The Cubs sent eight prospects to the Arizona Fall League's Mesa Solar Sox. The AFL is one of the most exciting times of the year for teams and scouts as the league's best prospects converge on Arizona.
Most teams send a few guys who are household names, at least to the more astute fan. It's the names you don't know that you want to look into as they are the guys right around the corner, having been awarded for making significant strides or given the stint because they were injured and need the work.
The Cubs' prospects are the talk of the town these days. Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant are drawing high praise. Newly acquired pitchers via trade and signings or the draft have performed well, giving Chicago its most exciting set of arms in years.
Let's take a look at the prospects the Cubs sent to the Arizona Fall League this year.
Right-handed pitcher Dallas Beeler was a 41st-round pick in the 2010 draft. In his second year at Double-A Tennessee, he improved across the board and showed improved command.
His season was unfortunately cut short by a torn tendon in his pitching hand, and it was a big blow as he was on pace for an excellent season. He finished 2013 with a 4-2 record and a 3.13 ERA in nine starts.
He's made one appearance in the Arizona Fall League, giving up one run in three innings and striking out two. He could begin the season at Triple-A if all goes well this offseason and spring training.
Either way, he should be on your radar.
Right-handed pitcher Lendy Castillo was a Rule 5 selection by the Cubs prior to the 2012 season. He spent the entire 2012 season with the Chicago Cubs so they could keep him long-term, designating him for assignment in January 2013 to make room for Carlos Villanueva.
He spent 2013 in Single-A where he had mixed results. In Kane County, he posted a 6.58 ERA in 19 appearances—five starts—before joining High-A Daytona, where he posted a 2-0 record and a 3.60 ERA in 11 relief appearances.
In Arizona, he's given up four runs (one earned) in two innings of work.
He's an intriguing name for the Cubs, who could begin next year at Double-A Tennessee. If he can perform, his major league experience of 16 innings gives him an edge over other prospects.
Starting pitcher Matt Loosen got off to a rocky start in Double-A last season, but after being sent down to Daytona he responded and posted dominant numbers.
The 24-year old owns an 8-5 record between Double-A and High-A with a 4.20 ERA and 116 strikeouts to 65 walks. After posting a 6.14 ERA in Double-A he went 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA with two complete-game shutouts, one of which was a no-hitter.
In the AFL, Loosen has given up two earned runs in 4.1 innings.
Loosen certainly deserved the honor of pitching in Arizona and will likely rejoin Double-A with renewed confidence in 2014.
Cuban defector Armando Rivero signed with the Cubs in March 2013 and played at three levels last season. After posting a 5.40 ERA in 18.1 innings in Kane County, he finished the year with a 2.38 ERA in 12 appearances at Daytona and Tennessee. He struck out 45 batters to just 12 walks and is one of the team's top relief prospects.
The 25-year-old has two shutout innings with three strikeouts so far in Arizona.
Bryant has absolutely dominated the Arizona Fall League fresh off his torrid campaign after being drafted in June. Bryant is taking the minor leagues by storm and is quickly establishing himself as one of the top prospects in baseball.
He is hitting .444 with two home runs in four games with eight RBI. He's playing third base and making pitching prospects look like nothing out of the ordinary. Here is ESPN.com's Keith Law's take on him:
Bryant homered twice after a three-hit performance on Opening Day, squaring up 97 like it was 87 and showing huge, raw power in BP.
In his first 36 professional games, Bryant hit .336 with nine home runs and 32 RBI. He finished the year with Daytona and will likely begin 2014 with Double-A Tennessee.
Second baseman Wes Darvill showed up to play in the Fall League, going 2-for-4 in two games with a home run and three RBI.
Taken out of high school in 2009 in the fifth round, the 22-year-old is expected to begin next year in Daytona after a so-so showing. He hit .253 in 79 games with three home runs and a 67-30 K-BB ratio. He posted strong numbers with Kane County through 15 games, but the Cubs challenged him and hopefully that pays off when he gets a second run at it in 2014.
Outfield prospect Albert Almora has been the hottest player in Arizona so far, going 6-for-10 with one home run, a double and a triple, as well as six RBI. The 19-year-old is coming off a great season with Kane County, posting a .323 average in 61 games with three home runs and 30 strikeouts to 17 walks.
The first-round pick of the 2012 draft is quickly ascending the organization ladder and will likely begin next season at High-A Daytona.
Outfield prospect Jorge Soler is coming off a positive season despite a stress fracture in his shin in June. He posted a .281 average in 55 games with eight home runs and a 38-21 K-BB.
ESPN.com's Keith Law called him the most improved of the Cubs' prospects and was noticeably "bigger and stronger."
Soler is 4-for-21 in four games thus far with four RBI but reportedly looks good and improved, so hopefully he can stay healthy.
He may begin next season with High-A Daytona with a quick promotion if he performs. The Cubs have shown a willingness to test players, so he could begin in Double-A.