Arizona Fall League opens Tuesday
Albert Almora will represent the Cubs as a member of the Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. (Photo by Jason Wise)
The Arizona Fall League is upon us. Though many will be tuned into the MLB playoffs for the next few weeks, the AFL is the crystal ball of baseball, giving fans a glimpse of the game’s future stars.
Twenty-five of MLB’s top 100 prospects (according to MLB.com) will be participating in Arizona action, headlined by individuals like the Twins’ Byron Buxton and Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon. Even with those two budding stars, no organization has received more hype for the depth it’s bringing to the league than the Cubs. Three of the AFL’s top 10 prospects are from Chicago’s organization: Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant.
Each member of that trio has received his fair share of hype, but a few other Cubs prospects who had solid 2013 campaigns are hoping to give the Mesa Solar Sox a boost as well.
Albert Almora, OF — The 2012 first-round pick and No. 21 prospect in baseball impressed when healthy this season. He hit .329/.376/.466 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 61 games for Class-A Kane County. But he also missed the first month of the season, recovering from a broken hamate bone, and then was out of action from August-on, dealing with groin issues.
Dallas Beeler, RHP — Beeler got off to a fast start in 2013 with Double-A Tennessee, going 4-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 54.2 innings. But in late May, the right-hander tore a tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand, shelving him for the season. The 24-year-old, 6-foot-5 starter is believed to be healthy and will pitch in Arizona to make up for a lost season.
Kris Bryant, 3B — Bryant was as advertised at the plate this year for the Cubs affiliates. The 2013 first-round pick (and No. 35 prospect in baseball) hit a combined .336/.390/.688 with nine homers and 14 doubles over 36 games with the instructional squad, Short-Season Boise and Daytona. Many eyes will be trained on the 21-year-old this fall.
Lendy Castillo, RHP — Not many players who have a full major league season under their belt play in the AFL. A 2011 Rule 5 pick, the Cubs were forced to put the reliever on their major league roster during the 2012 season or forfeit him back to Philadelphia, his original organization. Castillo spent the majority of 2013 with Kane County before a late-July promotion to Daytona. His 39 walks in 84.1 innings definitely contributed to his lofty 5.87 ERA, but he also fanned 8.1 batters per nine innings and 9.4 per nine in his 20-inning stint with the D-Cubs.
Wes Darvill, IF — The 22-year-old Canadian played all over the diamond for both Kane County and Daytona this season, seeing time at second base, third base, shortstop and left field. Darvill spent the first month of the season with the Cougars before a promotion to the D-Cubs. He hit a combined .267/.339/.380 in 94 games and finished second on the Daytona squad with five triples (seven on the season).
Matt Loosen, RHP — Loosen dominated hitters at High-A Daytona, going 5-2 with 56 strikeouts and a 1.83 ERA in 54.0 innings (including a no-hitter). But he struggled to find that same success in Tennessee. The 24-year-old righty was 3-3 with a 6.14 ERA, though he still managed to fan 60 batters in 66.0 innings. He showed promise late into the season, giving up one earned run in his last three starts combined and striking out 18 batters in 16.1 innings.
Armando Rivero, RHP — Rivero is a bit of a mystery for the Cubs. Signed out of Cuba prior to this season, the 25-year-old right-hander threw just 30.1 innings of full-season minor league ball. In all, he totaled a 4.15 ERA at Kane County, Daytona and Tennessee, and struck out 45. Rivero’s outings could be some of the more closely monitored by the Cubs during play in Arizona.
Jorge Soler, OF — Shin and leg issues kept the 21-year-old Cuban out of action after the High-A Florida State League All-Star Game, but Soler still managed to make an impact. In 55 games, the corner outfielder hit .281/.343/.467 with eight homers and 13 doubles in 210 at-bats. Baseball’s No. 25 prospect will hopefully rack up some innings and plate appearances to get back on track for 2014.