Cubs Assign Six Prospects to Arizona Fall League

Tentative rosters for the 2008 Arizona Fall League (AFL) were announced yesterday (they are incomplete and also subject to change), and six of the seven Cubs prospects who will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox this fall have been named:

SS Darwin Barney
RHP Justin Berg
OF Tyler Colvin
RHP Rocky Roquet
2B Nate Spears
LHP Donald Veal

Berg and Roquet were assigned to the AFL last year, too, although Roquet had his AFL season cut short after sustaining a sports hernia. Berg was likely assigned to the AFL again to help the Cubs decide whether to add him to their 40-man roster post-2008 (or risk losing him in the Rule 5 Draft). Berg has a power sinker similar to Jeff Samardzija's, but has had command problems throughout his career. A native of Antigo, WI, the now 24-year old Berg pitched at Triton CC in suburban Chicago before being signed as a "Draft+Follow" by the Yankees in May 2004. He was acquired from the Yankees for Matt Lawton in August 2005.

25-year old Rocky Roquet was signed as a NDFA 5th year senior in May 2006 out of Cal Poly, where he was teammate of Cubs 3B prospect Josh Lansford. Roquet is one of the hardest throwers in the Cubs organization, with a 96-97 MPH fastball and mid-80's slider.

23-year old Donald Veal was the Cubs 2nd round draft pick in 2005 out of Pima CC, and is already a virtual lock to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster post-2008. So he is likely going to the AFL mainly to get more work. Veal has had problems with his mechanics (mainly an inability to repeat his delivery and find a consistent arm slot and release point) throughout his career

Tyler Colvin played briefly in the AFL last year, too, as a member of Team USA (which spent a week playing in the AFL before leaving for the 2007 World Cup in Taiwan). The Cubs #1 draft pick out of Clemson in  2006, the 22-year old Colvin is expected to move up to Iowa in 2009. He will not need to be added to the 40-man roster until after next season.

23-year old Nate Spears is another Cubs AA prospect who is expected to make the jump to AAA next season. Spears was one of the players the Cubs acquired from Baltimore in the Corey Patterson deal in January 2006. Like with Berg, the Cubs probably want to use his performance in the AFL to help determine if Spears should be added to the 40-man roster post-2008. Spears really doesn't have the versatility to play mulitple positions, so if he makes it to the big leagues, it will probably have to be as an everyday second-baseman.  

Darwin Barney was the Cubs 2007 4th round pick out of Oregon State, and made the jump from Boise to Daytona out of Spring Training. While the 22-year old Barney has struggled some with his bat, he is a good defensive shortstop, and will likely be the #1 SS at AA Tennessee next season. .

The Cubs have only assigned three pitchers so far, so they will need to select one more. Each MLB club is required to send four pitchers and three position players to their designated AFL team, and each MLB club also has the option to assign up to three additional position players to its AFL club's "taxi squad." Members of the "taxi squad" are position players who are eligible to play only on Wednesday and Saturday, and when they do play, they temporarily replace another position player on the AFL club's active list.

In addition to the six (eventually seven) Cubs prospects who will play for the Mesa Solar Sox in 2008, Peoria Chiefs manager Ryne Sandberg will serve as the Solar Sox bench coach. (Each of the five MLB clubs associated with a given AFL club contribute either the manager, the bench coach, the pitching coach, or one of the two athletic trainers, and the assignments rotate every year).

As usual, the Cubs are the "host" team of the Mesa Solar Sox, as the Solar Sox play their home games at HoHoKam Park, the Cubs Spring Training stadium. While the Cubs are always one of the five MLB clubs associated with the Solar Sox, the other four clubs associated with the Solar Sox rotate from year to year. This year, the Tigers, Phillies, Marlins, and Braves will be the other four organizations providing players and staff to the Solar Sox. (Last year, the Cubs, Astros, Cardinals, Brewers, and Red Sox provided players and staff to the Solar Sox).    

The AFL is rated AA+, and is primarily designed for AA players making the transition to AAA, although it is not unusual for a few AAA players to play in the AFL, too. Each MLB club is allowed to assign a maximum of one player who has not played in AA or AAA(and Darwin Barney is the Cubs player with no AA or AAA experience assigned to the AFL this year).  

