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Haniger, Naquin back Pena for Sags
Brewers outfield prospect taking aim at AFL championship
11/01/2013 7:45 PM ET
Mitch Haniger has nine hits in his last 10 games for Surprise.
Mitch Haniger has nine hits in his last 10 games for Surprise. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

Mitch Haniger hasn't done it all by himself in the Arizona Fall League because he's found a secret weapon.

"It's been great. If you're a guy like me who hits in the middle of the order, you always want to hit with runners on," he said. "I'm trying to get RBIs and he's there on base."

"He" is Tyler Naquin, the Indians' No. 5 prospect who's batting .360 as Surprise's leadoff man. A .269 hitter during the regular season, Naquin owns a .425 on-base percentage this fall. Haniger ranks second in the league with 16 RBIs.

"We're both working together toward the same goal," Haniger said.

The slugging Brewers prospect went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, Naquin collected three hits and two RBIs and Red Sox prospect Mickey Pena pitched five solid innings Friday afternoon as Surprise beat Scottsdale, 6-3.

Haniger, Milwaukee's 12th-ranked prospect, singled home Naquin with the game's first run in the first inning, then doubled him in the second. Naquin singled home a pair in the second as Surprise built a four-run cushion for Pena.

The Saguaros added two runs in the seventh when Joe Wendle (Indians) singled home Derrik Gibson (Red Sox) and Naquin raced home on a wild pitch by reliever Cody Satterwhite (Mets).

"I want to become a better hitter in general. Every facet of the game. I just want to hit the ball hard every time and good things will come," Haniger said. "It's been good. I'm just trying to get better at everything, keep everything simple and just play and let my ability take over."

Pena, a left-hander taken in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft, held Scottsdale to a run on three hits to win for the second time in five starts. He fanned five and walked three, throwing 47 of 77 pitches for strikes.

The 23-year-old Texan has allowed eight earned runs while recording 13 strikeouts over 19 2/3 innings in five AFL appearances. He went 7-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 18 starts for Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland.

Haniger got off to a hot start in Arizona, hitting a grand slam to back Pena in the season opener and earning Player of the Week honors on Oct. 15. He's batting .308 as Surprise's No. 3 hitter and has hits in three of his last four games, totaling four RBIs and three runs scored in that span.

"We're really close as a team," Haniger said of the Saguaros, who are composed of players from the Brewers, Cubs, Orioles, Rangers and Red Sox. "That's tough because we're only here for six weeks. But I think that plays a big part of it. We're all technically on separate organizations, but we're all pulling for each other."

Naquin is helping everyone by getting on base -- he's hit safely in 17 of 18 starts and reached base in every game. In 75 at-bats, he's batting .400 against lefties, .345 against righties, .385 leading off and .406 with runners on.

For Haniger and the first-place Sags, championship hopes are crystallizing in the six-team league.

"[My goal is] just to keep playing hard. We're trying to win," he said. "Everyone here wants to win the AFL championship. We know it's not the regular season and people say it's not the same intensity, but we're treating it like it is."

Scottsdale scored a pair of late runs but ran out of gas against Surprise closer Keone Kela (Rangers), who struck out one and recorded the final four outs. Mason Williams (Yankees) and Aderlin Rodriguez (Mets) had RBIs for Scottsdale, which fell to 7-14.

Braves right-hander Aaron Northcraft (1-4) was charged with four runs on six hits and two walks over two innings. He struck out four as his ERA climbed to 7.62.

Danny Wild is an editor for MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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