By Todd Johnson
There have been many times over the past two summers where I have referred to Wladimir Galindo as “my guy.” I still feel that way despite his inability to stay healthy. What Galindo has is a large frame and the potential for power similar to previous prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ. It’s a pretty fancy comparison, and I don’t really think it’s hyperbole to put him in with those two names. The only issue is whether he can stay healthy enough to fulfill that potential.
After staying healthy for most of 2016 at Eugene, I was really excited to see what Galindo could do in his first year in full season baseball at South Bend. I liked the fact that when he sees the ball, he hits the ball. In just 44 games, he hit .290 with four home runs and 19 RBIs at 20 years of age. There is a natural inclination for him to go up to the plate swinging. Although, in 2017. his K percentage shrunk to an all time low of 20.9%. Considering his injury history, you should not find this approach surprising.
Despite being signed in 2013, he only has 787 at bats for his total career. There’s not very many. In addition, he has not seen that many pitches in his four years of playing baseball in Venezuela, Mesa, Eugene, and South Bend. He has seen just a total of 2106 pitches as a professional. For your average player, that is not very many. Most full season minor leaguers will see between 1600 to 1800 pitches in just one season (120-140 games).
In his brief stint at South Bend, Galindo came across as an experienced hitter despite his lack of game experience. One thing that impressed me was how often and how easily he went to right field. at South Bend. 36.9% of batted ball by Galindo wound up in the opposite field. That is an extremely high rate that reminds me of another Cub who loved to go oppo in his prime in the 1990s.
Fangraphs said this last week,
Reports concerning Galindo’s approach indicate that his bat-to-ball profile is still pretty volatile despite the slight reduction in K% (over just a 44-game sample, mind you). Still, it’s an improvement when compared to Galindo’s previous two seasons. He’s a potential everyday player if he can stay at third and get to most of his power.
What needs to happen in 2018.
Wladimir has been posting updates on Twitter (@galindowladi38) about his rehab since his surgery to repair his broken leg in June. In early November, he began hitting off the tee and I think he’s going to be primed and ready to go when 2018 begins.
Thank you God I’m here again 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽 pic.twitter.com/dZ6VduERiq
— Wladimir Galindo (@galindowladi38) November 11, 2017
A few of you have asked me if I think he will start at South Bend or at Myrtle Beach in 2018. To be honest, he’s hit at every level and, despite a lack of plate appearances and pitches seen at each level, he has done extremely well. If he begins 2018 in the Carolina League, I expect him to do well. For him, it’s not gonna be that big of a jump.
What I would like to see most from him next year is to stay healthy. I’d like to see him get in 120 games at the plate. He could get 400 at-bats and see 1600 to 1700 pitches while hitting 15 to 20 home runs and driving in 70 to 80 runs. He could get in 80 games at third base and 20 at first while being the DH every once in awhile to rest his leg.
But the overriding goal is to stay healthy to do all of these things. I firmly believe that if he stays healthy, he could easily be the top power hitter in the Cubs’ system without much effort.
By Todd Johnson
I was all set to begin uploading “The Weekly” on Saturday night when I thought I would jump onto Twitter to see if there was a trade or signing. I should have known better. 15 minutes later, I finished reading John Sickels’ ranking of Cubs prospects and realized I would have to write a whole new column. Damn you, John Sickels!
To begin, Sickels’ list has a different top prospect than other recent prospect lists and his contains several rankings that are quite different from Fangraphs and Baseball America.
Pitcher Adbert Alzolay is fittingly ranked number one. And not surprisingly, Sickels did not give out one grade of “A” to any of the Cub prospects. In fact, he only handed out just six Bs. That’s quite an indictment of the Cubs’ system. Then again, just three of his top 10 prospects began their season above A+ last year.
The top prospect for both Baseball America and Fangraphs, shortstop Ademan, came in at number two and 2017 draft pick Alex Lange came in at number three. Lange’s inclusion so high in the list likely has to do more with his ability to move fast through the system based on one single dominant pitch, his curveball. I really like the placement of Lange this high. I love his competitiveness just as much as his curve.
