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Glendale notes: Farmer catches up in AFL

Dodgers backstop error-free while producing at plate on the circuit
November 17, 2015

Once Kyle Farmer might have been best known for his cameo as a high school quarterback in the movie, The Blind Side. The ability to play any role is a quality that's serving the 25-year-old well.

The Dodgers' No. 24 prospect put together an impressive collegiate career at shortstop for the University of Georgia, batting .308 with a .704 OPS over four seasons as a mainstay in the Bulldogs lineup. As a professional, he's been making his bones behind the plate.

Farmer is getting valuable additional innings as a backstop in the Arizona Fall League, seeing a veritable wealth of differing arms and styles on the mound while handling a pitching staff with prospects from five different organizations.

"It helps me a lot," Farmer said in front of his Glendale Desert Dogs team's dugout after leading his team to a win on Nov. 6. "It shows me the future is bright, I think. I hope so. Working with pitchers who are around the zone helps me frame balls better and block them better. They know that if a ball is in the dirt, I can block it better. It's just a lot easier to work with guys who know where the ball is going and have an idea of how to pitch."

Farmer is in a comfort zone with the Desert Dogs headquartered at the Dodgers' Spring Training home, Camelback Ranch. Additionally, Glendale's manager is Bill Haselman, who also skippered Farmer for his first 44 games of the season with Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga.

"'Has' does a great job," he said. "The coaching staff is awesome. They help me out before the games with blocking drills and receiving. The more baseball you play, the better it is, and the better you become."

With Glendale, Farmer works with a staff that includes fellow ranked Dodgers prospects such as Jharel Cotton (No. 15) and Scott Barlow (No. 28), Pirates' No. 25 Steven Brault and No. 30 Cody Dickson, No. 15 Phillies prospect Tom Windle -- a former Dodgers organizational teammate -- and more.
"It's definitely a learning process," Farmer said. "Especially if you want to make it to the big leagues, you have to know what the pitcher has, what he's going to throw, what his put-out pitch is, what he likes to do behind in the count to a hitter.

"There are so many things, it's like a chess match. Each inning, with a pitcher you don't know how to catch, it's a different chess match, and it's a tougher chess match when you don't know how to catch them. Once you see what they have, everybody's objective is to get the batter out."

Through 92 innings behind the plate, Farmer has looked like famed Russian Grandmaster Garry Kasparov with a glove. Farmer hasn't committed a single error in 11 games and has cut down five of 18 runners attempting to steal against him, a 27.8 percent rate.

The opportunity to get extended work in the field -- which has also included three starts at third base -- hasn't hurt Farmer's approach at the plate either. In 58 at-bats, the Atlanta native is batting .293/.323/.517 with two homers and 13 RBIs.

"I think hitting will always be there, but I have to keep working it defensively just to be able to make it up to the big leagues," he said. "If you watch the catchers in the big leagues, they're amazing."

With just days remaining in the AFL, Farmer's long 2015 -- in which he batted .296/.343/.437 between Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa, earned a midseason California League All-Star honor, was selected to the U.S. roster for the Futures Game and was tabbed a Dodgers Organization All-Star -- is coming to a close. But Farmer's farewell to Arizona will be a short one.

"The offseason comes up a little bit shorter this year, but I'm not mad about it," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting back to Spring Training in this beautiful facility and seeing what the Dodgers have in store for me."

In brief

Fishing for power: While No. 5 Astros prospect A.J. Reed was the most highly anticipated talent headed to the circuit in their Astros system, No. 8 Derek Fisher wasn't far behind. After a slow start, Fisher is putting things together with a four-game hitting streak and hits in six of his last seven games. The outfielder blasted his second home run of the AFL season on Nov. 12 to lead Glendale to an 11-7 win over Salt River.

J.B.'s journey: The AFL was not kind to White Sox prospect J.B. Wendelken, who posted a 30.37 ERA in four outings, including six runs on six hits in just a third of an inning against Mesa on Oct. 26. Wendelken's fall has taken a turn for the better; it just took a huge change of scenery. The right-hander is one of the AFL's contingent with Team USA for the inaugural Premier 12 tournament currently underway in Taiwan and Japan. Through two appearances for his American side, Wendelken pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out four while walking one. That line included a crucial two-out appearance on Nov. 15 in a U.S. win over South Korea that clinched the Americans the No. 2 seed coming out of their group. USA Baseball's team includes No. 2 Brewers prospect Brett Phillips and No. 10 White Sox prospect Jacob May and has advanced to the semifinals later this week at the Tokyo Dome.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.