Stephen Drew (SS) Phoenix Desert Dogs--Through nine games Drew is getting bunches of hits in bunches. His .441 batting average ranked him fifth in the league, and he has four games of three hits or more under his belt. The power is there as well. He's tied for third in the league with four home runs and his .941 slugging percentage is fourth in the league as well. He's among the league leaders in on base percentage, extra base hits and leads the league in runs scored.
After starting off red hot, with a homer in each of his first four games, Drew has come back down to earth a bit, but coaches and scouts are impressed, particularly with his defense. His glove was the biggest question mark coming out of the '05 season, but here he's shown impressive range and made accurate throws, getting to almost everything and making only one error in 19 attempts.
Jarred Ball (OF) Phoenix Desert Dogs--Ball is here to prove he can take pitches, work deep into counts and not strikeout. His six strikeouts in 42 plate appearances is an improvement, and his eight walks are impressive. Ball has at least one hit in seven of his nine games, and carries an on base percentage approaching .500. He hit homers in back to back games, and though those are two of his three extra base hits, he's been pleased with his performance thus far.
"I've been doing all right," Ball said before Tuesday night's game, in which he was 1-4 with a double, "I've had a few one for fours that I'd like to make three for fours, but I'm hitting the ball hard and I'm seeing a lot of pitches."
Ball has been playing all three outfield spots flawlessly, and has two assists, which ties him for the league lead. Defense has never been an issue with Ball, though by proving he has the arm to play right field, he increases his chances of finding a spot with the D'Backs next season, even if that spot becomes a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement.
Miguel Montero (C) Phoenix Desert Dogs--The AFL coaches told Montero from the outset that he was not the 'priority' catcher, that his playing time would be limited. Montero wasn't happy about the situation, but knew that he would only be in Phoenix for a short period of time. He officially finished his AFL tour Tuesday night, without an at bat, but it's hard to deny the fact that he made his mark in limited chances.
Officially Montero played in six games, but only got at bats in four. In 19 at bats (which left him short of the number to qualify for the league leaders, though he would be seventh in average), Montero hit .421, getting a hit in all four of the games, with two homes, nine RBI and six runs scored. October 10th was Montero's best day. In just his second start Montero was 3-6 with a home run and six RBI. He heads to Venezuela to continue his Winter Ball season, and rest assured, there he will be the 'priority' catcher.
Dan Uggla (2B) Peoria Javelinas-- Uggla was originally sent to the league as a 'taxi squad' player, but a combination of production and other players leaving the league has landed Uggla essentially an everyday job, though one away from the rest of his Diamondback teammates. No matter, he's a one man show in Peoria. Scan down the league leaders and you'll often find Uggla's name either just ahead, or just behind, Drew's. He's sixth in batting average, tied for second with five homers, fourth in RBI and third in slugging percentage.
Uggla has struggled a bit with the glove, committing three errors, and now that's he's proven he can hit here, it seems likely Uggla's focus will move more toward defense, but he certainly hasn't been lost over there, as he's had a hand in 10 double plays, more than any other middle infielder in the league. Since he's only exclusively been a second baseman now for about four months, after moving around the infield on a seemingly daily basis his entire career, he can probably be forgiven for needing more reps to nail down the spot, and if he keeps hitting like he has been, he'll be given every opportunity.
Alex Frazier (LF) Phoenix Desert Dogs--Frazier, who broke his hand and severely broke his wrist and thumb diving for a ball in May with the Lancaster JetHawks, took batting practice without wrapping his wrist for the first time Tuesday. He's still a long way from being 100%, but it was an encouraging sign.
"There's no way I'm going to play without it wrapped in a game yet," Frazier said after the BP session, "The first time I had to check a swing I know I'd be shut down and headed for surgery."
Still that hasn't been the most frustrating thing for Frazier.
"It's hard to really get into a rhythm when you're only playing once a week," Frazier said referring to his 'Taxi Squad' status. "Still, it's an honor to be here, and the coaches are working with me just like everybody else."
In just three games in the AFL, and only two in which he got an at bat, Frazier is just 1-9, but that one was a grand slam, and he scored another run after drawing a walk. After missing nearly two months of the regular season Frazier is down here to make up some at bats, and though he'd certainly like to be getting some more he's doing just that.
Bill Murphy (LHP) Phoenix Desert Dogs--Murphy missed time at the beginning of the '05 season with a hamstring injury. He's 100% now and his mission has been very simple.
"The coaches are telling me to strike guys out in three pitches. That's the plan, three pitches or less to every hitter." Murphy said.
Simple enough, but Murphy's doing it, for the most part, and knows why. He needs to keep the ball down in the zone, and he needs to keep the ball in the zone. In two appearances Murphy, who has been on a pitch count, has given up seven earned runs in nine innings, but collected one win. The ERA (9.00) isn't pretty, and neither are the home runs allowed (three), but he's walked exactly one hitter, while striking out 13, tying him for fourth in that category.
If Murphy can continue to throw strikes, and take the new philosophy into next season, his AFL experience will be a positive one despite the numbers.
"It's going well, my next start my pitch count rises to 100, so I'm right back into mid season form."
Doug Slaten (LHP) Phoenix Desert Dogs--Slaten was something of a surprise addition to the AFL, and there are two distinctly different reasons for him being down here. The Diamondbacks love Slaten's make up and see him potentially as the lefty bullpen guy they never really had in 2005. So the D'Backs are most interested in how he pitches to lefties. Slaten on the other hand isn't getting so specific.
"I was a starter for a long time, so I know I can pitch to righties. If I'm a lefty specialist, that's fine, but I think I can be just as effective against righties."
So far Slaten is getting the opportunities against both, but having significantly more success against the southpaws, who are hitting just .167 against him without an extra base hit. Righties on the other hand have hit him at an over-.400 clip, and though he picked up the win in his first appearance of the AFL season, and doesn't have a walk, his ERA (9.00) took a beating on the 10th when he allowed four hits, a walk, and four earned run in his one inning of work. Still, the lefty numbers are impressive, and that's what the D'Backs are focusing on.
Casey Daigle (RHP) Phoenix Desert Dogs--Daigle loves his new role, closer, and is showing it in the AFL.
"I wouldn't say I resisted the change at the beginning, but I had been a starter from the first time I threw a baseball, and I was just worried about how my arm would react. I love it now though, I feel like my stuff is that much better."
Apparently he's right. In five appearances in the AFL Daigle has picked up a win and two saves, allowing just two earned runs in five innings. His velocity is up, his breaking stuff is sharp, and his change up, where he's focusing his energy, has been stellar. The one knock on Daigle this past season at Double-A Tennessee was that opponents hit him well (at an over .300 clip), but he rarely let them score. Down in the AFL opponents are hitting just .200 against him, as he's really started missing bats. As a starter you're taught to pitch to contact, getting hitters out in as few pitches as possible. It took some time for Daigle to adjust to the change in pitching style, as a closer you're pitching for the strikeout, but he's starting to show he can do it, and could be a legitimate late inning reliever for the Diamondbacks as soon as next season.