The AFL season runs six weeks, and teams play six games a week (they don't play on Sunday). Each AFL team typically has 20 pitchers, three catchers, eight infielders, and four outfielders (plus "taxi squad" players) on its roster, and usually six of the pitchers are used as starters (each starter pitching once a week, throwing no more than five innings in any start, usually with a maximum of 30 IP accrued over the course of the AFL season).   

The AFL consists of six teams playing in two three-team divisions. The Mesa Solar Sox, Phoenix Desert Dogs, and Scottsdale Scorpions are in one division, and the Peoria Javelinas, Peoria Saguaros, and Surprise Rafters are in the other one. The two division winners meet in a single championship game the last Saturday of the season. 


Thanks, AZ Phil. I wasn't aware that players could repeat in the AFL (although Roquet had his previous season cut short). Who do you think will be the 7th Cub? I would think Casey Lambert would be a strong possibility.

I was really hoping Mark Reed (injured for part of the season) or Marquez Smith (instead of Barney) would have made it.

On a completely different (but still Arizonan) subject, I was wondering what your opinion is on Julio Pena is. You've mentioned in the past that he was one of the better teen pitchers on the AZL squad. He had another strong outing for Mesa last night and has put up great numbers at age 19. Does he throw hard? Or is it good offspeed stuff? He doesn't walk too many guys which is fantastic for a teenager. Is he advanced enough to make it to Peoria next season?

Submitted by Raisin101 on Wed, 08/27/2008 - 10:50am.

Thanks, AZ Phil.

I wasn't aware that players could repeat in the AFL (although Roquet had his previous season cut short). Who do you think will be the 7th Cub? I would think Casey Lambert would be a strong possibility.

I was really hoping Mark Reed (injured for part of the season) or Marquez Smith (instead of Barney) would have made it.

On a completely different (but still Arizonan) subject, I was wondering what your opinion is on Julio Pena is. You've mentioned in the past that he was one of the better teen pitchers on the AZL squad. He had another strong outing for Mesa last night and has put up great numbers at age 19. Does he throw hard? Or is it good offspeed stuff? He doesn't walk too many guys which is fantastic for a teenager. Is he advanced enough to make it to Peoria next season?


RAISIN: Hee Seop Choi and Eric Patterson, and (if I remember correctly) Jake Fox are other Cubs prospects who had two opportunities to play in the AFL.

As for the identity of the fourth pitcher, it could be Mitch Atkins, but the Cubs might be waiting to see how many innings he throws in the PCL playoffs before assigning him to the AFL. Otherwise, Casey Lambert or maybe Jose Ceda could be candidates (MLB clubs are allowed to send a maximum of only one Latin American player, because MLB doesn't want the AFL to have a negative impact on Latin Winter leagues).

And then guys like J. R. Mathes, Gregory Reinhard, Mark Holliman, and Jesse Estrada are (like Justin Berg) eligible for the 2008 Rule 5 Draft, so the Cubs might want to take one last look at one of them before having to make a 40-man roster decision.

As for Julio Pena, he is the hardest thrower among the Latin pitchers making their U. S. debut at Fitch Park (he throws 93-94), but his fastball is kind of straight so he doesn't get as many strikeouts as some of the pitchers who have more movement on their pitches. I would say Pena might have a shot at starting the 2009 season at Peoria, but if I had to make a guess, I think it's more likely that he'll start '09 at EXST and then go to Boise. Same goes for Jeffry Antigua, Miguel Sierra, and Yohan Gonzalez.

What's the difference between EXST and the rookie league? Is EXST just scrimmages against your own ogranization?

Arizona Phil will likely do your question much more justice than I but I can at least answer the basic question.

EXST includes guys who play for the AZL (Mesa) Cubs and the Boise Hawks. They do scrimmage against each other (AZ Phil calls those "camp days") but also play other EXST organizations in Arizona (the Angels, A's, etc...) and they start up after the other minor league teams break camp up until Boise and Mesa start their real season. These EXST games don't have standings and AZ Phil is pretty much the only person I've seen report anything on the games. The rookie league is the actual Arizona Summer League that Mesa takes part in. You'll find actual AZL box scores on and there are standings, etc.

I just moved in from finding a short sale home that was pretty cheap east coast and their taxes I can do without can't wait to get to some games.

As always, thank you! I hadn't thought of Atkins, though he has thrown the most innings amongst all Cubs minor leaguers. It's good to see Pena sound as promising as Antigua, Sierra and Gonzalez.

