The 2021 Arizona Fall League ended on Saturday and as anyone who was on this site over the weekend knows, the Mesa Solar Sox brought home their first AFL title since 2016 and only their third title this century. The Solar Sox were only 15-13 in the regular fall season, but that was enough to win the East Division and they won the one game that really counted at the end.
In case you weren’t paying attention, 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 this year’s Solar Sox were from the Cubs, Athletics, Blue Jays, Marlins and Orioles. One of the nice things for the players in the AFL is that they get to know some of the prospects from other organizations as teammates for six weeks. Now, players from all five of those organizations can take pride in coming together to win a championship ring.
I’m not going to talk about the Championship Game again as we’ve covered that pretty well here, here and here. If you’ve missed the recap from previous weeks, here they are from week one, week two, week three, week four and week five.
Besides the title game, the Solar Sox played four games last week:
Tuesday, November 16: Peoria Javelinas 5, Mesa Solar Sox 2
Wednesday, November 17: Glendale Desert Dogs 3, Solar Sox 2
Thursday, November 18: Solar Sox 3, Salt River Rafters 1
Friday, November 19: Solar Sox 4, Scottsdale Scorpions 3
The Solar Sox clinched the East Division on Tuesday when Scottsdale lost, so the final three games were about getting ready for the title game, as well as player development (the main purpose of the AFL). Winning the final two games meant that the Solar Sox at least had a winning record going into the title game.
I’ve already recapped how every Cubs prospect did in the Championship Game, so I won’t repeat that here. But here’s how they did in the final week of the season.
Right fielder Nelson Velazquez
Velazquez was named AFL MVP, as mentioned in the title game recaps. He played in the first three games of the week, going 6 for 11 with a double and four RBI. His big game was Thursday’s win at Salt River, where he was 3 for 3 with a double and drove in all three Solar Sox runs — one with each hit.
For the AFL season, Velazquez went 40 for 104 with 9 home runs and 24 RBI. His triple-slash line was .385/.480/.712. He lead the league in home runs, slugging percentage and runs scored. Velazquez was second in batting average, third in on-base percentage and fourth in RBI.
Infielder Andy Weber
Weber got off to a cool start to the AFL campaign, got red-hot in the middle and then cooled off again to finish out the fall. Weber played three games this past week (other than the title game) and was 1 for 11. He played second base and hit leadoff in all three games.
Still, Weber finished with a very solid line of .273/.387/.466 with two home runs and 20 RBI.
Shortstop Luis Vazquez
Vazquez played in Tuesday and Thursday’s games, played shortstop and batted ninth in both games and was 1 for 6.
Vazquez got off to a slow start and then missed a week with an injury in the middle of the campaign. His final stat line was .208/.323/.321 with one double, one triple and one home run. He scored 11 runs, not counting the three he scored in the title game.
Right-handed pitcher Ryan Jensen
Jensen was the only Cubs pitcher to see action last week and he started Tuesday’s game and got the loss. Jensen pitched four innings and allowed two runs on three hits. He struck out three and walked three.
Jensen had some good performances in the AFL and a few real stinkers, which makes his overall line look pretty bad. Jensen made four starts and two relief appearances, totaling 18.2 innings. He gave up 20 earned runs on 29 hits, which leaves him with an ERA of 9.64 for the AFL. He did strike out more than a batter an inning with 20, while he walked 12. His record was 2-1.
Right-handed pitcher Caleb Kilian
Mesa manager Lance Rymel, who managed the Cubs rookie ball team in the Arizona Complex League this past season, wisely decided to save Kilian for the title game. He delivered a masterpiece with six perfect innings, eight strikeouts and was named the Championship Game MVP.
That game doesn’t count in the final statistics, but Kilian was terrific in the AFL after his first appearance where he allowed seven runs without retiring a batter. After that, he pitched 14 innings and allowed just one earned run.
Kilian finished with a record of 1-0 and an ERA of 5.14 with 18 strikeouts and five walks over 14 innings.
Right-handed pitcher Danis Correa
Correa did not pitch in the final week. In fact, Correa only pitched 2⅔ innings over three relief appearances for the whole of the AFL. He gave up three runs for an ERA of 10.13. Correa walked five and struck out three.
Left-handed pitcher Brendon Little
Little only pitched one inning in the AFL before he left the game with a “stress reaction” in his left elbow and was shut down for the season. He gave up two runs on three hits in that one inning for an ERA of 18.00. He walked two and struck out two.
And with that, the Cubs minor league season is officially over. I hope you enjoyed it and that there will be another one in 2022.