2019 Arizona Fall League Schedule Announced

9/17 UPDATE

SS Zack Short (replacing Nico Hoerner) and RHRP Scott Effross have been added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster. 

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8/28 UPDATE #2


One pitcher still TBA, but here are the Cubs assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox (AFL):

Miguel Amaya, C 
Nico Hoerner, INF
Jordan Minch, LHRP  
Keegan Thompson, RHSP  
Erich Uelmen, RHSP 
Jared Young, 1B-OF
TBA, P 

Jamie Vermilyea, Pitching Coach 

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8/28 UPDATE #1


The Cubs have assigned SS Nico Hoerner to the Mesa Solar Sox.  

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8/26 UPDATE

Cubs (South Bend) Pitching Coach Jamie Vermilyea has been named pitching coach for the Mesa Solar Sox. (The Cubs are responsible for providing the MSS pitching coach in 2019). .  

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7/31 ORIGINAL POST: 

The has been announced.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE (AFL)

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 MLB-affiliated minor leagues have concluded their seasons. 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.

The AFL schedule will change in 2019, beginning and ending three weeks earlier than in years past. This will allow less down-time between the end of the minor league season and the start of the AFL for minor leaguers assigned to AFL teams. It also means that minor league players who are eligible to be an MLB Rule 55 free-agent (second-contract FA or 6YFA) on the 5th day after the conclusion of the World Series can play in the AFL without first signing a minor league successor contract for the next season.  
NOTE: Because the AFL season formerly ended two or three weeks after the conclusion of the World Series, a player eligible to be an MLB Rule 55 minor league FA was not eligible to play in the AFL unless and until he signed a minor league successor contract for the next season. 

2019 AFL Opening Day will be on the third Wednesday in September (9/17) and the AFL regular season will conclude on the Friday of the sixth week (10/25). The AFL Championship Game (pitting the winner of the East Division against the winner of the West Division) will be played on the Saturday at the end of the sixth week (10/26 in 2019).  

The AFL schedule will continue to feature a 30-game "regular season" (each AFL team will play five or six games per week), and an All-Star Game (formerly called the "Rising Stars Game," but now known as the "Fall Stars Game") played on the Saturday at the end of the fourth week (10/12). For the first time AFL games will be played on Sundays, and five teams from the Mexican Pacific League (Culiacan, Hermosillo, Los Mochis, Mexicali, and Obregon) will play games against AFL teams over a ten-day period starting on 9/24. 

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 catcher Miguel Amaya, 2B Chase Strumpf, SS Nico Hoerner, SS Aramis Ademan, SS Zack Short, C-INF P. J. Higgins, 1B-OF Jared Young, INF Andy Weber, OF Brennen Davis, OF Nelson Velazquez, and/or OF Cole Roederer, starting pitchers Brendon Little, Brailyn Marquez, Erich Uelmen, Jack Patterson, and/or Ryan Jensen (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 Oscar de la Cruz, Craig Brooks, Wyatt Short, Jordan Minch, Tommy Nance, Ryan Lawlor, Chad Hockin, and/or Danny Hultzen. .    

Here are the current (2019) AFL eligibility rules & restrictions. 

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. (The Scottsdale Scorpions will be playing home games in the stadium at Salt River Fields while Scottsdale Stadium is under renovation). 
NOTE: CLE, DET, LAA, and OAK will be the other four MLB organizations affiliated with the Mesa Solar Sox in 2019. (BOS, DET, LAA, and OAK were the other four MLB organizations affiliated with the Mesa Solar Sox in 2018, DET, HOU, OAK, and WAS were the other four MLB organizations affiliated with the Solar Sox in 2017, and BAL, CLE, MIA, and OAK were the other four MLB organizations affiliated with the MSS in 2016).

2. Each MLB organization must assign a minimum of seven players under its control to its AFL affiliate, including a minimum of four pitchers (preferably at least one pitcher capable of starting) 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: RHRP Bailey Clark, INF-OF Trent Giambrone, C-INF P. J. Higgins, SS Nico Hoerner, C Jhonny Pereda, LHSP Justin Steele, RHSP Erick Leal, LHRP Manuel Rondon, and OF D. J. Wilson were the Cubs players assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox in 2018, 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 Solar Sox in 2017 (RHSP Oscar de la Cruz was removed from the 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 MSS 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: INF-OF Trent Giambrone and C Jhonny Pereda were assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox Taxi Squad in 2018, 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. 

