8/27 Top Cubs prospects in AFL

Fans who can’t wait to see Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler play for the Cubs will have their chance in October.

Baez, Almora and Bryant, the Cubs’ first-round picks in the last three First-Year Player Drafts, will join Soler on the Mesa Solar Sox roster and participate in the Arizona Fall League, which begins play Oct. 8. Almora, limited to 61 games with Class A Kane County because of injuries, will be on Mesa’s taxi squad, and play Wednesdays and Sundays.

Other Cubs on the Mesa AFL roster include pitchers Dallas Beeler, Matt Loosen, Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino. Beeler, Loosen and Rivero were pitching for Double-A Tennessee, while Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves in July 2012 in the Paul Maholm deal, has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

It’s been a whirlwind summer for Bryant, the second pick overall in the June Draft. The third baseman, who led the country with 31 home runs at San Diego, began the season at short-season Boise, and batted .354 in 18 games with four home runs, eight doubles and 14 RBIs, and was promoted to Class A Daytona, where he was batting .368 in 10 games with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs.

“I’m very excited,” Bryant said. “I don’t much about [the AFL]. I’m new to this whole process, but I know there are lot of good players who have gone to the Fall League. I’m excited I get to continue playing baseball. The games will only help me in my development against some very good competition.”

The Cubs project Bryant, Almora, Baez and Soler to be key pieces in the team’s future. Now, they’ll be teammates.

“That’s huge,” Bryant said about being with the other prospects. “To get to play 30 plus games with these guys, it’ll only help us in the future. Hopefully, we can develop chemistry so heading into next year, we can make things easier for ourselves.”

* This will be Baez’s second turn in the AFL. Last year ended early because of a thumb injury that limited him to 14 AFL games. This season, the 20-year-old shortstop has been on fire. He batted .274 in 76 games with 17 home runs, 19 doubles and 57 RBIs at Class A Daytona, and was batting .308 with 18 home runs, 14 doubles and 48 RBIs in 48 games with Double-A Tennessee.

* Almora, 19, an outfielder, was batting .329 in 61 games with Kane County before being sidelined with a groin injury. Soler, 21, the Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year, $30 million deal in June 2012, was limited to 55 games because of a stress fracture in his left tibia. He batted .281 with eight home runs and 13 doubles with Daytona before he was hurt.

* Beeler made nine starts at Tennessee before being sidelined in late May when he tore a tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand.

* Loosen was 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA in nine starts with Daytona, and 2-3 with a 6.53 ERA in 15 games (13 starts) with Tennessee. On Monday, he gave up three hits over seven shutout innings in a win over Mobile.

* Rivero has pitched in relief, appearing in 18 games at Kane County, Daytona and Tennessee combined. The Cuban right-hander has given up 13 earned runs over 27 2/3 innings and struck out 43.

“We’re taking pride in what we’ve done,” said player development and scouting director Jason McLeod. “There’s a lot to be excited about, though it’s in Daytona and in Double-A. But we have the opportunity to get some [impact players] to the big leagues, guys with stuff and tools.”

– Carrie Muskat

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