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Cubs Have More Prospects to Breakout in the Second Half

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By Todd Johnson

As I have said before, it is hard for a prospect to break out anymore. There is press coverage almost everywhere in addition to photographers and people who can take video. With Mesa and Eugene ready to begin play, here are some names of prospects who I think will grab a few headlines in the second half and propel themselves up several prospect lists.

I did not include top prospects Miguel Amaya and Aramis Ademan on this list. Technically, they should break out, but most people already know about them. For me, it’s just a matter of seeing them do it this summer on him MiLB.TV.

Photo by Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard

Joe Martarano – At 6’3” and close to 240 pounds, Joe is quite the presence in the batters box. I saw him for the first time on opening night at Eugene. The thing I took away from his performance was that he does have a really good eye at plate. He might be a little “roller-coastery” this summer as he gets used to playing every day after not playing for two years.

Delvin Zinn – He is beginning this year in Mesa after missing most of spring training. He’s a great athlete and it looks like he’s gonna play second base. With college draft picks coming, I think he’ll be at Mesa most of the summer.

Bailey Clark – I love this kid. While technically a bearded monster, he also has a 95 to 98 mph fastball. He is starting out at Eugene and should eventually spend most of his time this summer playing at South Bend.

Brailyn Marquez – At 6’6” and only 18 years of age, I look forward to seeing what this young left handed pitcher can do. Last year in the DSL he put up an ERA of 1.48. He struck out 48 in 54 IP in the DSL, I doubt he does that in Mesa. I am intrigued to see how he does stateside.

Faustino Carrera – He’s a bit small, so I don’t think he’s destined to be a starter, but for right now he is. He put up a 1.06 ERA in the DSL last year and, like Marquez, I wonder if he if he can do that in Mesa with the same success.

Jonathan Sierra – He looks like Darryl Strawberry, but does not have Darryl’s skills yet. Then again, Sierra is only 18. He hit .264 in the DSL last year with a .384 OBP. That shows me he has a good eye at the plate. He did not have the greatest spring training, but I am interested to see how he hits in Mesa and whether his power stroke begins to develop. Hopefully, he begins to breakout this year. If not, it could take him 2-3 years to do so.

Gustavo Polanco -Last year, he lead the Mesa Cubs in hitting at .322. He is already off to great start at Eugene. Although he started off as a catcher, the 20-year-old moved to first base and is also a designated hitter. At 6′ and 190 pounds, he is pretty much maxed out physically, but he has a great eye for the ball.

Under the Radar
Image may contain: one or more peopleI am sure there will be other players who do breakout. More than likely, most will be players the Cubs recently drafted. I wrote the following at BP Wrigleyville about two top hitters I think might fit the breakout bill.

3B Austin Filiere (eighth round pick) and OF Chris Carrier (ninth round) both have a lot of potential for power. Carrier comes from Memphis while Filiere comes from MIT—neither of which are powerhouse college programs. Carrier is a sculpted physical specimen at 6’2” and 225 pounds, while Filiere’s experience in the wooden bat Cape Cod League might give him an advantage as they begin their pro careers, most likely in Eugene.

2B Jared Young and OF Brandon Hughes are two other college names who could do the same as Filiere and Carrier.

When it comes to pitchers, the Cubs did pick some relievers. Most notable are Casey Ryan from Hawaii, Sean Barry from San Diego, and Brian Glowicki from Minnesota. The starting pitchers the Cubs draft pitch short stints (40-50 pitches) as they already have thrown a full season.

First Half Cubs MiLB All-Star Team Has Some New Faces

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This was the fastest minor league first half I can remember. It just flew by. For Cubs prospects, there were a lot of great performances in that time span. Many players were able to sustain a level of excellence, while others ebbed and flowed.

If you’ve been following this website, I don’t think there any surprises on the list. However I think there are some names who you would not have foreseen at the beginning of the year. Names like Duncan Robinson, Andrew Ely, Michael Rucker, Jason Vosler, and Dillon Maples, to name a few.

