We’re more than halfway through the 2021 Arizona Fall League and the story of the season continues to be Cubs outfield prospect Nelson Velazquez. But I put a picture of Andy Weber up there because people deserve to know what he looks like too. Weber is also having a great fall season.
In case you haven’t been following along, 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.
The Solar Sox played six games this past week and went 4-1-1 in those games. That improved their overall record to 11-9 (and one) and puts them firmly in first place in the East Division, four games ahead of Scottsdale and Salt River with nine games left in the season. The winner of the East Division will play the winner of the West Division on Saturday, November 20 for the AFL title.
Here are the results of the six games the Solar Sox played in the previous week:
Monday, November 1: Peoria Javelinas 15, Solar Sox 15.
Tuesday, November 2: Solar Sox 7, Glendale Desert Dogs 4.
Wednesday, November 3: Solar Sox 5, Scottsdale Scorpions 4.
Thursday, November 4: Salt River Rafters 2, Solar Sox 0.
Friday, November 5: Solar Sox 3, Rafters 2.
Saturday, November 6: Solar Sox 12, Surprise Saguaros 9.
Here’s how the individual Cubs players in the AFL did this past week
Outfielder Nelson Velazquez
Just another two home runs in the past week for Velazquez, upping his AFL total to a league-high seven. Velazquez hit a solo home run in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s win over Glendale and a two-run home run in the top of the first inning in Saturday’s 12-9 win over Surprise.
Velazquez played five games this past week, all in right field. He went 9 for 22 with the two home runs, two walks and he was hit by a pitch twice. He scored five runs and drove in three.
On the season, Velazquez is hitting .392/.494/.743. Those numbers lead the league among qualified hitters in all three categories. He leads the league in runs scored with 20 and is fifth in RBI with 17.
Here’s home run number seven on Saturday.
And here’s home run number six on Tuesday. Oppo taco Tuesday.
Shortstop Luis Vazquez
After missing more than a week after leaving a game on Monday, October 25 after running to first on a ground out, Vazquez returned to the lineup this past Thursday. He played shortstop and batted eighth, going 0 for 4 with a strikeout. After sitting out Friday’s game, Vazquez played short again on Saturday and had a much better day. He was 2 for 5 with an RBI triple in the fourth inning. He also scored two times in that game.
On the AFL season, Vazquez has played in 10 games and is hitting .167/.302/.306 with a triple, a home run and a stolen base. He’s scored nine runs and has driven in five.
Infielder Andy Weber
Were it not for the incredible campaign of Velazquez, we’d all be talking about how well Andy Weber is doing in the AFL this year. Weber played five games this past week and he played one game at shortstop, one at second base, two at third base and one in which he played both second and third. He batted leadoff in all five games.
In those five games, Weber went 7 for 22 with a double and three walks. He also chipped in a sacrifice fly. Weber scored four runs and drove in three runs, with all three RBI coming in Saturday’s 12-9 win at Surprise.
On the AFL season, Weber is hitting .328/.450/.516 with 17 runs scored and 16 RBI.
Right-handed pitcher Caleb Kilian
Kilian started Tuesday’s 7-4 win over Glendale and he turned in his second-straight strong appearance. He pitched four scoreless innings and allowed just two hits, both two-out singles in the first and third innings. Kilian struck out four and walked no one.
Kilian got off to that terrible start in the AFL when he allowed seven runs without retiring a batter, so his overall numbers don’t look so hot. In four appearances, Kilian has thrown nine innings and has allowed eight earned runs for an ERA of 8.00. He’s struck out 13 and walked five. But throw out that first appearance and his numbers look pretty good.
Right-handed pitcher Ryan Jensen
Jensen relieved Kilian in Tuesday’s game and the two of them seem to be tandem-starting in the AFL. But while Jensen got the win in that game, he didn’t pitch as well as Kilian after he gave up three runs on six hits over four innings of relief. He also walked three batters and struck out none of them, which would be more concerning had he not pitched so well in week 3.
On the year, Jensen has made four appearances and has allowed 10 runs in 12⅓ innings for an ERA of 7.30. Jensen has struck out 12 batters and walked eight.
Right-handed pitcher Danis Correa
Correa pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Monday’s 15-15 tie. After retiring the first batter he faced on a grounder to first, Correa then walked the next two batters. Those two runners then pulled off a double-steal to put runners on second and third with just one out. But Correa then struck out Pirates prospect Nick Gonzalez and got Bryson Stott, one of the top prospects in the Phillies organization, to fly out to end the threat.
Yes, they have ties in the AFL. Teams play one extra inning with the placed runner on second rule. If it’s still tied after the 10th, the game ends as a tie.
Correa has pitched in three games in the AFL season and has allowed three runs over 2⅔ innings for an ERA of 10.13. Correa has walked five and struck out four.
Left-handed pitcher Brendon Little
Little still hasn’t pitched since leaving his first appearance of the year with the trainer on October 16.
Again, a quick reminder that they are using a ton of experimental rules in the AFL this year, including a 15-second pitch clock, larger bases, banning shifts and allowing only two pickoff throws. Games in Salt River are also using the Automated Ball-Strike System (“robot umps”) but both of the Solar Sox’s games against Salt River this past week were in Mesa.
The Solar Sox only have one home game this week, today against Scottsdale. Then they have four road games in a row against Peoria, Glendale, Salt River and Surprise, in that order. Then on Saturday, there will be the annual “Fall Stars” game and I expect that we will see both Velazquez and Weber in that competition. The Fall Stars game will be televised on MLB Network at 6 p.m. Central Time on Saturday.