Arizona Fall League Roundup 10/17,10/18,10/19: Pillar of Performance, Tepera tempers ERA
While the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League have struggled as a team since my last writing (1-2), the contingent of Jays prospects have continued their strong representation of the Blue Jays organization. Because virtually all fans view the AFL as an expedient – a means for furthering the development of future Jays, and not an endgame – I will focus solely on the individual achievements of the prospects, and not the overall performance of the team, which has suffered serious offensive woes in its last two games.
Salt River: 12
Kevin Pillar (LF) 3-5, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB
Jake Marisnick (CF) 1-4, 1 RBI
Ian Kadish (RHP): 1.0 IP, 0 ER
Kevin Pillar, 23, had a phenomenal season with Single-A Lansing this year (.322, .390, .451) – a campaign which ultimately secured him Midwest League MVP honors. Pillar has seemingly carried the momentum from his MVP summer to his new southwestern assignment. The protracted season does not appear to have exacted fatigue or lethargy on the 2011 32nd Round draftee. In fact, Pillar has redoubled the intensity in his new role with the Rafters.
Pillar, who is only slated to play Wednesdays and Saturdays with the Rafters, is not getting the playing time he is accustomed to. While he was a veritable starter with Dundein and Lansing, he has been platooned thus far with the Rafters. Nevertheless, when he has been given the opportunity to suit up, Pillar has made the most of it. “I’m just making the best of the opportunities,” he said recently in an official Blue Jays press release. “I’m only playing two days, so I’m looking to play hard. Whatever role they put me in, I’m trying to adjust to it.”
And adjust he has. In only 13 at bats, Pillar is hitting .385 with one homerun, three RBIs, and three stolen bases. The versatile outfielder seems to always be in the thick of the action, securing eight total bases during his meager playing time. This propensity of Pillar’s was typified by his role in the Rafters’ dramatic comeback win against Peoria on Wednesday. The Rafters were down 7-0 in the fifth, but were able to outscore Peoria 12-2 in the final four frames to complete the comeback. Pillar was an integral part of the win. Not only did he garner three key hits, driving in two; but he stole home plate.
During a sixth inning during which the Rafters had already scored four runs, Pillar reached on a single to left field and found himself at third base after a line drive single to right by Tyler Bortinick. One perfectly executed double steal later, Pillar was the fifth run of a breakout inning.
According to Pillar, because left-handed pull-hitter Andy Wilkins was at the plate, and the infield was markedly shifted to the right, he was able to take a giant secondary lead. “When I saw the catcher throw down [to second base], I was able to walk in,” said Pillar. “It was just something I did on my own, I just got a good read. At that point we still needed runs, so I capitalized on it.”
Below are pitch-tracks of Pillar’s three singles from Wednesday. He should play today against Scottsdale.
Salt River: 1
Jake Marisnick (CF) 2-4, 2B, 1 SO
Deck McGuire (RHP) 1.0 IP, 0 ER
Sam Dyson (RHP) 1.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 SO, 1 SB
After permitting 12 runs in four innings the previous afternoon, Peoria pitching came back with a vengeance,with six pitchers collectively shutting down the Rafters. Of the Blue Jays delegates, CF Jake Marisick was the only position player to see action, and he made the most of it, hitting 2-4 with a double and a strikeout.
Marisnick’s first hit came in the bottom of the third. After an eight-pitch at bat which saw Jake foul off four tough pitches up in the zone, he fought off a front and center fourseamer, which ended up trickling back toward the pitcher, Robbie Erlin. The comebacker caught Erlin off-balance, and Marisnick was able to showcase his plus-speed for an infield basehit.
Marisnick’s second hit was a bit more emphatic. In the Botton of the 5th Marisnick saw two fastballs right down the middle from LHP Logan Darrell. After taking the first one for a strike to open the at bat, he ripped the second sharply down the left field foul line for a double.
Salt River: 0
Jake Marisnick 0-3, 3 SO
Ryan Goins 1-2, 1 BB
Sean Ochinko 0-3, 1 SO
Ryan Tepera 4.0 IP, 3H, 3 SO, 0 ER
The Rafters compiled 12 runs in four innings on Wednesday, yet managed only one in 19 innings through Thursday and Friday. While Marisnick and Ochinko were muted by the Scottsdale starter T.J. House who pitched 5 innings of no-hit baseball, Goins was able to muster a single and a walk in the later innings.
While House dominated the Rafters through five innings, he did not put forward the only stellar pitching performance. Jays RHP prospect Ryan Tepera went tic-for-tac with House, throwing up four scoreless innings of his own. Allowing only three hits and walking one, Tepera was able to improve his season ERA to a mediocre 5.68: a stat which once stood at 15.43 after a forgettable debut performance in which he permitted four runs in only 2.1 innings of relief work.
The Salt River Rafters play Scottsdale today at 5:35 MST. You can follow the gamecast here.