ACL – Walkoff win

Feature photo – ACL walk-off win on 06-10-2023 by Rich Biesterfeld

Week 1 of the Arizona Complex League is in the books and the Cubs have a 2-3 record. The games this past week featured a little bit of everything – a blowout loss, a pitcher’s duel, and a walk-off win. The team currently has a run differential of -15 but much of that is from a blowout loss on opening night. It’s always good to remember that for many of the players, the ACL is their first taste of professional ball. This means you will typically see more mental mistakes, physical errors and struggles with control than you will at higher levels of the minor leagues.

Highlights from the week:

  • Manager Nick Lovullo (son of Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo) gained his first professional win on Thursday night vs the Rangers.
  • Drew Gray went 2.2 IP in his first official game action coming off of Tommy John Surgery in 2022 and collected 7 strikeouts. He has looked sharp in this outing and a game in Extended Spring Training. Once he builds up his endurance, I would expect him to head to Myrtle Beach. He’s definitely a prospect to watch!
  • Pitcher Carlo Garcia went 3.2 IP and had 7 strikeouts while allowing 2 hits and 2 BB’s. He was dominating in his first start of the year. And I’m in agreement with Todd, he is likely to be the first starting pitcher promoted to Myrtle Beach.
  • Chris Paciolla had been struggling to find his stroke during the week. During Saturday’s game, I was chatting with his family who were in town to see him play about how he just needed a little break and he could get on a roll. In his next AB, he stroked a single to the opposite field, and then pulled a pitch over the left field wall for a 2-run homer to put the Cubs ahead for the first time. He has the team’s only HR for the week.
  • Alexis Hernandez seems to have ‘flipped a switch’ once Extended Spring Training ended and the ACL season started.  He has a slash line of .500/.500/.650 for the week and leads the team with 3 doubles while playing good defense all around the infield.
  • Walk-off win! The Cubs trailed during the entire game on Saturday until the 8th inning when they scored 4 runs, including the go ahead homer by Chris Paciolla. Unfortunately they didn’t hold that lead and entered the bottom of the 9th trailing 8-7. With runners on 1st and 2nd and 2 outs, Anderson Suriel drove a single up the middle. Alexis Hernandez was coming in to score the tying run from second base, but the ball was cut off and thrown to second trying to catch Christian Olivo and Hernandez had not yet scored to tie the game. The play at second was close, but the ball got away, which allowed Olivo to pop up and go to third, where the Diamondbacks proceeded to throw the ball away and Olivo dashed home for the walk-off victory!

Comings and Goings!

The nature of the Complex Leagues is that there will be frequent transactions of players being added to, and moved off of, the roster. Injuries are part of the sport and players who are rehabbing may play in some games as part of their preparation to return to their affiliate. If someone playing at a higher level gets injured, there could also be a move from the ACL to replace that player. A player who gets hot may be promoted to Myrtle Beach (Low-A) and there may be a corresponding move of someone being sent back to the ACL. All of that to say that there are normally a lot of transactions on the ACL roster.

Additions to the roster: Drew Gray, Scott Kobos and Kenyi Perez (all on rehab assignment); Miguel Fabrizio, Jefferson Encarnacion

Departures from the roster: Jefferson Rojas – quick promotion to Myrtle Beach after opening night!

A Look Ahead:

I haven’t heard anything concrete on when Alexander Canario will be ready to see some game action, but I’ve heard he’s been taking a lot of live BP and I watched him for 20 minutes on Saturday working on his baserunning. He appeared to be running at full speed and was cutting the bases to simulate going from 1st to 3rd, so he appears to be making good progress in his recovery from the injury suffered last winter.