By Andrew Green
The Chicago Cubs honored five Tennessee Smokies players, including pitchers Corey Black, Pierce Johnson and Rob Zastryzny, as well as catcher Wilson Contreras and infielder Jeimer Candelario, with invitations to represent the club in the prestigious Arizona Fall League following the 2015 regular season.
Contreras has enjoyed a breakout 2015 campaign, and has been rated the sixth-best catching prospect by MLBPipeline.com. The 23-year-old enters play on September 1 with a .326 batting average, adding eight homers and 72 RBI, and ranks tied for first for the Southern League batting title.
Johnson is considered one of the top starting pitching prospects in the Cubs organization, and owns a 6-2 record and 2.15 ERA (21 ER in 88.0 IP) in 15 starts with the Smokies.
Candelario entered the 2015 campaign rated as the No. 24 prospect among Cubs farmhands, and has split this year between Tennessee and High-A Myrtle Beach.
Black came into this year ranked by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in the Cubs organization, tallying a 3-5 record with 98 strikeouts in 34 appearances, including nine starts.
Zastryzny came into this season rated as the No. 14 prospect in the Cubs system by Baseball America, and has posted a 2-5 record.
Those five players will also join two other Cubs prospects, including former Smokies catcher Cael Brockmeyer and pitcher David Garner, on the Mesa Solar Sox roster, along with other top prospects from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Miami Marlins, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays.
The 2015 Arizona Fall League campaign begins on October 13 and runs through the championship game on November 21. The Arizona Fall Stars Game is also scheduled for Saturday, November 7.