5. All MLB and minor league players under the control of an MLB organization are now eligible to play in the AFL. 
NOTE: Prior to 2019, an MLB player (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 an Injured List) as of September 1st and players who were on the Active List, Injured List, or Temporariliy Inactive List of an MLB minor league affiliate (regardless of classification) on August 15th were eligible, international players frrom the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, and/or Australia were eligible only if the player was not on the reserve list of a Winter League club from the player's home country, and a player who was on a minor league or MLB Injured List at the close of the regular season was eligible to play in the AFL as long as the player had been reinstated, but there could 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"). 

6. A player must be invited by his MLB organization to participate in the AFL and then the player must accept the invitation before he can be assigned an AFL team.  

7. A player on an MLB or minor league injured list must be reinstated before he can be assigned to the AFL.
NOTE: OF-DH Kyle Schwarber was added to the 2016 Mesa Solar Sox Taxi Squad on 10/22 only after being reinstated from the Cubs MLB 60-day DL (so therefore 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.  

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

9. A player assigned to the AFL who is not on an MLB Active List does not accrue MLB Service Time, and MLB Service Time can only be accrued prior to the conclusiion of the MLB regular season.

10. Beginning on the day after the conclusion of the MLB regular season all players receive the same salary and the salaries are paid out of a special fund managed by MLB.
NOTE: A player assigned to the AFL is paid by his club prior to the conclusion of the MLB regular season.  

11. 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 provided the hitting coach to their affiliated AFL club in 2018.

CUBS ASSIGNED TO MESA SOLAR SOX in 2019 (updated 8-28-2019): 

Miguel Amaya, C 
Nico Hoerner, INF
Jordan Minch, LHRP 
Erich Uelmen, RHSP 
Keegan Thompson, RHSP 
Jared Young, 1B-OF 
TBD (pitcher)

Jamie Vermilyea (Pitching Coach) 

Comments

Probably the single most significant effect of the change in the 2019 AFL schedule (starts three weeks earlier and ends three weeks earlier than in the past) is that players who are eligible to be Rule 55 minor league second-contract or six-year free-agents five days after the conclusion of the World Series can now play in the AFL without having to first sign a minor league successor contract for the next season, since the AFL season will end a week prior to the conclusion of the World Series. (The AFL season used to end the week prior to Thanksgiving, which was a couple of weeks after the conclusion of the World Series). 

i'm not much of a fan of the AFL season start move, but it makes sense and i find it hard to argue against.  the time between the end of the minor league season for most players and the start of AFL was too long for too many guys to stay game ready.

thanks for the preview/review and primer for the season.

i hope we get more live TV coverage this year.  It gets a little better every year, but I'm ready for wall-to-wall coverage.

i would love to live in a world where we got AFL + various winter leagues for fall/winter coverage.  i don't even need an english language feed for winter league, just gimmie some action and crowd noise.  some of the winter league stuff is great.  if you're a fan of bat flipping and pitchers celebrating inning ending Ks with extreme celebrations, winter league ball is for you...plus, you get to see a bunch of "oh damn! i remember him!" guys.

The Cubs have acquired Nick Castellanos in exchange for Paul Richan and Alex Lange.

Edwards to the Padres for Brad Wieck

Only SS Nico Hoerner and pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea have been announced so far. The other Cubs AFL players are still TBD. 

C Miguel Amaya, INF Nico Hoerner, LHRP Jordan Minch, RHSP Erich Uelmen, RHSP Keegan Thompson, and 1B-LF Jared Young have been assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox (AFL), with one pitcher still TBD. 

nice mix of legit (for the cubs system) prospects.

Keep in mind that with the new relaxed eligibility rules in place in 2019 (see original post above) - ANY - player under the control of an MLB organization (including major league players) can now play in the AFL. 

Since there are no longer any roster restrictions on AFL players, Cubs RHSP Kendall Graveman (presently rehabbing from July 2018 TJS) could pitch in the AFL. Also, clubs who are participating in the MLB post-season can assign pitchers and position players to the AFL to stay in game shape in case they are needed in the LDS, LCS, or World Series.  

Again, players who are eligible to be MLB or minor league free-agents post-2019 can now play in the AFL because the AFL season will end prior to the conclusion of the World Series. The AFL season used to conclude in mid-November two weeks after the conclusion of the World Series, so players who were eligible to be minor league free-agents had to sign a minor league successor contract for the next season before they could play in the AFL. That is no longer the case.   

SS Zack Short (replacing Nico Hoerner) and RHRP Scott Effross have been added to the AFL Mesa Solar Sox roster. 

