2018 Arizona Fall League Schedule Released


The has been released. Rosters will probably be announced later this month. 

The Arizona Fall League (AFL) is an MLB developmental league (approximately equivalent to "AA") that operates in the Phoenix metropolitan area for six weeks after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. It was founded in 1992 (it was the "brain-child" of long-time MLB executive Roland Hemond) and has operated continuously for 27 seasons. Games are played in MLB Spring Training stadiums.

In its present format, the AFL schedule features a 30-game "regular season," plus the "Bowman Hitting Challenge" held at Sloan Park in Mesa on the Saturday at the end of the first week, an All-Star Game (formerly called the "Rising Stars Game," but now known as the "Fall Stars Game") played at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on the Saturday at the end of the fourth week, and the AFL Championship Game (pitting the winner of the East Division against the winner of the West Division) played at Scottsdale Stadium on the Saturday at the end of the sixth week. There are no games played on Sundays or on the day of the Bowman Hitting Challenge and on the day of the Fall Stars Game, but otherwise there are usually three games scheduled every day Monday through Saturday, beginning with AFL Opening Day on the second Tuesday after the conclusion of the MLB regular season and extending up through the Thursday of the sixth week.  

The Cubs (as well as the other 29 MLB clubs) usually assign some of their better prospects to the Arizona Fall League, and sometimes minor leaguers who are eligible for selection in the MLB Rule 5 Draft might be sent to the AFL to give them a chance to play their way onto the MLB 40-man roster. Depending on what positions they are asked to fill on the Mesa squad, I would not be surprised to see the Cubs assign some combination of position players and pitchers such as catchers Miguel Amaya or Jhonny Pereda, C-INF P. J. Higgins, SS Aramis Ademan, INF Trent Giambrone, INF Vimael Machin, SS Zack Short, INF Jared Young, OF Eddy Julio Martinez, D. J. Wilson, and/or Zach Davis, starting pitchers Justin Steele, Adbert Alzolay, Erling Moreno, Ryan Williams, and/or Bailey Clark (SP assigned to the AFL are usually pitchers who didn't throw a whole lot of innings in the minor league regular season either because of injury, rehab, or because they spent part of the season working out of the bullpen), and relief pitchers Dakota Mekkes, Craig Brooks, Wyatt Short, Jordan Minch, Tyler Peyton, Scott Effross, and/or Brian Glowicki (Higgins, Pereda, Steele, Moreno, Williams, Brooks, Effross, and Minch are Rule 5 Draft-eligible post-2018). Cubs 2018 1st round draft pick SS Nico Hoerner was a candidate to go to the AFL post-2018 prior to suffering what appears to be a season-ending left elbow UCL injury (incurred while diving for a ball in the infield on July 15th). NOTE: Post-2018 Cubs minor league free-agents like OF Jeffrey Baez, RHP Erick Leal, RHP Daury Torrez, C-1B Taylor Davis, OF Bijan Rademacher, and CF Trey Martin can be assigned to the AFL - ONLY - if  the player signs a 2019 Minor League successor contract or is added to an MLB 40-man roster.prior to becoming a free-agent.  (RHP Pedro Araujo was eligible to be a minor league 6YFA post-2017, but he signed a 2018 minor league successor and was assigned to the AFL, and then after performing well in the AFL, he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in last December's Rule 5 Draft).    

Here are the current AFL eligibility rules & restrictions. NOTE: Some of the original eligibility rules & restrictions have been changed (relaxed) over the past few years...

1. There are six AFL teams, and each AFL team is affiliated with five MLB clubs. SEA & SD (Peoria Javelinas), KC & TEX (Surprise Saguaros), LAD & CHW (Glendale Desert Dogs), AZ & COL (Salt River Rafters), CUBS (Mesa Solar Sox), and SF (Scottsdale Scorpions) are the "host organizations" for the six AFL teams, but the affiliations of the other twenty MLB clubs can vary from year-to-year. NOTE: Besides the Cubs, BOS, DET, LAA, and OAK will be affiliated with the Mesa Solar Sox in 2018. (DET, HOU, OAK, and WAS were the other four MLB organizations affiliated with the Mesa Solar Sox in 2017, and BAL, CLE, MIA, and OAK were the other four MLB organizations affiliated with the Solar Sox in 2016).

