The Arizona Fall League released rosters today and eight Cub prospects will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox. The Cubs are sending three pitchers who were injured most of the year and will be taking a good look at a fourth reliever. In addition, four Tennessee Smokies position players will get a little extra playing time this fall in Arizona.
Here are this year’s fall players.
Alec Mills (RHP)
A right-handed pitcher acquired in a trade for Donnie Dewees, Mills made only two starts for AAA Iowa this spring before going on the disabled list. Mills returned two weeks ago and has been pitching short starts for the Cubs rookie league team with great success. He was promoted Tuesday to Myrtle Beach to further his rehab.
Oscar de la Cruz (RHP)
After missing most of the summer, again, one of the Cubs’ top pitching prospects will get some extended innings in Mesa. The start of De la Cruz’s season at Myrtle Beach was delayed, and he went on the DL in late May. He returned to pitch two weeks ago and has made one start each for Mesa and Myrtle Beach so far. He is at 52.1 IP as of Tuesday.
Pedro Araujo (RHP)
He’s been outstanding as the closer for Myrtle Beach and had a short stint at AA Tennessee. Araujo has been up quite a bit this year with a 1.84 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 63.2 innings and I expect the Cubs want to take a look to see how his stuff matches up against elite competition in a relief role. At 24 years old, the right-handed reliever could be taken in the Rule 5 draft this fall.
Jake Stinnett (RHP)
He didn’t get much work in this year due to injury and just recently returned to action. The righty has been outstanding in August with a 0.77 ERA in relief at AA Tennessee. At 25 years of age, time is beginning to run short for him. He turns 26 at the start of next season, so this is the perfect opportunity for the Cubs to get him more experience in a relief capacity.
Ian Rice (C/1B)
Rice displayed excellent power and on-base skills the last two years at South Bend, Myrtle Beach, and Tennessee. This year, he caught much more (46 games) than he played first base (10 games) and I think he is in the Arizona Fall League to work on his defensive skills behind the plate.
David Bote (IF/OF)
I was glad to see Bote’s name on this list. He had a great second half of 2016 and first half of 2017 and seems to have an even-odd thing going this season. In April, June, and August, he has been near .300 and in May and July, he hovered around .250. I am looking forward to seeing how he does in Arizona and just exactly where he is going to play. Between Kane County, Myrtle Beach, and Tennessee, I’ve seen him play all over the field.
Jason Vosler (3B)
He leads the Cubs system in home runs this year with 21 and was outstanding in April and May, but has not been since. He hit six homers in August despite an average that has not creeped above .200, though his OBP is above .300 for the month. I am pretty sure the Cubs will be checking out his power stroke, as he never hit more than 10 home runs in a season before 2017.
His 2017 season is pretty similar to David Bote’s in that he got off to a great start (.301 on July 1) and then slumped in July (.158) followed by a great finish. Throw in the fact that he played a lot with the big league club in spring training and it’s pretty easy to understand why the Cubs put him in the Fall League. With double-digit homers and good speed, his athleticism is something the Cubs lack at the major league level.
I had thought early on that the Cubs might leave one spot open for Willson Contreras to rehab if he wasn’t back in time for any regular-season MiLB games. That isn’t happening, but I like who they are sending. It gives a good glimpse into their value at the upper levels and who will probably make it to Iowa next year at the beginning of the season.
Ideally, some of the players can use this AFL experience as a springboard to the next level of the minors. With the Rule 5 Draft looming a few weeks after the Fall League ends, some could parlay their time in Mesa into a spot on the 40-man roster.