11/18/09 7:00 PM ET
Morel homers in AFL Finals preview
White Sox infield prospect hitting over .400 in Arizona
By Danny Wild / MLB.com
Buddy Bell, the White Sox director of Minor League instruction, had an offer for the former third-round pick.
"He called me and invited me," Morel said. "I was so excited to come out here, I think that's everybody's goal in the Minor Leagues, to play in the Fall League. So yeah, I was pretty happy."
Somewhere, Bell is probably smiling too. Morel replaced Dayan Viciedo, a Futures Game All-Star in 2009, on the Peoria Javelinas roster and has put up huge stats ever since. He homered for the second straight game and raised his Arizona Fall League average to .414 in Wednesday's 7-6 loss to the Phoenix Desert Dogs.
"I'm having a good time," Morel said. "To have the opportunity to come out here this year -- I've been playing pretty well. It took that first week just trying to get that timing back."
Wednesday's game was somewhat of a preview of the league's championship -- both teams will meet again on Saturday to battle for the AFL crown. The Desert Dogs clinched the East Division on Monday and will look to win their sixth straight Fall League title behind 2009 No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg.
"I haven't faced him yet out here, but I've heard a lot of good things," Morel said of the Nationals prospect. "Both teams are playing pretty well. We both won our divisions kind of early, so I'm pretty excited."
Morel, who went 4-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs in the previous game, added three more hits Wednesday, including a two-run homer in the seventh that put Peoria ahead, 4-1. He reached on an error in the first, singled and scored in the sixth and singled again in the ninth.
"I'm feeling pretty good. Our Triple-A coach [Charlotte's Gary Ward] is the hitting coach for our team, so I've been trying new things. It's working out and going pretty good."
Morel enjoyed a solid season with first-place Class A Advanced Winston-Salem in the Carolina League, where he earned postseason All-Star honors for the Dash. The Bakersfield, Calif. native finished the regular season batting .281 with 16 homers and 79 RBIs before spending a few weeks at instructionals.
From the couch to the desert sun, the 22-year-old third baseman will find himself on TV this weekend for the championship showdown, which will air live on MLB Network at 2:30 p.m. ET.
"It'll be fun to play on TV. I haven't had too many opportunities to do that," he said. "Maybe some college games, but not that often. So it'll be cool to see."
White Sox fans can catch a glimpse of the future -- current Chicago third baseman Gordon Beckham made his case for the Majors a year ago in the AFL.
Morel may be a little further away than Beckham was, but he at least projects to start at Double-A Birmingham in 2010.
"It'll be next, I'll keep working this offseason to prepare for Spring Training, get my body ready," Morel said. "I'll go to Spring Training and try to compete for a job somewhere."
For Morel, the Fall League has been a chance to refine his game and measure himself against some elite talent.
"I'm working on some basic stuff -- on my weaknesses, getting back and staying back behind the ball," he said.
Morel's homer in the seventh off Rays right-hander Heath Rollins gave him five RBIs in two days.
"He threw me a fastball strike on the first pitch and then a curve to make it 1-1," Morel said. "He threw another curve, but he left it over the plate a little bit. I wasn't sitting [on the curve], I just reacted to it."
Dodgers outfielder Trayvon Robinson also homered and Jordan Danks (White Sox) added three hits for Peoria. Brewers right-hander Robert Wooten, a University of North Carolina product, gave up the final two runs of a go-ahead six-run rally in the eighth to suffer the loss.
Corey Brown (Oakland) went 3-for-4 with two RBIs while Chris Marrero (Nationals) and Matt Angle (Orioles) plated two apiece for Phoenix.
Orioles reliever Josh Perrault, an Arizona State product, picked up the win despite allowing two runs in the eighth. Nats first-round pick Drew Storen sealed up his fourth save, striking out two in the ninth around a pair of hits.
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.