2. Each MLB organization must assign a minimum of seven players under its control to its AFL affiliate (free-agents are not permitted to participate), including a minimum of four pitchers (preferably one pitcher capable of starting plus three relievers) and a minimum of three position players (specific positions needed to be filled by each organization TBD by a conference call "position draft" between the Player Development Directors of the five MLB organizations affiliated with that particular AFL team). NOTE: RHSP Adbert Alzolay, RHRP Pedro Araujo, INF David Bote, OF Charcer Burks, RHSP Alec Mills, C-1B Ian Rice, RHRP Jake Stinnett, and 3B-1B Jason Vosler were the Cubs players assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox in 2017 (RHSP Oscar de las Cruz was removed from the Mesa Solar Sox roster on 9/18 due to injury and was replaced Alzolay), and C-1B Victor Caratini, RHRP James Farris, 2B-OF Ian Happ, LF Eloy Jimenez, RHRP Ryan McNeil, RHRP Steve Perakslis, and RHSP Duane Underwood Jr were the Cubs players assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox in 2016.

3. An MLB organization can assign additional position-players to its AFL team's "Taxi Squad." Players assigned to an AFL team's "Taxi Squad" can play in no more than two games per week (it used to be Wednesday and Saturday games only, but now it's just no more than two games per week regardless of the day), but a player can be transferred from the Taxi Squad to the 35-man Active Roster to replace an injured or inactive player. NOTE: C-1B Ian Rice was assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox Taxi Squad in 2017 and he replaced David Bote on the MSS Active Roster with about two weeks left in the AFL season after Bote left the team to attend to a personal matter, and while the Cubs initially did not assign any players to the Solar Sox Taxi Squad in 2016, OF-DH Kyle Schwarber was briefly assigned to the MSS Taxi Squad 10/22-10/25 while preparing to play in the World Series. 

4. A player can be selected to play in the AFL more than once, as long as the player continues to meet eligibility for selection.

5. MLB players (including players selected in a preceding Rule 5 Draft) with less than one year (1+000) MLB Service Time accrued (not including time spent on a Disabled list) as of September 1st are eligible.

6. Any player on an Advanced Class-A (A+), AA, or AAA Active Roster or Disabled List on August 15th is eligible.

7. Two players on the Active List or Disabled List of a minor league affiliate below Advanced Class-A on August 15th can be assigned to the AFL.

8. International players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and/or Australia are eligible only if the player is not on the reserve list of a Winter League club from the player's home country. Otherwise, there is no maximum limit on the number of international players an MLB organization can assign to its AFL team.

9. A player on the Restricted List, Military List, Disqualified List, Ineligible List, or Voluntary Retired List is not eligible to participate in the AFL.

10. A player who was on a minor league or MLB DL at the close of the regular season is eligible to play in the AFL as long as the player has been reinstated, but there can be no special limits or restrictions placed on the player's playing time (other than the automatic restrictions imposed on a player assigned to an AFL team's "Taxi Squad").

11. A player cannot be assigned to the AFL on an Article XIX-C Minor League Injury Rehabilitation Assignment by a club participating in an MLB post-season series (LDS, LCS, and World Series). NOTE: OF-DH Kyle Schwarber was added to the 2016 Mesa Solar Sox Taxi Squad on 10/22 after being reinstated from the Cubs MLB 60-day DL (so it was NOT considered a "rehab assignment"), and he played in two AFL games before re-joining the Cubs for the World Series on 10/25.  

12. Players assigned to the AFL do not accrue MLB or minor league service time, each player receives the same salary, and the salaries are paid out of a special fund managed by MLB.

