The scorpion! A hideous, subtropical, lobsterlike arthropod packed with enough poison to make your eyes rolls back in your head and your limbs stop functioning.
In Arizona, a terrifying desert on the edge of America, they actually have a “scorpion season,” a time of year in which small towns are overrun by swarms of them, pincers waggling, poison barbs stinging, and on our broken, rapidly warming planet, scorpions are only feeling more and more at home.
Imagine if scorpions were the size of cats. My god, we wouldn’t stand a chance.
But that didn’t stop MLB’s Arizona Fall League from considering the scorpion a charming enough part of Arizona’s natural wildlife to name one of their teams after them. This year, the Scottsdale Scorpions were partially comprised of Phillies prospects who sadly finished in last place but fortunately poisoned no one.
On Saturday, the last inning of the AFL was played: A walk-off win for the Peoria Javelinas, a team comprised of Braves, Rays, Mariners, Padres, and Brewers prospects. Peoria dominated the league, ending with a 21-9 record, ten games ahead of the third place Surprise Saguaros in the AFL’s West division. It was Atlanta’s Braxton Davidson who bashed the final pitch out of the stadium to win the championship before hurting his foot so badly during the celebration that he needed to be carried off the field.
The Phillies prospects’ AFL season had ended a little earlier, as the Scorpions finished in third place in the East division, the AFL’s tighter of its two races. They were a mere 1.5 games out of first, with the three teams in their division finishing with records of 16-14, 15-14, and 14-15. Here’s how things played out for the Phillies’ contingent.
Luke Leftwich, RHP
The right-hander threw 80 innings for Clearwater this season, with a 2.70 ERA, 98 SO, and 21 BB before getting beckoned up to Reading, where he got 62.2 more innings to show his stuff and put up more solid numbers. By the time he reached Arizona, Leftwich was just about out of gas. Except that no he wasn’t, and in 10.1 innings, he didn’t allow anyone to score a run on him. His ERA after eight appearances was 0.00, with 12 SO and 3 BB.
Tyler Viza, RHP
Viza, too, told AFL hitters to shut up with a 3.47 ERA in six starts for the Scorpions. He struck out nine Salt River Rafters in five innings, the highest single-game strikeout total in the AFL this season, using a fastball that didn’t punch into the low-90s with regularity, but boy, was he able to put it wherever he wanted.
Seth McGarry, RHP
McGarry wants to be more than the hastily mentioned return from the Joaquin Benoit trade, which was a trade that once happened and involved the Philadelphia Phillies. When he got here last July, McGarry had a heater that could touch 97 and a ground ball rate (73%) that was making Matt Klentak giggle. Out in Arizona, the Scorpions put him into seven games with one start, which he used to accumulate a 2.25 ERA and 15 SO in 12 IP, but the nine walks were the continuance of a high walk rate that had dulled his regular season numbers.
Jonathan Hennigan, LHP
Hennigan replaced Sixto Sanchez on the AFL roster after the Phillies’ stud pitching prospect got pulled back with an inflamed right elbow. The 24-year-old has been cast by the organization into a relief role, being named the Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Week back in July after striking out 11 of the 21 batters he’d faced in a game with Lakewood. Hennigan didn’t get a lot of time on the mound in Arizona, scampering into eight games and only seven innings of work. But he only allowed one earned run and six hits in that span, walking five and striking out nine. He picked up his only save on October 20, despite hurling a wild pitch with a runner starting the inning on second base, thanks to baseball testing out that unholy new rule in AFL games.
Arquimedes Gamboa, SS
Gamboa effortlessly patrolled shortstop at Williamsport in 2016, had his best offensive year at Clearwater in 2017 (.261/.328/.378), and in 2018, played in 114 games, his longest professional season yet and his first in which he was not a teenager. His offense didn’t click out west, with only two extra base hits and 12 BB in 59 AB, as well as three errors between his time at both short and third. Gamboa is interesting enough to other teams that he comes up in just about every hypothetical trade with the Phillies that gets generated, and he was one of the three players from the AFL’s East division to be included in the Fall Star Game Final Vote! He did not win. Why did you not vote for him? This is all your fault, really.
Luke Williams, 3B
Williams started out in one corner of the diamond, a third baseman reliant on his speed as an offensive threat, but in 2018 he seemed to branch out, bashing nine home runs in an uncharacteristic showcase of power. He also got to stretch his legs at almost every other position in the infield and outfield, in the hopes of becoming a more versatile threat. Seeing the results of wacky experiments is what the AFL is all about, but Williams had trouble stringing hits together in Arizona, finishing with a .097/.222/.161 slash line; which is translated from three hits (including a triple) in 31 AB.
Darick Hall, 1B
If Williams had been built on speed, Hall was the Phillies’ power component to this prospect contingent. Moving from Clearwater to Reading this season, he slugged 26 home runs with a .462 SLG. The promotion chewed away at his numbers a bit, and while he crushed three more dingers in the AFL, he also struck out a lot (19 times), continuing the trend of dynamic displays of power separated by gaps in his hit tool and seeming to lack a plan at the plate.
Austin Listi, RF, OF/1B
A lot was new for Listi in 2017, given that it was his first full professional season, he didn’t technically have a position, and he was still learning the ins and outs of the Phillies organization. So when they handed him the Paul Owens Award for the Phillies top prospect, it caught him off guard. “I was very surprised,” Listi told John Stolnis in a recent interview, “mainly because I didn’t know this was an award.” He got in 76 AB in the AFL, hitting .250 with two doubles and a triple and only eight strikeouts, including a 3-for-4 showing on the season’s final day. Listi garnered a lot of positive reviews in Arizona, making the Fall Stars Team as the only Phillies representative, and hit a three-run shot that would have won the game for the East if the sons of Vlad Guerrero and Craig Biggio hadn’t started a comeback win for the West in the bottom of the ninth.