Watkins completing quick turnaround in AFL
Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year hits first homer, drives in two runs
With such little notice, he was concerned that he wouldn't be able to play at his highest level in a league that showcase's some of baseball's best young talent.
"I was worried about getting my body back into game shape," said Watkins, who had not played in a game in two months. "In this game, you can't just pick up a bat and have everything be OK again. It takes a few days. ... [But] I got the call on a Sunday and was here on a Tuesday. A lot of my baseball stuff had to be shipped to me from Wichita, Kansas."
Watkins looked like he was in midseason form on Saturday afternoon.
The 23-year-old second baseman went 3-for-5 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored as the Solar Sox outslugged the first-place Peoria Javelinas, 11-8, for their fourth straight win.
With results like that in only his fifth Arizona Fall League game, Watkins admitted his confidence has returned.
"It's obviously a great opportunity and a great experience to be here," he said. "But I wasn't sure how everything would go. And especially with the exposure to scouts that you get down here, I was a little hesitant about the whole thing. But I've been confident that I'd get my game back, and the team has reassured me that everyone here knows I've been off for two months, too."
Watkins hit his first AFL homer in the fifth inning off reliever Michael Tonkin (Twins). Two innings later, his RBI single sparked a seven-run outburst in which the Solar Sox sent 11 men to the plate.
"It was a great long inning," said the 2008 21st-round Draft pick. "Everyone got a chance to hit and we were able to string together a couple of really good at-bats. That gave us a lead and, thankfully, we were able to hold on to it."
Through five games in Arizona, Watkins is 6-for-19 (.316) with a homer, two RBIs and five runs scored. He batted .281 with a .383 on-base percentage, 20 doubles, 11 triples, nine homers, 52 RBIs and 28 stolen bases for Double-A Tennessee during the regular season. The Cubs recognized him as their Minor League Player of the Year.
With a strong campaign behind him and a week to go in the AFL, Watkins wants to prove to the organization that he's ready for any challenge -- but perhaps with more advanced notice.
"It's all very humbling," he said. "It's always nice when outside people notice what you're doing. But for people in your own organization to recognize you, it means a whole lot. It tells me that I'm doing what they're asking me to do and hopefully, that means I fit into their future plans in some way."
Saturday's game took an odd turn in the ninth when Astros' No. 3 prospect George Springer hit a deep fly ball to center field. The ball struck the batter's eye at the Peoria Sports Complex, with one umpire signaling home run and another ruling it was in play.
After Springer sped around the bases, the umpires conferred and sent him back to third base, ruling that the dueling signals confused the Javelinas' outfielders. Mesa manager Rodney Linares, pitcher Red Patterson (Dodgers) and outfielder Joc Pederson (Dodgers) ended up getting ejected.
Springer, who recorded his second straight three-hit game, scored on a double by Orioles No. 12 prospect L.J. Hoes.
"I've never seen anything like that," Watkins said.
Jeudy Valdez (Padres) smacked a two-run homer, doubled and scored three times for Peoria, while Evan Bigley (Twins) contributed a two-run double.