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Cubs Arizona Fall League Update

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Checking in on the boys of fall.

Al Yellon

With the Cubs' season all wrapped up, I suppose it's time we turn our attention the the Cubs minor leaguers toiling away in the Arizona Fall League. I think we can all forgive ourselves for missing out on the first two weeks of action down in the desert: we've been pretty preoccupied this October. But let's see how the Mesa Solar Sox are doing. That's the team the Cubs share with the Marlins, Athletics, Angels and Rays. After nine games, the Solar Sox are . . .gulp. . . 1-8. The good news is that they're only three and a half games out of first place as the Salt River Rafters and the Scottsdale Scorpions are tied at 4-4 for the division lead.

But of course, the AFL isn't about titles. It's about getting in some extra development and taking in one last look at players before making decisions about them over the winter. It's also about guys who missed time with injuries getting back into playing condition. So we really shouldn't be too worried about the team record. Besides, I'm sure it's all those Marlins and Angels players that are bringing the team down. (That's a joke, in case any easily-offended Marlins or Angels fans stop by.)

Let's check in on the four position players and three pitchers the Cubs have on the Solar Sox roster. When looking over the stats for the AFL, it's important to remember that this is an extreme hitter's league. The ball travels a long way in the dry desert air and many pitching arms already have a lot of miles on them this season. So keep that in mind before drawing too many conclusions. Also, with only nine games played, we're still in small-sample-size territory.

Third baseman Jeimer Candelario: Candy is having a great AFL campaign as he leads the league in slugging percentage so far and his .478 batting average ranks fourth. Candelario's triple-slash line in six games is .478/.500/1.043 as he has four singles, four doubles and three home runs in 23 at-bats. Candelario has also walked once and struck out just three times in the six games.

Catcher Willson Contreras: Contreras has also played in six games and while he hasn't done quite as well as Candelario, he's been impressive as well. Also in 23 at-bats, Contreras has three singles, two doubles and two home runs for a line of .304/.407/.652. Contreras has walked four times and struck out six.

Outfielder Mark Zagunis: Zagunis has shown the great plate discipline in the AFL that he has throughout his minor league career. In the five games Zagunis has played, he's only recorded 11 at-bats. That's because he's walked eight times while striking out four times. Zagunis has a meager two singles in those 11 at-bats, but that gives him a very weird line of .182/.526/.182.

Catcher Cael Brockmeyer: Brockmeyer has played one game behind the plate and was 0-for-4.

Now on to the pitchers:

Right-hander Pierce Johnson: Johnson has made two starts for the Solar Sox so far and got a no-decision in both of them. In the first game he allowed three runs over three innings and gave up a two-run home run. In the second start Johnson went four innings and allowed three runs on a three-run home run to Clint Frazier. That gives him an ERA of 7.71. He's struck out five and walked four in his seven innings of work.

Right-hander Rob Zastryzny: Zastryzny has made one relief appearance and one start. In the relief appearance he went two innings and allowed only one hit, although that hit was a solo home run. In the start, Zastryzny went four innings and allowed three runs on six hits, although none of them were home runs. His ERA stands at 6.00. The positive result is that Zastryzny has struck out seven and walked only one in his six innings of work so far down thee.

Right-hander Corey Black: Black has made three one-inning relief appearances. In the first one, he tossed a perfect 1-2-3 inning, striking out two. In the second one, he got hammered for four runs on four hits and two walks. In the third one, In the third one, he allowed a leadoff single and a second runner reached on an error, but Black induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning with no runs scored. Because of that one four-run outing, Black's ERA stands at 12.00.

Additionally, two former Cubs farmhands are on the Solar Sox. Shortstop Elliot Soto, who was sent to Miami in part for Dan Haren, is 3 for 17. Aaron Kurcz, whom the Cubs lost to Boston as compensation of Theo Epstein but now pitches for Oakland, has allowed three runs in two innings of work for Mesa.