The Chicago Cubs have been busy building one of the better farm systems in the game over the past few years. Their impressive crop of position players especially stands out, which will be evident in this year’s Arizona Fall League.
The team won’t be sending it’s top prospect, Javier Baez, but will still have three of the top hitting prospects in the game down in the desert.
The Cubs team up with prospects from the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers to form the Mesa Solar Sox. The AFL rosters are still preliminary, so it’s possible things could get shaken up a bit before play opens Oct. 8. Here’s a snapshot of the Cubs prospects headed to the desert this fall.
Javier Baez – Originally announced as an AFL participant, Baez will instead recharge after completing his first full season of minor league ball.
Albert Almora – At 19-years-old, Almora will be among the youngest player in the AFL. The No. 6 pick of the 2012 draft, Almora has hit for a high average (.329) and played excellent defense in center field. A broken hamate bone cost him a big chunk of his 2013 season, a likely sapped some of his power even after he recovered. He still had 24 extra-base hits in 61 games and slugged .466. Almora projects as a five-tool player.
Jorge Soler – Cuban defector, Soler will be one of the most watched players in the AFL due to how little we’ve seen of him in the states up to this point. His season was cut short after he fractured his fibula in June. Prior to that, he had been benched for lack of effort and suspended for approaching the opposing dugout with a bat in his hand during a benches-clearing incident. The Cubs signed him to a nine-year, $30 million contract, so it wouldn’t be at all a surprise if the team rushes the 21-year-old to the majors. In 89 games over the past two seasons, Soler has hit .288/.353/.456 with 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases.
Kris Bryant – The second pick of this year’s draft, Bryant could be on the fast track. The 21-year-old advanced to High-A this season, and showed off his elite power. Bryant hit nine home runs to go with a .688 slugging percentage in 36 games over three levels. Combine that with his college numbers at San Diego, and he slugged 40 homers in 98 games this year. How he fares in Arizona could have a huge influence on where he opens the 2014 season. Drafted as a third baseman, Bryant could end up at first or in an outfield corner.
Arodys Vizcaino – Somewhat lost in all the offensive talent the Cubs are sending to Arizona is Vizcaino. He was acquired in a trade last summer that sent Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm to the Atlanta Braves, despite the fact he had an injured elbow. The AFL will mark the 22-year-old’s debut with the Cubs after he spent all season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Vizcaino made it all the way to the bigs in 2011, posting a 4.67 ERA over 17 ⅓ innings with the Braves.
Armando Rivero – A lot of the young Cubans like Soler get big contracts and a lot of attention when they come stateside. But there are also older players who defect from Cuba who are just past prospect status, Rivero is an example. The 6-foot-4 right-hander made his debut in the U.S. this season and impressed out of the bullpen. He averaged 13.6 K/9 over 30 ⅓ inning, but it was a small sample against inferior competition. We should get a better feel for the 25-year-old in the AFL.
Dallas Beeler – Another guy playing catch up in the AFL, Beeler made just nine starts this season. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is hoping he can prove he’s ready for the next step. The 24-year-old has made 45 starts in Double-A over the past three seasons, posting a 4.05 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 5.1 K/9. With those numbers, the former 41st round pick is looking more like organizational depth at this point.
Matt Loosen – Another 24-year-old starter, Loosen has stalled out at Double-A as well. After a terrible start to the season, he was demoted back to High-A. He fought his way back up to Tennessee, but struggled again. The right-hander ended up with a 6.14 ERA over 16 games in Double-A, 13 of them starts. He averaged 8.2 K/9 but also issued 6.5 BB/9.
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