Phil, what is your scouting report on Effross?

HAGSAG: College teammate of Kyle Schwarber at Indiana... two-pitch reliever (90-92 T 93-94 FB & 81-84 sllder)... nothing special...  

First thing I'll point to, depending on the final order of finish, is the fact that, for the second year in a row we took the lead off of Hader in the 8th inning of a key late-season game @ Milwaukee & couldn't keep it. The second thing will be the game we led 5-0 after 7 & managed to lose. Nats next face Marlins. Cards come to town licking their chops/beaks to finish us off...

Here are the most-recent updated velo readings from Cubs pitchers in the AFL: 

Scott Effross, RHRP: 
FB: 91-92 T 93 
SL: 80-83 
NOTE: Only question about Effross off his AFL outings is whether he will be placed on the AAA or AA reserve llst for Rule 5 Draft. Other than being able to throw multiple innings, there isn't really a whole lot to like about what Effross has to offer, so I'm not so sure he won't be placed on the AA reserve list and be eligible for selection in the AAA Phase ($24,000 draft price with no right to re-claim). 

Jordan Minch, LHRP: 
FB: 93-95 T 96-97
SL: 83-86 
COMMENT: Always a wild power arm with an explosive 4S FB and a hard 11-5 slider, Minch is throwing a higher-percentage of strikes in the AFL than he was the last time I saw him in Spring Training, but his slider is a chase pitch so if hitters lay off it's usually not a called strike (he sometimes bounces it). Also, he is - NOT - just a LOOGY and he is - NOT - just a one-inning reliever (he threw multiple innings twice in the AFL). And he isn't afraid to throw his slider to RH hitters, either. With a high ceiling and a low floor, Minch could get selected in the Rule 5 Draft by a club willing to spend $100K for a roll of the dice (presuming the Cubs don't add him to their MLB 40-man roster on 11/20). Otherwise he will almost certainly get an NRI to Spring Training and be in the Iowa bullpen in 2020 (he is eligible to be a minor league 6YFA post-2020).  

Keegan Thompson, RHSP: 
FB: 92-95 
CT/SL: 87-89 
CH: 84-86 
CV: 81-84 
COMMENT: For having missed almost the entire 2019 regular season, K. Thompson has consistently thrown strikes and displayed outstanding command of all of his pitches in the AFL. He is a polished legit MLB MOR SP prospect right now and will be Rule 5 Draft eligible post-2020, so he will likely begin 2020 in the AAA Iowa starting rotation and could arrive at Wrigley Field some time next season. 

thanks for the notes/comments to frame the numbers, and the numbers.  great stuff.  nice to hear KT is doing well, too. 

I haven't seen Erich Uelmen pitch for about a month, but the last time I saw him his 2S FB was sitting 92-93 (T 94) and his SL was consistently 82-84. He was only stretched-out to throw two innings at that time so I don't know how well his velo will hold-up in a third or fourth inning (K. Thompson's FB was still hitting 95 in his 4th inning today).

Hopefully Uelmen will throw tomorrow (it's Mesa's last game) and if he does I should be able to get somethng more up-to-date on him, but they are playing only seven innings because both teams are supposedly short of available pitchers, so I don't know if that means Uelmen isn't available. 

BTW, the Arizona Fall League team uniforms worn by players in 2019 are experimental unis provided free to the AFL by Nike in preparation for Nike taking over the MLB uniform (jerseys & pants) & shoe contract in 2020.
(New Era will continue to supply MLB caps in 2020). 

The AFL will supposedly revert to having players wear the uniforms of their parent organization (albeit with AFL team caps) in 2020, so while Miguel Amaya and Keegan Thompson are wearing Mesa Solar Sox uniforms (with a Cubs patch on the sleeve) in 2019, that will not be the case for Cubs players who are assigned to the AFL in 2020 (they will wear Chicago Cubs jerseys & pants with Mesa Solar Sox caps).    

Prior to this season, the last time the AFL had special uniforms (cap, jersey, and pants, with the patch of the player's parent MLB club on the sleeve) for each of its six teams was in the years 1992-2003, although players have always worn their AFL team's cap.  

Final AFL report card on Zack Short: Played big league quality defense at SS, led the league in walks, displays just average speed for a middle-infielder but he is a good baserunner, he has a plus-arm, and he makes hard contact with an upper trajectory pull-heavy swing path, but contact is a problem because there were lots & lots of swings & misses. So he's kind of a "three-outcome" SS. Probably best MLB comps are Nick Ahmed and Jordy Mercer.  

