SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the Surprise Saguaros played their biggest game of the season Saturday against the Salt River Rafters for the honor of being crowned 2019 Arizona Fall League champions, the club leaned heavily on their arsenal of talent from the Kansas City Royals' farm system.
Getting the start on the hill was southpaw Daniel Lynch, who fired three scoreless frames, yielding just one hit. It was his third consecutive start against Salt River, who roughed him up to the tune of seven hits and five runs last Saturday.
“Last time I faced them, they were all over my fastball,” Lynch said. “I just mixed it up [this time around]. They obviously swing the bat really well. They’re a team that is on [top of] fastballs for sure, so I just tried to mix it up and keep them off-balance.”
Mission accomplished. Lynch was electric, tossing 27 of 36 pitches for strikes, including a first-inning strikeout of Fall League MVP Royce Lewis (Twins).
While Lynch set the tone with his 97-98 mph fastball, as soon as he departed, Salt River struck. A five-run fourth inning keyed the Rafters' 5-1 win, saddling Kansas City’s No. 3 prospect (MLB No. 69) with a no-decision.
With Surprise trailing late, the relief duo of left-hander Daniel Tillo and right-hander Tad Ratliff each tossed a scoreless frame to keep the club within striking distance.
Tillo, a 6-foot-5 southpaw that the club selected in the third round of the 2017 Draft, had his fastball clocked as high as 97.9 mph during the title game. He worked around a pair of base hits to cap off his Fall League campaign by delivering a fifth consecutive scoreless outing.
Ratliff similarly wiggled out of trouble during his frame, notching his 11th strikeout of the fall to finish off a stint with Surprise in which he allowed just one run over 9 1/3 innings.
While the triumvirate of arms impressed on the hill, the club’s No. 8 prospect, Kyle Isbel, manned center field well and hit leadoff. He attempted to spark a rally in the eighth when he tagged a double down the right-field line. Including the regular season, Isbel’s 24 hits marked the most of any player that suited up for the Saguaros.
The group of prospects that Kansas City sent to Arizona impressed over their six weeks in a multitude of ways. Ultimately, time spent in the Fall League is about growth and development ahead of arriving in the big leagues.
“I think I just learned a little bit more about who I am as a pitcher,” Lynch said of his time spent with Surprise. “There is a little bit less searching going on.”
While the Saguaros didn't come away with the AFL crown, the Royals certainly learned a bit more about the level of talent that they have in the pipeline.