Hicks, Daniel earn Week 2 Fall League honors

October 17th, 2023

Nobody seemed to be able to get Liam Hicks out in the the Arizona Fall League last week, and nobody was tougher to square up than . As such, both earned accolades for their performances in the second week of the annual elite prospect circuit.

Hicks, a Rangers backstop, was named the AFL’s Hitter of the Week and Daniel, a D-backs righty, was named Pitcher of the Week.

Hicks remains red-hot
Is there anyone, anywhere, hotter than Hicks right now?

The 24-year-old entered Monday as the AFL’s leading hitter thanks to an unstoppable week for Surprise, collecting 16 hits in his first 28 at-bats (.571) across his first seven games of the Fall League. Nine of those hits came during a nine-at-bat stretch in the middle of the week, with Hicks recording the AFL’s first six-hit game in 14 years on Tuesday and hitting safely in his first three at-bats Wednesday. In between, Hicks reached base in 10 consecutive plate appearances for the Saguaros.

Texas’ ninth-round pick in the 2021 Draft, Hicks spent most of 2023 at Double-A Frisco and led all Rangers’ Minor Leaguers (min. 250 plate appearances) with a .414 on-base percentage. He entered Week 3 pacing the AFL in hitting and OBP, and ranking third in both hits and OPS.

"I have improved by talking with all the coaches on our staff and picking their brains," Hicks said in statement to the AFL. "I feel like I'm also improving by facing such good competition night in and night out, whether that be facing nasty pitching or even improving behind the plate catching the guys on our staff and learning how to work with them and what they like out of a catcher."

Daniel does the heavy lifting
Daniel is no stranger to the spotlight, having made three relief appearances down the stretch for the Angels before enjoying a nice four-inning, five-strikeout Fall League debut. But he set the bar for the circuit’s pitchers in his second start, punching out 10 and becoming the first AFL hurler this season to complete six innings in Scottsdale’s 3-1 win over Peoria on Saturday. He also became the first AFL hurler to record double-digit strikeouts in an outing this season, and needed only 80 pitches to breeze through six efficient frames.

“Figuring out that your stuff can play (in the Majors) is a huge confidence booster,” Daniel told MLB.com after his big night. “I had some success while I was up there. Being able to take that confidence -- knowing there are still hitters and hitting is a hard game -- [is big]. If you can be in the zone with good stuff, you’ll have success.”

But those chances didn’t come for the 26-year-old until down the stretch because of nagging injuries, notably a right shoulder strain that delayed his season debut to Aug. 1. As a result his 2023 was limited to three big league relief appearances and just five starts above Rookie ball, with the bulk of them coming at Class A Inland Empire. Daniel pitched well out of the bullpen for Los Angeles (3 ER, 12 ⅓ innings) and now owns a 0.90 ERA and 15 K’s across 10 innings so far in the AFL.