AFL Notebook: What you need to know from Week 4


The thick of the Arizona Fall League is upon us, and we’re less than two weeks out from its conclusion.

The Glendale Desert Dogs compiled a 2-3 record this week and now sit at 8-13 on the season. They trail the Peoria Javelinas by seven games in the West division, so chances at an appearance in the November 17 championship game are slim.

Regardless, here’s how the seven Yankees prospects fared in Week Four.

Jordan Foley

Numbers-wise, Foley’s five starts with Glendale have not much to bat an eye over.

He’s 0-2 with an ERA of 13.11, having given up 17 earned runs in the 11.2 innings he has labored through. His last three starts alone, he’s permitted 14 runs in 7.1 frames.

There are five starters in the Desert Dogs rotation, so Foley has typically had five-to-six days in between his starts. His latest, and only of this week, came November 1, in which he lasted 3.1 innings against Salt River. He gave up four runs, walked four and struck out five.

Used primarily as a reliever in the New York organization, Foley has started every game he’s appeared in this fall. Who knows whether this is just a fall experiment, but his last two seasons out of the bullpen have been impressive.

In 2018, he worked to the tune of a 2.98 ERA in 66.1 innings.

Allowing runners to score has been an issue, but striking out hitters has not. He has racked up 19 punch-outs in 11.2 frames but also has walked 12 in that span.

This league is perfect for young players to work through the kinks of their game, as Foley is figuring out.

Estevan Florial

The lone Yankees representative at the Fall Stars Game had a great night on the league’s grandest stage, going 1-for-1 with a triple, run scored and walk in two plate appearances.

He hit the triple in his first at-bat of the night off of Arizona’s Jon Duplantier that trickled down into the left-field corner. It was fascinating to watch Florial turn on the jets. Not many hitters wind up on third base after hitting a ball into the left field corner but leave it to Florial. He can flat out run.

Besides the Saturday night festivities, Florial played in just three games for the Desert Dogs this week. He went 1-for-12 and struck out six times, plummeting his batting average this fall to .158.

For a guy who boasts prolific power, he has shown anything but that this fall.

A lot of people have voiced their concerns through social media about the 20-year-old, who is wondering if the broken bone in his hand he suffered this summer is still nagging him.

Asked after the Fall Stars Game how he feels, Florial put the worries to rest.

“I’m feeling really good right now,” he said with a smile.

The kid will be alright, everyone.

Thairo Estrada

Of the four times he played this week, Estrada hit safely on four occasions. He went 4-for-18, but his last 10 games have seen his average perk up to a .286 clip.

Estrada has always been known as a guy with a slick glove, and if he finds a way to hit, even better. His injury-riddled 2018 has called for a second consecutive Arizona Fall League stint, and it is refreshing to see him get back to his old ways a bit.

I have received questions throughout the fall regarding Estrada’s health, and how he looks moving around in the field since he suffered a gunshot wound last off-season. He really does look great, which is an even better sign for a Yankees system thin on infield prospects.

Kyle Zurak

Like Foley, Zurak has had trouble finding a groove all fall.

He got off to a miserable start giving up eight earned runs while recording five outs and then seemed to settle down a bit. He posted two consecutive starts that saw him throw three innings of one-run ball.

He had two outings this week. He threw one inning on October 29 and gave up on a run on two walks. Two days later, the Salt River Rafters tagged him for three runs in one inning. The 23-year-old gave up four hits and walked two that afternoon, nudging his ERA to 19.06.

It has been a frustrating fall for Zurak, who is coming off two really strong seasons in the organization where he combined for a 2.71 ERA.

To put his struggles into perspective, he has walked just 28 hitters and allowed four home runs in the 87 innings of his professional career. In the fall league, he has issued nine free passes and three home runs in 5.2 innings.

These are some hitters they bring out to Arizona, I tell you.

It is quite the learning experience for these pitching prospects, as Zurak may be the first one to tell you so.

Steven Sensley

You really would not have a clue that Steven Sensley is transitioning back to first base if you have seen him play there in the last few weeks.

Typically used as a corner outfielder in his two seasons with the Yankees organization, Sensley has worked full-time at first base this fall. He’s looked wonderful, too.

In four games this week, the 23-year-old tallied three hits in 15 at-bats. The bat has stalled out a bit as the league has progressed, but Sensley is working through these struggles with a changed approach at the plate.

He told me earlier in the week he has really worked on plate discipline — and swinging at the right pitches — and trying to get the ball in the air some more. An oft-potent bat from the left-hand side, Sensley has left the yard zero times this fall, but he is actively working on it.

The Arizona Fall League is rich of young talent, and the opportunity to play with and against these guys is such a rich experience.

With two weeks left to play, Sensley said he hopes to leave this league “a wiser hitter and a better defender.”

Matt Wivinis

I really cannot seem to sing his praises enough; Matt Wivinis continues to mow down hitters.

He hasn’t given up a run since his fall league debut on October 9, a span of nearly a month. He has effortlessly thrown 9.1 innings of one-run ball with Glendale, striking out 11 and walking six.

He made one outing this week on October 30. It was a perfect frame that saw him strike out two hitters.

The walks have been the only blemish in Arizona. Considering he has issued a handful of free passes and then managing to leave unscathed speaks volumes on how he routinely limits trouble.

His ERA sits at a squeaky-clean 0.96, which is the third best on the Desert Dogs. Among his teammates with a minimum of nine innings thrown, Wivinis owns the best ERA.

Hobie Harris

Hobie Harris’ 4.91 ERA this fall is a little misleading.

Of his six appearances, he has had one really rough outing. On October 27, he labored through 1.1 innings and gave up three earned runs. That’s been the main source of his inflated earned run average.

Subtracting that, Harris has thrown 8.2 innings and has allowed just three runs.

He pitched once this week on October 31 and worked through two innings of one-run ball.

Glendale manager Dave Anderson has turned to Harris the most out of his 15 relievers. He’s been in six games totaling 11 innings.

Like a lot of these young arms, his command is a little iffy. In 11 frames in Arizona, the 25-year-old has walked six hitters. Despite that, he has been one of the stronger Yankee arms fans have seen this fall.