Yesterday I wrote about the great week that some of the Cubs prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League had. Today, the rest of the AFL noticed as Mesa Solar Sox outfielder Nelson Velazquez was named AFL Player of the Week and Mesa pitcher Caleb Kilain was named AFL Pitcher of the Week.
Velazquez, who finished the 2021 regular season with the Cubs Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies, played in six games for Mesa this past week and hit four home runs. He hit .480/.522/1.000 with eight runs scored and nine RBI.
Kilian also finished the season with Tennessee after coming over to the Cubs from the Giants organization in the Kris Bryant trade. He made one relief appearance this past week and was nearly perfect for three innings. He gave up one hit and he struck out six.
Velazquez, in the article linked above, credits his strong 2021 season and his success in the AFL to the work he put in during the cancelled 2020 season. In particular, he believes that the time he spent on identifying and hitting breaking balls has been the difference.
Kilian got off to a terrible start in the AFL as he was charged with seven runs after getting no outs in his first AFL appearance. Kilian blamed the bad start on having not pitched since August 20. He was also working on some new grips for his curve and change up and he struggled to find the “feel” for it in his first appearance. In his three innings this past week, the new grips were working and his fastball was hitting 95-97 mph.
Both Velazquez and Kilian are solid prospects in the Cubs system and neither one of them are far from a major league debut. Both should see a lot of action in Spring Training and major league debuts in 2022 for both of them is not an unreasonable expectation.