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cacti mesaThe 2013 Arizona Fall League kicks off today in, well, Arizona. The league annual features a host of the top prospects in baseball, and the Chicago Cubs’ contingent is no exception.

Although the Cubs’ group took a hit when Javier Baez was excused from participating (not in the pejorative sense), and Arodys Vizcaino was shifted to the Instructional League, it’s still a sparkling crew, among the best in baseball:

  • Albert Almora – The Cubs’ top pick in 2012, Almora hit extremely well in his debut at low-A Kane County this year … when he was on the field. Almora battled a variety of seemingly unrelated and un-serious injuries this year that collectively cost him about half a season. He plays fantastic defense in center field, and is expected to move up relatively quickly in the Cubs’ system over the coming years. A strong showing in the AFL – where Almora is a few days short of being the youngest player in the entire league – could give the Cubs even more confidence in starting Almora out at High-A next year, with an eye toward a midseason promotion to AA.
  • Dallas Beeler – A right-handed starting pitcher, Beeler was a fast-riser in 2011, his first full year after being drafted in 2010 as a Tommy John recoveree. He wasn’t quite as effective in 2012, and he had an injured tendon in his hand this year, which limited him to just nine starts. Getting Beeler, 24, in the AFL is likely as much about making up some of the lost innings as it is about checking him out before he becomes eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year. Even if he pitches well, I’d doubt Beeler will be added to the 40-man roster.
  • Kris Bryant – The Cubs’ top pick in 2013, Bryant tore up the Northwest League and then the Florida State League while playing third base. He’ll play there some more in the AFL, but he might get a look in the outfield. That’ll keep his bat in the lineup, and it’ll also give the Cubs an eye on his abilities out there as they plan for the future.
  • Lendy Castillo – The Cubs’ Rule 5 (and stash) pick for the 2012 season, Castillo – who took Vizcaino’s roster spot – had a forgettable season in 2012 before rebounding somewhat at the lowest levels this year. Remember, Castillo hadn’t pitched above A-ball when the Cubs took him in the Rule 5 Draft. He had a whole lot of development left ahead of him, and he may have turned a corner this year when he was shifted to the bullpen. He had 21 Ks and 7 BBs in 20 High-A innings this year, all in relief. His stats at Kane County, when he was starting … eh. You can forget those. Castillo, like Beeler, is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year.
  • Wes Darvill – Another fill-in (Darvill took Baez’s spot), and another Rule 5-eligible player, Darvill is a utility type who just turned 22 and can play in the middle infield. He’s a light-hitting type, but he walks a bit and doesn’t strike out too much. There’s clearly some evaluation going on with Darvill for the Cubs, though he will be a member of the taxi squad, and thus eligible to play only twice a week.
  • Matt Loosen – No-hitter, no-hitter, no-hitter! Ok, the 24-year-old righty did a lot more than “just” throw a no-hitter this year. He dominated at the High-A level, but struggled with control when he got a shot at AA. Loosen has always been able to strike guys out, but as he’s climbed the ladder, his walk rate has climbed right along with him. A legitimate starting pitching prospect, the Cubs almost certainly want to get a close look at Loosen before he becomes Rule 5-eligible this Winter. There’s a chance he could show them enough to be placed on the 40-man roster, but, with the influx of pitching talent over the past two years, it doesn’t seem as likely as it once did. The good news is that Loosen’s worst struggles at AA came early in the year. He was demoted to High-A, where he was fantastic, and then was re-promoted to AA. He pitched better at AA late in the year than he ever had before at the level, but it’s all relative (the ERA was still approaching 5 and the walk rate was not where it needs to be).
  • Armando Rivero – A signee out of Cuba in the offseason (for a healthy $3.1 million), Rivero got a late start this year, and managed just 30.1 innings. In them, though, he struck out 45 batters across stints at Low-A, High-A, and AA, with his best performances coming later in the year at the higher levels. The AFL for Rivero is all about getting in additional innings against top-level competitors, and seeing how close he could be to helping out the big league bullpen. He’s on the radar for 2014.
  • Jorge Soler – Unfortunately, Soler injured his leg in Spring Training (though we didn’t hear about it), and a foul ball off his shin mid-season left him with a stress fracture (that may or may not have been there all year) that ended his season before it really got going. Soler hit well enough at High-A to leave you optimistic about what’s to come, but the AFL will be a nice opportunity for him to make up some at bats. Between the injury this year and the defection process over the preceding two years, Soler has barely played any actual, organized baseball in the last few years. With a good AFL showing and a healthy offseason, Soler could start next year at AA.

The AFL runs through mid-November, and should give us a fair bit of prospecting stuff to discuss, particularly as Almora and Soler get in some long-awaited post-injury action.

