The Mesa Solar Sox just became the most popular team in the Arizona Fall League as the Cubs have stocked the roster with three of their top four prospects. Throw in Oakland shortstop Addison Russell, the A's top-rated player, and Nationals outfielder Brian Goodwin, Washington's #1 prospect, and all eyes will be on Solar Sox games when play begins Oct. 8.
Bryant, the Cubs top pick in June, will be putting his skills on display while Soler and Almora will be looking to make up for missed at-bats due to injuries in 2013. They should get around 100 plate appearances. Armando Rivero may be tuning up for the Cubs bullpen while Dallas Beeler, Matt Loosen and Lendy Castillo will be pitching for a spot on the 40-man roster as all three are Rule 5 draft eligible. Wes Darvill will serve on the taxi squad, playing on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and is also Rule 5 draft eligible.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Baez was ‘emotionally and physically drained' and decided rest was best. Baez will start 2014 in AAA Iowa. The 20-year-old played in 130 games between Daytona and Tennessee hitting 37 HR and 111 RBI, tops in the minors, with a slash line of .282/.341/.578. He also stole 20 bases and the season featured a four-homer game for Daytona. Vizcaino, 22, was sent to the Cubs fall Instructional League so the team could better manage his rehab from Tommy John surgery. The right-hander has yet to make his Cubs debut after being acquired last year for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. He missed all of the 2012 season after undergoing surgery during spring training with the Braves.
The six-team league gets underway on Tuesday, Oct. 8, and the season concludes with the annual championship on Saturday, Nov. 16. The all-star game is Saturday, Nov. 2, and the first event of the year is the Bowman Hitting Challenge at Salt River Fields on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Home games are at Hohokam Stadium, the Cubs former spring training facility. Also sending players to the Solar Sox are Angels, Nationals, Tigers and A's. Their top prospects on the roster include: Angels—# 2 C.J Cron 1B, # 3 Taylor Lindsey 2B , #9 Mike Morin RHP, #11 R.J. Alvarez, #14 Zach Borenstein OF; Nationals—#1 Brian Goodwin OF, #8 Matt Purke LHP, #10 Matthew Skole, 3B, #11 Sammy Soils, LHP ; As—# 1 Addison Russell SS, #16 Max Muncy, 1B; Tigers—#15 Corey Kneel.
Here's a look at the Cubs AFL players and what they did in 2013:
Kris Bryant, 3B, 21, R/R. 6-5, 214, 1st round pick 2013, Mesa/Boise/Daytona
Kris Bryant made three errors and went 0-3 in his pro debut for Mesa on July 21 and two days later, fanned five times in his debut for Boise. That's about all he did wrong. The #2 pick overall in June hit .354/.416/.692 in 18 games for Boise, earning NWL Player of the Week honors, before skipping low A and heading to Daytona. He added another Player of the Week honor his first week in town in the FSL, and played in 16 games with 5 HR, 14 RBI, and hit .333/.387/.719. He capped off his first pro season helping Daytona win the league title, hitting .350 in the finals. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said earlier this fall Bryant may play some outfield in the AFL but the Cubs will still continue to develop him as a third baseman. Bryant only had 146 plate appearances but made the most of it, hitting .336/.390/.688 with nine homers and 32 RBI in 36 games, including a 17-game hitting streak.
Albert Almora, OF, 20, R/R, 6-2, 180, 1st round pick 2012, Kane County
Almora missed the first two months of the year with a broken hamate bone and was out the final month with a bone bruise in his groin. The 61 games he did play for Kane County were impressive. On top of conducting interviews with most of Chicago's top sports scribes, the 20-year-old hit .329/.367/.466 with 39 runs and 23 RBI. He had three or more hits 11 times and finished the season with 82 base knocks. Almora showed a strong accurate arm with seven assists and displayed why he's considered major league ready as a defender. Due to the injuries, Almora only had 272 plate appearances and was initially on the AFL taxi squad, but was moved to the full-time status after Baez was pulled.
Jorge Soler, OF, 21, R/R, 6-4, 215, Free agent 2012, Daytona
Jorge Soler started in right field for the North Division in the Florida State League all-star game on June 15 and left in the second inning. It was the last game he played during the regular season. The 21-year-old Cuban was sent back to Chicago and it was discovered he had a stress fracture in his left tibia, and spent the rest of the year in a walking boot. It was also revealed the injury happened in spring training on a foul ball off the leg. Soler played 55 games with the injury in Daytona, hitting .281/.343/.467 with eight homers and 35 RBI. He hit .377 against left-handers, swiped five bases, and opened the year with a 10-game hitting streak.
