Nelson Velazquez goes wild for the Solar Sox. Caleb Kilian and Ryan Jensen right the ship.
We’ve finished three weeks of the Arizona Fall League and the Mesa Solar Sox are coming off a bad week, winning just one game of the six they played. That dropped their record on the season to 7-8. However, that record is still good enough for first place in the AFL East Division.
However, the good news for Cubs fans is that two Cubs hitters and two Cubs pitchers had very good weeks.
Just a reminder, the Solar Sox play their home games at Sloan Park, the Cubs’ Spring Training home, and are made up of players from the Cubs, Orioles, Marlins, Athletics and Blue Jays this year.
Here are the results of the six games the Solar Sox played in the previous week:
Monday, October 25: Surprise Saguaros 16, Mesa Solar Sox 15
Tuesday, October 26: Peoria Javelinas 15, Solar Sox 7
Wednesday, October 27: Solar Sox 12, Glendale Desert Dogs 0
Thursday, October 28: Scottsdale Scorpions 11, Solar Sox 4
Friday, October 29: Saguaros 10, Solar Sox 9
Saturday, October 30: Javelinas 16, Solar Sox 13
So yeah, there were a lot of runs scored in the AFL this past week. The Solar Sox averaged 10 runs a game this past week and went 1-5.
Here’s how the Cubs players in the AFL did this past week.
Outfielder Nelson Velazquez
Oh my, what a week Nelson Velazquez had. Velazquez homered four times in the six games he played this past week — hitting a 2-run homer on Tuesday, a solo home run on Wednesday, a solo home run on Friday and a two-run home run on Saturday. He now has five home runs on the AFL campaign, which is tied for the league lead. Velazquez went 4 for 5 with the home run on Tuesday and 3 for 4 with a home run and a walk on Saturday.
His overall stat line for Week 3 was 12 for 25 with three walks, a double and the four home runs. He scored eight times and had nine RBI.
For the 2021 AFL season, Velazquez is hitting .423/.524/.808 in 13 games. That’s second in the league in all three categories and first in OPS. He also leads the league in hits and runs scored.
I think there is little question that Velazquez has earned a spot on the 40-man roster after this performance.
Shortstop Luis Vazquez
Vazquez appears to have been injured in Monday’s game running out a ground ball to first base. He left the game immediately afterwards and has not played since. He was 0 for 2 in that game.
On the campaign, Vazquez is hitting .148/.324/.259 with one home run in eight games.
Infielder Andy Weber
Weber was a big beneficiary of Vazquez’s injury and he took advantage of the extra playing time. Weber was playing second base on Monday went Vazquez left the game and moved over to shortstop to replace Vazquez. Then he played one more game at shortstop and three games at third base.
On Friday, Weber came to the plate with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth and he clobbered his first home run of the AFL campaign, cutting the Saguaros’ lead to 10-9. Unfortunately, that was all Mesa would get.
In the five games Weber played, he went 10 for 21 with four walks, a double, a triple and the home run. He scored nine runs and drove home eight. For the AFL season, Weber is now hitting .341/.491/.610 with 13 runs scored and 12 RBI.
Right-handed pitcher Ryan Jensen
After a crappy start to the AFL season, Jensen was terrific in his start in Wednesday’s shutout of Glendale. Jensen pitched four scoreless innings and gave up just two hits. He struck out five and walked no one. Jensen got the win, as the AFL doesn’t have that “starters must go five to get a W” rule.
MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis wrote up a little something on Jensen and his start on Wednesday.
For the AFL, that performance lowered Jensen’s ERA to 7.56 after he’s allowed seven earned runs on 8.1 innings. Jensen has struck out 12 and walked five.
Right-handed pitcher Caleb Kilian
Kilian relieved Jensen in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s win and pitched three scoreless innings of his own. Kilian was arguably even more effective as he struck out six and walked no one while giving up just one hit. That’s quite a step up from both last week and his first pitching appearance of the campaign when he allowed seven runs without retiring a single batter.
Obviously that first appearance is going to make Kilian’s overall stats look lousy, but he’s lowered his ERA to 14.40, having allowed nine runs, eight earned, over five innings. Kilian’s struck out nine and walked five in the AFL.
Left-handed pitcher Brendon Little
Little still hasn’t pitched since leaving his first appearance of the year with the trainer on October 16.
Right-handed pitcher Danis Correa
Correa pitched the eighth inning of Mesa’s 11-4 loss to Scottsdale on Thursday and gave up three runs. It didn’t go well as the first three batters against him tripled, walked and then doubled to score one run. Correa struck out the next two batters, but a two-out, two-run single pushed the run total to three for the inning. Correa then ended the inning with a foul pop out.
Correa has pitched twice in the AFL and has allowed three runs over 1.2 innings for an ERA of 16.20. Correa has walked three and struck out three.
Again, a quick reminder that they are using a ton of experimental rules in the AFL this year, including a 15-second pitch clock, larger bases, banning shifts and allowing only two pickoff throws. That might explain some of the high-scoring games, but the AFL has always been known as a high-scoring league.
The Solar Sox play a full slate of six games again this upcoming week. They start with home games in Mesa against Peoria and Glendale, before they travel to Scottsdale. Then the Solar Sox play two more games at home, hosting the Salt River Rafters twice before finishing the week at Surprise. Where? I can’t tell you. It’s a Surprise.