In mid-October, right in the midst of the 2021 MLB postseason action, six teams of talented prospects from across the league made the trek to Arizona to take part in the Arizona Fall League. After 30 games – and a championship game – the AFL drew to a close with the Mesa Solar Sox standing on top.
In the winner-takes-all championship game, the Solar Sox defeated the Surprise Saguaros by a score of 6-0. The Solar Sox finished first in the AFL East division with a record of 15-13. This team was made up of different prospects from the Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays organizations.
The league’s purpose has always been for top prospects to showcase their skills. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the league returned for a shorter season that featured experimental rules that were previously used in the minor leagues. Though the schedule and regulations may have differed from years past, this season’s group of prospects was as talented as ever, and there were a few that stood out. For the Chicago Cubs: one of those prospects is Caleb Kilian.
The 24-year-old right-hander came to Chicago via the San Francisco Giants in last summer’s Kris Bryant trade. Looking at Kilian’s recent success following the trade, especially in the AFL, it’s looking more and more like Jed Hoyer made the right call in trading the former MVP.
Chicago Cubs front office made the right call trading Kris Bryant at the deadline
Initially, the feelings regarding the Kris Bryant trade were negative (that’s what happens when a false report centered around a team’s top prospect coming back in the deal surface first). After all, who would want to see their team trade an All-Star away, especially when the return was not as rich as those rumors made it out to be? Now, though, the move stings a bit less – and Kilian is a big reason why.
In last weekend’s championship game, Kilian led Mesa to victory, throwing six perfect frames with eight strikeouts. Kilian was named MVP of the championship game, and the young righty cruised to victory in six innings on 68 pitches. In the first inning, Kilian reached 98.1 MPH and threw his hardest pitch of the game. Kilian also threw 48 of his 68 pitches for strikes and retired 16 of 18 batters.
Across the 2021 season, between the Giants and Cubs farm teams, Kilan posted a 2.42 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 19 starts. A Texas product, Kilian was an eighth-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2019 out of Texas Tech. Yes, watching Bryant get traded away was not ideal for Cubs fans. However, the return, including prospects like Kilian, will be worth it and probably sooner than expected.
Potentially, the Chicago Cubs could see Kilian getting called up as early as next season. Sure, Kilian might not be of ace caliber, but he would provide much-needed pitching depth to this ball club.