There ideal merely isn’t the relaxation just like the Arizona Descend League.
Where else can you look rosters stocked to the brim with top possibilities, giving them the apartment to test their talents in opposition to top skill? It’s in total repeated that you shouldn’t effect too much stock into AFL statistics, and while that’s correct given the minute samples and tired our bodies, the cream tends to upward push to the highest.
With the AFL’s 30th season in the books, we dove into the document books to effect this yr’s performances in historical context.
Reifert strikes out the arena
It will probably also very well be worthy to teach a reliever as essentially the most dominant pitcher in AFL historical past, but Evan Reifert (Rays) can produce as ideal of a case as any individual. All the plot in which thru eight appearances for Mesa, the 23-yr-mature confronted 40 batters and struck out an otherworldly 25, allowing ideal one hit — a measly single in his ideal sport — in the formula. His Reliever of the Year award appears to be like to almost undersell what he finished.
Reifert’s 62.5 p.c strikeout rate used to be the correct single-season designate in AFL historical past, minimal 40 batters confronted, surpassing Darwinzon Hernandez in 2018 (49 p.c) by a well-known margin. Tommy Hanson, the author of arguably the correct season by an AFL beginning pitcher, “finest” peaceable a 46.7 p.c strikeout rate in 2008. Reifert’s .028 opponents’ batting average? Also a Descend League document.
A yr ago, Reifert used to be a steady acquisition in a minor trade with the Brewers. After quelling concerns over his present with his stellar speed in Arizona, he’s positioned himself to reach the upper Minors early in 2023.
Julien’s prodigious energy and patience
Quebec’s private earned the AFL’s Breakout Participant of the Year award for ideal reason. Edouard Julien (Twins No. 14) gained a fragment of the league’s batting title by hitting a neutral .400, also connecting on 5 residence runs, one off the league lead.
Four of these lengthy balls came in the span of about 24 hours. Julien homered twice in consecutive video games for Glendale on Oct. 22 and 24, a feat that had finest been finished in the AFL once since sport logs became on hand in 2005 (Braxton Davidson, 2018). Whereas these two video games buoyed Julien’s slugging percentage, his .535 batting average on balls in play, third-finest in a single season in league historical past, is a testament to how adept he used to be at discovering the grass.
Julien now ranks third all-time in one more category; his .563 on-heinous percentage this drop trails finest Dustin Ackley (.581, 2010) and Nate Roberts (.565, 2012) on the single-season leaderboard. Julien walked (23) more instances than he struck out (22) and finest bolstered his standing as the Minors’ most disciplined batter. (50 gamers have 1,000 plate appearances since 2021 — Julien’s .437 OBP is 45 aspects sooner than Miguel Vargas in 2d location.)
Veen gained’t pause working
Pitting AFL performances in the counting stat categories — residence runs, RBIs, doubles, and so forth. — in opposition to every slightly just a few, at some level of eras, isn’t exactly the correct potential to transfer about it. The early seasons of the AFL had spherical 50 video games on the time table for every group, whereas no squad carried out more than 30 this yr.
So on its face, the 16 bases stolen by Zac Veen (Rockies No. 1, MLB No. 23) for Salt River this yr were critical but merely that, as 9 slightly just a few gamers have matched or exceeded that total in a Descend League season. However on a rate foundation, his 0.75 stolen bases per sport are essentially the most by an AFL player with at least 20 video games carried out, solidly besting Eric Young Jr. (2008) and Hurry d’Arnaud (2009) with 0.65 swipes per sport.
Veen’s skill on the basepaths is uncomplicated after stealing 91 bases over his first two professional seasons. He gained’t have any anguish unlocking it on the upper ranges if he carries his .444 AFL on-heinous percentage with him.
Thomas and Sheehan double up on double digits
The AFL is surely known more for its offense than its pitching, as that probabilities are you’ll also have already gleaned from the pattern of this column to this level. The ideal thing any group wants is for one of its possibilities to endure an wound, so innings are meticulously managed and beginning pitchers enact now not web to take out what they … started (The ideal AFL total sport used to be in 1996).
