A lot of things have changed in the past two and a half months since I wrote about what prospects I wanted to see in 2016. The three biggest reasons why I’ve changed my mind are some performances over the past couple months of the season, the Arizona Fall League and instructs, and the signing of Eddy Julio Martinez
Picking 16 prospects to see in 2016 is different than making a prospect list. The prospects below represent a level of excitement. That excitement comes from two places; one is the unknown, and two is the massive improvement since I made the list in the middle of July.
The last two months of the season saw a surge in several players’ performances. Trevor Clifton and Jake Stinnett had their best two months of their season in July and August. Willson Contreras continued to peak throughout the end of the year to win the Southern League batting title. David Garner of Myrtle Beach pitched lights out down the stretch and his teammate, catcher Victor Caratini, was unstoppable in the playoffs.
Instructs happened very quickly this year and were over by October 9. However, in that short 2 to 3 week span, several players improved greatly and began to make a name for themselves as someone to see in 2016. The names that I kept reading included Donnie Dewees, Darryl Wilson, Eloy Jimenez, Victor Caratini, Bryan Hudson, Kwang-Min Kwong, and Wladimir Galindo, who returned after wrist injury. In addition, Ian Happ got some time in at second base and according to all reports, looked solid.
Arizona Fall League
The three big names from the Arizona fall league (still playing) are Jeimer Candelario, Willson Contreras, and David Garner. Candelario has put up big numbers at third-base. He has done it with eye-opening power that has some bloggers wondering how close he is to the major leagues. Contreras has done the same and also opened many eyes with his work behind the plate and handling of pitchers. His defensive work has earned praise from scouts and bloggers alike. It makes me wonder just exactly how close he is to the major-league. For someone who never hit above .273 until he got to AA, it looks as though he’s putting his game altogether and just in time. Yesterday, Jason McLeod said this of Willson’s progress on 670 The Score:
“He had a tremendous year. He won the batting title there in the Southern League, having a very good Fall League. The thing about Willson [Contreras] he is a, just a physical beast. He’s very strong, very athletic. He was signed as an infielder so it’s been a transition to catching now but he’s been doing it now for three years. He still has to polish up back there and learn the nuances of the game. One of the great things was he played there with Kyle [Schwarber] this year. I think it was great for Willson to be around Kyle to see how Kyle goes about his daily business. Willson picked up a lot from him and then when Schwarbs was promoted out of there, Willson kind of became the man. He’s a strong, like I said, strong and physical and he makes contact. He’s a guy that we couldn’t be happier than the year that he had. He’s a very passionate player. He cares a lot and he just continues to develop, so very excited. I am heading out to the Fall League myself in a couple of days, can’t wait to spend a week out there with him. He deserved to be our Player of the Year, just a tremendous season that he had and we’re looking forward to him going into next year.”
New International Free Agents
The international free-agent class of 2015 has created quite a buzz. The Cubs went over their spending limit, which was to be expected, but I think the depth of players they signed exceeded all expectations. Then again, I don’t think the Cubs are done wheeling and dealing for international free agents. With the Eddy Julio Martinez signing, the door opened for the Cubs to acquire several players who will be subject to dollar for dollar signings. On the other hand, there are lots of free agents from Japan and South Korea who the Cubs could post signing fees for the rights to sign. Those players would not be subject to a dollar for dollar penalty because they are beyond the age of 23 and have five years’ experience in a professional league.
Rather than write a whole profile about each individual player, I’m just going keep it brief to one or two sentences. These are in no particular order or ranking.
1. Eddy Julio Martinez – In less than a year, he could be one of the top prospects in the organization with his speed, strength, and and versatility.
2. Will Remillard – I am very excited to see how this catcher comes off Tommy John Surgery after missing all of 2015.
3. Eloy Jimenez – because Eloy is big and Eloy can hit for power.
4. Willson Contreras – Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past four months, the young backstop is catching everybody’s attention with his mix of offense and defense.
5. Jeimer Candelario – He put together a great second half at Tennessee and I’d like to see him put together a great first half at Iowa.
6. David Garner – He has been throwing mid 90s heat since early June and it doesn’t look like he’s going to let up making him an intriguing bullpen piece as early as mid-summer.
7. Darryl Wilson – This young kid might be a steal in the fourth round from the 2015 draft with his speed, defense, and an intriguing high speed bat.
8. Bryan Hudson – curveball, curveball, curveball, curveball, curveball, curveball, etc.
9. Donnie Dewees – I think this kid is going to be one exciting ballplayer next year at South Bend and I don’t know how long he’ll stay there if things go as I think they’re going to go. Problem is, there’s not a lot of places to go in a stacked system. If he is that good, the Cubs will find a place for him.
10. Any international free-agent signing between now and April 1 – The Cubs surprised me in the winter of 2014/2015 by signing a lot of talent under the radar. I expect the Cubs will do the same this winter. Nevertheless, I expect it will be more towards Asia – specifically Korea and Japan. The Cubs could sign more Latin talent like Yasiel Sierra, Vladimir Gutierrez, and/or “Lazarito,” which would be unfreaking believable for the Cubs to sign that kind of talent at such a young age.
11. Victor Caratini – If you have ever watched him swing you wonder what has taken so long for him to get going. This fall in the playoffs he may have figured it out.
12. Trevor Clifton – He was amazing the last 2 months of 2015. I saw him pitch at Beloit and the Snappers didn’t stand a chance after the second inning. His last five starts saw him put up a 2.37 ERA.
13. Ian Happ – I am wondering how this second base thing will go. I imagine pretty well.
14. Jake Stinnett – He had a steep learning curve in 2015 and it might continue that at Myrtle Beach. We will see what magic David Rosario and Mark Johnson can work with him. In the last month of the season, he had 5 starts with a 2.84 ERA.
15. Justin Steele – Can’t wait to see him and his breaking ball almost every game for South Bend. Tight would be the best description I can think of.
16. Dylan Cease – Yesterday, Jason McLeod hinted Cease could be at South Bend. That’s a pretty aggressive promotion for a 19 year old to skip short season A ball. But then again, he throws 96-98 mph. His secondaries still need some work.
Honorable Mention: Dave Berg, Oscar De La Cruz, Carson Sands, Rashad Crawford, Erling Moreno, Frandy Delarosa, Gabriel Lima, Yonathan Sierra, Scott Effross, Kwang-Min Kwong, and Austyn Willis.
I’ve already sat down and looked at the South Bend Cubs schedule for 2016. While I will have MiLB.TV, I still can only see so many players in so many games on that network. I already have my trips mapped out to see the South Bend Cubs play in the Quad Cities, Clinton, Iowa, Cedar Rapids, and Geneva. The problem for me is I want to see all the prospects all the time.