2022 Arizona Fall League primer: Cubs prospects prepare for baseball’s top showcase
While today begins the final (half) week of the 2022 MLB regular season, 8 potential Cubs of the future will get set to take part in a second Opening Day.
Monday kicks off a 6-week, 30-game stretch of MLB prospects facing off known as the Arizona Fall League. This season, Cubs minor leaguers Brennen Davis (OF), Matt Mervis (1B), Owen Caissie (OF), BJ Murray Jr (INF), Bailey Horn (LHP), Zac Leigh (RHP), Riley Martin (LHP) and Sheldon Reed (RHP) will make up part of the Mesa Solar Sox, who won the AFL championship a year ago.
That 2021 title-winning team was led by a pair of Cubs who debuted this season: AFL MVP Nelson Velázquez and starter Caleb Kilian, who threw 6 perfect innings in the championship game:
The Fall League includes 6 teams, each made up of 5 MLB farm systems. This year’s group will feature 16 of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects, along with the inaugural AFL Home Run Derby on Nov. 5, the day before the Fall Stars Game.
Looking for a fresh start will be Davis, the Cubs top prospect, who was limited to 53 games this minor league season after having back surgery.
Mervis is coming off his most successful minor league campaign where he ended the season with 36 home runs, third-most across all of Minor League Baseball. Like Velázquez a year ago, Mash Mervis will look to carry a hot stretch into hitter-friendly fall ball that solidifies a callup to the 2023 roster.
An arm to watch this fall is right-hander Leigh. Marquee Sports Network’s player development analyst Lance Brozdowski added the following about Leigh:
He sits 94-96 mph on his fastball with a slider that he seems to tweak the shape on. Both pitches work best when he’s locating his fastball up in the zone and creating more of a slider shape with lift rather than a down-action breaker, the latter being a common tweak he makes when facing left-handed hitters.
His repertoire is that of a modern leverage reliever: hard fastballs, whiff-inducing sliders. Like most pitchers with big stuff, his command needs to allow him to sit in the zone more, even right over the plate, because his stuff is good enough to beat hitters regardless of location.
Along with getting an early look at potential future 2023 Cubs, there is plenty to capture the attention of baseball fans. Fall ball will implement some of the newer rules coming to baseball including larger bases, a pitch clock, shifting regulations and an Automatic Ball-Strike (ABS) Challenge System (at Salt Rivers Field and Chase Field games only). The challenge system will allow each team 3 opportunities to check a ball or strike call with ABS.
A few non-Cubs related storylines to look out for include Davis and Caissie’s teammate Jasson Dominguez. The 19-year-old Yankees prospect was one of the most hyped international prospects when he signed in 2019 and is coming off his second pro season. Rangers pitcher Kumar Rocker was the talk of the draft for two consecutive years and coming off a shoulder issue, will make his pro ball debut in AFL. His potential battery mate Henry Davis (PIT) was the No. 1 pick overall in last year’s draft and wrapped up a year where he played 59 games across 4 minor league levels.
We’ll have you covered here with our weekly Fall Ball Friday articles highlighting all the action involving Cubs prospects in Arizona.