Last night marked the official end of the Arizona Fall League as the Mesa Solar Sox defeated the Surprise Saguaros 6-0 behind six perfect innings from Cub prospect Caleb Kilian. As Greg Huss chronicled last night, Kilian was just spectacular in dealing his no-hit performance against the team with the best record in the league. Then later last night, Greg Zumach took a deep dive into Kilian’s performance and broke down his pitch usage and effectiveness. That is worth checking out. For his performance, Kilian naturally won the game’s MVP award.
For AFL MVP Nelson Velazquez, his tenure in the AFL was phenomenal and Andy Weber also did great. Kilian also made the All-Star Team before shining in the Championship Game last night. SS Luis Vazquez fought off some injuries and showed some promise when he was healthy the last two weeks. Ryan Jensen struggled at times while Danis Correa rarely pitched. As for Brendon Little, he pitched in one game and then missed the rest of the AFL schedule with a stress reaction in his elbow.
Take of the Week – Cubs MiLB Roster Concerns Not Really a Concern for a While
Friday’s protection of Nelson Velasquez and Ethan Roberts from the Rule 5 Draft put the Cubs at exactly 181 players on their minor league rosters. They still have 9 players that they can add this winter before spring training, but that number has to get back down to 180 by opening day.
Last weekend, I redid the affiliate depth charts by turning them into individual baseball fields with the players written on where they go for their position. It was a lot of fun to do. As I was doing that, I kept listing name after name after name when it came to either starting pitchers or relievers at almost every affiliate but Triple-A. Part of the reason for that massive amount of depth was the amount injuries the past year to several pitchers and the Cubs had to find someone to pitch. They picked up several independent league arms and nondrafted free agents as well as players who had been released by other organizations.
All last winter, I was waiting for the Cubs to make a series of moves by releasing several minor league players. They essentially did that five days after the World Series earlier this month as over 20 players became minor league free agents. Most of them were at Triple-A Iowa. That’s probably a good thing because it’s going to allow some of the players that were in Tennessee in 2021 to move up a notch this spring.
There were many times over the summer of 2021 where I thought the Cubs were just gonna drop 15 or 20 guys in one day. The last time being August 1. I remember being in Davenport and the Cubs just acquired 12 new minor league guys and most of the draft picks just signed. It was clear in talking with a few players that a lot of guys were walking on eggshells hoping that they didn’t get cut. I thought it was going to happen but it never did. Not a one.
Heading into 2022, the Cubs biggest “roster challenge” is actually going to be dealing with the large number of players returning from injury and just exactly figuring out when they are ready to return to action and what level is best for their development. The Cubs will still have some guys rehabbing next spring like Jack Patterson and Derek Casey. They might stay in Mesa where it’s warm and work on getting their arms strengthened for a month before heading north.
Then, come June, when the Arizona Complex League starts, several players that were in the Dominican Summer League should be coming north to play in the Arizona Complex League. That would probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 guys. The Cubs will need to have roster space by then in addition to after the draft.
In the meantime, don’t expect the Cubs to be too busy on the MiLB free-agent market for Triple-A as they have been in years past. The Cubs could sign a couple of starting pitchers to store at Iowa for depth, but Double-A might be the better place for them to fill up a roster, especially when it comes to position players. Iowa, for a change, looks to be filled next year mostly with the Cubs own prospects for the first time in years.
Prospect List Season Is Upon Us
Baseball America is likely to drop their top Cubs prospect list in the next week or two. They finished the eastern divisions in each league and have started in on the AL Central. Be prepared to see a writeup on that list, which goes all the way to 30, and how it compare to our brand spankin’ new list. Of note, it will be interesting to see how much those AFL performances impact said rankings.
This Week at North Side Bound
The week began with a busy day as we unveiled our aggregate North Side Bound Prospect List. On Tuesday, we questioned each other about our lists in a fun-filled repartee. On Wednesday, Greg Huss put out the Midweek Buzz to recap the week so far and I profiled the new Iowa Cubs hats. On Thursday, we made our Rule 5 predictions for Friday. As well, Greg Huss put out the latest podcast of Growing Cubs where he and Jimmy discussed their own prospect rankings. We also had a brief writeup on the signing of Narciso Crook. On Friday, Greg Huss started the day with his Friday Five. Around 4 PM CST, we covered the news of the Cubs protecting Nelson Velazquez and Ethan Roberts. Yesterday, strangely enough, we took the day off until the AFL Championship Game lit up.
The highlight of this next week looks to be Greg Zumach’s MLB Mock Draft on Tuesday. I will have some Turkey reading for you as I take our first minor league mailbag question. As well, I also plan on releasing a ranking of the 2B prospects in the system at some point. We also will have any breaking news for you in case there is a trade or signing.