Yeah, I’ve noticed the effort issue plus mixed reports on his changeup and FB velocity. But his track record is strong and I think he may thrive in pro environment. https://t.co/TRs3tcoYYN
— johnsickels (@MinorLeagueBall) December 1, 2017
Other players to make the top 10 included Jose Albertos, Victor Caratini, Oscar de la Cruz, Thomas Hatch, Brendon Little, Jen-Ho Tseng, and Mark Zagunis. In Sickels’ second 10, his selections get a little bit more adventurous.
Coming in at number 16 is pitcher Michael Rucker. Rucker started out as a reliever at South Bend in 2017 and wound up going to Myrtle Beach mid-summer and later replaced Oscar de la Cruz in the Pelicans’ starting rotation. Based on his summer split of a 2.51 ERA in 15 starts at Myrtle Beach, Rucker doesn’t seem to be letting go of the rotation at all. It’s a pretty meteoric rise one year after being drafted. He throws a lot strikes, something the Cubs seem to lack.
Sickels also gives some love to pitcher Keegan Thompson out of Auburn at number 17. Drafted in the 4th round in 2017, Thompson pitched some in relief at Eugene last summer. After missing all of 2016, Thompson came back as a different pitcher as he relied more on experience than a purebred 95 mph fastball. Instead, command and control became his calling card. He only threw 19 innings while striking out 23 in short season ball. He did make one start, a three inning scoreless affair.
I was a little surprised to see Sickels’ list so early this offseason, even more so in the wake of Fangraphs’ list, which just came out on Thursday. Sickels’ list does prove a few things about what I thought would happen this winter. One, not every evaluator is going to agree on who the Cubs’ number one prospect is. In addition, I don’t even think there’s a consensus on who the top Cub prospects are. DJ Wilson, who came in at number nine for Fangraphs, did not even make Sickels’ top 20 and graded out of with a C+.
I’m starting to get a kick out of the differentiation amongst the lists.
Two players who I thought might see a little love just based on their 2017 performances were Ian Rice and Zack Short. Neither has yet to make a list.
Then again, while offseason lists are fun to discuss the value of prospects, I tend to prefer mid-season rankings as you tend to get a better feel for players drafted the year before. This was true last year for Short, Rucker, and pitcher Duncan Robinson. I wonder what will be said about Little, Lange, Cory Abbott, and Keegan Thompson in the middle of next summer?
No word on when MLB Pipeline or Keith Law will publish their new lists. However, Baseball Prospectus is set to drop their top 10 Cubs prospect list on December 11. Hopefully, there will be a new name on the top of that list, like… say, Ohtani. That would be great!
By Todd Johnson
The questions keep coming in. As a result, I’m going to keep doing the mailbag. This week, there are three good questions to answer about three minor-league players.
Can Chesny Young contribute at the major league level?
I used to think that was the plan for 2017. Chesny’s first season at AAA contained extreme highs and lows. His monthly splits were a bit mind bending. In April, he hit .224. He rebounded in May to hit .367. At that point, I thought he had found his groove. Then again, June’s average plummeted to .240 only to rise to .300 in July and back down to .188 in August. That, my friends, is one heck of a roller coaster season.
While he played all over the field. I am hoping the season was just an aberration and that he will be back to normal in 2018. One interesting split I saw was that he hit .517 when ahead in the count and .188 when behind.
Iowa was the first level where he did not hit at a consistent high-level year round. Hopefully, he can find that consistency in 2018. If he can, then the answer to your question is a most definite yes.
Jhon Romero’s WHIP and K% have improved at every level. What’s his ceiling? How far does he advance in 2018?
This is an excellent question. I don’t think most Cub fans are aware of Romero as he shot onto the scene in the second half of 2017. He has a nice two pitch mix which I think can get him to Tennessee by the middle of 2018. After that, I don’t know how much further he’s going to go without a third pitch. Hopefully, that is something he is working on this winter. Then again, there have been plenty of pro relievers with a two pitch mix.
In seeing his curveball, I really like the sharpness and the point at which it breaks in its delivery, which is rather late. As a result, I think he might be a guy you just kind a hope will do well and is able to get by with just two pitches in limited relief appearances. I don’t think he’s the kind a guy you are going to trot out every other day, but rather once a series. That way he is able to get by in limited relief appearances.
