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Arizona Fall League: Mesa Solar Sox Week 5 update

The Solar Sox are on the brink of a division title and Cubs prospects are a big reason why.

Nelson Velazquez
Photo by Taylor Jackson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Another Arizona Fall League campaign is almost over as there is only one week left to go. The season will end this coming Saturday evening with the AFL Championship Game, which will pit the winner of the East Division against the winner of the West Division. Since the Mesa Solar Sox have a 3½ game lead with four games to play, the odds are very good that the Solar Sox will be playing for the title.

For those who are trying to catch up, the Mesa Solar Sox are the AFL team that plays their home games in Sloan Park, the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs. The players on the Solar Sox come from the Cubs, Athletics, Blue Jays, Marlins and Orioles.

If you want to read previous updates, here are week one, week two, week three and week four.

The Solar Sox played five games this past week along with the AFL “Fall Stars” Game, in which right-handed pitcher Caleb Kilian, outfielder Nelson Velazquez and infielder Andy Weber all played in. The Solar Sox went 2-2-1 this past week and the East Fall Stars beat the West Fall Stars, 6-5. The Solar Sox’s record now stands at 13-11-2 with, as mentioned earlier, a 3½ game lead over Scottsdale with four games to play. Scottsdale only has three games left, so Mesa’s magic number stands at one.

Here are the results from the past week:

Monday, November 8: Mesa Solar Sox 11, Scottsdale Scorpions 10. (Al was at this game and wrote up what he saw.)

Tuesday, November 9: Peoria Javelinas 6, Solar Sox 5.

Wednesday, November 10: Glendale Desert Dogs 9, Solar Sox 4.

Thursday, November 11: Solar Sox 15, Salt River Rafters 10.

Friday, November 12: Solar Sox 4, Surprise Saguaros 4. (7-inning game, no extra innings)

Saturday, November 13. East Fall Stars 6, West Fall Stars 5.

Here is how the individual Cubs did in the AFL this past week:

Outfielder Nelson Velazquez

Another week, another two home runs for Nelson Velazquez. Velazquez hit his eighth home run of the AFL campaign on Tuesday when he hit a solo home run in the second inning. The ninth home run of the Fall came on Thursday when he hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning.

Velazquez’s batting average fell a bit as he was just 4 for 19 with a double, the two home runs and four walks. He had four RBI and three runs scored. That puts Velazquez’s triple-slash line at .366/.473/.720, which drops him into second place in both batting average and on-base percentage in the league. He leads the league in home runs, slugging percentage, OPS and runs scored.

Velazquez was 0 for 3 in the Fall Stars game.

Infielder Andy Weber

Weber hit a big grand slam in Tuesday’s 11-10 win, which tied the game at 10-10 after Mesa had trailed 10-0 earlier in the game. (Al wrote about Weber’s game.) Weber was 2 for 5 with a triple and the grand slam on Tuesday. The home run was Weber’s second in the AFL. He did not hit a home run in all of the 2021 minor league season and only has five home runs in 756 at-bats in his minor-league career.

The rest of Weber’s week didn’t go as well. He was 0 for 8 with two walks in the other two games he played and was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in the Fall Stars Game. (He did reach on an error.)

On the season, Weber is now hitting .299/.421/.519 with three doubles, four triples and two home runs. He’s scored 19 runs and driven in 20.

Shortstop Luis Vazquez

Vazquez played three games this week, all at shortstop, and went 4 for 11. All four hits were singles. He went 1 for 3 and he walked and was hit by a pitch in Thursday’s game. Vazquez scored twice and had two runs batted in.

Vazquez is certainly showing some improvement as the fall goes on as he is now hitting .213/.339/.340 with a double, a triple and a home run. He has driven in eight runs and has scored 11 times.

Right-handed pitcher Caleb Kilian

Killian picked up his Cubs teammate Ryan Jensen and his Mesa teammates when he threw five scoreless innings of relief in the 11-10 comeback win this past Monday. Kilian gave up just two hits. He struck out five and walked no one, although he did hit one batter. Kilian got the win in that game.

Kilian also got the win in the Fall Stars game, but he didn’t pitch quite as well. Kilian started the game and he gave up two runs in the first inning. Kilian also got in trouble in the second inning, when he walked a batter with two outs and then gave up a double to Cardinals prospect to put runners on second and third. But then he struck out Pirates prospect Nick Gonzalez to end the threat. Kilian got the win because the East All-Stars scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning and never gave up the lead.

Overall in the Fall Stars game, Kilian allowed two runs on three hits and two walks over two innings. He struck out four.

For the season, Kilian has an ERA of 5.14 after having given up eight earned runs in 14 innings. He’s struck out 18 and walked five. That’s pretty good after he gave up seven runs without retiring a single batter in his first outing of the season.

Right-handed pitcher Ryan Jensen

Jensen started that 11-10 win last Monday and he did not have a good outing. Jensen was rocked for eight runs on 10 hits over just 2⅓ innings. Two of those 10 hits were home runs. Jensen did strike out five and he walked just one. Jensen also hit one batter.

For the AFL campaign, that outing ballooned Jensen’s ERA to 11.05 after being charged with 18 runs over 14.1 innings. He’s struck out 17 and walked nine.

Right-handed pitcher Danis Correa

Correa did not pitch this past week. He’s pitched 2⅔ innings in the AFL and has allowed three runs for an ERA of 10.13. He’s walked five and struck out four.

Left-handed pitcher Brendon Little

The Cubs have shut down Little with a “stress reaction” in his left elbow. They will re-evaluate him in six weeks.

The Solar Sox play four more regular season games before the AFL Championship Game. They’re off today, and then they play at home against Peoria on Tuesday, at home against Glendale on Wednesday, at Salt River on Thursday and home against Scottsdale on Friday. If Mesa wins one of those games or Scottsdale loses one, then Mesa will play in the title game on Saturday. That game will be played at 6 p.m. Central time and will be televised live on MLB Network.