If I may indulge you in another AZL question or two, has Larry Suarez looked as good as the season numbers indicate (though the box scores show he's given up a few runs the last two times out)? Has anybody on the AZL Cubs impressed you or surprised you with a good performance?

Thank you!

Fuentes is on waivers. I really hope the Cubs at least try to block this. It would be a shame to see the Brewers improve their terrible bullpen. Or to see Arizona pick him up.

I can't belive the Cubs would get a chance at him. Seems like there's pretty much 0 risk in picking up Fuentes at this point. He'd be an upgrade to any team's pen and he would get you draft picks when leaving as a FA.

The Cubs have the best record in the NL... they cannot block any deal to a National League team.

it was discussed yesterday, but each team in the NL gets first shot (over the AL) to put in a waiver claim. If multiple teams put in a waiver claim, the team with the worst record would be awarded the claim. That means everyone in the NL would win the claim ahead of the Cubs. The Dodgers, DBacks, Mets, Cardinals and Brewers would all likely be interested and the Dodgers would win that claim. I believe it's based on the record when the player was put on waivers and if that's the case, Phillies would definitely be blocking the Mets.

Submitted by The Real Neal on Wed, 08/27/2008 - 1:09pm.

What's the difference between EXST and the rookie league? Is EXST just scrimmages against your own ogranization?


REAL NEAL: Extended Spring Training (EXST) is for the "Boise/Mesa" group from Minor League Camp, which are players who did not get assigned to a full season club (Iowa, Tennessee, Daytona, or Peoria) coming out of Spring Training. EXST is also where players who are rehabbing from injuries are assigned.

All MLB clubs have an Extended Spring Training operation at their minor league HQ, and the EXST Cubs play games against other Phoenix area EXST teams (SF, OAK, LAA, MIL, SEA, SD, TEX, and KC) about five times a week as well as a weekly intrasquad game (on Camp Day) April through the first week of June.

The Arizona League (AZL) is an actual short season minor league located in the Phoenix metro area that is (like EXST) based at the minor league HQs of the MLB clubs based in the Phoenix area (Fitch Park for the Cubs). The only real differences between EXST Cubs games and AZL Cubs games is that in the EXST games, there is no official scorer, innings are sometimes stopped early (before three outs) if a pitcher reaches his pitch limit for that inning, and teams are allowed to use two designated hitters (ten-man lineup). In that sense, EXST games are exactly like minor league Spring Training games in March, except Spring Training is EXTENDED into April, May, and June.

AZ Phil.......with the Arizona instructionals starting up in 2 weeks, will you be in attendance and possibly posting reports on the top 1st & 2nd year players?

Jericho Jones and John Contreras were named to the Arizona League All Star team. Here is the link....


Az - It's obviously premature, but I'm interested in what you envision out of this group in the long run. My opinion is as follows:

SS Darwin Barney - Augie Ojeda clone
RHP Justin Berg - Won't make it
OF Tyler Colvin - Very serviceable OF who has trouble against lefties. Will have good career but not an All Star.
RHP Rocky Roquet - will surface in the bigs in a year or two but last as long as Rocky Cherry, Wuertz & Novoa did.
2B Nate Spears - won't make it.
LHP Donald Veal - solid lefty out of the pen for a few years.

I'd love your thoughts.

SS Barney - Maybe the next Eckstein/Theriot
RHP Berg- Guy has a great arm. He could be Bob Novoa
OF Colvin- Probably a 3 position 4th OFer. Won't hit enough to start
RHP Roquet- Too far out to know
2b Spears- Looks an awful lot like Mike Fontenot did in 2005. Has a chance
LHP Veal- Definite MLB quality power lefty. Is the Arthur Rhodes 2.0?

Cubs get their next 7 at home, then 9 on the road, 6 at home (brewers and cardinals), then 7 on the road to finish it off. Sure would be nice to clinch all this before that last road trip.

wtf is the point of sending latroy hawkins...i mean rock AFL at this point?

guess they gotta send someone.

According to WSCR host, his sources at Cubs say Cubs brass not pleased with Z's shape and training regimen and that most of his problems is due to his back.

File with rest of grain of salt gems we get from WSCR.

Z looks, outwardly, like he's in the best shape he's been in a long time.

he was never fat (or too skinny), but he seems he's in his best outward physical shape he's been in years. no mini-gut or anything.

maybe he needs a new chair. heh.

