Welcome to the Arizona Fall League, where, depending on what MLB team you follow, your attention has been for “a few weeks” to “since yesterday.” The heat is dry, the players are young, and like any scenario in which skilled combatants are placed in close proximity, we are going to make them fight each other, and keep track of their skills as they do so.
*Sinister laugh, kicks nest of squirrels into traffic*
The AFL’s Rising Stars game is a cross section of MiLB’s strongest talents, all swinging, hurling, and running, while looking over their shoulders to see what the scouts think like children seeking approval from their new dad.
Some guys, like Bryce Harper, probably already have the highway to their future paved in front of them. Other guys, like Phillies prospects Josh Zeid and Justin De Fratus (Our Rising Stars game reps), aren’t as headline-churning and eye black incorrectly-wearing.
Do you remember Josh? No? Oh. Well do you remember Bryce Harper? No?
I don’t know what to tell you. You’re clearly out of touch.
For those of you who are aware of Bryce Harper’s demonic powers, Josh faced Bryce in what was the “anti-Joe Mauer’s” first professional at bat in the Arizona Fall League. Booming throngs of 850 people and their brilliantly high expectations had gathered in the stadium to see the coveted Nationals prospect. Here’s Josh’s tale of his firsthand encounter with the beast.
"“He had a simple approach. Swing and swing often. I only got to throw him 1 pitch in his very first at bat, and he swung out of his shoes. I threw an inside fastball as hard as I could while hitting my spots, and he tried to hit it a country mile. He hit a very high pop up to my short stop Andrew Romine (LAA), and that was it for my day with him.” [Phinally Phocused]"
Josh is also the owner of such honors as “Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Month” for May 2010, and was a big part of the Lakewood BlueClaws’ reign of terror as they became the second team since 1994 to win the South Atlantic League two years in a row.
Oh, and he’s got a MiLBY, but it’s okay, because it isn’t bulbous, fluid-filled growth like it sounds. Its a Minor League Baseball award and his is for “Best Reliever on a Class A level.” So that’s pretty good. Especially when you compare it to that disgusting thing I just made up.
Josh went 8-4 in Williamsport and 8-5 in Lakewood, never letting that ERA bust over 3.00. In the AFL, he’s 3-0 in four starts with 12 K’s, while hitters, including Bryce remember, are weaseling a .204 BA by him.
De Fratus, on the other hand, is anxious about what the sky is doing.
"“As you can probably tell, weather is really my biggest concern when it comes to leaving home. Being away from my family and friends is pretty tough too, but that’s getting easier and easier with every year that I’m gone. ” [Phuture Phillies]"
Yes, Justin, I can assure you. Those familial bonds you once relied on are undergoing a change.
With each passing month, the love and support that were once so significant will be worn down, down, down… eroding close relationships into callous, ambiguous run-ins. Thanksgiving transforms from a joyous celebration of loved ones to a cafeteria of strangers, unsure if they know the person next to them well enough to request some exposure to the peas.
But that 92-95 mph fastball you’ve got could make you a strong late reliever! You could not be fall leaguin’ in a better organization if you’re looking for a bullpen spot to fill. And you’re young. We’re trying to get that median team age down a bit, so a reliever with a strong arm and self-awareness, able to scrape the mid to high 90s, could be valuable.
Fill the hole, Justin. Fill it with baseball.
So, if you’re a hoity-toity rich dude with eleven cars and a house so big that none of your seven wives have ever met each other, then you probably have the MLB Network, and will be able to watch the AFL’s Rising Stars game. It starts at 9 pm, but tune in early if you want to see an ex-Astros GM get awarded for longevity.