Cubs News

Fall League Fridays: Velazquez continues to shine and a wild, 10-run comeback

1 year agoLee Bosch

Rosters for the 2021 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game were announced Wednesday and include three Cubs prospects: AFL god Nelson Velazquez (OF), power-surging Andy Weber (INF) and the recently untouchable Caleb Kilian (RHP). They play tonight at 6 p.m. CT on MLB Network.

What does this mean for player outlook?

Baseball writer Eno Sarris shared a tweet on how fall stars compare to top-25 ranked hitting prospects. (You can find his in-depth research from 2013 here).

 

If the Cubs add Velazquez and Weber to the 40-man roster they would avoid potentially losing them to the Rule 5 draft in December.

Velazquez has arguably been the best player in the league. As of November 9, he was leading or near the top of every important offensive category. In the words of Josh Norris at Baseball America, “he has a realistic chance of winning both the traditional and sabermetric triple crowns.”

He hit his league-leading 8th home run of the season Tuesday:

 

And his 9th last night:

 

Weber has performed well at the plate in Arizona, following a 2021 season with the Tennessee Smokies where he slashed .214/.302/.321 in 149 PA. This fall, he is on pace to surpass most of his Double-A counting stats by the end of his AFL season. Currently, he is 5 base hits (23) and 4 extra-base hits (9) shy of his season total with the Smokies through 95 PA. He already cleared his season total for runs (19), RBI (20), home runs (2) and walks (17). 

And don’t be fooled by Kilian’s current season totals: 14.0 IP, 5.14 ERA, 1.21 WHIP. He had a rough start to his AFL season, in a debut where he didn’t record an out, and allowed 7 runs on 5 hits (one home run) to the 7 batters he faced. His second start five days later went 2 innings, 2 runs (one earned), 2 hits, 4 walks and 3 strikeouts. 

Since then, Kilian has made three appearances covering 12 scoreless innings, 5 hits, zero walks and 15 strikeouts. His most recent outing was a 5-inning relief masterclass where he held the Scottsdale Scorpions at bay, allowing the Mesa Solar Sox to mount a “remontada” — a wild comeback — after trailing by 10 runs.

Kilian recently spoke with Marquee Sports Network analyst Lance Brozdowski about adjustments he’s made to some of his pitches here. 

Let’s talk about Monday’s 11-10 comeback win because it had Cubs contributions all across the board. Remember how last week’s post highlighted the nonsense scores and outcomes in some of these games? The Solar Sox were finally on the winning side of one.

The Scorpions jumped to a 10-0 lead in the 3rd, the bulk falling on Cubs prospect Ryan Jensen who went 2.1 IP, allowing 8 runs on 10 hits (2 home runs). But all it did was set the stage for big performances by his fellow Cubs .

In the bottom of the 3rd, Weber started the rally with a 1-out triple, his league-lead tying 4th of the season. He would score on a sac fly one batter later.

10-1.

Velazquez, the extra-base machine he’s been all season, extended the inning with a 2-out double to set up Marlins prospect J.J. Bleday’s 2-run home run.

10-3, end of the 3rd.

Kilian would take over in the 4th. He struggled early, allowing a single and double with one out, but escaped trouble capping off the inning with a strikeout. He went on to retire 14 of the next 15 batters he faced (one hit by pitch), holding the Scorpions scoreless over his 5 innings pitched.

With one out and a runner on in the bottom of the 4th, Cubs prospect Luis Vazquez hit a one-out single, setting the table for another Marlins prospect, Will Banfield, who hit his first home run of the AFL season. 

10-6 through 4 innings.

In the 6th, Weber got an at-bat with the bases loaded and one out. The man with 5 career home runs in 207 minor league games found some fall ball magic and pulled one over the fence in right to tie the game at 10. Mesa would score on a fielding error later in the inning to take an 11-10 lead that would hold for the win. 

Cubs hitters combined for 5 hits, 4 runs, 3 extra-base hits (1 home run), and 4 RBI. Two days earlier the same trio went a combined 7-for-13 with 5 runs, 2 extra-base hits (1 home run) and 6 RBI in Mesa’s 12-9 win.

Solar Sox are 13-11 and lead the 3-team east division by 4 games with 4 to play. The championship game will be played Saturday, Nov. 20.

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