The Arizona Fall League has become a showcase for young players to make a statement for their respective teams (See Bryant last year). Seven Chicago Cubs’ farmhands are participating this year. Generally six is the limit, so one may be a “taxi squad” player, seeing only a couple of games per week.
The season is very young, but so far there is no repeat of what Kris Bryant did last year in the AFL. The most highly touted of the group, Addison Russell (No. 4 overall ranked by MLB.com), is struggling mightily at the plate. Through the first five games, Russell is hitting a lowly .182 in 11 at-bats. It’s early, and a very small sample; but the Cubs are hoping for more this winter.
Unfortunately, Russell is not the only Cubs prospect struggling to find his groove. Big slugger Dan Vogelbach is batting .091 with seven strikeouts. Outfielder Jacob Hanneman hasn’t fared much better, going 1-for-10 with four strikeouts. But it isn’t all gloom for the Cubs. There are some bright spots besides the Arizona sun.
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Pitcher Ivan Pineyro has thrown an inning and a third of shutout baseball, walking two and striking out one. CJ Edwards is trying to return to his prior form, before missing time with a shoulder injury. Edwards stuff isn’t the question, it’s his size and durability that has most scouts asking questions. So far in the AFL, he’s started one game, allowing a run and striking out one in two innings.
Bryant set the bar high for Cubs’ prospects after his 2013 AFL MVP season. But he appears to be from a different mold, one that was broken shortly after. It’s hard for fans not to expect similar results out of these prospects when they’re highly ranked on all the “top prospect lists”. But each player progresses at their own pace. Panic must be suppressed. Much too early for that.
After making the AFL title game last year, the 1-4 start is a little disheartening. But the Solar Sox have plenty of time to turn things around, as do the Cubs prospects.