Since the regular minor league season ended, performances in the Arizona Fall League have been a highlight for many fans of cubs prospects. Position players Nelson Velazquez and Andy Weber have been getting consistent playing time and accolades from the national press. Caleb Killian, after a rough start, has really turned things around as he’s been working on some new grips. Ryan Jensen has had some moments while Luis Vazquez and Danis Correa have played sparingly due to minor injuries.
With the Arizona Fall League set to end next week, it really begs the question whether their performance this fall really means anything for their future as cubs prospects?
The most obvious answer is yes!
For Nelson Velazquez, he’s insured himself a spot on the 40-man roster. Velazquez has a league leading 8 dingers heading into today. The Cubs are going to select his contract November 19 to avoid losing him in the Rule 5 Draft. In addition, Velazquez has put himself clearly in the discussion to possibly start next season at Iowa. It’s been one hell of a fall and I would not be surprised to see him win the most valuable player award next week.
For infielder Andy Weber, his performance in the Arizona Fall League must feel like redemption for a crappy season that only saw him play 41 games. A series of nagging injuries limited him most of the summer after a pretty dominant second half of 2019 where he helped lead South Bend to a Midwest League title title. In Arizona, Weber got off to a slow start the first week and has been hitting nonstop the last four weeks with an OPS of over 1.000. Weber told Marquee Sports Network’s Lance Brozdowski that he’s swinging a little bit differently now as he’s using more of his core rather than his hands to generate power.
For pitcher Caleb Kilian, his new grips took a while to figure out but he’s been dominant the last three weeks and has not allowed an earned run over that 13 inning span. In addition, Kilian’s averaging a little over a strikeout an inning.
When it comes to answering “no” to today’s titular question, in the long term, it might not.
For Ryan Jensen, the Cubs have been doing a lot a little things with him that include a new grip for a slider, pitching more up in the zone, and he’s also had to deal with playing with three different types of baseballs. He’s had a couple of nice games to go along with a couple of games he would probably like to forget. Ultimately, Jensen‘s experience in the Arizona Fall League has been more about tinkering than it has been about success. Hopefully, it hasn’t shaken his confidence and when he returns next spring that he actually gets in a game with the big league club in Mesa and learn a few other things about his stuff.
For Velazquez, his work during the pandemic has really paid off. But playing devil’s advocate, it doesn’t really guarantee him anything for next year. He still going to have to go out and prove himself all over again in 2022. Let’s say he does start 2022 at Triple-A, he’s going to have to produce there to get to Chicago. What he’s done this fall is great, but it’s not at Iowa. I don’t think you’re going to hear that phrase too often in life, but, yeah, it is true. In some ways it means a lot that Velazquez has popped and broken out. Then again, he hasn’t done it in Des Moines which is where he needs to do it to get to Chicago.
For Weber, it’s unclear what his status is going to be come next Friday. He is Rule 5 Draft eligible but is another team going to pick him up just based upon six weeks in Arizona? Are the Cubs going to protect him to avoid losing him? I doubt Weber gets picked, although it could happen. Like Velasquez, he’s going to have to go and prove himself all over again in 2022.
For Caleb Killian, his short tenure as a Cub has been all over the place. Like Velazquez and Weber, their time in the Arizona Fall League probably accelerated his development a little bit and will probably help bump him up to Iowa to begin 2022. His new pitch grips need to play better in Triple-A to help him get to Chicago as Kilian is not that far away either.
For Brendon Little, Danis Correa, and Luis Vazquez, it was a bit of a disappointing Arizona Fall League and it may have impacted Little the most as he had the most to gain in Mesa. The former number one draft pick pitched in one game and came out of the game with a trainer and has not been seen in action since. That injury has not been disclosed and probably won’t be for a while. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious.
So, when action ends next week, it will have been a great experience for Velasquez, Weber, and Killian. We won’t know how it’s going to play out until next summer and see how much of a springboard it actually was for them.
Lead photo of Nelson Velazquez by Todd Johnson (@CubsCentral08).