Bryant doesn't let up in AFL debut

If the Chicago Cubs want to woo Joe Girardi or another potential manager for their opening in the dugout, they may want to take him to the Arizona Fall League which began on Tuesday.

After all, that's where some of the Cubs' future will be playing for the next six weeks and the new skipper might want to take a look at a few players who will help decide his future success as manager.

Outfielder Jorge Soler and third baseman Kris Bryant started for the Mesa Solar Sox against the Glendale Desert Dogs while three Cubs pitchers took the mound in an 8-8 game that was halted after 11 innings per Arizona Fall League rules.

Soler, coming off an injury that ended his minor league season prematurely, went 1 for 6, batting third in the lineup. Bryant picked up where he left off in his first few months as a professional, going 3 for 6 with two RBIs. Outfielder Albert Almora didn't get in the game but pitcher Matt Loosen did, giving up two runs in two innings. Lendy Castillo gave up three in his inning of work while Armando Rivera struck out the side pitching the eighth inning.

The timetable for the pitchers to climb the minor league ladder and make it to the major leagues is much fuzzier than the hitters. First-round picks Almora and Bryant along with $30 million man Soler are on a path that could get them to Wrigley Field within the next season or two. Phenom Javier Baez chose not to play in the Fall League after a monster minor league season but should be the first to be called up if his Triple-A season goes well in 2014.

The best case scenario has Baez in Chicago mid-season with Soler and Bryant possible September call-ups. Almora needs at least another full year before even being considered. But those are the best-case scenarios. Soler missed much of 2013 with injuries and needs as much playing time as he can get.

Bryant, on the other hand, might be fast-tracked. The moment he put on a Cubs uniform -- after being drafted second overall in June -- he started to hit. Bryant went from working in Mesa to games with the Boise Hawks and then to Daytona, helping the Cubs' Single-A affiliate to a minor league championship. The Cubs will be careful with him but Bryant has already proven to be a hot prospect after turning in the best year at the plate of any collegian last spring.

Like Soler, Almora can use the extra at-bats as well due to an injury-plagued 2013 campaign so the Fall League will allow those Cubs hitters to make up for some lost time. It will also give Cubs brass a chance to see them up close without the distraction of the major league season going on.

Even without Baez in Arizona, the Cubs have some of their top names there trying to take the next steps of their careers even if they don't know who their manager will be. That should be resolved shortly as the Cubs prepare for Girardi's decision.

In the meantime, the business of getting better one player at a time resumes in Arizona with the Cubs patiently awaiting the arrival of their elite talent.