That’s what made Thomas’ night on Oct. 17 the total more particular. The 10-strikeout sport for Salt River used to be the first in the Descend League since Kyle Zimmer in 2014, and Connor Thomas (Cardinals No. 24) did it in only four innings. These sorts of performances tend to advance in groups, on the opposite hand. Before Zimmer, the ideal pitchers to reach double digits were Hanson (who incredibly did it twice) and Phil Hughes in 2008. Before that, Jered Weaver and Brian Murphy, every in 2005.
This yr, it used to be Emmet Sheehan (Dodgers No. 22) who used to be up to the duty. In Glendale’s third-to-ideal sport, the righty fanned 10 over 5 scoreless frames, including eight straight at one level. It used to be completely appropriate that these two were the ones to enact it; Thomas (1.50) and Sheehan (3.54) completed first and 2d among pitchers to throw at least 20 innings this yr.
Quero dominates in the abet of the dish
Luis Matos gained the AFL’s Defensive Participant of the Year award for his stellar play in center field, but I’m now not sure any individual used to be additional sooner than the competitors at their location than Jeferson Quero (Brewers No. 7), who impressed at ideal 20 years mature for Glendale.
AFL baserunners stole more bags this yr (245) than in any season since 2012, which used to be at least in part due to Quero couldn’t be in the abet of the plate for each one of them. When he used to be, despite the undeniable fact that, he used to be very ideal. Quero’s 45.8 p.c caught stealing rate used to be tops among licensed backstops, well sooner than 2d location finishers Henry Davis and Adam Hackenberg at 26.3 p.c. Since 2005, finest Gary Sanchez (61.5%, 2015) has confronted as many attempts as Quero — who used to be 13-for-24 — and thrown them out at an even bigger rate.
Here’s an additional point out: In the one sport Quero carried out in entrance of the Statcast gadget in Salt River, he delivered a throw to 2d heinous at 86.9 mph (despite the undeniable fact that the runner did advance on what used to be ruled as a wild pitch). Of the 120 catchers in the Predominant Leagues this past season, finest 14 threw a ball with as much skedaddle as that Quero toss. Over again, very spectacular stuff as some of the youngest gamers in the Descend League.
Kjerstad covers his bases
Heston Kjerstad (Orioles No. 9) started the Descend League with a bang and fine never slowed down. His seven total bases for Scottsdale on Opening Day — a homer, double and single — were a signal of things to advance, as he matched that total on two slightly just a few instances. (The ideal player with a trio of video games with seven total bases in one AFL season used to be Pete Alonso in 2018.)
Kjerstad gained this yr’s MVP award for that consistency. His 61 total bases paced the sphere by 10 and are 2d finest to Nelson Velazquez’s 74 in 2021 at some level of the last 10 seasons. The undeniable fact that Kjerstad used to be abet on the sphere this season used to be critical in and of itself, after missing two years with myocarditis. That he stood head and shoulders above the competitors used to be even more spectacular.
Mervis lives up to his nickname
When Brennen Davis, Chicago’s No. 2 prospect, used to be requested about his group mate after every had immense performances earlier in the Descend League, he used to be mercurial to produce a correction. “You mispronounced his title — it be no doubt Mash Mervis,” Davis talked about.
Matt Mervis (Cubs No. 21) hit 36 residence runs at some level of the present season then joined Mesa and hit six more, tied with Yankees prospect Tyler Hardman for the league lead. As talked about sooner than, that raw total isn’t traditionally well-known — 126 gamers have hit six or more homers in an AFL season — but the frequency with which Mervis overwhelmed them is, with his 10.2 AB/HR rate rating in the highest 10 all-time, minimal 60 at-bats. Kjerstad, to illustrate, hit one fewer homer than Mervis but averaged close to 10 more at-bats between them.