Jim Callis

Cubs' Happ leads list of AFL title game top performers

Cubs' Happ leads list of AFL title game top performers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Cubs have more quality young hitters than they can squeeze into one lineup, and the logjam is only going to get worse. Ian Happ may be blocked at second base by Javier Baez and in the outfield corners by Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Jason Heyward and the rising Eloy Jimenez.

But if Happ can continue to translate his tools into performance like he did during Saturday's Arizona Fall League championship game, Chicago will have to find room for him. Happ drilled a pair of 400-foot home runs -- one from each side of the plate -- singled and doubled in his other two at-bats, and scored three runs and drove in three more as his Mesa Solar Sox beat the Surprise Saguaros, 6-1, for their first league title since 2003.

The No. 9 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Happ homered left-handed against Alex McRae (Pirates) in the third inning and right-handed off Mason Melotakis (Twins) in the seventh inning, with both blasts easily clearing the Scottsdale Stadium fence in right-center. Happ showed good balance and bat speed from both sides, which combined with his solid speed could make him a 20-20 player.

He's less accomplished defensively, with most scouts grading Happ as a fringy defender at second base and believing he's destined for the outfield. He has the athleticism to be an asset on the corners and displayed it in the fifth inning, making a leaping catch on the warning track in left field to deny Mitch Garver (Twins) extra bases.

Happ's leaping catch

Here are five other prospects who stood out in the AFL finale:

Brian Anderson, 3B, Marlins
The AFL's regular-season home run leader with five, Anderson added a sixth with a first-inning blast off Eric Stout (Royals) that landed well up the berm in left field. Anderson hit just 11 homers between Class A Advanced and Double-A this year, but in Arizona he showed the ability to keep his bat in the hitting zone to impart backspin on the ball. He made two nice defensive plays as well, snaring a hard liner from Nick Gordon (Twins) to start the game and turning a grounder down the line by Mauricio Ramos (Royals) into a double play in the fifth.

Anderson's three-run homer

Dylan Covey, RHP, Athletics
Covey pitched the first five innings of a no-hitter against Surprise on Nov. 1 and was nearly as sharp in the championship game. He retired the first 12 batters he faced and allowed only a walk and a hit while throwing 35 of 59 pitches for strikes. He lived down in the zone with his 88-93-mph fastball and struck out three Saguaros with changeups that featured splitter action.

Covey's victorious outing

John Curtiss, RHP, Twins
Easily the most impressive of the six Surprise pitchers, Curtiss required just 11 pitches to work a perfect eighth inning. He worked at 95-97 mph with his fastball and struck out Jimenez and Yu-Cheng Chang (Indians) with 87-mph sliders. Curtiss has improved his slider significantly in pro ball and could finish 2017 in Minnesota after ending this season in Class A Advanced.

Curtiss strikes out two

Tanner English, OF, Twins
English used his plus speed, center-field range and arm strength to produce a pair of web gems. He got a quick break and took a direct route to make a diving catch to rob Kyle Zimmer (Indians) of a double in the right-center gap in the first, and he made a strong, accurate throw to erase Chang at the plate in the sixth. There are questions about English's bat, however, and he had a rough day at the plate with three strikeouts in three trips.

English's diving catch

Frankie Montas, RHP, Athletics
After missing most of the season following rib surgery and a related injury, Montas has been lights-out in the AFL. He was again against the Saguaros, fanning five in three shutout innings while permitting only a hit and a walk. He sat in the upper 90s and reached 101 mph with his fastball and worked in the upper 80s and touched 90 mph with his slider. Three of his whiffs came on sliders, and Gordon nearly fell over trying to catch up to a 99-mph heater.

Montas' five strikeouts

Jim Callis is a reporter for Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.