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Arizona Fall League Update: Week 3

Ben Cowles and Caleb Durbin powered the Yankee cadre in the desert this week while Matt Sauer mowed down opposing batters

Mesa Solar Sox Photo Day Photo by Jennifer Stewart/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Three weeks are in the rear view mirror in the desert of Arizona and it’s time to take another look at the Yankee farmhands whom the New York brain trust sent for extra reps with and against some of MLB’s top prospects.

As it has every week thus far this fall, the recap starts with the bats ... specifically Ben Cowles and Caleb Durbin. The two infielders are pacing not only the Yankee contingent playing for Mesa, but also arguably the Solar Sox writ large. The latter now has 16 hits in 13 games, with half of them going for extra bases. He also leads Mesa in stolen bases with seven. Through three weeks, Durbin boasts a gaudy 1.113 OPS. The 23-year-old middle infielder reached Double-A this season, where he held his own with an .801 OPS. Thus far this fall, he’s building on a strong 2023, including reaching base four times on Saturday.

Cowles, meanwhile, is also more than holding his own at the dish. There’s a lot of swing and miss in his game this fall, with 13 strikeouts in 11 games. Despite that, he’s still hitting .324 with a .976 OPS.

The two might have high-pointed the entire week Monday night, when they went back-to-back (and a belly-to-belly ... thanks John) to help Mesa bust a six-game losing streak.

Nelson Medina, meanwhile, continues to really struggle. The young outfielder is 3-for-22 so far this fall, with 12 strikeouts. At this point, the hope is that he can start seeing positive outcomes as he progresses through his time with Mesa.

On the other side of the ball, Matt Sauer has put together a strong fall to this point. On Monday night, he pitched two scoreless frames with four strikeouts. On Saturday, he followed that up with another scoreless inning, where in he struck out the side. Through 6.2 innings in a high-offensive environment, Sauer has struck out 12 and is allowing barely a runner per inning (1.05 WHIP).

Speaking of Saturday’s game, Trystan Vrieling finally found himself on the wrong side of some adversity. He started Saturday’s tilt for the Solar Sox and managed to go two innings. But before he left, he allowed four runs on five hits and gave up FOUR longballs. Hearkening back to a former Yankee manager, it’s not what you want.

Kevin Stevens has continued to pitch well for Mesa this fall, though he finally allowed his first run this week. Nonetheless, he’s now tossed 4.2 frames with only the one run marring his record, and six strikeouts on his ledger.

Baron Stuart allowed a couple more runs this week, but the news is not all bad. He leads all Solar Sox relievers in innings pitched, so he’s pitching well enough to get sent back out on the field for important work. He still needs to cut down on the free passes (six in eight innings), but the returns seem encouraging.

Finally, Nolberto Henriquez continues to struggle in Arizona. Opposing hitters are Ty Cobb on steriods against Henriquez, knocking him around to a .500 opposing batting average. Henriquez has allowed 13 baserunners in his 3.2 innings so far this fall. Like Medina who is struggling on the other side of the ball, the hope is that Henriquez can start to see positive returns.

Cowles and Durbin have continued to rake, while Sauer is starting to show something this fall. Keith Law commented on Sauer’s heater and above-average curveball earlier in the week in his observations on the prospects he’s seen while watching Arizona fall ball. Hopefully, the rest of the Yankees farmhands playing for Mesa can see similar success before the fall is done.