  • pondorotravis

    Brett,

    Can we get some game recaps, or is there a link to watch/listen to the games?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I won’t be doing daily, game-specific recaps (and I don’t believe Luke will be, either), but I will be highlighting player performances throughout the season (most likely in the Bullets, and then in periodic updates).

      Unfortunately, I don’t believe there’s any way to follow the games in video or audio.

  • Tim

    Is the AFL broadcasted on milb.tv at all? I’d pay a month subscription to watch those games

    • Brian

      You can follow the game with Gameday… even if they had radio, this would be ok

      http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/afl/

      • Dan Foote

        My boss hates that I use gameday at work all the time. Now that I know I can use it for AFL games, too……………I guess I won’t be productive even more of the year! Heck, I use gameday when the wife is watching something I’m not interested in (read: “MOST OF THE TIME”). Thanks for the link!!

  • Toby

    I heading to see the game on Friday between Mesa and Surprise. I live about 15 minutes from Surprise Stadium.

    • Dan Foote

      I’ll be at games at HoHoKam Park (Mesa) on the 17th (6:35) and 18th (1:35) and at Scottsdale on the 18th (6:35). I’ll be wearing an Iowa Cubs shirt and Iowa Cubs hat both days. My daughter and I will be driving out from El Paso, Tx. If you’re at those games and see me, stop and say “hi” or “BN RULES”!

  • Justin

    It would be nice if Almora can make it thru the AFL healthy. So far in his brief professional career the skill of durability is one that he extremely weak at. Which all of us Cubs fans know can hinder young studs big time.

    • Jon

      He’s only playing twice a week, so that should help.

      • Justin

        Yeah I know, but I have pretty low expectations for him remaining healthy at this point, so that’s a start…

        • northsiders6

          Almora is no longer on the taxi squad. He’s on the normal roster so he can play more than twice a week.

          • Jon

            oh boy. Get the ‘medic ready…

    • CubChymyst

      Almora is no longer on the taxi squad, so he should play more often then twice a week.

  • Justin

    Brett, has it been confirmed that Soler’s leg injury came from spring training? I knew there was speculation, but I hadn’t heard that confirmed. That actually makes me think even higher of Soler’s brief stint in Daytona. Minor league injuries are so irritating with the lack of info available, even after the season.

    • SalukiHawk

      Speculation is that the leg injury happened during the bunting tournament. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • Patrick G

    I thought Baez was going to be playing?

    • Patrick G

      sorry didn’t read first paragraph

  • Bob D

    I’m going to be in Arizona in November and was thinking about catching a game. I’m wondering if anyone has been to an AFL game before could let me know what to expect. Should I buy tickets in advance? Is one venue better to attend than another? Anything I should make sure I do while I’m there? is it kid friendly? Thanks in advance.

    • Toby

      According to the AFL website, tickets go on sale an hour before game time. I’ll be going to my first AFL game on Friday so I don’t know how big the lines will be when I get there. At seven dollars a ticket, I do not think there is a better value in sports considering one gets to see the best prospects in MLB.

      • Thom

        Take this for what its worth but my brother lives in Suprise and goes to AFL games somewhat regularly. He tells me there weren’t big crowds at any of the games he went to. I am going to be out there in a little over a week to see my first game.

    • Spriggs

      No need to buy tickets in advance. The average attendance is probably somewhere around 350 or so for regular day games and just a few more than that for night games. A ticket gets you any seat in the park… open seating. There might be 20 people in line before gates open (an hour prior to the game).

      It is very kid friendly. Too kid friendly.

      • http://ehanauer.com clark addison

        I went to some AFL games about 4 years ago. At that time it was mostly scouts and family in the stands. Less that 100.

        • Spriggs

          Yes, the 350 is prolly on the high side even today.

    • RoughRider

      I’ve been to some games over the years. They haven’t been crowded at all. I’ve been disappointed a couple of times when no Cub players played in the game. I plan on going to some games this year after the season gets start going and they’ve played a few games. I’ll probably go to the Wed Oct 16th game in Peoria. As far as stadiums go, they are pretty good.

  • ssckelley

    Of the players the Cubs are sending Matt Loosen has the most to gain or lose in the AFL. He is already 24 and as Brett pointed out has struggled past single A ball. He could pitch his way on to someones 40 man roster (either the Cubs or another via rule 5 draft) with a strong performance.