What will happen with Carson Sands?
Since the beginning of June 2016, his career has been almost a disaster. That summer, his ERA skyrocketed. In the winter, he had elbow splints removed from his pitching arm. And when he came back last July, something just wasn’t quite right. Maybe, he was not fully healed.
When I saw him pitch at Beloit last summer, he struggled just to get the ball over the plate in 2.2 IP. When he pitched from the stretch, it was not pretty. In 3 starts for the South Bend Cubs, he walked 14 guys in 6.1 IP before he went down to Eugene. He only made 1 appearance there in relief and gave up 3 runs in 2 innings.
I am hoping that time off will allow his elbow to heal.
It’s a bit of a head scratcher to see how quickly his career went off the rails. In May 2016, he was one of the best pitchers in the Cubs organization. He had a 1.24 ERA in 5 starts and struck out 18 in 29 IP. He looked to be on the quick path to Myrtle Beach. Then something happened. I don’t know if it was the elbow splints that derailed his season or something else. He only made 6 starts the rest of the season along with 7 appearances out of the pen that resulted in a 9.91 ERA in the second half.
Sometimes, I wonder if more things are going on that we don’t know about. Whether I watched him pitch for South Bend or Eugene last year, as soon as a guy got on base, he really labored to get outs. He’s never been a pitcher that had a real “out “pitch, but he was always able to get guys to get themselves out.
He seems like a good kid who I think really knew how to pitch before he hit a rough patch that turned into a year and a half one.
As a result, I think the Cubs will wait and see how he looks in Spring Training and go from there. Ideally, Myrtle Beach might be the best spot for him if he is healthy and can get the ball over the plate. Then again, the Cubs may hold him back in extended spring training to get him right before assigning him.
I will be back next week with Episode IV as I answer questions on Wladimir Galindo, Buddy Bailey, and Oscar de la Cruz. If you have a question for me, you can tweet at me (CubsCentral08) or you can send me an email at CubsCentral firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Todd Johnson
Welcome to episode two of the offseason minor league mailbag. Last week, I answered questions about Ian Rice, Bryan Hudson, and the 40 man roster. This week gets a little bit more specific with questions about players that I have not seen play yet.
How many prospects in the system are worth trading for top pitching? Or is it going to be flat out cash deals?
It is not going to be cash deals,. If the Cubs are going to acquire some starting pitching and reliever help, they can get by with prospects in exchange for a reliever. If the Cubs try to get a starter in a trade, they are going to have to throw in major league talent to get major league talent.
If I was a GM for another team, there is no sure thing in the Cubs minor-league system right now. There are some prospects that could turn into something, but the Cubs don’t have a top 100 prospect right now to bring in a top flight starter on their own. On the other hand, while the Cubs may have a bottom five ranked system, they also have a lot of depth and redundancy in order to make a trade or two. Their issue is the lack of current elite talent.
Early expectations for Estrada?
He did pitch some in the Arizona Rookie League last August. However, he had two wacky stats. While his ERA was good at 1.42 in 6.1 IP, his WHIP was all over the place at 1.74 as he walked 6 and gave up 5 hits in a small sample size. In 2016, he was one of the top young prep arms on the summer circuit. He did not have a good senior season in 2017.
Still, the Cubs talked him out of his commitment to UCLA. I would bet the Cubs saw something that they could fix or tweak to get him back on track. Honestly, I did not expect to see him pitch last year. With just one month of pro experience, he should be at Eugene to begin 2018. He needs to build up arm strength this year up to about 75 innings. It would not surprise me to see him take the ball every sixth day at Eugene.
It would be safe to say that he might be a little inconsistent this year as he begins to develop and adjust to pitching professionally. My advice would be to not get too high as a fan and not get too low. He is going to have to work through some things.
Will Velaquez fill our Eloy-sized hole in our hearts?
I sure hope so. Part of me is hoping that he has a monster spring and starts in South Bend rather than extended spring training followed by Eugene. I’d be ecstatic if he actually did extended spring training and then filled in in South Bend in late May/early June. However, that is not realistic and might not be good for his development in the long run. The Cubs, more than likely, are going to take their time with him as he does have a few holes in his swing. However, 11 home runs in six weeks shows that there’s a lot right about his swing, too. By the middle of July, we should know if he is going to be the new Cubs phenom in place of Eloy. Currently, that is the direction I am also leaning along with Albertos.
