It's always important to take these results with a grain of salt, but the Cubs players are doing quite well down in the Arizona Fall League. They have helped pace the Mesa Solar Sox to a 7-2-1 record, which gives them a 3½ game lead in the division already. It would certainly be nice to see Mesa in the championship game that, hopefully, will be televised on the MLB Network again.
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Kris Bryant: Kris Bryant leads the AFL in home runs with four, RBI with 12, slugging percentage with .962 and is tied for the league lead in runs scored with eight. He's third in the league in batting average at .423. His OBP is only .448 because he's only walked twice in 28 plate appearances, but he's also only struck out six times. He's 2 for 2 in stolen bases. Bryant is proving that the AFL is no match for him in only his first professional season.
I was really vocal in my desire to take Jonathan Gray with the second pick in the draft this past June and I don't regret that because Gray was awesome in a small sample size for the Rockies. (Check out Gray's numbers in five starts in the hitting friendly California League. The scouting reports were just as glowing.) But I have to say that if the Cubs could do the draft all over again, I now think they made the right choice the first time.
Albert Almora: Bryant may be the early favorite for league MVP, but Almora isn't too far behind him. That's awfully impressive since he's only 19 years old and has never played above low-A. Most of the players in the AFL are from Double-A or above and few are from below High-A. Almora is batting .417/.440/.792. Six of his ten hits are for extra bases, including one home run. He's only walked once in the league, which is a little troubling but most players would have trouble taking a pitch if they were hitting like that. He's only struck out twice in 25 trips to the plate, so it's not like he's swinging at pitches he can't hit.
Again, it's extremely impressive that a 19 year old is doing this in the AFL.
Jorge Soler: It's not all sunshine and roses for the Cubs hitters, as Soler is struggling with a .229 batting average and no home runs over eight games. He hasn't walked yet (leaving his OBP at .229) and he's struck out nine times. He does have three doubles, so that's something.
For what it's worth, Keith Law said Soler looked much improved from earlier in the season, despite these results. I'm going to assume a lot of his problems are rust until proven otherwise. Addison Russell is doing just as poorly and no one is worried about him.
Wes Darvill: Darvill hit a pinch-hit home run in the first game he played in the AFL. Since then, he's gotten into three games and is 3 for 12 with two walks.
Dallas Beeler: Beeler has gotten two starts for the Solar Sox and went three innings each time. He was good in the first one, allowing only one run on three hits and a walk while striking out two. He wasn't as good in the second one has he allowed three runs on six hits and two walks with only one strikeout.
Matt Loosen: Loosen has made three relief appearances and the first two were shaky, allowing two runs in two innings and 2.1 innings respectively. His defense did cost him in his first appearance as both runs were unearned. He then threw a perfect inning of relief on Saturday, striking out two. He's struck out four and only walked one over 5.1 innings, which is pretty good.
Lendy Castillo: Castillo threw a scoreless inning in each of his last two relief outings and he didn't walk anyone in either of them. He only struck out one and allowed three total hits in the two innings, however. Overall, Castillo has made four appearances and has allowed three runs in four innings, but two of the runs were unearned so he has a nice looking 2.25 ERA. He's struck out two and walked two while allowing seven hits.
Armando Rivero: Rivero has also had four one-inning relief appearances and he allowed runs in the last two. He's given up three runs, although only two earned, over the four innings. He's allowed five hits and one walk while striking out three, but all three strikeouts came in his first appearance and he doesn't have one since.
Keith Law wasn't too impressed with Rivero's stuff down in the AFL, although he noted that this could just be a by-product of the overall lack of innings he's pitched since leaving Cuba. But he noted that his fastball was 90-92 and his slider was distinctly average.