OK, no one else much cares about which Arizona Fall League team the Mariners are part of, but for many years I enjoyed the annual discourse on the Javelina, the desert pig for whom the Peoria Javelinas are named.
Now the Saguaro cactus is, of course, an iconic representation of the southwest, and, while I generally decry the overuse of the concept of “iconic,” in this case the image of the Saguaro is, in fact, iconic.
But it’s still a plant.
This causes me to Google “sports teams named after plants” and even with the vast panoply of digitized information available to Google, not much comes up.
The Indiana State Sycamores, once the home of Larry Bird. The Globetrotter-handpicked-opposition-team the Washington Generals was once known, at times, as the Boston Shamrocks.
And you got the Surprise Saguaros.
Unfortunately, Jesus Montero, the Mariner most likely to provide an accurate reflection of plant life on the basepaths, will not attend.
Instead, the one-two punch of D.J. Peterson and Patrick Kivlehan will head to the desert in October. Like Montero, they are sorely-needed right-handed power hitters, though both somewhat less plant-like.
And they’ve been running neck-and-neck all season:
- Deej: .295/.361/.544 with 31 doubles, 1 triple, 28 HR and 45 walks
- Kiv: .295/.364/.513 with 31 doubles, 9 triples, 20 HR and 55 walks
Kivlehan is two years older, but also took a four-year hiatus from baseball to play football for Rutgers (that would be, though not at the time, Big Ten football program Rutgers), so he’s actually less polished than Peterson. And the nine triples? Tied for the organizational lead with Leon “Three Bags” Landry? That’s certainly non-plant-like. Kiv also has 11 steals vs. 4 caught-stealing (D.J. has 7 and 1).
The Spectometer “three numbers analysis” says:
- Deej: 99-116-115
- Kiv: 101-108-109
In other words, both show up as well within the range of guys with strong major-league hitting promise (and that’s a big improvement for Kivlehan, who did not score well on our metrics at first).
Nice to have them both! For now (until they’re competing for a premium MLB slot) there’s no need to pick.
(And Kivlehan played 13 games in left field, so perhaps they won’t even have to compete.)
Also heading to the desert will be John Hicks, who will audition for the role of backing up Mike Zunino. Hicks has a decent bat for a catcher (better than Jesus Sucre anyway), and the organization reportedly has been impressed with his receiving skills. His gun-down rate for base-stealers dropped to 28% in 25 games in AAA, but it was 44% in AA and has been 47% overall in the minors, which is higher than either Zunino or Sucre.
Hicks could join college teammate Chris Taylor (hey! hey! U-V-A!) on the big club (and someday Danny Hultzen too?).
And two of our favorite pitchers also head to Surprise.
If you weren’t following this space, you weren’t hearing much about Stephen Landazuri in the past couple of years. But we’ve been loving his numbers, and the Californian just kept climbing the ladder with good performances. He fell off quite a bit in the second half (giving up 7 HR in August), but the AFL nod shows that he’s gotten the attention of the higher-ups.
And we gave Matt Brazis a “gold star” in July as a pitcher who had gotten the better of High Desert before taking his game to AA, where he has continued his success. He’s definitely rocketing up the food chain.
Joining them will be Matt Anderson, a more quizzical choice. He’s from California’s “inland empire” just like Landazuri and Taijuan Walker, so he has that going for him, but his 2014 was nothing special after bouncing between and High Desert and Jackson and the rotation and bullpen. Obviously, there’s something the organization likes.
Games start Oct. 7.