Can Stinnett & Maples be an answer for CHC bullpen?
They can be part of the answer, but the Cubs are probably looking for an additional left-hander. Maples should have a legit shot at making the team in the spring. Considering that Stinnett has only thrown one month as a reliever, plus his time in the Arizona fall league, he should be at AAA Iowa to gain a little more seasoning before he is called upon in that role. Spring training should tell a lot for both pitchers: for Maples, it is about whether he makes the team. For Stinnett, it’s about whether they see him as part of the team in the future, a.k.a., later this summer.
I have enough questions for another post next week. You can send your questions to me on Twitter @cubscentral08, or you can just email me at email@example.com.
By Todd Johnson
When it comes to prospect lists this winter, beauty is definitely going to be in the eye of the beholder. As prospect lists begin to come out over the course of the next three months, you could see 20 different Cubs make a top 10 list. And you could see four or five different Cubs atop each of those lists. In a post-Eloy world, it’s going to take a long time for those lists to settle down. With the possibility that the Cubs might make another trade this offseason, more chaos could soon enter those lists.
Baseball America is getting ready to drop their latest Top 10 Cubs Prospects List on Monday or Tuesday, in addition to their top tools in the system. I thought I might beat them to the punch at their own game and come out with my prediction of their list of top MiLB tools and try to guess who they will select as their top 10 Cubs prospects.
🔸Best Hitter for Average: Victor Caratini – No one else is even close.
🔸Best Power Hitter: Nelson Velazquez – 10 HRs in 6 weeks ought to get him the title.
🔸Fastest Baserunner: DJ Wilson – Watch him hit a triple and you will see how fast he flies.
🔸Best Athlete: Jacob Hannemann is now but might not be for long. Nelson Velazquez could overtake him in a year.
🔸Best Fastball: Adbert Alzolay – Sitting at 96 in the sixth and seventh innings is pretty impressive.
🔸Best Curveball: Dillon Maples – To him, this is his fastball as he commands it and throws it in fastball counts.
🔸Best Slider: Dillon Maples – This will be the pitch that makes him a killer pro.
🔸Best Changeup: Jose Albertos barely gets the nod over Eugene teammate Jesus Camargo. Both are excellent and get some ugly, ugly swings.
🔸Best Control: Adbert Alzolay – It begins and ends with the ability to put his fastball where and when he wants. Jen-Ho Tseng comes in a close second.
🔸Best Defensive Catcher: Miguel Amaya – While blocking might be a small issue, his arm is clearly not. PJ Higgins is next. It will be interesting to watch Will Remillard come back and to see what recent international signee Alexander Guerra can do
🔸Best Defensive INF and Best INF Arm: You might think that Aramis Ademan would get the nod. However, Luis Vazquez is better and more consistent. I’ve only seen him make a few plays, but he shows much more range, fluidity, and athleticism than Ademan.
🔸Best Defensive OF: Now that Trey Martin is gone and Jake Hannemann is back, Hannemann barely gets the nod over Charcer Burks, DJ Wilson, and Nelson Velazquez. In a year, Velazquez could win almost every hitting and outfield award.
🔸Best OF Arm: Eddy Martinez – 2018 is going to be his year. Don’t be shocked to see him get a chance in Chicago later this summer.
Baseball America’s top 10 list is going to be a little bit different than mine as I do not consider Victor Caratini to still be a prospect. While he technically is, he has spent enough time in the majors to not be, just not the prerequisite 130 at-bats. After Caratini, it could be a free-for-all. It just depends on what value one sees in a prospect.
Where all these prospects are going to be ranked is a complete mystery to me. I’m having trouble reconciling whether to put Ademan in the top five and whether to include Dillon Maples in the top 10. I know other people like pitcher Adbert Alzolay a lot (as do I), but I think that Jose Albertos is a better high-end and prospect and would be my top prospect overall. I would expect the two young pitchers to be 2A and 2B.
