Down on the Farm – Solar Sox Eliminated from AFL Championship

To say that the eight Dodger prospects participating in the 2012 Arizona Fall League with the Mesa Solar Sox are glad that the season is winding down is probably a gross understatement. Granted, the eight (outfielder Joc Pederson, second baseman Rafael Ynoa, catcher Griff Erickson, and pitchers Chris Reed, Andres Santiago, Onelki Garcia, Red Patterson, and Eric Eadington) undoubtedly had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience (well, except for Erickson who also participated in the 2011 AFL), but the fact remains that they all had a less-than-stellar AFL season.

The Solar Sox, as you may know, are the not-so-proud owners of the worst record in this year’s edition of the extremely popular and prestigious AFL. With two games remaining, there is still a slight chance that they might… might avoid having the lowest number of wins,  but in order to do so the Sox must win both of their two remaining games coupled with two loses by the Phoenix Desert Dogs (one loss would pit the two teams in a tie for the fewest wins). Unfortunately, regardless of what happens today and tomorrow, the Sox are guaranteed to finish with more losses than any other team in the AFL and they most certainly can’t be too thrilled with that. Entering Wednesday’s action the Solar Sox are 10-18-2 and the Desert Dogs 11-15-4.

While I understand that the whole concept of the AFL is to get everybody equal playing time, having your best and sixth best hitters sit out 5 and 17 games respectively does not bode well for a winning record. (Video capture courtesy of Ron Cervenka)

To be fair, nearly everyone who took part in the 2012 AFL entered the 32-game AFL season a short six weeks after completing a rigorous 140-game minor league season. As such, most of these kids had only a very brief off-season and are undoubtedly exhausted and looking forward to the conclusion of the AFL. But the fact remains that aside from Rafael Ynoa’s team-leading .330 batting average (ninth best in the AFL), the rest of the Dodger prospects basically had a mediocre to poor showing in the 2012 AFL.

To be even more fair, the poor showing by the Mesa Solar Sox is certainly not entirely the fault of the Dodger prospects; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Although the Sox will finish the 2012 AFL season last in batting average (.244 heading into Wednesday’s game), Ynoa and Erickson will finish with the first and sixth best batting averages on the Solar Sox at .330 and .270 respectively (again, with two games remaining). Unfortunately, Joc Pederson, the Dodgers 2012 Minor League Player of the Year and the kid who was expected to excel in the 2012 AFL, had a dismal time, hitting only .106 with only one home run. But here again, not only did Pederson just finish a 140-game minor league season, he also participated in three Southern League championship games, flew to Jupiter, FL where he participated in three World Baseball Classic qualifying games for Team Israel, and then flew straight to Phoenix to participate in the AFL. So while the other AFL participants at least had a six-week break, Joc had very little time off. This being said, I can absolutely guarantee you that Joc will not use this or any other excuse for his AFL struggles.

The Solar Sox are also the dubious holders of the worst team ERA in the 2012 AFL at 5.66. Unfortunately, the Dodgers pitching prospects were of little help in this department, as their combined ERA is 5.93 with a 3-4 record heading into Wednesday afternoon’s game.

Regardless, and to put this entire AFL thing into proper prospective, it really doesn’t matter how well or how poorly teams do in the AFL or any other fall or winter league; participating in these leagues is more about personal development and all part of the growing and learning process. That said, you can bet the farm that personal pride is a huge factor in the AFL and the other leagues, and having a poor showing doesn’t sit too well with these extremely competitive and highly talented kids.

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