Here is this year’s Cubs first half minor league all-star team in video form.

Here are some names for you to ponder when it comes to the second half All-Star team:
Miguel Amaya, Aramis Ademan, Thomas Hatch, Gustavo Polanco, Jose Albertos, and many more. It would not surprise me to see half the names change in this list.

I will be back tomorrow with a post about some possible breakout players to watch for in the second half. They are mostly players from Mesa and Eugene with a few draft picks thrown in for good measure.

Cubs Strike with Two Pitchers in the First Round

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By Todd Johnson

Jason McLeod said the Cubs would focus on pitching and he wasn’t kidding. The Cubs usd the 27th pick to select lefty Brendon Little and the 30th pick to select righty Alex Lange. Both players have pitched significant innings this year with Little at 85 and Lange at 111 so far. Little could pitch some in relief this year in either Eugene or South Bend, while Lange will probably be shut down after the College World Series, much like Thomas Hatch was in 2016.

I really like both selections. I think both have some serious upside, but they also need some work. Lange, to me, is a steal. A known perfectionist, he is not going to take long. I think with the coaches the Cubs have in the system, he could improve greatly. As a result, the Cubs may have gotten a top ten talent at #30.

Here are some brief profiles and stats. Click on the link for previous articles about them.


Image may contain: 1 person, textBrendon Little – State JC of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota
Earlier Post on Him
6’2” and 195 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Strengths
He can bring it at 97
Young
Did I mention a 97 mph fastball?
Left handed
Tight curve with projection

Areas of Concern
Starter or Reliever?
Delivery

Here is what MLB.com said of Little

Little pitched very well in the Cape Cod League this summer and has continued to show premium velocity in junior college this spring. He was touching 97 mph in fall ball and has kept that up during the regular season in Florida. He complements it with a true 12-to-6 power curve which flashes plus on occasion, and he’ll also show some feel for his changeup, though it’s behind the other two pitches. While he has a very quick and clean arm delivery, his command comes and goes and his fastball can be flat at times, though that hasn’t kept him from missing a ton of bats this spring.

The lack of track record, as well as the inconsistency with his delivery and command, might concern some, with scouts wondering if he’s a starter or a reliever long term. This kind of arm strength from the left side is hard to find, so teams won’t too long to take him off the board.


Image may contain: one or more people and textAlex Lange – Louisiana State University
Earlier Post on Him
6’3″ and 198 pounds
Bats Right
Throws Right

Strengths
Power Curve
Experience
High Floor
Pitchability

Areas of Concern
End of the Year Dropoff
Velocity Dip

Here is what MLB.com said of the right hander.

Lange has two plus pitches in a fastball that usually ranged from 92-96 mph and a power curveball that stood out as the best on the U.S. college national team last summer. He has a strong build and repeatedly has demonstrated the ability to maintain his stuff into the later innings. Lange is showing better feel for his changeup after emphasizing the development of the pitch during his time with Team USA.

Lange sometimes gets himself in trouble by overthrowing and not staying online to the plate. Both of those bad habits cost him control, which along with some effort in his delivery has some scouts wondering if he might wind up as a reliever in the long run. Lange’s track record as a successful starter means he’ll get every opportunity to make it as a mid-rotation option.

More information will be forthcoming in the next few days about each prospect including thoughts from Jason McLeod.

Prospect Update: The Exasperations of Eloy

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By Todd Johnson

He had only been a Pelican for a week yet Eloy tweaked his hamstring in the sixth inning of yesterday’s game between Myrtle Beach and Salem. I talked with Scott Kornberg after the game and Scott was not worried at all. For now, he is considered day-to-day.

Last year, at South Bend, Eloy played in 112 out of 140 games. The year before in Eugene, he played in 57 out of 74. So far at Myrtle Beach, he’s played in just eight out of 44 games. For those of you that are exasperated, you probably should revel in the fact that Eloy has never had surgery for any of his ailments. While most of them are hamstring related, this Spring’s bone bruise was the only hard tissue injury.

