The Arizona League Rangers had as hot a start to the season as any team at any level this year. Thanks to a very strong infield, some quality players seeing time in Surprise on rehab, and decent pitching, the Rangers jumped out to a 12-1 start. The lone loss coming at the hands of the Athletics who came back from an 8-4 9th inning deficit to win 9-8 and proving the Rangers could be beat. That was the last day of June, and the Rangers went on to win six consecutive games (not including two games suspended due to weather, before heading to Salt River to face the Diamondbacks this week.
The Diamondbacks beat the Rangers 2-3 to hand them their first road loss, then, just two days later, the Indians went into Surprise and knocked off the Rangers to give them two losses in three days. The Indians win saw just the third ball leave the stadium in Surprise in the tenth game held there this season, this one off the bat of Yi-Cheng Chang. The starter for the Indians was Justus Sheffield, the 31st overall pick in this year’s draft, who made it 1.2 innings and gave up two runs, but just one earned. He has only pitched three innings so far this season, and his earned run on Saturday night was his first of the year, but he showed some of what made him such a high pick.
His fastball was sitting 92-93 MPH and his curve looked good, but what jumped out was his comfort level with his change. To end the first inning he tripled up on his change to induce a soft ground ball to third base. His control started to leave him in his second inning, and his fastball was left up in the zone a couple times, leading to two doubles, one of which could have been caught if not for a poor initial jump by the left fielder.
The home run for Chang was his third of the year, after hitting two at the Padres on Thursday, which is good for second in the league. Antonio Rodriguez of the White Sox leads the league with four, but hasn’t hit one in about a week.
While there may not be a whole lot of balls leaving the yard, there is plenty of running in the AZL, with the co-league leaders both on the Brewers roster. Troy Stokes has 13, including four over the past week, and second round pick Monte Harrison who has stolen six over the past week to give him 13 steals as well.
Pitchers tend to be held to a very limited pitch/inning limit in the AZL, but one pitcher that has not only pitched relatively deep into games, but also pitched well, is Michael Santos of the Giants. Santos has gone five innings in all five of his starts and posted an ERA of just 1.44 with a WHIP of 0.92. He has also struck out exactly a strikeout per innings and has a K/BB ratio of 5/1.