Then, all bets are off.
In thinking of how I would do my own list, I’m half tempted to put Nelson Velasquez at number four. Just based on his little six week stint of 10 home runs in Mesa, you have to love the praise he garnered from evaluators and Jason McLeod in the Mark Gonzalez article.
There at least a dozen players who could make their way into Baseball America’s top 10. Mark Zagunis might be the most ready for the majors after Caratini. Thomas Hatch could more than likely be in the top 10 along with the Cubs two first round picks from 2017, Brendon Little and Alex Lange. MLB.com’s number one prospect, the oft-injured Oscar de la Cruz, should be in the top 10 as well as shortstop Aramis Ademan. Cases could also be made for Dillon Maples, Jen-Ho Tseng, Trevor Clifton, Duane Underwood, Jr., D.J. Wilson, and Justin Steele as top 10 prospects this winter.
Their analysis should make for some very interesting discussions in the coming week.
By Todd Johnson
Let’s cut right to the chase – the Cubs are not known for developing relief pitchers. They’ve only developed a few arms that have stuck with the team for any amount of time in the last five years and most of those came via the Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster trades. Kyle Hendricks, CJ Edwards, Justin Grimm, and Neil Ramirez all came over from Texas. Things are about to change.
In 2017 Dillon Maples broke out and went from class A to the majors in one season. He is set to compete for a spot in the Cubs’ bullpen in spring training. Pedro Araujo is another reliever who broke out last year while at Myrtle Beach. Pedro has been doing excellent in the Arizona Fall league and should be at AA Tennessee to begin 2018. After missing most of 2017, Jake Stinnett was reborn as a reliever and is also turning heads from the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League.
At AAA Iowa
David Garner – He has had one of the quietest rides up through the system. Last year, he advanced to AAA without much fanfare. As a setup man, he throws in the mid 90s and 2018 should be the year he gets a crack at Wrigley. Although, he only got in nine games at AAA in August, his chance at the big-time is going to come later in the year.
Corey Black – No, I haven’t forgot about him and I look forward to seeing how Tommy John surgery has impacted his career and what type of pitcher he will be. As a reliever, he’s only had 1 full season but only 30.1 IP at AAA. His recovery bears watching.
Scott Effross – Part of me wants to see him start as he does have four pitches he can throw for strikes. Then again, with the second half he had last year at Myrtle Beach, he really put himself on the map with a 2.03 ERA in 44.1 IP. AA Tennessee is going to love him.
At Myrtle Beach
Jhon Romero – He basically got by on two pitches last summer but they were both excellent. Armed with a mid 90s fastball and a hard, biting curve, Romero could move quickly in 2018. He began last season at Eugene in July and was just dominant at two levels. I’m extremely excited to watch him pitch in his first full season.
At South Bend
Jake Steffens – It is hard to breakout in a half a season, but Steffens came close to it. His ascension to closer was definitely one of the surprises of the second half . He saw his stuff tick up a little bit from college. Now in full season South Bend, the Cubs should get a better picture of whether he can stick in the bullpen.
Ben Hecht – At times, this kid has a golden arm and you wonder why he is a relief pitcher to start his career. From southern Illinois, and at 6’5”, he was a strikeout machine at Eugene after struggling in his last season at Wichita State. He struck out 25 in 17.2 IP in his professional debut at Eugene.
Ricky Tyler Thomas – He started every year in college and he did it well until last spring. As a reliever, he was outstanding at Eugene last summer. He has a nice change up and when he can locate his fastball, he becomes even more deadly. Hopefully, his fastball will creep up a click or two this season.
Others to Watch at Eugene
It’s a little hard to project who will be at short season Eugene as there’s a lot of spring training and extended spring training for the young kids to develop and a draft to take place. One who might get some pub is Ivan Medina, the 21 year old closer for the Arizona Rookie League champion Mesa Cubs.
By Todd Johnson
Last year saw a number of pitchers shoot up through the Cubs’ system. Through their performance, their standing on prospect lists and their stature as possible arms for the future changed greatly in just a few months. Adbert Alzolay didn’t come out of nowhere, but he wasn’t on anybody’s radar for the season after a mediocre 2016. Now, he is a potential rotation piece just one step away from Chicago. Relievers Michael Rucker and Duncan Robinson moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation and both threw extremely well at two levels in 2017.
