Team effort lifts Scottsdale to Fall League title
Twins prospect Walker delivers 3 RBIs for champion squad
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The best prospects in baseball have finally taken their last bows of the season. The Scottsdale Scorpions capped off the latest Arizona Fall League campaign with a championship, and they earned a 6-4 victory over Surprise in Saturday's title game by virtue of a total team effort.
Four Scorpions had two hits in the title game, and Scottsdale took a commanding lead in the eighth inning by virtue of a clutch two-run double by Twins prospect Adam Brett Walker II.
Walker was far from the only Twins prospect to contribute to the victory. Left-hander Taylor Rogers, No. 13 on Minnesota's Top 30 list, started for Scottsdale and tossed three scoreless frames. He was backed by fellow Twins hurlers Trevor Hildenberger, Jake Reed and Nick Burdi, who each threw an inning in relief, combining to hold the Surprise to one run on one hit and one walk while striking out five.
Scorpions manager Matt Quatraro said the road to the championship was lined with memorable moments.
"I didn't know what to expect coming out here, but I got so lucky with these guys," said Quatraro, who serves as the assistant hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians during the regular season. "They were so professional and they just played hard all the time. We told them early on, 'It doesn't matter if you're 0-for-8. You're going to play again. If you give up five runs, you're going to pitch again.'
"We weren't out here for the coaches. We were out here to showcase their abilities. And they did it."
The Scorpions, made up of prospects from the Indians, Giants, Red Sox, Tigers and Twins organizations, played as the road team in their home ballpark, Scottsdale Stadium, for the championship game. Scottsdale took the game's first lead with a three-run fourth inning, and held on despite a late Surprise comeback.
The first scoring rally -- and much of the early action -- centered on some defensive miscues. Scottsdale and Surprise combined for seven errors, and three of the Saguaros' miscues came in the fourth. Walker singled home a run in that rally and also doubled home two runs in the eighth.
"Every day you come out here, you're facing a guy who's really good," Walker said of the Fall League's four-star pitching talent. "It was definitely good competition, and it was nice to come out here and see how I compare with these guys. It was a fun team to play with. It was definitely a good experience."
White the defense was suspect early on, it stole the show in the latter stages of the game.
In one four-batter span during the bottom of the sixth and top of the seven, three highlight-reel diving catches were made -- one by Detroit's Mike Gerber, one by Yankees prospect Tyler Austin and one by Bubba Starling, to rob Gerber. And Scorpions shortstop Christian Arroyo (Giants) recorded the final out of the game on a spectacular sliding catch in foul territory.
Surprise was named the home team for Saturday's championship by virtue of clinching its division before Scottsdale, and the two teams were hard to separate coming into the game. Scottsdale and Surprise, in fact, ranked as the top two teams in the Fall League in both runs per game and ERA.
Surprise, which consisted of prospects from the Brewers, Cardinals, Rangers, Royals and Yankees, took five of the six games against Scottsdale during the Fall League's regular season. On Saturday, the Saguaros closed to within 4-3 in the seventh inning but Walker's double helped clinch the title for Scottsdale.
"Surprise is a phenomenally talented team," said Giants prospect Mac Williamson, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI triple and run scored for Scottsdale. "Every pitcher that we faced today is going to be in the big leagues.
"They're put together really well. They're offensive. They've got speedsters up at the top and then they've got Gary Sanchez with the power and Patrick Wisdom with the power. They've got guys at the bottom of the order that can get you back to the top. And their pitchers come at you pitch after pitch."
Both Surprise and Scottsdale had won the Fall League title twice prior to Saturday, and the Scorpions took home their first championship since 2010. Quatraro raved about his team's makeup, and he said the final innings were eased by Walker's clutch double up the left-field line in the eighth.
"It changed it immensely," he said. "A one-run lead, I don't care who the pitcher is. You play a little tighter when you only have a one-run lead, and then we have to play no doubles. That was a back-breaker."
For Walker, the winner's circle is beginning to be old hat. The 24-year-old is ranked as Minnesota's No. 10 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, and he hit 31 home runs for Double-A Chattanooga this year. But more important, Walker was part of the team that won the Double-A Southern League's championship.
That victory dovetailed with a championship from the previous season, when Walker won the Florida State League title with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Does all that winning ever get old?
"Definitely not," Walker said. "It's always an honor to get to play in a championship game. I've been on some good teams, luckily, and it was another great team to play with this fall. It's always exciting. Every time you get to come out here and play for a championship, it doesn't matter where you are."