Dave Kaplan on his postgame show said that he was with a former pitcher friend of his during the game and that the guy commented that Z was pitching like someone who had a tired arm and that he would benefit greatly from missing a start.

parachat for cards/brew?

Yes... yes... everyone join... help us hex the Brewers and their 2-0 lead...

where y'all hiding?

But one friend from St. Louis told me she doesn't believe in the devil, "except, of course, Ryne Sandberg."

Pretty crappy article, but I liked that quote. I'm thinking maybe she came to that conclusion on June 23, 1984...

Brew Crew up 3-1 and Mather swings at ball 4 with 2 outs, bases loaded and Pujols on deck... pop out. *sigh*

4-3 Cards, bottom 8 !!!

5-3 Cards! w00t!

*punches self in face reflexively*

5-3 Cards!

And that's the game! Woot!

And that's probably the last time I'll have to root for the Cards this year! Double woot!

HA HA! Brewers bullpen sucks.

dont look know but here comes the rockies

lets go rockies
lets go rockies

Since 6/2 of last year Cubs are 146-96, 50 games over .500

Harden, Wood, and Marmol hae combined to throw 177 innings, give up only 99 hits, and strike-out 234 hitters


Rich Harden is 4th in the NL w/ 162K's and he has 60+ fewer innings pitched than the 3 guys ahead of him.

He has 162 overall, but only 70 in the NL.

Yeah, the AL/NL switch thing is rather funky.

If the stats included Harden's AL numbers, he'd have 9 victories on the season. Marquis just won #9. Seems likely that by the end of the year, the Cubs will have 5 starters who have won 10 games or more (although not all for the Cubs :). Still, that's pretty cool.


EDIT: FWIW, the Angels have already accomplished that feat this year.

yeah i know that, but what i wanted to show is how awesome Harden's K rate is regardless of which league he got the K's. He's 8th in all of MLB with the same discrepancy in number of IP's with the 7 guys ahead of him.

Sweet Lou turns 65 today. Win one for the skipper, boys.

Does anyone know how determines blackout areas? I'm living overseas for a few years for studies, but I've kept an American address as well for billing purposes. I'd like to purchase the remaining season from but I don't want to get blacked out of any games being shown back in my home area, i.e. the area I'm sending my credit card bills to.

Does use your credit card billing zip code to determine blackout areas? Or is it based on something else, like IP address?


Good question--I don't know for sure, but I suspect that it's based on actual location when you try to view the game. If I recall, Neal hasn't had any blackout problems in Copenhagen...of course, I don't know his billing address.

Wait, google " blackout billing address", there are some pages discussing this...I can't read them at the moment.

I would recommend using your actual address if you have a local credit card to avoid the issue. If you're overseas there's no blackouts.

The blackouts seem to happen on nationally televised (Fox) games. Someone who gets blacked out could probably give you better specifics.

I think it's determined by IP address. I'm in Manila and NONE of the games are blacked out for me.

Thanks guys.

Neal, I actually don't have a local (i.e. Italian) credit card, which means I would have to change my US credit card billing address, which for reasons that are too complicated to explain, I don't want to do.

I'm guessing you bought your account using a Danish credit card address?


I am trying to remember if I have had a problem using it back in the states when there for vacation... and drawing a blank. It may be that it's done by IP address. Try checking the website and if it's not clear then sending them an email.

The Cubs play only one sub .500 team (God Bless you, Dusty) until first round of playoffs when they play NL West winner.


I'm thinking the Ass Trolls should be under .500 by the time we're done with 'em for the year, but yeah, it's going to be a challenging stretch. I look forward to that. Time for this team to get battle-hardened.

Who are the Ass Trolls? The Phillies?

Ass Trolls = Astros



Ass Trolls

Get it? :)

Ok, I get it now. I was thinking Ass Troll = Fill-ies = Phillies.


Blackouts except for national games are done by billing zip code. To determine what teams you would be blacked out from, enter your billing zip code under the small print on the audio/video page. A list if any will pop up. In my case, I live in North Central Texas but the entire state of Texas games are blacked out, including Astros games at Wrigley. There are 2 things I would like to change with MLB.TV and those are the blackout policy (how do the Astros lose revenue when I am 5 hours away from their home games?) and I would like to change that the TV coverage is home team only. I have heard 40 times that Theriot and Fontenot played together at LSU, for example. Since WGN does not cover America with many games anymore, I am glad MLB.TV is there, as I get to watch every game except when they play the Astros. So check the zip code first, then go for it!

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