Owen Caissie – Picture by Todd Johnson

Starting yesterday, eight Cub prospects began playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. They include outfielders Brennen Davis and Owen Caissie and infielders BJ Murray, and Matt Mervis. As well, relievers Zac Leigh, Sheldon Reed, Riley Martin, and Bailey Horn are there.

There are several reasons for sending a player to the Arizona Fall League. Some of it might be to make up for lost time, for others it’s to get a head start on 2023, and some is just too get a little bit more exposure against advanced competition.

For this year‘s octet, most of them are heading to get a leg up on the 2023 season. Only Brennan Davis is heading there to make up for lost time.

Let’s take a look at what we should all be looking for from each player over the next six weeks.

Brennen Davis

It would be cool to see Davis just get in a groove and hit. I’d like to see the strikeouts go down and the walks go up. The occasional dinger would be nice as well. But most of all, I just want him healthy and driving the ball to all parts of the ballpark again. After missing 2/3 of the year, September was like spring training all over again. Hopefully he can get back in sync in October and early November.

Matt Mervis

MLB Pipeline said that he was going to be the sleeper for the Cubs in the AFL. Not quite sure that he’s a sleeper as everyone pretty much sees him coming after driving in 119 RBI in 2022. I’d like to see Mervis spray the ball around and continue to take excellent ABs and not to chase pitches.

Mervis had a breakout 2022 season, hitting .309/.379/.605 while advancing from High-A to Triple-A, leading the Minors in extra-base hits (78), total bases (310) and RBI (119) and ranking third with 36 homers. Signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Duke in 2020 after the pandemic shortened the Draft to five rounds, he offers the best combination of power and contact in the Cubs system.

Owen Caissie

Owen has an excellent eye at the plate and he finished the season on a high note driving in seven runs in the playoffs. I’d like to see him to just continue to drive the ball and to use left field to his advantage with two strikes. He really improved throughout the course of his season and his arm was one of the best in the system by the end of the year. That explains him getting the right field gig every day.

BJ Murray

I loved watching him adapt to playing at High Class A. It took a few weeks, but it eventually clicked and he took off. He’s really going to be playing a level of competition that he has not faced just yet. This will be good for him as he will be exposed to some of the best arms in the minors. But what people don’t realize about Murray is he’s quite judicious at the plate; he just doesn’t swing at anything. As a switch hitter, I think he actually is going to be one of those guys that gets better as he moves up levels because he’s going to be facing pitchers who are in the strike zone quite a bit more and he punishes strikes.

Zac Leigh

I have been a big proponent of Zac from the moment he stepped on the field at Beloit in 2021. It was not a surprise to me to see how much success he had in 2022. And he was still making adjustments to his arsenal. He now throws about three different kinds of sliders which can only benefit him. He does so by adjusting his where his thumb is on the baseball. I’m excited to see how those play against advanced competition.

Bailey Horn

He was dominant in the second half for Tennessee . I’m curious as to what the Cubs are going to do with him in Arizona. Are they going to add a pitch to his arsenal? Are they going to adjust something that he already throws? Are they going to stretch him out to be a starter again? Or do they keep him in the pen where he had a lot of success in 2022?

Riley Martin

I would not be surprised to see Riley do extremely well as he faces against advanced competition. Martin dominated Myrtle Beach in April and then struggled in May at South Bend. He did pitch very well in June, but the Cubs wanted to add a slider to his arsenal and he spent some time on the development list working on it. Over the last six weeks of the season, he was one of the best relievers in the organization. His trip to Arizona is all about facing advanced competition and to get a leg up on 2023. He did well in his very short opportunity in the Southern League Championship Series for Tennessee.

Sheldon Reed

He gave up one earned run the last seven weeks of the year at South Bend. As a reliever, Reed can throw in the upper 90s and usually sets it with a nice little slider. I wonder if the Cubs are going to work on him throwing a third pitch in Arizona. He’s going to need it at Double-A, in fact he’ll need it in Arizona this fall. What I like most about Sheldon is that he does work hard and he takes direction very well. I’m excited to see him pitch in this environment.

We will be summarizing the Arizona Fall League every Sunday in “The Weekly,” but I may sneak in a post or two during the week depending on how somebody does on a particular day; especially if it’s a big day. Unlike Rookie League, there is plenty of coverage with lots of photographers, Marquee, and the big-time minor league publications in attendance.

It is going to be fun!