In just a few weeks, the Cubs will announce who they are sending to the Arizona Fall League. The league is usually for players who have missed some time, those the Cubs want to take a longer look at. Players who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, for example. The Cubs could also get a look at players they may want to showcase for possible trades in the winter, while simultaneously giving those same prospects exposure to other teams.
In most years, the Cubs usually send eight players from either high class-A Myrtle Beach or AA Tennessee. This year, a few players fit the bill because they have missed some time or the Cubs really want to see how they fare against advanced competition. Here are some names that might be in the running for playing time this fall in Arizona.
I think it would be important to see Jen-Ho Tseng in Arizona as he did miss a month this year. And I’d like to see how his arsenal matches up against elite competition, especially his offspeed stuff. I’d also like to see Duane Underwood in Arizona, but in a relief role. Underwood has struggled with injuries each of the last two years and I still think he has starter potential. I just would like a sneak peek of what he could do in the bullpen and how his fastball responds to pitching every other day. He was, however, pulled from the game with an injury on Tuesday night. No explanation has been given yet.
I’d like to see Chesney Young play in the AFL just to get more at-bats against quality pitching. After a great April, he has had some trouble hitting. His approach is still solid, but I think he needs to gain some strength and confidence heading into 2017.
Ian Happ might be one player the Cubs want to look at in more detail this fall. They obviously know a lot about him already, but you can never have too much information. As he goes up each level, he does better and better. Being at AA, he is not that far from the majors, so an extra sneak peak in the fall might do Happ and the Cubs well.
Most of the players I want to see come from Myrtle Beach. I would love to see Trevor Clifton, Zach Hedges, Erick Leal and/or Jake Stinnett pitch against AFL competition. All four have done really well this year, but I would like to see them outside of the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. Since they all have pitched a lot of innings, they would likely do so in a relief role. Leal is the most intriguing, particularly when it comes to his control and command. The other three starters I think could do well at AA as all three have out pitches, whereas Leal really does not.
Then you’ve got Gleyber Torres, the Cubs’ top prospect. The fall league could be a launchpad to speeding up his development next year at AA Tennessee so that he might see Iowa by the middle of the year. Although he has not hit for the best average this year, you still have to like his approach at the plate in the pitcher-friendly league.
Rule 5 Possibilities
The problem is the Cubs can only send 8 players to Arizona while 78 players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Those prospects the Cubs really want to hold onto will have to be placed on the 40-man roster before the draft.
The following names are just a few of the players eligible for this fall’s Rule 5 draft: Pedro Araujo, RHP; Paul Blackburn RHP; Victor Caratini, C; Josh Conway, RHP; Rashad Crawford, OF; David Garner, RHP; Ryan McNeil, RHP; Jose Rosario, RHP; Steve Perakslis, RHP; Tyler Skulina, RHP.
If selected, the player would need to be on the selecting team’s MLB roster in 2017. That eliminates many of the position players and most of the starting pitchers, but it does leave Pedro Araujo and Jose Rosario as players other teams could likely select. Both throw hard and I could see Rosario, who is doing well at AA, being chosen after this season.
I don’t think the Cubs are going to send just anyone to Arizona this year. There has to be a specific purpose for advancing the development or seeing exactly what they have in a given prospect. Given all the big names and what seems like daily promotions to Chicago, it’s easy to forget about everything that’s involved at the lower levels. But what the Cubs choose to do with the AFL and the Rule 5 Draft will have some real impact down the road.