The Boys of Autumn are underway down in Arizona as the Arizona Fall League and Mesa Solar Sox have played five games already. I’m pleased to report that the Solar Sox are 4-1 in those five games, which is the best record in the AFL so far.
The Mesa Solar Sox are the team that the Cubs host at Sloan Park in Mesa. The four teams that also send teams to Mesa are the Red Sox, Athletics, Tigers and Angels. No one plays every day in the AFL and often players need to play out of position to accommodate the players from other organizations.
There are nine Cubs on the Solar Sox roster: five position players and four pitchers. Here’s an update on how they’ve done so far.
Nico Hoerner: No Cubs prospect is being watched more in Arizona than the Cubs’ 2018 first-round pick, who got off to a blazing start to his professional career in Eugene and South Bend before an elbow injury ended his season after just 14 games.
Hoerner has played four games so far for the Solar Sox, more than any other Cubs prospect. The time off showed as Hoerner went 0 for 9 with a sacrifice fly in his first two games. In the two more recent games, Hoerner went 6 for 9. All six of his hits have been singles. He doesn’t have a walk or a stolen base yet.
Trent Giambrone: Giambrone’s played twice so far in the AFL. In his first game, he went 4 for 6 in a 10-9 win over the Peoria Javelinas. In his second game, he was 0 for 4 with a walk and a stolen base. That gives him a .400 batting average and a .455 on-base percentage.
D.J. Wilson: The Cubs outfielder has played two games for Mesa so far and is 1 for 9 with an RBI.
P.J. Higgins: Higgins has caught two games and he’s 0 for 7 but with three walks and a sacrifice fly.
Jhonny Pereda: Pereda has caught one game and went 1 for 4 at the plate.
No Cubs prospect has pitched more than once so far.
Justin Steele: Steele started that wild 10-9 win over Peoria and put the Solar Sox in an early hole when he gave up two runs in the first inning and two more in the second. His final line on the game was four runs on five hits over 1.2 innings. He walked two, hit one batter and did not strike anyone out.
Erick Leal: Leal’s start went a lot better. He was the winning pitcher in a 8-0 win in the second game of a two-game series with Peoria. (No rule about starters having to go five innings to get the win in the AFL.) Leal pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just two singles. He struck out three and walked two.
Manuel Rondon: Rondon pitched two innings of relief in that 10-9 win and allowed the Solar Sox offense to get back into the game by keeping the Javelinas from scoring. Two runners reached against him—one walk in the fourth inning and one by catcher’s interference to lead off the fifth. Rondon erased the the runner who reached on catcher’s interference with a double play. Rondon did not have a strikeout.
Bailey Clark: Clark pitched 1.2 innings of mopup relief in the Solar Sox only loss of the season so far, a 10-3 drubbing by the Scottsdale Scorpions. However, it wasn’t Clark’s fault as he allowed no runs, no hits and just one walk. Clark struck out two.
One ex-Cub is on the Solar Sox. Jesus Castillo, who the Cubs traded to the Angels for Joe Smith, had three scoreless innings in his one start. He’s reunited with Leal, with whom he was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Cubs for Tony Campana. He was also a teammate of Clark, Rondon and Wilson on the 2016 Emeralds. Every other Cub on the Solar Sox, other than Hoerner, was a teammate of Castillo’s in rookie ball in Mesa in 2014 or 2015.