13. Only players who are under control of an MLB organization are eligible to play in the AFL. A free-agent (unsigned player) is not eligible to play in the AFL.

Each MLB organization provides either the manager, a pitching coach, or a hitting coach to its affiliated AFL club (assignments rotate every year). The Cubs are responsible for providing one of the hitting coaches to their affiliated AFL club in 2018. NOTE: AA Tennessee Hitting Coach Jesus Feliciano will serve as a hitting coach for the Mesa Solar Sox in 2018. 

CUBS ASSIGNED TO 2018 MESA SOLAR SOX (updated 9-10-2018)
Bailey Clark, RHP 
Trent Giambrone, IF-OF (taxi squad) 
P. J. Higgins, C-1B-3B 
Nico Hoerner, SS 
Erick Leal, RHP 
Jhonny Pereda, C (taxi squad)
Manuel Rondon, LHP 
Justin Steele, LHP 
D. J. Wilson, CF 
Jesus Feliciano (Hitting Coach)


It was mentioned when Cubs top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay went on the Iowa DL in May with a lat strain that he could possibly make-up 2018 innings lost while on the DL (at least in part) by assigning him to the AFL post-2018.

The problem with assigning Alzolay to the AFL is that his slot on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster might be needed in September for Chris Gimenez or Drew Smyly, and if Alzolay is recalled from his Optional Assignment on 9/1 and then is placed on the Cubs MLB 60-day DL, he would not be eligible to pitch in the AFL until he is reinstated from the 60-day DL (which could be no earlier than 10/31, which is about 2/3 of the way through the AFL regular season).

So having Alzolay pitch in the Venezuelan winter league (Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional) would probably be a better option. 

Phil (or our NW League followers): can you please give a scouting report on the Emeralds pitcher, Brailyn Marquez? Supposedly he's getting some scout positive reviews (and a mention in BA's MiLB system ranking, Cubs were 28/30 but ahead of Boston/Seattle). They did rank Miguel Amaya at 91/100. 

CUBSTER: I saw Brailyn Marquez a lot at Extended Spring Training where he was clearly the EXST Cubs #1 pitching prospect. He was featuring a 91-93 MPH FB, a plus-CV, and a CH that was still a work-in progress (but was improving) at that time, and he displayed solid command of all of his pitches in most of his starts. 

So when he left for Eugene in June, I wrote here at TCR that I believed Marquez was one of the Cubs Top 20 prospects (overall), and one of the Cubs top 10 pitching prospects and definitely the Cubs best SP prospect at Eugene.

But since arriving in Eugene, Marquez's FB velo has reportedly spiked to 94-96 T-97, and if true, he should probably be considered one of the Cubs Top 10 prospects and one of their top two or three pitching prospects.   

BTW, I have not personally seen TrackMan FB velo readings on Marquez at Eugene (as I did at EXST) so I can't confirm the reported uptick in velocity that supposedly appeared on NWL stadium guns, but even if his FB is now sitting at 94-95, that would be a significant upgrade. If it's 96-97, that would be amazing.   

The Cubs have assigned four position players to the AFL Mesa Solar Sox: IF-OF Trent Giambrone, C-1B-3B P. J. Higgins, SS Nico Hoerner (Cubs 2018 1st round draft pick), and CF D. J. Wilson. One of the four will need to be assigned to the MSS "Taxi Squad" (player can play only two games per week) because only three position players per organization can be assigned to the unrestricted Active Roster. The Cubs have not yet assigned any pitchers to the AFL, but there will be four (including at least one SP).

