It’s getting to be that time of year. In the next couple of weeks, the Cubs will announce seven or eight prospects they will place with the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. Some might be picked relative to their inclusion onto the 40-man roster in December. There could also be a player they might want a better look at in order to keep him away from the Rule 5 Draft. They might want to even advance development of a young prospect or to showcase him as trade bait.
The most common reason for selecting a prospect to participate in the fall league, though, is to make up for lost time during the year.
The most obvious choice to get that added time this year is Justin Steele, who underwent Tommy John surgery almost exactly a year ago. Steele began pitching in Arizona League games at the beginning of this month and put up a 1.47 ERA with 27 strikeouts in just 18.1 innings. He was already throwing six months after surgery rather than the usual 9-12 month wait and should be making his next rehab in Myrtle Beach.
Erick Leal also had Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2017, but has been dominant in his return to Myrtle Beach. He has been excellent since resuming his career in late May and getting him some more reps, even as a reliever, would also expose him to playing against a little bit better competition than the Carolina League.
D.J. Wilson should find his way to Arizona as well. He is one of the most athletic prospects in the system and has been bogged down by nagging injuries the past two years. He was beginning to heat up in July when another injury pushed him back to the DL, so a little extra time this fall could serve him well.
Bailey Clark came out blazing this year, throwing between 95-97 in long relief for South Bend, and cut through the Midwest League quickly. He was doing the same for Myrtle Beach before he went on the shelf. Clark has struck out 51 batters in 42 innings and is a definite candidate to send to Arizona if he gets healthy.
Part of me wants to see Trent Giambrone and Zack Short get AFL experience. The two 2016 draft picks rose quickly through the organization and this could give them a head start to AAA Iowa next year. Then again, the Cubs pretty much know what they have in those two and this would just be a bonus for their development.
The same could be true of Aramis Ademan, who is currently at high-A Myrtle Beach. While he has struggled a bit this year, he is still only 19 while most of his international free agent class is in Eugene or Mesa. He’s playing way above his age group and learning as he goes. The AFL might just be another step to help prepare him for AA, as I doubt the Cubs would have him repeat Myrtle Beach.
It might be interesting to see how Jared Young stacks up against elite competition before he gets to AA as well. Young has won the Cubs’ MiLB Player of the Month two months in a row (one at South Bend and one at Myrtle Beach). He has a beautiful swing and does not seemed fazed at all by high-A pitching. More than likely, Young could stay home and work on adding 10-15 pounds to his 6-2, 180-pound frame to generate more power next year.
Steele, Leal, Clark, and Wilson are pretty much givens, but it will be fun to sit down and figure why the other few prospects are going. I am more interested in seeing who the Cubs themselves might value and be interested in seeing more of, or even showcase for a trade.