Tena takes AFL batting lead in 3-hit day

November 7th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cleveland second baseman took over the Arizona Fall League batting lead Saturday afternoon by going 3-for-4 as his Scottsdale Scorpions beat the Peoria Javelinas, 11-7.

Tena, Cleveland's 12th-ranked prospect, is now hitting .442/.537/.558 with five doubles in 12 games. Though his 54 plate appearances are six shy of the 2.7 per team game needed to qualify in the batting race, he ranks first because he still would edge Blue Jays first baseman Spencer Horwitz of the Mesa Solar Sox (.386) if six hitless at-bats were added to Tena's record.

Tena credits his AFL performance to concentrating on doing what he needs to do to get better at the plate.

"I'm focusing on staying short to the ball and staying on the pitch that I'm looking for," said Tena via Scottsdale coach Wuarnner Rincones, a hitting coach in the Rays system. "Hitting-wise, I think working on the things I need to improve has helped me stay consistent."

Part of a potentially special Cleveland 2017 international class that also includes outfielder George Valera (No. 2) and infielders Brayan Rocchio (No. 7), Aaron Bracho (No. 15) and Jhonkensy Noel (No. 25), Tena signed for $400,000 out of the Dominican Republic. He has some of the best bat-to-ball skills in Cleveland's system, which enabled him to handle the challenge of a High-A assignment at age 20 by hitting .281/.331/.467 with 16 homers in 107 games this summer.

Again facing older and more experienced competition in the Fall League, he has continued to perform.

"I feel really happy about these opportunities," said Tena, the nephew of 16-year big leaguer Juan Uribe. "I can focus on the things I need to improve on. While some guys are home resting, I'm still working on little things that will help me to get better."

Cleveland officials have been impressed by Tena's self-awareness and drive to get better. Though his in-person development was limited to instructional league when the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the 2020 Minor League season, he used the downtime at home to add some needed muscle. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, he weighs about 15 pounds more than that and has shown improved exit velocities and arm strength this year.

"That was one of my goals last year," he said. "I still feel like I need to keep working on my body and get stronger. That's one of my goals for this offseason."

Giants DH Will Wilson (No. 15) hit the game's lone home run for the Scorpions, a 420-foot blast with an exit velocity of 107 mph off Mariners right-hander Luis Curvelo in the third inning. Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas (No. 2) extended his hitting streak to 11 games and collected a pair of hits, improving his batting line with Scottsdale to .322/.444/.424.

Mariners righty Juan Then (No. 14) displayed impressive stuff for the Javelinas, running his fastball to 98 mph and his slider to 90 while also getting 19 inches of horizontal break on his changeup. But he struggled to locate his pitches and the Scorpions had little difficulty solving him, tagging him for seven runs on six hits and four walks in 2 1/3 innings of work. Then struck out four in his brief stint as his ERA rose to 12.46.

Scottsdale improved to 8-14 with the victory but still has the worst record in the AFL. Peoria dropped to 10-10-1 and remains in last place in the West Division.