Sounds like good optionable depth to me. Would be surprised if he's not added to the 40 man before the Rule 5. 

if (when, really) he makes it to the majors he'll be the 1st person from Sacred Heart University to make it to the bigs (16 players since 1967) and is currently the only one playing in any level of professional baseball.

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  • bradsbeard 18 min 25 sec ago (view)

    Happ has been an above average hitter every season he's been in the majors, and he killed it in his brief return from the minors last year (with better contact and lower K rates to boot). Aside from an extended period with the lower K rates, what else are you not seeing?

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 31 min 49 sec ago (view)

    Bote, for the moment, is adequate. Very unsold on the 2 LH hitting 2B options.

    I have never seen it for Happ. I'd love for him to prove me wrong but I dont see it happening.

     

  • crunch 1 hour 24 min ago (view)

    someone else may have noticed or written something about a possible issue with lefties last year (aside from the obvious disappointing numbers), but i didn't see anything that made him look lost vs them.

    myself, i'm not expecting the hard time vs lefties to keep happening (though i can't point to why 2019 wasn't good for him and i may be missing something).  also, how well he handled righties has me a bit pumped about his future.

     

  • bradsbeard 1 hour 41 min ago (view)

    I think it was likely just a small sample size luxuation against LHP last year. His splits were essentially swapped from 2018 to 2019. For his career he's been a little above average against both sides, or essentially no significant split. I'd expect him to hit LHP better than RHP going forward though. 

     

  • Eric S 1 hour 52 min ago (view)

    I'd like to see Bote not get owned by lefties. Not sure what it is about his stroke that's hurting him - struggles against offspeed in general?

     

  • crunch 2 hours 26 min ago (view)

    huge bote fan over here, and i think he's one of the best longterm investments the cubs have gambled on.  cubs have control over him through 2026 if they exercise both his options (both 7.6m).

    i'd like to see him penciled in as the main regular at 2nd, but overall i just wanna see him play more than he was late last year when he was red hot.  if bryant flames out with the glove at 3rd (clock is ticking on that) we might see bote at 3rd a bit.

     

  • Eric S 2 hours 32 min ago (view)

    Hopefully KB has worked on his base sliding technique - believe he jacked his knee up last year because of some rough "landings" on the basepaths. He definitely should shine in the role - and provided KB is not traded - Cubs can only go up from their leadoff hitter ranking from last year. 

     

  • Charlie 3 hours 8 min ago (view)

    Bote was a little better than league average with the bat last year and Happ has never been worse than league average with the bat over a full season in the majors. Not too bad at the end of your lineup (though neither is helping out too much on defense). Heyward could end up the #8 if things break OK for Bote and Happ at the plate.

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 3 hours 34 min ago (view)

    That would be a hell of a 1-5. The problem comes from 6-8 being a combination of Heyward, Bote/ Kipnis/ Descalso, and Happ/ Almora.

     

  • crunch 7 hours 30 min ago (view)

    that should be good for 175Ks, 30 homers, 30 doubles, 60-70 RBI...

    wonder who the #2 they're looking at...hopefully rizzo and not heyward.

    bryant/rizzo/baez/schwarber/contreras would be a hell of a 1-5.

     

  • Rob Richardson 9 hours 30 min ago (view)

    Per Bruce Levine, Kris Bryant will be leading off for the Cubs.

     

  • crunch 10 hours 6 min ago (view)

    "Kris Bryant expects to remain with the Cubs in 2020 after a sit-down with team president Theo Epstein.

    "Everything went great," Bryant told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. "It was the best meeting I had with a superior. He just gave me insight as to what kind of happened in the offseason." The star third baseman did later add that Epstein gave him no assurances that he will be kept in the loop if further trade talks were to arise, before stating, "I’m a Chicago Cub.""

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 10 hours 43 min ago (view)

    That would be so devious!

     

  • tim815 12 hours 11 min ago (view)

    Owners might not want to spend the extra coin. Which would be about like a dime to us.

    Nice on the Cubs for upping MiLB pay.

     

  • jdrnym 23 hours 59 min ago (view)

    AZPHIL, has there been official word as to whether the 26-man roster has been extended down to the minor league levels that previously had 25-man rosters? Can't really think of a reason why that shouldn't be the case...

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 4 hours ago (view)

    Another possibility for a "26th man" in 2020 would be a young pitcher selected in the Rule 5 Draft who has big league upside but who is clearly not yet "big league ready," or a pitcher who is out of minor league options who might not be quite MLB ready.