Before Tommy John surgery ended his year in August, Justin Steele was also having a breakout year. Cubs Central’s top prospect, Jose Albertos, was amazing at times in Eugene, especially when he started throwing his changeup. It really was a great year for Cubs’ pitching prospects.
I’m not quite sure just exactly how the starting pitching is going to be distributed in 2018. With the amount of pitchers taken in the past two drafts, the Cubs now have a flood of arms making their way up through the system. Combined with international free agency, I’m not quite sure who they are going to assign where. Logically, you would think that top prospect Jose Albertos and first round pick Alex Lange would be at South Bend. But because of their advanced abilities, they could wind up at Myrtle Beach to begin in the year. I get dizzy when I start thinking about who could be in South Bend rotation to begin 2018.
As a result, it makes it a little challenging to try and pick who could breakout if I don’t know where they’re going to pitch. But, I will give it a shot.
Duncan Robinson – Even though I mentioned him above as a breakout pitcher from last year, I think he’s going to breakout even more in 2017. There are a couple reasons why I look for him to continue breaking out in 2018. One, he is naturally intelligent and he understands the game and the need to adapt. Last year, he threw a cutter for the first time. Two, I think he becomes more comfortable in throwing the cutter this year, and who knows, he may even add another pitch to his repertoire this offseason.
At Myrtle Beach
Bryan Hudson – Like Justin Steele did in 2017, Hudson is going to flourish as a Pelican in 2018. He seems finally comfortable with his re-done delivery and his physical development as he gains more muscle on his 6’8″ frame. Last year, he looked just as comfortable getting a ground ball with his fastball as he did with his plus curveball. He is just ready to take off.
At South Bend
Bailey Clark – I love to watch this kid pitch as he has electric stuff. With his college degree now out of the way, I think he’s ready to buckle down this off-season to focus all on baseball, something he could not do last winter. As a result, he should be stronger to start 2018 and his fastball should creep back up into the 95 to 97 mile an hour range. If he can command his fastball to begin next year, he is going to be a stud.
Alex Lange – I just have the sense that he is not going to be in the minor leagues very long. While he is far from perfect, he does have the most experience and durability of almost any Cubs minor-league pitcher. As a result, once his delivery is smoothed out to decrease some of his effort, he and his plus curveball could advance three levels next summer if all goes well. That’s not an expectation, it might just be reality. He is that good
Javier Assad – In just 10 weeks at Eugene, he showed a lot of improvement from mid July to early September. He gained about 3-4 clicks on his fastball and it lost its tail as it would often run up and to the right. He made 13 starts and had 3 games of 9 Ks (in just 5 innings) and another one of 7. I am really looking forward to see how his improvement over the winter translates to the mound in 2018.
Keegan Thompson – The youngster out of Auburn played USA Baseball with Trevor Clifton and Tyler Alamo. After missing a year because of TJS, he came back in 2017 and said that he learned how to be a better pitcher because he couldn’t throw as hard. I think he could be a very solid arm in a short amount of time.
Cory Abbott – The third round pick is a bit unheralded, but the Noah Syndergaard wannabe is my pick to be a stunner next year in full season A ball. Armed with a wicked slider, expect him to move quickly. When I first saw him, I was surprised at his physical demeanor on the mound. He is a bulldog out there.
Jesus Camargo – Coming off a missed year in 2016, Camargo was a piggyback starter who I loved watching throw for the Emeralds in 2017. He heads into 2018 after throwing a 2.39 ERA in 60.1 IP. I love his changeup. It is a thing of beauty and it should baffle Midwest League hitters. He should get his chance to be a full time starter again.
Others to Watch at Eugene
There are a plethora of young Latin arms who will be at Eugene to start 2018. Jesus Tejada, Didier Vargas, Danis Correa, Emilio Ferrebus, Brailyn Marquez, and Faustino Carrera are just a few names who could earn a starting spot in the Emeralds’ rotation. Marquez is the most intriguing to me as a 6’5” lefty with a mid 90s fastball that he hasn’t tamed.