  • Dan Foote

    Of the prospects the Cubs are sending, three are on the MLB Top 100 Prospects List (Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant). The only other MLB team sending more than two is the Twins (Bryon Buxton, Alex Meyer and Eddie Rosario). Currently there are 24 top 100 Prospects on AFL rosters. This year will be my first to go see AFL action and I tend to be a little anal about researching some things, so I will be watching the rosters closely and the top 100 as close as I can (if MLB would just update it once in a while) until I get there. My daughter and I will be going to the Peoria @ Mesa game on October 17th and the Surprise @ Mesa and Glendale @ Scottsdale games on October 18th. What I’ve found on the internet about the AFL games: tickets go on sale an hr before game time, tickets are $7 (I THINK their $6 for kids and seniors – no promises), it’s open seating (we might change seats often during the game, just to keep my daughter entertained), the prices for concessions is more reasonable and the players are more fan friendly (so you SHOULD be able to get the autographs you want). I hope all of the BNers who go enjoy it and if you see a crazy, bald, white guy, wearing Iowa Cubs shirt and hat, say “hi”! (My daughter is planning to wear her Fukudome jersey).

    • Spriggs

      I’ll be there, but I try very hard to avoid crazy bald white guys.

      Half the crowd that goes to these games are autograph hounds and the players sign like you’ve never seen before. The concessions at Mesa (Hohokam) are by far the worst and the slimmest of any venue… hint: the hot dogs suck, get the brat instead.

      Fans I see with Cubs gear outside the stadium… I can get up to 4 of you in for free if you’re not too bald white and/or crazy. But I get there when the gates open.

      • Dan Foote

        I ALWAYS tell people I’m the “Crazy, bald, white guy”, because life is WAY too short to not have a good time and because it makes it easier for them to look for me or remember me. I am bald by choice (it just falls out anyways). When I go to sporting events, I USUALLY get there before the gates open (spent a long time in the military, where if you are “on-time”, you’re late!). Eiher way, I hope to see you there!

    • RoughRider

      Tickets are $6.00 for Seniors 55+ and for children under 17 and under.
      Bryant is 1 for 1 with an RBI.

  • Brian

    Saturday Nov 2, MLB Network, and probably online too, the AFL EAST vs AFL WEST game will be broadcast. This will be a great game to watch.

  • jh03

    Is today boycott BN day or something? lol. No calander.. No other board topics.. Tons of usual commenters are gone.. I have nothing to read and work is going by pretty freaking slow because of it.

    • On The Farm

      Kind of makes me wonder if Brett adding a Bears blogger would be really good for the site. October posting has to be pretty slow, with not a whole lot to talk about. To be fair there has been great discussion about prospective managers, but posters can only make their opinions known so much until we know who it will be. It would be nice if the AFL has something exciting happen, and the manager situation gets resolved because I agree, work is slow.

      • jh03

        There is nothing worse than getting used to BN all summer, only to have it slow down during the offseason. Work becomes absolutely unbearable! Good thing I was furloughed last week… Took some of the agony away ha.

  • SenorGato

    I honestly hope Bryant doesn’t see an inning of OF in the AFL, but I guess it wouldn’t really matter.

    I’m so high on Bryant and Almora that I almost forget that neither is the top prospect in the system right now. I’m glad Baez isn’t going as he has had a long, eventful year already. That said, it wouldn’t take much from Bryant for me to rank him over Baez as I was extremely high on Bryant during the draft process (behind only Appel for me, and more like 1b than straight 2).

    I want to like Beeler in a Ramiro Mendoza/Alfredo Aceves kind of way, but then again I never really cared about either so much as I acknowledged that those guys found a niche for good, winning teams as long men. Lendy Castillo is probably the better candidate to become that between the two.

    Darvill could be interesting but he’s sucked in the minors.

    Now Rivero…I have high reliever hopes for this one.

  • Eternal Pessimist

    The lineup today has Bryant batting seventh…at the risk of sounding like a homer I think they are not giving him a lot of respect at 7th. Hopefully he corrects that w/ a quick jack.

  • Eternal Pessimist

    One guy I wish we added to the Arizona fall league is Volgelbomb. I’m not 100% sure what we got with him and would love to see him batting against some better pitching.

    • Cedlandrum

      I would bet money he will be there next year.

  • Dan Foote

    For those of you who have “been there, done that”, what are the restrictions about items taken into the stadium at these AFL games? Backpack sizes, etc. I’ve gone to a bunch of spring training games, so I know what to look for/do there. Never done the AFL games, so what should look for/do while I’m there? Thanks in advance.

    • DarthHater

      It’s Arizona. You must be openly carrying a gun to be admitted. ;-)

      • Dan Foote

        I’m in Texas, we carry guns to church!

        • bikemonkey

          Open Carry is illegal in Texas.

          • Dan Foote

            Didn’t say it was “ON DISPLAY”, just that we carry them even to church.

    • Spriggs

      Besides obvious security related restrictions, they don’t want you to bring your own food and drink, though unopened water bottles are encouraged and I always bring a bag of peanuts in too – they see those and don’t care. No backpack size restrictions that I ever heard of. For night games only – especially in November, bring a light jacket as it can get much chillier than you expect… at least leave it in the car just in case.

