The Cubs 2013 Arizona Fall League participants will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, along with prospects from the Angels, A's, Nationals and Tigers. The Cubs will be sending eight players to Arizona - four pitchers, two infielders and two outfielders.
Dallas Beeler, RHP - There's not a lot that's exceptional about Beeler (which will prove to make him an exception among the Cubs' AFL participants this season), other than being 6'5" and having very good control. Neither of those things, however, has made him a terribly effective pitcher. He's worked as a starter for the majority of his career and has done ok despite exceptionally low strikeout numbers (career 5.7 K/9, which he can only get away with because of the way he limits extra base runners. He made nine starts at Double-A Tennessee in a shortened 2013 season, so the AFL will help him make up for the time he missed this year. His ceiling is low but he could serve as a long-man in the majors at some point.
Matt Loosen, RHP - The 24-year-old Loosen began the season in Double-A, but after posting a 7.32 ERA in his first nine starts, he was sent back to High-A Daytona where he had finished up in 2012. He dominated the inferior competition to the tune of a 1.83 ERA and a 2.83 FIP, and returned to Double-A. He posted a 5.27 upon return, which doesn't exactly stir up confidence. His walk numbers spiked in Double-A to 6.7 BB/9. He's never had amazing control, but the jump was unexpected and uncharacteristic. It will be interesting to see what happens with his walk rates from here.
Armando Rivero, RHP - Rivero isn't your typical AFL'er, because he's a 25-year-old Cuban defector who just completed his first professional season, throwing 27 2/3 innings in relief between Low, High and Double-A. I could get into his scouting report, but Ben Badler of Baseball America covered that about as well as could be done when the Cubs signed him this past March.
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP - Vizcaino was a part of the Braves "Big Three" not too long ago, but the Braves broke up the band when they sent Vizcaino to the Cubs last July for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. Vizcaino is talented and projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but he hasn't pitched competitively in two full seasons. He had Tommy John surgery before the 2012 season, then had to have another minor procedure during his rehabilitation this season. His extended time off makes his return to action in the AFL that much more intriguing.
Kris Bryant, 3B - The second overall pick from this year's draft, Bryant took no time to get acclimated to professional baseball. The power-hitting third baseman posted a 1.108 OPS in 18 short-season games before being promoted to Daytona, where he proceeded to hit .320/.358/.640 in 14 games. There's little he can't do at the plate, and the AFL will serve as a chance to get more at-bats and prove to the Cubs he's ready to begin 2014 in Double-A. The only question for Bryant is where he will play defensively due to the Cubs organizational logjam at the hot corner.
Javier Baez, SS - Part of that logjam could involve Baez, who is currently a shortstop but may shift to third in time. Baez is in the short discussion (with Bryant) for the best prospect in the Cubs system, and is an AFL veteran, having played in the desert last fall before leaving early with an injury. Splitting the year between High and Double-A as a 20-year-old, Baez has hit 35 home runs and posted a .922 OPS. There are questions his maturity, his defense at shortstop and his plate discipline, but not about his raw power and overall ability. Any chance to see Baez play more games is one worth taking.
Albert Almora - After having his 2013 season delayed due to a broken hamate bone in spring training, the Cusb 2012 first-rounder finally got the chance to prove what he can do against full-season competition. He got just 61 games under his belt this season, making the AFL a good chance to play catch-up, although it will be against competition far more advanced than anything Almora has faced to this point. Still, his .329/.376/.466 line at Kane County this season made the Cubs believe he can handle the challenge.
Jorge Soler - Soler is another ultra-talented Cubs prospect playing catch-up in the AFL, having not played since June thanks to a fractured leg. Soler, a Cuban defector who signed a 9 year/$30 million deal last summer, was beginning to grow into his power this season before the injury and, like Almora, will be facing some advanced competition for the first time in the U.S., but the Cubs believe that the AFL will be a good chance to make up for lost time.