By Todd Johnson
The lack of hitting in the Cubs’ system in 2018 is a little disconcerting. Then again, that’s not a big surprise. Over the past two summers, the Cubs have drafted mostly pitchers. Position players, and, more specifically, college position players, have been few and far between in the draft in the top rounds. As a result, the Cubs do not have that elite type of hitting prospect dominating the system. The Cubs just don’t have the big bats they used to.
Some of the major prospects are struggling. Aramis Ademan is below .230 at Myrtle Beach. Nelson Velazquez is hovering around .200 while Mark Zagunis and David Bote were shuttling back and forth between Iowa and Chicago. As well, DJ Wilson has been injured most of the spring.
Then again, Jhonny Pereda and Jeffrey Baez haven’t stopped hitting all season. There are some other bats worth watching right now who are putting together a serious May at the plate.
1. Chesny Young seems to have found his stroke again. After hitting only .183 in April, Chesny looks like 2015 and 2016 Chesny that came to close to leading three leagues in hitting. In May so far, Young is hitting .333 with a .400 OBP. Last year, his average was up and down every month, Hopefully, he can maintain some consistency at AAA Iowa over the course of this summer. Right now, Chesny looks to be back to who he is and Manager Marty Pevey has moved Chesny into the 2 hole in Iowa’s lineup.
2. Charcer Burks, like Young, had a horrible April. Now that May is here, Burks, too, has been destroying the baseball to the tune of .344 with a .429 OBP and an OPS of .953. He has also been spotted playing more center than usual, too! Last year, he got off to a great start and sputtered in the second half. Hopefully, consistency every month is something he can sustain in 2018.
3. Yasiel Balaguert is a notoriously slow starter. He tends to turn it on in the second half. This year, Yasiel is not waiting until it warms up to get hot himself. He’s hitting .340 this month with 2 HRs and 9 RBI. In addition, he was named the player of the day twice just this week. he still needs to walk more as he’s only walked twice this month. Still, the burly 1B/OF can get hot for months at a time. It is good to see him go off so early.
4. Zack Short – This dude is just ripping it this month. In 15 games, he’s hit 4 homers and driven in 12 runs while hitting .286 with an OBP of .420 and an OPS of 1.027. He’s never been one to hit for that high of an average in his pro career, but the homers and OBP have always been outstanding and are consistent with past numbers. After an April where he hit just .183, he looks to be back on track. And, he should be moving up several prospect lists if he continues to maintain his performance.
5. Tyler Alamo – He is just killing it at 1B for Myrtle Beach. He seems like he has been around forever, but he is only 23 (deja vu line of 2018). In May, he’s raking it to the tune of a .378 average with 3 HRs. He has an amazing OPS of 1.142 that shows how hard he is hitting and driving the ball. I don’t know how much longer he will remain a Pelican. There’s not a lot left for him to prove in the Carolina League.
6. Austin Filiere – The 2017 draft pick out of MIT was excellent in April hitting .310 with a .403 OBP. In May, he’s been pretty good, too. For the month, he’s hitting .288 with a .408 OBP. He’s only put 3 HRs in the seats so far, but the weather will be heating up soon. Filiere is a little ahead of summer.
When the second half arrives, look for Fernando Kelli, Luis Hidalgo, Luis Vazquez, Luis Diaz, Alexander Guerra, and Jonathan Sierra to heat up for Eugene starting on June 15, now less than a month away. It should be an ongoing story of who can get it done at the plate this summer as well what hitters the Cubs take in the first few rounds of next month’s draft.