Tyler Johnson shines, rest of the group struggles in early goings of the AFL season

The Arizona Fall League has made some changes to their schedule this season. They’ve bumped the games up almost a month earlier and this year features primarily night games, which is something they haven’t done in the past. While the schedule is different, the objective of the league remains the same. It gives prospects the opportunity to face off against some of the most talented names throughout the minor leagues, it allows players who had injury filled seasons to make up for lost time, and it also allows teams to get a longer look at players who need 40-man protection.

Some players make a name for themselves in the AFL, while others struggle as they are tasked with facing some of the toughest competition they’ve seen in their career. Unfortunately, the group of prospects the White Sox sent to Arizona have gotten off to a slow start during the 2019 AFL season, except for Tyler Johnson, who has handled this league very well thus far.

Johnson is one of four pitchers on the Glendale Desert Dogs‘ staff that has a perfect ERA up to this point. He’s allowed two hits, three walks, and struck out one across four scoreless appearances totaling 4.1 innings.

It would be great to see him limit the walks, but at the same time, you have to be pleased with his performance so far. He’s coming off a lat strained that caused him to have a late start to his 2019 season. After making a rehab assignment, Johnson eventually found his way to Birmingham for this first time in his career.

He fits the category of “making up for lost time” in the AFL, and so far he’s made the most of his opportunity. I had the chance to see him throw on Friday night where he was perfect through one inning. He pounded the strike zone and worked through a scoreless frame by generating three consecutive softly hit ground balls. According to the stadium radar gun, Johnson was consistently hitting 95 mph on his fastball throughout the inning.

Joining Johnson in the bullpen for the Glendale Desert Dogs is Vince Arobio and Bennett Sousa. Unfortunately for the two of them, their time in the AFL hasn’t been as successful.

Sousa owns a 7.36 ERA across 3.2 innings with his line looking like: 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.
Arobio, meanwhile, in 4.1 innings, looks like this: 8.31 ERA, 4 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 2 K. Arobio gave up a home run in his first two appearances, but had an impressive bounce back appearance last Friday. After giving up a leadoff double in 5th inning, the 24-year-old proceeded to get two ground outs and a strikeout to strand the runner at third base, keeping the Peoria Javelinas off the scoreboard.

Sean Williams/FutureSox

Vince Arobio gets ready to deliver for the Glendale Desert Dogs (Sean Williams/FutureSox)

Bernardo Flores is the lone starting pitcher that the White Sox sent to Arizona this fall. He’s made two starts for the Desert Dogs so far, where he’s posted a 8.31 ERA with 7 hits, 4 earned runs, one walk, and 3 strikeouts in 4.1 IP. His first start was tough, as he was unable to complete a full inning before giving up all four of his earned runs. However, his next time out on the mound was much improved. Flores went for 3.2 IP and allowed four hits, no runs, struckout one and walked none.

On the position player side, it’s been a struggle for the White Sox prospects too. Blake Rutherford and Gavin Sheets currently lead the way among the White Sox trio with four hits each. Rutherford is slashing .167/.259/.375 with one double, 2 triples, 2 RBI, 3 walks, and 7 strikeouts in 7 games. Sheets is slashing .174/.208/.217 with one double, 3 RBI, one walk, and 7 strikeouts in 6 games. While the overall numbers for Sheets aren’t great, he has picked up at least one hit in three consecutive games and has played solid defense at first base. Hopefully the string of recent hits starts becoming a trend and allows him to begin to show off the development of power that we saw this past season in Double-A.

Sean Williams/FutureSox

Gavin Sheets holds a runner on during a game for the Glendale Desert Dogs (Sean Williams/FutureSox)

Speaking of power, Micker Adolfo left the yard in his first game of the AFL season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t done much since then and has struck out at least once in every game so far. Through 6 games with the Desert Dogs, Adolfo is slashing .158/.304/.316 with 3 hits, one home run, 2 RBI, 3 walks, and has struck out 11 times. He missed a lot of time this past season due to an elbow injury, but was able to play with the AZL affiliate for 13 games at the tail end of the season. It’s a big jump in talent from the AZL to the AFL, so it might take Adolfo a little extra time before he starts feeling comfortable at the plate again.

The overall numbers of the White Sox prospects during the early goings of the Arizona Fall League season has been very underwhelming. However, these guys have been improving a bit recently and hopefully that can continue as they get more experience and games under their belts. While the Glendale Desert Dogs don’t have the most impressive AFL roster, the team has a lot of intriguing names with many of those coming from the White Sox organization.

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