This is why D. J. Wilson and Nico Hoerner can play in the AFL and why two more Cubs players who were on minor league rosters below AA on 8/15 could play in the AFL as well: 

7. Two players on an organization's Advanced Class-A (A+) affiliate's Active Roster (or Disabled List) on August 15th can be assigned to the AFL.
EXAMPLE: D. J. Wilson and ???? (perhaps Justin Steele)

8. Two additional players who were on the Active Roster or Disabled List of a minor league affiliate below AA (A+, A, SS-A, R) on August 15th can be assigned to the AFL.
EXAMPLE: Nico Hoerner and ???? (perhaps Erling Moreno)

There are some sites that have not updated the AFL roster rules. The roster rules I listed in the post above are the current ones and they have been the rules for the last three or four years.

It used to be that no more than two players who were on an Active List or DL of an MLB organization's minor league affiliate below AA on 8/15 could be on an AFL roster, but as you can see, it can be as many as four -- of which at least two must be from Advanced "A" (Myrtle Beach in the case of the Cubs) -- but two more players who were on the Cubs Myrtle Beach, South Bend, Eugene, AZL Cubs #1, AZL Cubs #2, DSL Cubs #1, and/or DSL Cubs #2 can also be assigned (club option).     

Also, it used to be that no more than one "international" player from any one organization could be assigned to that club's AFL team, but there is no limit now other than that an "international" player who is on the reserve list of a Latin winter league club cannot play in the AFL. 

It also used to be that a player who was on a DL on August 1st was ineligible to play in the AFL, but that rule was changed a few years ago as well. 

Essentially, MLB relaxed a number of AFL roster rules a few years ago because that's what MLB clubs wanted, and the AFL exists primarily to assist clubs in player development. 

AA Tennessee hitting coach Jesus Feliciano will serve as a hitting coach with the Mesa Solar Sox (AFL), replacing South Bend manager Jimmy Gonzalez (who had been named an MSS hitting coach last month). 

Still no word on which four Cubs pitchers will be assigned to the AFL, but as long as Cubs top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay is not recalled and placed on the MLB 60-day DL this month, he would be a strong candidate to pitch in the AFL to make up innings lost to injury (lat strain) in 2018. (He would not be eligible to pitch in the AFL if he is on the 60-day DL).    

Dumb question, what is MSS?

Mesa Solar Sox = MSS

Oh boy, duh.

Phil, when do instructs start?

azbobbop: No AZ Instructs in Mesa for Cubs this year. Just AFL Prep and the off-season Conditioning & Rehab Program. There will be a Minor League Instruction & Conditioning Mini-Camp in Mesa prior to the start of Spring Training.  

Very solid outing for LHSP Justin Steele for Mesa Solar Sox this afternoon at Sloan Park: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 4 K, 1 GIDP, 6/1 GO/AO, 62 pitches (41 strikes) - FB: 91-94 (T-95) fairly straight but he moved it up & down to change hitter's eye-level; CV: 78-80 (his off-speed "swing & miss" pitch); and an 87 MPH SL or CT (can't tell which, but it had diagonal movement so it's probably a slider) "chase pitch" that he had difficulty commanding, but otherwise he threw strikes with his FB and CV. I've seen all three of Steele's AFL starts so far and he is improving with each outing. I am beginning to think he is now a "virtual lock" to get added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster by the 11/20 deadline (I already had him the #1 "on the bubble" candidate to get added to the 40). 

RHRP Bailey Clark pitched a scoreless 9th and got the save, although he threw only 50% strikes and walked two. He was mixing a 92-95 MPH FB and an 81-83 MPH SL, neither of which he could throw consistently for strikes (especially the slider).    

Cubs 2018 1st round draft pick Nico Hoerner had two hard-hit singles (including a tie-breaking two-out RBI high-velo line-drive hit to LF in the bottom of the 7th that drove-in what proved to be the game-winning run) and a walk and continues to make all the plays with ease at SS. He is facing advanced pitching in the AFL and has handled himself very well so far, so he could conceivably jump to AA in 2019, especially if Aramis Ademan repeats Myrtle Beach and Zack Short moves-up to AAA. (I can't see either Hoerner or Ademan going back to South Bend, and both need to get regular reps at SS). Hoerner is a legit SS, although probably more steady than spectacular. (He's more like a J. J. Hardy than a Javier Baez).