Wes Darvill, IF, 22, L/R, 6-2, 175, 5th round 2009, Kane County/Daytona
Darvill began 2013 in Kane County playing 15 games at four different positions: 3B-2B-SS-LF. He hit .347/.429/.469 with two triples and six RBI, earning a promotion to Daytona on May 9. Darvill was a solid second baseman for the D-Cubs with a .983 fielding percentage, 135 assists, and 40 double plays in 55 games. The left-hander hit .253/324/.365 with three homers and 34 RBI. He scored 37 runs and swiped eight base but was caught 10 times. In the playoffs, he hit .250 with 2 RBI in the FSL finals and .333 in the divisional series. The 22-year-old has made a slow rise through the minors and spending 2012 at low A Peoria (116 Games, .224/.285/.306.).
Armando Rivero, P, 25, R/R, 6-4, 190, Free agent 2013, Kane County/Daytona/Tennessee
Despite a slow start, Rivero made a quick rise through the Cubs minor league system in 2013, establishing himself as a candidate for the Cubs bullpen in 2014. The Cuban right-handed relief pitcher made his professional debut for Kane County on June 22 after the 25-year-old signed for $3.1 million in March. Rivero, who hadn't pitched competitively in over a year, got off to a slow start for the Cougars, allowing 14 hits and 11 runs in his first 8.2 innings. In his final five games at Kane County, he had 18 strikeouts in 9.2 shutout innings. He was promoted to Daytona (0-0 2.70 ERA, 3.1 IP) pitching three games and then finished up the year with six games and 8.2 innings at AA Tennessee (0-1 2.08 ERA, 3BB 12K).
Matthew Loosen, P, 24, R/R, 6-2, 205, 23rd round 2010, Tennessee/Daytona
The highlight of Matt Loosen's season with a nine-inning no hitter the right-hander fired for Daytona against Dunedin on July 8. He fanned nine and walked two in the 7-0 gem. Loosen began 2013 in AA Tennessee but struggled with a 7.32 ERA and 26 BB in 35.2 innings. He was sent back to Daytona, and whatever pitching coach Storm Davis told him, it worked. In nine starts with the D-Cubs, he went 5-2 with a 1.82 ERA and 17 BB in 54.1 innings. His success earned him a promotion back to Tennessee but had problems with his command, leading to a 7.08 ERA in five stars and 17 BB in 20.1 innings. Loosen ended the season on a high note with 11 straight shutout innings. Loosen was named Florida State League pitcher of the week twice and earned Cubs organizational Pitcher of the Month honors for July.
Dallas Beeler, P, 24, R/R, 6-5, 205, 41st round 2010, Tennessee
Dallas Beeler will be making up for lost innings as the right-hander missed most of 2013 after tearing a tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand in May. Prior to the injury, Beeler made nine starts for AA Tennessee (54.2 IP, 43H, 17 B, 35 K) going 4-2 with a 3.13 ERA. He's no stranger to injuries as he had Tommy John surgery while at Oral Roberts before the Cubs drafted him. He made 27 starts for Tennessee last year (6-7 4.24 ERA, 136 IP, 1.57 WHIP, 48 BB, 70 K)
Lendy Castillo, P, 24, S/R, 6-1, 170, Rule 5 Pick 2011, Kane County/Daytona
Claimed in the 2011 Rule 5 draft from Philadelphia, the 24-year-old made 13 relief appearances (0-1 7.88 ERA, 16 IP, 12 BB, 13 K) for Chicago in 2012 before a groin strain but him on the DL. The right-hander was signed by the Phillies in 2006 and spent the first three seasons as an infielder. Castillo didn't have it as a starter for Kane County to start 2013, allowing 36 hits (six homers) and 27 runs in five starts (23.1 IP). He was moved to the bullpen but struggled with his command walking 26 in 41.1 IP. Despite the problems in the Midwest League, Castillo was promoted to Daytona near the end of July. Under the tutelage of pitching coach Storm Davis, Castillo was able to regain his command. He appeared in 11 games for the D-Cubs, posting a 3.60 ERA in 20 IP (21 K/7BB) with a WHIP of 1.40.