The Arizona Fall League finished up with their championship game on Saturday and the Mesa Solar Sox were nowhere to be found, finishing the season with an embarrassing 9-21 record. But even more than the regular season minor leagues, the Arizona Fall League isn't about trophies. It's about scouting and development. So in that light, here's a final report on the Cubs who played for the Solar Sox this season.
As always, remember that the AFL is an extreme hitters' league when looking at these statistics.
Third baseman Jeimer Candelario: If the Solar Sox had a rough season, it wasn't Candelario's fault as he was named to the All-AFL team after hitting .329/.371/.610 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 82 at-bats. Candelario made a lot of contact as he only struck out 10 times and only walked six. There really wasn't much chance that Candelario would get left off the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft, but his strong AFL removed all doubt. Candelario has a major league future ahead of him. What isn't clear is what team he'll play for as the Cubs are rather set at third and first, which are the two positions he can play.
Catcher Willson Contreras: As noted in an earlier update, Contreras was sent home early after suffering a minor hamstring injury. He's expected to be fine by the start of spring training. But in the 14 games he played, Contreras went 15-for-53 with five doubles, three home runs and seven walks. That translates into a triple slash line of .283/.361/.547. There was zero chance that Contreras would not be added to the 40-man roster, but nothing in his AFL season decreased his status as the Cubs catcher of the future.
Outfielder Mark Zagunis: Zagunis had one of the weirder stat lines you'll ever see and it just reinforced his image as a potential leadoff hitter (Or possible bust, if you're pessimistic). Zagunis went only 11-for-47 with two doubles and one home run, but he walked 19 times and struck out 12. That gave him a stat line of .234/.455/.340. That OBP was good enough for second in the league, behind AFL MVP Adam Engel.
Catcher Cael Brockmeyer: Brockmeyer was pegged for only limited duty as a taxi squad player and he only played nine games. In those nine games, Brockmeyer went 6-for-31 and put up a line of .194/.306/.258.
Left-handed pitcher Rob Zastryzny: No one pitched more innings for the Solar Sox than Zastryzny did, but with the exception of five innings of shutout, one-hit ball on November 5, it wasn't all that successful. Zastryzny pitched 26 innings and allowed 15 runs for an ERA of 5.19. Most of that was due to the five home runs he allowed so maybe we should cut him some slack because of the dry, windy conditions of the AFL. The one positive statistic is that Zastryzny struck out 28 batters, better than one an inning, and walked only six.
Right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson: Johnson finished the AFL on a high note, giving up only one run in four innings in his final start and tossing five scoreless innings in the penultimate one. That managed to knock his ERA down to 5.47 over 24⅔ innings. Johnson also had trouble with the gopher ball as he also surrendered five home runs, but a bigger issue was the number of walks he issued. Johnson gave up 13 walks and struck out 24 in those 24⅔ innings. However, in those final two starts, Johnson struck out ten and walked only two combined. Johnson was very likely to get added to the 40-man roster at the end of the AFL season and he was, despite his struggles.
Right-handed pitcher Corey Black: Although he was picked to pitch in the "Fall Stars" game, Black had a rough AFL season. (He got knocked around in the "Fall Stars" game too.) Black made eight relief appearances, totaling 8⅔ innings and he was torched for 13 runs, 11 of which were earned. Even worse, he walked almost a batter an inning with seven walks as compared to only six strikeouts. However, most of the damage came in only two appearances, where he allowed ten of those 13 runs. Toss out those two appearances, and his performance wasn't so horrific. But Black needed to impress to be added to the 40-man roster and he clearly didn't. He's eligible for the Rule 5 draft now and he'll just have to wait to see if he gets taken by a team wanting to get a closer look at that high-velocity arm.
Right-handed pitcher David Garner: Garner was the Cubs best pitcher in the AFL this past season as he held the opposition scoreless in eight of his ten relief appearances. Garner allowed four runs in 12 innings for an even ERA of 3.00. He kept the ball down and allowed just one home run. He did have some control issues as he walked seven batters while striking out a batter an inning with 12 punchouts.