4 Pitchers Expected to Join Big-Name Hitters on Cubs’ AFL Roster

It had been reported earlier that the Cubs would be sending Brennen Davis, Matt Mervis, and Miguel Amaya to their Arizona Fall League roster, but news was scarce on the pitching front. That is, until Patrick Mooney tweeted that Zac Leigh, Bailey Horn, Sheldon Reed, and Riley Martin are expected to be in Mesa following the conclusion of the minor league season.

Leigh isn’t often mentioned among the organization’s top pitching prospects because he’s a reliever who has only logged 41.1 professional innings over two seasons. A 16th round pick (No. 484 overall) back in 2021 out of Texas State, Leigh was excellent over limited action at the lower levels in his first season He allowed just one run on four hits and three walks over 8.2 innings, striking out 17 in that time.

After missing April and May while on the IL, Leigh opened up at South Bend and put up a 2.35 ERA with four saves in 17 appearances. The 24-year-old struck out 32 and walked eight in 23 innings before being promoted to Tennessee, where he hasn’t been quite as dominant. A 3.72 ERA over 9.2 innings is still very good, of course, and his 17 strikeouts prove he can still miss bats.

The 24-year-old Horn is in a somewhat similar spot, though he’s racked up 48 innings between South Bend and Tennessee this season. Acquired from the White Sox in the Ryan Tepera deal last year, Horn had a pretty rough go of it at High-A for two different clubs. That wasn’t the case this season, as he needed just 10 scoreless innings to show he was ready for the next step.

Reed is 25 and in his second pro season after signing with the Cubs out of Clemson as an undrafted free agent in 2020. After a great start for Myrtle Beach in which he allowed no runs on just two hits in 11.2 innings, Reed has posted a 5.67 ERA over 27 innings with the South Bend Cubs.

Quincy, IL native Martin is a 24-year-old lefty who was taken by the Cubs in the sixth round of last year’s draft. The long reliever tallied 69.1 innings for South Bend after 13.1 for Myrtle Beach earlier in the season and he’s struck out 119 batters over that time. Outside of his time in Low-A this season, Martin really hasn’t put up great numbers from a box score perspective.

The Cubs aren’t making these assignments based on box scores, though, they’re trying to give some of their young pitchers a chance to work on tweaks in a new environment or make up for lost time due to injury. With all kinds of 40-man roster decisions looming, this also gives the organization a chance to see who they might want to protect from the Rule 5 Draft. It’s interesting that all four of these pitchers are relievers, though Martin typically went 3-4 innings in each outing.

Unlike the hitters who will join them in Mesa, these pitchers are neither well-known to Cubs fans nor likely to have an impact in Chicago next season. That could change in a hurry, especially if Leigh or Horn can really shove in the AFL and carry that momentum into next season.

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