What we learned about Cubs prospects in the Arizona Fall League
The Mesa Solar Sox (13-15) lost their chance to repeat as champions Thursday when they fell 4-0 in a win-and-in game against the Peoria Javelins for the second spot in the AFL play-in game.
It marked the end of the Arizona Fall League regular season for them, closing the book on 8 Cubs prospects who participated.
What we learned
Matt Mervis lived up to his “Mash” nickname. He posted a .914 OPS and finished tied for the league in home runs with 6, his final league bomb coming last Friday (his third off a left-handed pitcher).
Matt "Mash" Mervis living up to his nickname!— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) November 4, 2022
The @Cubs prospect takes sole possession of the Fall League lead in homers with his sixth dinger (he also happens to be in tomorrow's Home Run Derby). pic.twitter.com/so5gmvHjjm
Saturday, he participated in the inaugural AFL home run derby and came up short of reaching the final. But the following day in the Fall Stars Game, he did this:
So nice you need to watch twice:
On top of the offense, he flashed his athleticism with a great tag play at first.
Mervis was named the Fall Stars Game MVP, joining the list of players below:
Source: Baseball Almanac
He’s in great company considering every recipient of the award has made it to the majors that same season or the following season except for 2018 winner Buddy Reed.
Mervis attributed the slow start to his AFL season to a timing issue, stemming from the layoff between the minor league ball and fall ball. He caught up with our Lance Brozdowski earlier this week to talk hitting, and broke down his mechanical adjustments (video above).
Bailey Horn was one of the standout pitchers from the Cubs system participating in Arizona. He had a scoreless streak of 10.2 innings to open his campaign and finished the season with 2 runs allowed over 12 innings and held opponents to a .150 batting average. It was enough to earn him a spot in the Fall Stars Game where he pitched an inning, walking 1 and striking out 1.
You can learn more about Horn’s slider grip and how he created 11 inches of movement while dropping its velocity:
Bailey Horn popped in yesterday's @MLBazFallLeague's Fall-Stars game.— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) November 7, 2022
Chatted w/ Horn about his slider in AZ, which picked up 11" of sweep & only lost ~1.5 mph between 2021 and 2022. @WatchMarquee@BaseballAmerica's @GeoffPontesBA praised Horn's SL here: https://t.co/AcUQbpsDkC pic.twitter.com/z6fFbzH0Pb
Horn was acquired by the Cubs last year via trade from the White Sox for reliever Ryan Tepera. Expect the young southpaw to pitch for the Iowa Cubs at some point in 2023, possibly even starting the year there in Triple-A.
Another arm that had a quietly good AFL season was Riley Martin. Over 12.2 innings, he held opponents to a .196 batting average, while walking 5 and striking out 19 on his way to a 2.84 ERA. All this in a hitter-friendly environment against the best bats he’s ever faced (Martin hasn’t pitched higher than A-ball in his two minor league seasons). The 24-year-old was drafted in the 6th round by the Cubs in 2021.
Mervis and Horn seem most likely to see a major league debut next season, with the former having taken a huge step forward in development plus the positional need and the latter being the most advanced pitcher of the 4.
Of the 8 players who played in Arizona, only Brennen Davis needs to be added to the 40–man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.