Boston minor-league players extend their season with a stint in Arizona, playing for the Surprise Saguaros
Last time we checked in on Christian Vazquez in the Arizona Fall League, he had barely played, and wasn't hitting very much. He had three hits, one of them a double, with four walks against a pair of strikeouts one week ago. In the time since, Vazquez has mashed, with another two doubles and a homer. That brings his line to .292/.433/.532.
The production wasn't spread out, with Vazquez getting most of it in Thursday's contest alone. The backstop was four-for-four with two runs, both of those doubles and the home run, and both runs batted in he's collected in the AFL in seven games to this point. You take a huge night when you can get it, of course, and if Vazquez can squeeze a few more in before the AFL ends, Boston should be pleased with his line.
It's not all about the stats, though, when it comes to the minors and short-season leagues. Scouting is where it's at, as front offices and scouts see (or don't see) improvement in players during a frame of time where stats are just not reliable. Maybe Vazquez has been making good swings and good decisions in his week of games, but didn't see payoff until his last game. Or, maybe he got lucky during a stretch where he hasn't been doing well. It's hard to tell at this stage, but with a little more time, you can start to discern patterns in a player's performance.
Chris Martin is 26 years old, but that makes him the normal kind of pitcher you would find in the Arizona Fall League. The best pitching prospects aren't sent to the AFL often, unless a club just wants their hurlers to get some additional work in. Since it's an offense-heavy league and environment, though, it is a good challenge for pitchers who aren't quite prospects, who need to show their organizations a little something extra to stay on the radar.
Martin fits that bill, as as he's 26, in Double-A, and came out of independent league ball back in 2010. He's shown solid K/BB figures in his career, with a 3.6 this season at Portland, but he hasn't pitched very often, with just 187 frames over three years in the Boston system, despite making 17 starts in that stretch. The AFL gives him a chance to keep working on his stuff, and allow the Red Sox to pay a bit more attention to him, too. To this point, it's been hit-or-miss, with Martin striking out five in 6-2/3 innings of work, and against just one walk, but he's also allowed four runs to score.
Brock Huntzinger is another arm in the same boat as Martin. Huntzinger isn't quite as old, as he's 24, but he had also just figured out Portland this year. He's started a few games, but worked mostly in relief, tossing 71 innings with a 3.93 ERA and 2.3 K/BB. That was superior to his previous stop at Portland, where Huntzinger posted a 6.17 ERA in 124 innings as a starter.
He's maintained his relief role in the AFL for the Surprise Saguaros, and has done well. The right-hander has punched out seven batters against one walk in eight innings of work. In his five games, he's posted a 3.38 ERA, but he's also been a little lucky: Huntzinger has allowed 12 hits in his eight innings. Of course, in a small sample, you can see luck work in both ways, or simply phase out with more work. So don't get too excited/discouraged by his performance to this point.