  • Aaron

    Mesa Solar Sox Lineup: Today’s Game
    Addison Russell SS
    Brian Goodwin CF
    Jorge Soler RF
    Tyler Collins LF
    C.J. Cron 1B
    Taylor Lindsey 2B
    Kris Bryant 3B
    Matt Skole DH
    David Freitas C

    • Dan Foote

      Wish I were there………then again, I ALWAYS wish I were at a game with Cubs players from ANY level.

  • Dan Castrogiovanni

    Soler strikes out in first AFL at bat. Although he did take to a full count.

    • On The Farm

      They are facing Twins prospect Alex Meyer. Kid is a stud.

    • BlameHendry

      That’s it, he’s a bust. Trade him now!

      • On The Farm

        Maybe we can trade him for Buxton, even he couldn’t get a hit in his first AB!

    • On The Farm

      Moran drew a walk in his first AB, if Bryant doesn’t get on is it time to worry if we drafted the wrong 3B?

      • On The Farm

        Nevermind he singled

        • hansman1982

          HOORAY! Single > BB – WE DID GOOD!!!

          • jh03

            His singles rate is way too high. Didn’t they want a POWER HITTING third basemen? Not some singles guy. Meh, not impressed.

            • Blublud

              Right, Darwin Barney has a higher HR rate. Might as well move him to third.

              • jh03

                Clearly Travis Wood is the better option.

              • college_of_coaches

                LOL Blublud!

          • On The Farm

            I am convinced.

  • Eternal Pessimist

    Bryant OPS 2.000!!!!

    • Blublud

      Right, but I was ecpecting 5.000 OPS after that first at-bat.

      • Eternal pessemist

        I will temper my enthusiasm in the future!!

  • On The Farm

    Byron Buxton doing Byron Buxton things, two lineouts. Soler on deck for the next inning.

    • On The Farm

      ground out to the pitcher…shucks

  • ssckelley

    Nice, these are better updates than we get for regular season Cub games.

  • On The Farm

    Enter Chicago Cub Matt Loosen

    • On The Farm

      First guy reaches on error, steals second and third off Loosen, then scores on single by the cleanup hitter.

  • Diamond Don

    Ryan Sweeney signs two year deal with Cubs! Great signing!!

    • MichiganGoat

      What the cost?

    • ssckelley

      Great news! But does this mean that the Cubs are not going after Choo or Ellsbury?

      • MichiganGoat

        No he could be a starter in CF or be a 4th/platoon OF but I doubt he’s being slotted as a starter at this point.

        • ssckelley

          But that is a lot of lefthanded bats. If they did sign Choo or Ellsbury that adds yet another lefty and you still need a right handed bat to platoon Schierholtz. Will the Cubs carry 3 outfielders on the bench next season?

      • On The Farm

        I wouldn’t say it looks good. Even though he could be a 4th OF guy, that would mean Schierholtz, Sweeney, Choo/Ellsbury, and Lake. That’s three lefties and one righty.

        • MichiganGoat

          There is still a long offseason, this was a easy contract to sign for the Cubs. If he busts it’s not expensive and if we can’t sign anybody he’s a decent backup plan.

          • On The Farm

            I still don’t think it bodes well for Choo. Choo and Schierholtz are pretty obvious platoon players and re-signing Sweeney will not be a good compliment for either players.

            • kscubfan

              Think this was just an easy pick up. Lots of value in this deal not a ton of $ either. Choo signing is a different level, not sure this says anything about the off season. Which btw hasn’t truly started yet.

        • ssckelley

          But what about Bogusevic? Do the Cubs let him go?

  • ssckelley

    Matt Loosen is now pitching.

    • ssckelley

      and he is getting knocked around already….1 run in and runners on 1st and 3rd with only 1 out.

  • Diamond Don

    3.5 million for two years with option for 2016.

  • http://www.rotochamp.com RotoChamp

    Bryant is now 2-4 today with 2 RBIs. I am planning on attending tomorrow’s game….hope they start Soler, Almora, and Bryant….though I would take 2 out of the 3.

  • fresno cub fan

    Mesa Solar Sox are 8-8 in extra innings.
    So far:
    Bryant 3-6 2B with 2R 2RBI
    Soler 1-6 2B 1 RBI 2K
    Loosen 2IP 2H 2R 0ER 1BB 1K
    Castillo 1IP 3H 3R 0ER 1K
    Rivero pitched the 8th struck out the side, including Byron Buxton BA’s Minor League Player of the Year!

    • Soda Popinski

      Thanks for the update! Nice to see that fat Bryant line.

    • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

      More ABs, that’s a plus too! ;)

  • cub2014

    Bryant looks like he might see chicago some time in 2014
    also read that FO see Rivero possibly in chicago in 2014

  • Kyle

    My expectations for Rivero are way out of whack at this point.

  • Eternal Pessimist

    I think Almora just jacked one out.

  • Eternal Pessimist

    My bad…just a single.

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