Grading is what I do for a living. So, I have no qualms in giving out some letters for the job the Cubs did in the 2014 draft. However, the true grades on these prospects won’t come for several years (4-5) later. However, an initial grade at one year gives us an idea of how a prospect has exceeded their draft position or failed to live up to it. Here is a full list of 2014 picks, their 2014 assignments, and 2015 assignments.
|Draft Pick||2014 Assignment||2015 Assignment|
|Kyle Schwarber||Boise, Kane County, Daytona||Tennessee|
|Jake Stinnett||AZL, Boise||South Bend|
|Mark Zagunis||AZL, Boise, Kane County||Myrtle Beach|
|Dylan Cease||Tommy John Surgery||AZL|
|James Norwood||AZL||South Bend|
|Tommy Thorpe||AZL, Boise||South Bend|
|James Farris||Boise||South Bend|
|Ryan Williams||AZL, Boise||South Bend|
|Chesny Young||AZL, Boise, Kane County||South Bend, Myrtle Beach|
|Jeremy Null||AZL, Boise||South Bend|
|Jason Vosler||AZL, Boise||South Bend|
|Brad Markey||AZL, Boise||South Bend|
|Alex Tomasovich||AZL, Boise||Released|
|Charlie White||AZL, Boise||Released|
|Zach Hedges||AZL||South Bend|
|Andrew Ely||AZL||South Bend|
|Jordan Minch||AZL||South Bend|
As you can tell, some of the hitters move faster in the system. When a pitcher is selected, they already have 70-110 innings on the arm already. As a result, their play is sparse once they signed. It is really their second year in the system that will give us a glimpse of who they are and what they can be. Hitters, once signed, get right in there and mix it up.
Incomplete Grades Joey Martarano, Tyler Pearson, Michael Knighton, Tanner Griggs, and Jordan Brink All five of these players saw limited action in Arizona last summer. Pearson and Martarano both have some power while Knighton, Griggs, and Brinks were all relievers. All five should be at Eugene this summer where we will get a longer look. Martarano, who plays football from September through May, is an intriguing prospect at 6’3″ and 235 pounds. The Boise State linebacker may still end up playing pro football and baseball appears to be Plan B.
F – Failing Charles White, Alex Tomasovich – both released. I was not surprised to see White leave the system, but Tomasovich hit over .300 last year in an everyday utility role for Boise. Whether his release was for injury reasons or for personal reasons has not been divulged.
D – Poor Brad Markey, Tommy Thorpe, James Norwood, and Jake Stinnett
Markey, Thorpe, and Norwood all have struggled in relief at South Bend. There is still plenty of time to turn it around. I really like Thorpe’s curve and that may be something he can build around.
As for Stinnett, he is having huge control problems. On one hand, he does have electric stuff. He has a fastball with late movement on the arm side and a wipe out slider. However, it looks like he has no idea how to take a little off, still have the movement, and gain some control. Currently, he was on the DL for 7 days and the 6+ ERA might be more a related to his injury which could be the reason for his command problems.
C – Average Jordan Minch, Andrew Ely, Calvin Graves, and Jason Vosler
Minch has shown some promise in a lefty power relief role in South Bend. After a rough start, he is coming around. Andrew Ely is a plus defender at second base for the South Bend Cubs. Just a few games into his season, he is improving daily and is hitting .300 in his last three games after a rough first four. Calvin Graves could be Charcer Burks’ twin. He will get his shot at Eugene in a powerful outfield with Kevonte Mitchell and Eloy Jimenez. Jason Vosler provides a left handed bat and has played all four infield positions at South Bend. I find him to be someone to keep an eye on. I think he could develop into a decent hitter and solid bench player.
B – Good Zach Hedges and James Farris Hedges came on strong to start the year and has solid control down in the zone with some late movement. A ground ball pitcher, Hedges has had two poor starts in a row. But in the 27th round, the Cubs got good value in Hedges. If he can keep the ball down in his next start in the first two innings, he will be back on the B list, otherwise, he could drop down to a C. I would like to see him improve his command.
Farris has close to the same arsenal as Hedges and has been solid this month in a closer’s role in South Bend. He is the most improved player on the list from the beginning of the year. Like Hedges, Farris also has late movement on his pitches and has been striking out over 1.5 hitters per inning. I think if he continues to shine as a closer, he could move up to an A by year’s end and maybe end up in Myrtle Beach.
A – Excellent Austyn Willis, Chesny Young, Kevonte Mitchell, Ryan Williams, Jeremy Null, Dylan Cease, Justin Steele, Carson Sands, Mark Zagunis, and Kyle Schwarber
The Cubs got a lot of high quality players in last year’s draft. The thing is outside of Sands and Cease, many feel the Cubs over picked the players in each round. However, the jokes on them as all 10 of these picks are replenishing the farm system.
Schwarber’s selection and elite bat are the highlight of the draft. I don’t think I need to explain how great he is and looks to be. Zagunis and Young are both elite hitters and have moved quickly through the system. Zagunis has shed the catcher’s gear and now takes his daily place in left field. He is likely the next prospect to move except there is no place for him to go in Tennessee.Young, recently promoted, had a nine game hit streak to begin his tenure at the Beach. Null and Williams have been exceptional as starters in South Bend. While Sands, Willis, and Steele will get their first prolonged exposure in Eugene in less than a month. They will be joined by another surprise pick in Kevonte Mitchell who was outstanding in the AZL last summer (.294 with 19 SBs in 34). Mitchell is a 6’4″ converted 3B now in the outfield. Cease, who appeared in extended spring training games the past week, has hit 99 on the gun already in his recovery. <swoon!>
Overall Grade: A –
I think Stinnett’s stinted development might bring down the draft a bit, but the fact that players drafted in rounds 21-27 and 36 are producing at low A already is a stunning development and a testament to the Cubs scouting system and player development. In five years, I think the following things will be remembered about this draft:
1. Schwarber and his bat
2. The high school arms of Sands, Steele, Cease, and Willis. I think Willis is going to break out this year. At 6’6″, the big right hander had on off senior year, but has recaptured some of the hype he had as a junior in HS this spring training and in an extended spring training.
3. The bats of Zagunis, Young, and Mitchell These guys can just plain hit. Not much power, though Mitchell has the frame to develop some pop. But when you need guys to get on base, here are three that do it very well. If the Cubs get 5 players out of this draft to the majors, that will make it an excellent draft. And, it is looking like the first one could be there in 2016.