Recently my wife and I found ourselves in Phoenix, Arizona for vacation. My sister-in-law is a huge baseball fan and she suggested we take in a MLB Fall Ball game. Being a Yankees fan, we decided to go see the Scottsdale Scorpions play.
For those that may not know, Arizona Fall Ball started in 1992 and is where all the Major League teams send some of their prospects to in October and November to get additional training and experience. There are six teams total with each team being comprised of prospects from five Major League teams each. The prospects range from A to the MLB level with most of them being 20-22 years old (with some “older” guys thrown in as well).
The Scottsdale Scorpions are made up of prospects from the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Yankees. The game we went to, the Scorpions took on the Surprise Saguaros (comprised of prospects from the Brewers, Indians, Orioles, Rangers, and Red Sox).
We went to see the game at Scottsdale Stadium (home of the San Francisco Giants’ AAA team). Tickets for Fall Ball games are only $7 a piece so it’s a tremendous bargain and there was probably less than 200 people in the stands so you can pretty much sit wherever you want. We managed to get seats right behind the home team’s dugout on the first base side. The stadium itself wasn’t that great (I’ve been in better minor league stadiums) and the concession prices were very high ($7 for a 16 oz. beer is way too much to see basically A and AA players!) but the chance to see the future of the Yankees organization was great.
The game itself was decent. The Saguaros scored in the top of the first and the Scorpions ended up winning the game 2-1. There were no home runs and only a couple extra-base hits so it was basically a pitching duel. What I really wanted to see was how the Yankees prospects would perform.
There are seven Yankees prospects on the Scorpions’ roster. Four pitchers, one catcher, one first baseman, and a center fielder.
Would any of these prospects make the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame like current Yankees Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alfonso Soriano did back when they were young players? Will these prospects eventually make the Yankees at the MLB level? Only time will tell.
Here is my take on each prospect.
#48 Brett Gerritse: Did not play.
#47 Vidal Nuno: Did not play.
#35 Fred Lewis: Lewis pitched one inning in relief. He did decently. He allowed a couple of back-to-back hits to put men on first and second with one out, but then made a fantastic play on a bunt between third and the pitcher to get the lead runner at third. Then he got the next batter to fly out to left for the third out.
#29 James Pazos: One of the most impressive pitchers from either team that night. He pitched one inning in relief. He throws hard – mid to high 90s (you should have heard how loud the catcher’s mitt was popping during his warmup in the bullpen!) and he has a pretty good breaking ball. He threw 11 pitches total – struck out the first two batters he saw on eight pitches (both struck out looking on breaking balls) and then got the third out on a fly ball to left-center on three pitches (all strikes). Pazos is a 22-year old lefthander who is currently playing at Charleston (A). If he remains with the Yankees, he should be in their bullpen within a couple of years – his stuff was that good (at least when playing against these prospects). I could see him one day being the next closer for the Yankees after Dave Robertson.
#28 Peter O’Brien: Did not play.
#17 Tyler Austin: From what I saw, Austin still needs some work. He batted fifth and out of his four plate appearances, he managed to reach base once (via a walk). In the field, he had several hard-hit balls go his way but he didn’t get any of them (they were hit pretty hard, but Mark Teixeira would have easily made the plays). Austin is 22-years old and is currently playing for Trenton (AA), so there’s still plenty of time for him to improve and maybe replace Teixeira in a couple of years.
#22 Mason Williams: Williams is the #2 ranked prospect in the Yankees minor leagues. He didn’t have any balls hit to him in the outfield. He batted leadoff and managed to draw two walks and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt (men on first and second with no outs, he laid the bunt down perfectly between the pitcher and third, and managed to beat the throw to first, loading the based because there was no play at third or second). Williams is 22 years old and is currently playing at Tampa (A+). Provided he doesn’t get traded, he will be in the Yankees outfield in several years.
This was my first Fall Ball experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend that if any baseball fan is in the Phoenix area in October and November to check out a game or two. Games are played at 12:35 and 6:35 everyday in the six cities of the Arizona Fall League. For seven bucks a ticket, it’s more than worth it (just expect to pay a lot at the concession stand!). It’s a great chance to see some future MLB players when they are still little known players.
About the Author: Rich Stowe
Rich Stowe has written for many sports-based websites over the years including Informative Sports.com, Sports Nickel.com, Dugout Report.com and was a Featured Columnist for MLB and the New York Yankees for Bleacher Report. Rich is a Lifetime member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA). He is also a self-published author - his book "From Abused Puppy to Beloved Family Member: The Life Story of Jacob the Rottweiler" can be found for the Kindle and in print through amazon.com. Rich is currently serving as the Managing Editor of Sports Unbiased.com