Feature photo of Zac Leigh by Rich Biesterfeld
It was a bit of a crazy day for me which meant I wasn’t aware of all the craziness happening in the Cubs world (including a Jared Young call to the bigs) but we finally got some news we had been waiting on — the seven Cubs participants in the Arizona Fall League were reported.
Before I give a quick hit on each guy, here’s a reminder of what the AFL is and why it’s important:
Each MLB team sends seven prospects to a league down in — you guessed it — Arizona to compete against each other throughout the month of October and half of November. The Cubs players will compete for the Mesa Solar Sox and the league is extremely prestigious.
The AFL is typically used by clubs in three different ways…
• As a way for a player to make up for lost time during an injury-riddled season
• As extra development for players that might be future big leaguers (extra points if they are close to the Majors)
• As a way to further evaluate a guy that is Rule 5 Draft eligible in the offseason, helping the team decide if he is worthy of a 40-man roster spot
Here are the seven Cubs that will be in Mesa, thanks to the report by Lance Brozdowski.
It’s pretty interesting that each of these pitchers aren’t Rule 5 eligible this year, are all a little older than you’d like to see from the level they were competing at this season, but all give you something to get excited about.
Leigh is the most prospecty of this reliever group and even a guy that I’d rank as potentially the second best reliever in the system outside of Jeremiah Estrada. He has a fastball with some good juice and ride, a slider with elite shape, and good results between South Bend and Tennessee this year.
Notable Stats: .183 opponent average, 35.5% K, 32.1% CSW
You might remember Riley Martin for taking the minors by storm when he came out an dominated Myrtle Beach to the tune of a 56.3% strikeout rate in 13.1 innings. He got off to a rough start in his promotion to South Bend but has really rounded out the season strong.
Martin has begun to incorporate his slider into the mix more after being almost exclusively fastball-curveball to begin the year and I’m sure the Cubs want to see if his repertoire can get outs against a higher level of competition in preparation for Double-A next year.
Notable Stats: 82.2 IP but only one start, 34.2% K
Reed was a part of a two-headed monster in Myrtle along with Adam Laskey that started off the season unbelievably strong. The righty has done a really good job this year of keeping the ball in the ballpark and is punching out dudes at a really solid clip.
This AFL call might be the perfect opportunity to tack some more innings onto his 38.2 for the year but I think we are gonna have to see him get more ground balls because that 39.8% rate worries me a bit, even coming from a reliever.
Notable Stats: 32% CSW, 142 K%+
Let’s wrap up this bunch of relievers, shall we? Horn was acquired from the Sox for Ryan Tepera and has pretty damn good stuff, but he seems to go on stretches where he simply can’t control it. His overall season numbers look better than average but it’s been the result of what feels like seven straight dominant outings followed by five clunkers then four studly ones and another three duds.
It’s been a wild ride for Horn this year and while most guys go to the AFL to work on certain “stuff” whether it’s a new pitch like Caleb Kilian a year ago or just different grips, Horn’s priority will likely be to control the zone consistently.
Notable Stats: 3.00 ERA (good!), 23.4% line drive rate (bad!)
Hey, we know these hitters! For Brennen, it’s simple. He missed nearly the entire year with injury. The Cubs’ top prospect began the year hurt, tried to play through it, couldn’t, had surgery, rehabbed, and now is trying to get comfy again. He needs as many ABs as he can get an this league can provide that to him.
Is there a prop bet on the AFL MVP award?
Notable Stats: None of them… they don’t matter when you spend the entire year injured
This is actually a really surprising addition to the roster given his circumstances. Mervis isn’t Rule Five eligible and he’s had a full season worth of at-bats while playing at three different levels. I think this is the org’s way of saying “you probably deserved a call-up to the bigs and we’re sorry we couldn’t do that but go dominate the AFL and earn an Opening Day spot for next year.”
I’m still waiting for Mervis to come down from this season-long hot streak that might never end.
Notable Stats: Literally all of them
I don’t know man, this just kinda blows. I was so, so excited to see Miggy back behind the dish in his first defensive action since his Tommy John Surgery. But now that he went down with the ankle injury, I’d be surprised to see him suit up for the Solar Sox.
The more likely move is that he sits out of the league, instead plays in a foreign winter league, and is replaced in the AFL by another Cubs prospect. Amaya can’t seem to catch a break and I hope he returns in 2023 big league spring training and kills it.
Notable Stats: 114 OPS+, 102 K%+, 115 BB%+