While fans may get exasperated and fearful of his many minor injuries, I had been thinking something totally different. I was wondering “when” Eloy would be getting out of Myrtle Beach and heading to Tennessee. In just his eight games in 2017, he’s hit .333 with two home runs, drove in five runs while getting on base at a .438 clip.

The only ones who might really be getting worn out are the pitchers in the Carolina League. The book on pitching to Eloy this year begins with a steady diet of curve balls until Eloy hits one, walks, or the pitcher is required to throw a fastball for a strike in the zone. Yesterday, I saw Eloy rip a fastball down and in off-the-wall on a 3-2 count. The ball was hit so hard that Eloy was limited to a single. He didn’t even think about trying to go to second.

Eloy easily recognized how he was being pitched. He seems pretty amenable to it and has not been chasing balls out of the zone. This is something he did not do last year in South Bend. When he gets his chances this year, he is destroying the baseball.

Despite these many levels of exasperation, the one person in all of this who is as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce is Eloy.

Going Forward

I think Eloy will be back in a couple of days and he will be bashing baseballs with regularity. I am, for the most part, realistically thinking he will be in Tennessee by the middle of June if he can stay healthy. And to be quite honest, just based upon the spring he had in Arizona, a stop in AAA Iowa is not really necessary for him to get to Chicago. He may be just 20 years old, but his bat far surpasses his age.

It might be quite progressive of me to say that he could be in the major leagues by the end of the year, but it’s not unrealistic with his talent, pitch recognition skills, and the ability to drive the baseball with authority.  He is a manchild. He has his own goals and I think they match up well with the Cubs.

Some people think that there might not be any room for Eloy. As Ian Happ has shown this year, if you can hit, the Cubs will make room.

 

Szczur Heads to San Diego – Cubs Get AA Reliever in Return

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This didn’t take long, but Matt Szczur is going to get a chance to play everyday.
Szczur is no longer a Cub now. He was traded to the Padres tonight for minor league reliever Justin Hancock. I really liked Matt as a bench player. However, the Cubs just have too much depth.
 
As for Hancock, he’s mostly been a reliever lately. His arsenal includes a 92-94 mph fastball with a a plus changeup. His curve is considered average. He likely will be assigned to AA Tennessee where he will probably be added to the Smokies bullpen.

Some Questions Need Answered Before the Affiliate Previews

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By Todd Johnson

During the week of March 27, Cubs Central will be rolling out its yearly previews of the Cubs’ affiliates. It’s taking a little longer this year because of the uncertainty of the pitching rosters along with a few high profile prospects. This winter, Theo, and Jed went out and signed a lot of pitchers to provide depth for the starting rotation and bullpen. After about one more week, the Cubs will trim the Spring Training roster from 80 down to about 40 before getting to 25 by opening day. Currently, there are over 220 players in the minor league camp.

The affiliate profiles will cover the possible rosters of Iowa, Tennessee, Myrtle Beach, South Bend, and a special preview of a preview of Eugene. Each article will recap last season and cover key prospects to keep an eye on this season. Key starting pitching, relievers, and position players will be discussed as well as who might be promoted first from the affiliate along with who might be a sleeper prospect for the first half.

However, before those reviews will be written the next two weeks, there are several questions that need to be addressed. Here are the big unknown questions at this point:

Where will Jose Albertos go and when?

I would like to think that I know where he is going. I absolutely have no clue as to his intended destination. Ideally, he should be in Eugene. But if he is as advanced as everyone says he is, then why could he not be in South Bend? There have been many times this winter where I thought he could get the fast track that no real pitcher has done in the Theo era. Then again, he really needs to build up his arm strength over the course of years to make it as a pro. I’m looking forward to seeing where he is placed at the end of March. Right now, I think he will be in extended spring training with the intent of heading to Eugene in early June.

Where will Thomas Hatch ply his craft this spring?

