The Arizona Cubs are not your average affiliate. The rookie league level team in Mesa is a mishmash of rehabbing players from Chicago and its minor league affiliates, young international players, and recent draft picks. Most games take place in triple digit heat late at night and often are subject to local monsoons. If the Cubs are lucky, there might be seven people in attendance.
This year, the young Cubs have been the home to several rehabbing pitchers and its lineup seem to include mostly converted catchers and shortstops. The team will play a total of 56 games in a season that ends on August 29, a full week ahead of most of the minors. The Cubs did win a playoff spot already by winning a first-half division title with a 16-12 record. Since then, several players were promoted to short-season Eugene. As a result, Arizona has struggled to go 6-12 in the second half.
When the season began, young 17-year-old Jose Albertos was going to one of the key young pitchers on the staff. In his first start, the young righty struck out 7 in 4 IP. His fastball sat 95-97 and he showed a plus curve. The next day, he went on the 60 day DL. The tone for the season was set. Of the 41 pitching starts this year, 21 were by players no longer on the team. And, most of those starts were of the 1, 2, or 3 inning variety.
However, there have been a few pitching prospects who have performed well enough to be considered for Eugene when Arizona’s seasons ends.
Javier Assad – At 6’1” and 200, Assad is not the projectable type, according to John Arguello, but Assad does have a low to mid-90s fastball complemented by a mid 70s curve, also according to John. Assad does have the most starts on the team with 6 and has 40 Ks in 34.2 IP with a 2.60 ERA.
Yapson Gomez – I have been following Yapson’s career since he was in the Venezuelan Summer League. At 22, the lefty is a little undersized to be a starter at only 160 pounds. This year at Arizona, he has excelled out of the pen. In 37.1 IP, he’s struck out 43 with 1.10 WHIP and a 2.65 ERA. He has only walked 9 all summer.
Eugenio Palma – This lefty has had the most success in Arizona. He began the year as a reliever but has made two starts in a row now. He’s a little bigger than Gomez but not much. A 1.67 ERA shines brightly in 32.1 IP and 30 Ks with only 6 walks. He has reliever written all over his profile.
Michael Rucker – He was the Cubs 11th round pick in 2016 and has gotten off to a late start. To date, he’s only thrown 4 IP but has been impressive doing so. Then again, he’s a D-1 pitcher playing against recent high school grads and international players. However, 7 Ks with no BBs shows some pretty good control. I think he makes it to Eugene for a bit this year and likely could be at South Bend in 2017.
Matt Swarmer and Nathan Sweeney – To me, Swarmer screams project, and for John Arguello, Sweeney does the same. Both are long, lean pitchers who need to add some weight. Don’t expect a rush on either kid, although Swarmer seems to have much better stuff right now and likely will do well the rest of this year as long as he stays in Arizona. In 2016, I see Swarmer being an anchor in Eugene. He likely will not be with most of his draft class at South Bend. Sweeney could repeat Arizona or he could improve over the next 10 months to get to Eugene.
Michael Cruz – the 2016 draftee has shown the ability to have some decent hitting and on-base skills. Word is that he is in Arizona to work on his catching skills. While he is only hitting .267, his OBP shows what a great approach he has at .391. I think he will be in South Bend next year.
Isaac Paredes – Everyone I have read from Arizona loves Isaac. He can hit for average and he can hit for power. He got off to a late start due to an injury, but the 17-year-old has rebounded all the way up to .303. Although he is listed as a SS, he will likely move to 3B.
Kevin Zamudio – Here’s another catcher who can hit. Although he had a poor July, he’s a great August at .333 and he leads the team in RBIs.
Jhonny Pereda has done well this summer. This catcher has a .298 average with a .375 OBP.
Delvin Zinn and Kwang Min Kwon are two teenagers who have come to play as of late. Zinn is an extremely athletic player who was drafted by the Cubs two years in a row. Even though he is 1 for 15 right now, don’t let that fool you. Next year, after some fall instructs and spring training, Zinn should start to acclimate to the pro lifestyle. The same is true of Kwon who has only played five games to date and has shown the ability to take a walk.
I am not quite sure what the playoffs hold for this team. They don’t really have a starting rotation or a definite ace. They have some players that can hit but they are also learning some new positions. It should be interesting to see Arizona throw the kitchen sink at whomever. All three rounds of the Rookie League playoffs are single elimination. They only have to be hot for three games.
Next season is a long way away.
There will almost be a year of development before the 2017 season for these players. In fact, Eugene does not begin play until mid-June. That’s 10 months to work on and develop their skills. Paredes could likely make some major prospect lists at the end of the season (I have him on my Top 21), not many of the other players will. There could be a few sleeper prospects who breakout next year. It’s an interesting mix of talent, that so far, has not hit its stride.
Ed. Note – The Yapson Gomez card is made from a picture by John Arguello