The calendar might say "November," but there is still baseball being played by the Cubs prospects down in the Arizona Fall League. Hopefully you got a chance to see some of them in last Saturday's "Fall Stars" game but even if you didn't, I've got an update on all the Cubs minor leaguers on the Mesa Solar Sox.
The Solar Sox, managed by Pelicans skipper Mark Johnson, got off to a poor start to the Fall season. Since then, however, things . . . haven't gotten any better. The Solar Sox are 5-17 on the season and the magic number to eliminate them from playoff contention is one with nine games left to play. The good news is that the Solar Sox are a shoo-in to the first pick in the AFL draft next season.*
Just a quick reminder that the AFL is considered an extreme hitters' league.
Here's how the Cubs prospects are doing:
Third baseman Jeimer Candelario: It's not Candelario's fault that the Solar Sox have struggled. Candelario leads the team with 12 RBI and is tied for the team lead with four home runs. (That's also tied for second in the entire league.) Candelario has 53 at-bats in 13 games and has posted a triple-slash line of .358/.375/.698. He's walked twice and struck out seven times. Candelario also had an RBI double in the Fall Stars game.
Catcher Willson Contreras: Contreras has been shut down by the Cubs for the rest of the AFL season with a minor hamstring injury. It's not considered serious, but there's really no point in taking chances in a situation like this. He'll be fine well before spring training starts. Contreras finished the season with 53 at-bats in 14 games while hitting .283/.361/.547 with three home runs and eight RBI. Contreras walked seven times while striking out nine.
Outfielder Mark Zagunis: Zagunis has shown a pretty good eye throughout his professional career and he's really demonstrated that in the AFL as he's walked 18 times and struck out only nine times in 13 games. That gives him a .509 OBP, which is only good enough for third in the AFL which shows you what a hitters' league it is. Zagunis has a .270 batting average and two doubles and one home run in 37 at bats, which gives him a .405 slugging percentage. He's also stolen one base.
Catcher Cael Brockmeyer: Brockmeyer has played just four games in the AFL and has two hits, both singles, in 14 at-bats. He's walked twice and struck out twice.
Right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson: Even in the extreme hitting environment of the AFL, Johnson has had a poor fall. Johnson has made five starts and has allowed at least three runs in four of them and he gave up two runs in that fifth start. He didn't make it out of the first inning in his last start, getting hammered for four runs on two home runs in two-thirds of an inning. Johnson has an overall ERA of 8.04 and has walked 11 and struck out 11 in 15⅔ innings.
Left-handed pitcher Rob Zastryzny: Zastryzny also was having a rough fall, but his last time out he tossed a gem, allowing just one hit over five scoreless innings and picking up his only win of the season. Zastryzny has made five appearances, four of which were starts, and has a 4.74 ERA over 19 innings. More encouraging, he's struck out 21 batters and walked only four.
Right-handed pitcher Corey Black: Black has made seven relief appearances in the AFL and posts an ugly ERA of 11.74 over 7⅔ innings. But almost all of the damage was done in two games. Black was tagged for four runs over an inning on October 16 and six runs, five earned, over 1⅓ innings on November 3. All the damage was done in the second inning he pitched, after bailing out the starting pitcher from a runners on first and second, no outs jam in the previous inning with no runs scoring. Black has some control issues as he's walked six and struck out five. He also gave up three runs in an inning in the Fall Stars game.
Right-handed pitcher David Garner: Garner has been the brightest spot among the Cubs pitchers in the AFL. He's made seven relief appearances and has allowed just three runs over 8⅓ innings for a 3.24 ERA. All three of those runs came in his October 30 appearance. Garner has struck out nine and walked four.
*Please don't tell me you thought I was being serious there.