As many of the Arizona Fall League’s top performers have started to settle into a groove at the halfway point of the season, few came close to matching the efforts of Darius Vines and JT Schwartz in Week 3.
Vines, the Braves’ No. 10 prospect, earned AFL’s Pitcher of the Week honors while Schwartz, a first baseman in the Mets system, was named the league’s Hitter of the Week
Vines deals in first AFL start
Making his debut for Salt River on Oct. 17, Vines stifled Surprise’s lineup over 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball, striking out nine batters without a walk. It was Vines’ first appearance in a game in 20 days at that point, after having spent much of his October with the Braves during the National League Division Series as a member of the team’s taxi squad.
That didn’t stop him from making a strong impression in his first AFL start.
“I felt like I was getting ahead, throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes,” Vines said. “When I was behind in the count, just making these guys swing, throwing a lot of good strikes, a lot of swings-and-misses.”
After right shoulder inflammation delayed Vines’ season debut to late June, the 25-year-old right-hander still managed a 2.37 ERA in 49 1/3 innings across 10 total appearances (nine starts). After posting a 2.86 ERA in five outings with Triple-A Gwinnett from late July to late August, Vines was called up by the Braves on Aug. 28. He logged two quality starts and made three additional appearances out of the Atlanta bullpen, finishing his short Major League stint with a 3.98 ERA over 20 1/3 innings.
“It’s been surreal,” Vines said. “Especially making my debut this year after being [in Florida] for the first two months of the year and, you know, it’s hard. [Rehabbing,] you see a lot of guys get the chance and you’re not mad or jealous, you just wanna be there with them and just really try to do everything and anything in your willpower to get there.”
Schwartz breaks out at the plate
After batting a respectable .280 through his first 25 at-bats of the fall, Schwartz found another gear in Week 3, going 8-for-18 (.444) with a pair of homers, five doubles and nine RBIs, helping Glendale go a perfect 6-0 during that span. The Mets’ farmhand entered the week riding a seven-game hitting streak, a stretch in which he has elevated his overall slash line to .349/.383/.628.
Schwartz went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double and three RBIs in a 6-2 win over Mesa on Oct. 18, marking his first three-hit performance of the fall. The 23-year-old isn’t known for his power, but he’s been able to tap into some thump this fall.
“At this point, I like who I am as a hitter, putting the ball the other way and gap to gap,” Schwartz said. “Hopefully the homers come along with that, but I don’t really try and focus on it too much and sell out for power.”