL season. He got off to a shaky start, but would settle down and cruise through the bulk of his appearances. Dopico had a 6.57 ERA with 12 walks and 15 strikeouts in 12.1 IP. He had a streak of seven consecutive appearances where he gave up one earned run or less. He did not allow a hit in four of his ten total appearances during the AFL season. Danny Dopico played the majority of his 2018 season at Winston-Salem, so he was facing much tougher talent than he’s used to. Command haunted him at times, however, when he was able to throw strikes, he was an efficient bullpen arm for the Desert Dogs.
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