What's kind of interesting is that when the AFL rosters were first announced Hoerner was on the Mesa Solar Sox "Taxi Squad" (meaning he could play only two games a week), but just prior to AFL Opening Day the Cubs switched Hoerner and Trent Giambrone, moving Giambrone to the Taxi Squad. That should be a pretty good indicator that the Cubs are "fast-tracking" Hoerner. 

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  • Charlie 4 hours 3 min ago (view)

    Lol at Nico getting nominated for riding the bench a lot.


  • crunch 6 hours 1 min ago (view)

    RF Jason Heyward, SS Javier Baez, 2B Nico Hoerner, 1B Anthony Rizzo, C Willson Contreras, and Ps Kyle Hendricks and Alec Mills gold glove finalists


  • bradsbeard 9 hours 57 min ago (view)

    Thank you, sir! Sounds like a nice get for the Cubs, and a good project for (what's left of) the new development infrastructure. 


  • Arizona Phil 10 hours 46 min ago (view)

    There have been some holes in the AZIL east-side schedule, with one team canceling games last week (although they are back playing this week) and another canceling game this week due to CoViD-19 issue, so the other teams (like the Cubs) are making up some of the "lost" games with intrasquad and in-house "sim" games. 


  • Arizona Phil 11 hours 41 min ago (view)

    BRADSBEARD: From what I have seen of Jacob Wetzel so far (BP, fielding practice, base-running drills, sim games, AZIL games, and yesterday's intasquad game), I would say he looks like a football running back playing baseball in that he has a high motor and plays with a bit of an edge.

    He has a thick body but he also has plus speed (very much like a football running back in that respect), he runs the bases aggressively, makes hard contact, has HR power, a decent arm, maybe can use some work in the outfield as far as tracking balls. 


  • bradsbeard 1 day 1 hour ago (view)

    Phil, curious if you've seen enough of Jacob Wetzel to offer an initial scouting report. Just from watching some prep video he looked pretty strong and fairly athletic (HS football player and all). Impressive numbers albeit in community college, but he was a division 1 recruit before that so he's pretty intriguing to me. 


  • KingKongvsGodzilla 2 days 23 hours ago (view)

    AZPhil, thank you for these updates! It's a nice little pick me up during this dumb year. If you have anything to say on Yohendrick Pinango, Joel Machado, Rafael Morel, or Richard Gallardo, I would love to hear it! Thanks again!


  • crunch 3 days 8 hours ago (view)

    jim hickey new nats pitching coach.


  • bradsbeard 4 days 3 hours ago (view)

    Several non-prospects ate up spots as well. Ultimately wish they had given a few more Rivas types a shot there. 


  • tim815 4 days 4 hours ago (view)

    Only 60 spots in SB. Others benefited more from the time.


  • crunch 4 days 7 hours ago (view)

    not phil, but i think everyone is holding off on his potential ceiling until he gains enough weight to not look like someone you want to buy a sandwich every time you see him.

    big upside if his skills can strengthen as he builds his body.

    too early for a solid comp, but i wouldn't feel uncomfortable throwing ian happ's name around (bit better arm than happ, though).


  • bradsbeard 4 days 8 hours ago (view)

    Me too. Thought it was weird he wasn't in South Bend at all. 


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 4 days 13 hours ago (view)

    I am very, very intrigued by Rivas. If the DH is unfortunately here to stay, he's a prime candidate for that and give Rizzo a day off 1B here and there. If no DH, hopefully he is a passable OF. Big believer in his hitting ability


  • Hagsag 4 days 15 hours ago (view)

    Phil, do you think Chris Morel is the real deal?


  • tim815 5 days 5 hours ago (view)


    Blue and Red DSL instructs rosters. No Brayan Altuve.



  • crunch 5 days 8 hours ago (view)

    yup, they're gonna try.  starts in about a month.