According to Jason McLeod, the Cubs are looking at placing Hatch at South Bend. With the rave reviews about his pitchability, I tend to lean towards him starting the year at Myrtle Beach. As a fan, I’m pretty geeked to see what he can do with four pitches from his three-quarter arm slot.

Does Eloy skip Myrtle Beach?

Based upon early returns of Eloi in the major league camp, I’m beginning to think that he might. I don’t think he needs to skip Myrtle Beach, I just think he’s ready for a challenge. While he is only just 20 years old, I don’t think he’s that far away from Chicago, or at least being ready for Chicago. One thing a farm system director has to take into account is whether or not the prospect is challenged. The last thing we want to see happen is to see Eloi get bored playing in the Carolina League.

The DSL Effect

In 2015, the Cubs signed several high-priced international free agents. Most of them made their debut last summer in the Dominican Summer League. Now, at 18 years of age, several are ready to make their stateside debut. I wonder if some of them will skip Mesa and Eugene and head straight to South Bend. Aramis Ademan and Miguel Amaya are two defensively advanced prospects, I don’t think either of them will start out the year at South Bend, but I think they could finish there while starting out at Eugene. In addition, there are a lot of quality young pitchers who could climb up the ladder to Eugene and push their way towards South Bend.

The Isaac Factor

I don’t know where Isaac Paredes is going. Last year he did very well at Mesa and wound up playing for South Bend the last couple weeks of the year. I think a lot of that had to do more with the Cubs farm directors not wanting to take players away from Eugene to move to South Bend. As a result, Paredes got in some time in South Bend at 17 years of age. His biggest asset is his ability to hit the ball and he could force some issues this year with that ability. Unlike most international prospects, Paredes comes close to fully formed. There’s not much projection left physically but the kid still has room to improve at the plate, especially when it comes to power. As a result, I’m not quite sure where he fits to begin the year. I don’t think he goes all the way up to Myrtle Beach, and I’m not quite sure he falls all the way down to Eugene, either.

So, with three and a half weeks left to go before the opening day of the minor league season, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I think they’re all good problems to have. And I think that the Cubs are glad they have a plethora of young talent to try and figure out where to place them.

Keith Law Releases a Boring List for a Change

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By Todd Johnson

Today, ESPN’s Law released his top Cubs prospect list (subscription required). For once, it was in line with other lists. For a change, there were no big surprises in his top ten prospects. There, the normal Eloy at #1, Ian Happ at #2, and Dylan Cease at #3 can be found.

This year, Law threw in his patented curves in the “unofficial” second ten.

Sepulveda 86 2016 sbAt number 11, Law ranked Carlos Sepulveda higher than in most lists that go beyond 10. In 2016, I was lucky enough to watch Sepulveda grow as a hitter at low A South Bend. After missing most of April and May, Sepulveda debuted in the Midwest League at the ripe age of 19. He got off the bus hitting in June, July, and August. He posted hitting splits for those months of .330/.337/.296. His OBP however was .370/.374/.360. He struck out only 41 times in 332 at-bats (12.3% K rate).

A second baseman, Sepulveda is not an elite defender nor does he have an elite arm. He is passable. But when you can hit and not strike out much, you get people’s attention. He did have one HR and hit 11 doubles. There is not much power in his 5’10” frame. On the other hand, he showed often in July and August that he has the propensity to pull the ball. For 2017, Sepulveda should do well at Myrtle Beach.

Law had some praise (and some complaints) for several Cubs hitters including Chesny Young, Isaac Paredes, Donnie Dewees, Mark Zagunis, and Victor Caratini.

Overall, there wasn’t much excitement or surprise in the list outside of Sepulveda. I guess that also explains why Law ranked the Cubs 18th out of 30 farms systems. This year could change that as several young International Free Agents make their stateside debuts. Plus, the Cubs have two top 30 draft picks to help re-energize the farm system after the many who graduated to Chicago the past two years. Later this year, we could see Cubs prospect lists change dramatically come June and July.