The Arizona League is a rarely written about, lightly scouted (spoke with a scout whose team is scouting the league for the first time in recent history) league at the very bottom of the Minor League ladder.
It is filled with teenage players from Latin America getting their first taste of baseball in the states, high school players drafted in the past couple years, a sprinkling of players recently drafted out of college, and a rare big leaguer on a rehab assignment since the teams are based out of the Spring Training facilities.
On any given night you could see a power output that makes you sit up and take notice, dazzling defensive plays, or an error filled night that could be set to circus music. While many who take the field in the scorching Arizona evenings in June, July, and August will never see the big leagues, there are future stars that start their journey in the AZL.
On Friday night I was at the White Sox-Padres game (Padres have two teams in the league), and it had a little bit of everything. It even saw an extra-inning game where each team gets a runner on second base to start the inning from the tenth inning on.
The Padres wound up coming back, scoring five in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at seven before walking off in the tenth on a single to left off the bat of Jason Pineda, giving the Padres 8-7 victory.
This was the third time I have gotten a look at the Padres fifth round pick out of Alaska, Jonny Homza. He has caught one game (did not look good behind the plate), played third in another (held his own defensively), and DH’d on Friday night. While his defense lags behind, his bat seems worthy of the fifth round selection. He shows good balance at the plate, makes solid contact, and uses the whole field. His numbers don’t jump off the page, hitting .260 coming into the night, but he always seems to hit the ball hard.
Jeisson Rosario is the top ranked prospect who took the field on Friday night, but he did not look it. He led off the game with a slap single to left, but that was the highlight of his night. He had a poor read off the bat of Evan Skoug allowing the ball to fall on the warning track for a triple, and later whiffed on a grounder to center that wound up going to the wall for a Little League home run. He has looked better at other times so far, and there will be a full report on him in the coming weeks.
The Padres spent a ton of money in the international market in 2016, and Jordy Barley was one of those who is shining in Arizona. Barley does not get cheated at the plate, leading with very strong hips through the zone and packs some solid power on his generously-listed six-foot frame.
One refreshing part of Barley is the fact he has a true two-strike approach. His hips stay closed longer and his swing shortens, allowing him to make good contact and fight the ball off well. He did strike out a couple times, but that is a result of him still getting used to solid breaking stuff as he swung wildly at balls in the dirt a few times.
In the field, he did commit an error trying to rush a double play, but he has shown fluidity and a strong enough arm to stay on the left side of the diamond.
For the White Sox, seeing Alex Call on the roster is surprising given he was a third round pick out of Ball State in 2016, but it doesn’t take long to see why he has been sent down to complex ball. His hands create a real hitch at the plate that results in a long swing. The hands also drop during his load, creating an upper cut swing and often getting too far under the ball.
The player that impressed for the White Sox was Evan Skoug. He served as the DH on Friday night, and his bat flashed. He hit the triple that fell just behind Rosario, but the power opened some eyes. He clearly did not make good contact but still managed to put enough power into it to have it land on the track about 400 feet away.
In a later AB, he got jammed on a ball but still managed to punch a line drive that carried over the left fielder’s head for a double. His swing is long though, and he struggled to catch up to fastballs in the low-to-mid 90s.
The pitching overall was average, but Cory Mazzoni did look sharp in his inning of work, allowing two hits but striking out the side. He was sitting 94-96 with his fastball and his off-speed stuff keeping the White Sox off balance with regularity.