2019 Comebacks – Can Some Top Prospects Rebound from a Poor 2018?

By Todd Johnson

Prospect comebacks are common in minor league baseball. They happen all the time, but not for everyone. Success at one level does not guarantee a prospect’s success at the next. In some cases, injuries can derail a career and sometimes poor performance will do the trick more often than not. In 2018, several prospects at Myrtle Beach and Tennessee struggled mightily. For some of them, this was their first difficulty in pro ball. For others, it was their second year at the level. That can come across as very disconcerting.

Scott Kornberg, the Myrtle Beach announcer, and I have discussed several times which level is the hardest test for a prospect. Scott went with high A and I went with AA. For the prospects in this post, Scott and I are both correct.

Myrtle Beach
The Carolina League has always been known as a pitcher’s league. The wind tends  to blow in from left most days in Myrtle Beach. It’s no wonder that many hitters struggled this year as Pelicans.

The Troubled: Aramis Ademan, Wladimir Galindo, Kevonte MItchell, DJ Wilson, and many more.

Most of these prospects should repeat Myrtle Beach. Wilson might be the only exception as he is seeing extra time in the Arizona Fall League. His performance in October and November might decide his 2019 fate more than his 2018 season in which he missed almost two months.

Ademan, who is 19, should repeat this level, too. While his defense is quite good and getting better, his bat lacks the ability to spray the ball and control the strike zone. The former #1 prospect in the post-Eloy era only hit .209 on the year. His walk rate of 8.4% is very low and his K rate of 21.2% are not balanced enough. No wonder his OBP was only .294 and his wRC+ was a low 66.

The one player whose performance surprised me most was Wladimir Galindo’s. In the past, I often referred to Wladimir as “my guy.” He began 2018 in style and was just getting going when the injury bug struck again after missing 2/3 of 2017 with a broken ankle. He did return this year after a month and struggled to get it going. Wladimir struck out an inconceivable 28.3% while only walking 7%. Add in 29 errors on defense and you have a year he’d like to forget.

Repeating would not be the worst thing for either prospect. Adjustments have to made, but both players are relatively young (19 and 21) and are still considered valuable prospects within the organization. If both can learn to control the strike zone and layoff some pitches out of the zone, their comeback chances would be greatly improved.

Tennessee
Trevor Clifton and Jason Vosler are two prospects who had poor 2017 seasons at Tennessee. Both took the offseason to got their heads right, worked on their craft, and then they earned promotions to AAA by July 1. It can be done.

The Troubled: Eddy Martinez, Charcer Burks

If Charcer Burks returns to Tennessee in 2019, it will be his third straight season in AA. He had a roller coaster of a 2018 season. Check out his BA/OBP splits
April – .169/.286
May – .296/.395
June – .200/.319
July – .283/.381
August – .173/.232

He was the very model of inconsistency. The thing is, that statline is not too far off of 2017, either. I like to watch Charcer play as he has a mixture of power and speed. However, he needs to be a stable hitter rather than a streaky one.

When it comes to Eddy Martinez, now 23, it is hard to know what is going on inside his head. I thought his decent second half in 2017 would bleed over to success in 2018. It just didn’t happen. Eddy just barely scratched a .300+ OBP  once and that was in July. For the year, he hit .221 with a .276 OBP, easily underwhelming numbers. Martinez has all the physical tools to be a star but somehow cannot transfer his skill set into the game.

Bouncing back from a poor season is easier said than done. If everybody could do it, the majors would have a lot more players knocking on the door. With that in mind, adjustments will have to made and the players will have to buy into changes. The younger the prospect, the better chance those adjustments will stick.

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Who Might Represent the Cubs in the Arizona Fall League This Year?

By Todd Johnson

It is getting to be that time of year. In the next couple of weeks, the Cubs will announce 7 to 8 prospects who they will place in the Arizona Fall League with the Mesa Solar Sox. The Cubs can pick players for a variety of reasons. Some might be picked to play regarding their inclusion onto the 40 man roster in December. There could also be a player they might want a deeper look at in order to keep away from the Rule 5 Draft. They might want to even advance development of a young prospect. The Cubs could even showcase a prospect as trade bait. The most common reason for selecting a prospect to participate in the fall league, though, is to make up for lost time during the year.

Lost Time

This year, the obvious choice that fits that reason is none other than Justin Steele. Steele underwent Tommy John surgery almost exactly a year ago and began pitching in Mesa in Arizona League games at the beginning of this month. He put up a 1.47 ERA for the division champion rookie league team and he also struck out 27 in just 18.1 innings. I thought he might throw just an inning or two here and there coming off of Tommy John surgery, but he was already throwing six months after surgery rather than the usual 9-12 month wait. He should be making his next rehab in Myrtle Beach.

Erick Leal also had Tommy John surgery but missed all of 2017. He has been dominant in his return to Myrtle Beach. He began pitching for the Pelicans in late May and getting him some more reps, even as a reliever would also expose him to playing against a little bit better competition then the Carolina League.

DJ Wilson definitely should find a way to Arizona. He is one of the most athletic prospects in the system and seems to be bogged down by minor nagging injuries the past two years. In July, he was just beginning to heat up before an injury pushed him back on the DL. He just came off of the 7-day DL on the 27th.

Bailey Clark of Myrtle Beach has not pitched for the better part of two months. He came out blazing this year throwing between 95-97 in long relief for South Bend. He cut through the Midwest League quickly and was doing the same for Myrtle Beach before he went on the shelf. In 42 combined innings, he struck out 51 batters. If he can get healthy, Bailey is definite candidate to send to Arizona.

Rule 5 Consideration

The Cubs have over 60 players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December. The Cubs know what they have in most of those prospects. Using the Arizona Fall League to determine whether or not to place them on the 40 man roster is a common theme. Most teams that makes a Rule 5 selection pick someone that will stay on their 25 man roster. Rarely will a player below AA get picked and make it, but it does happen. Just this year former Cub Pedro Araujo made the leap to stick with the Orioles.

When it comes to the Cubs, I would be looking to see how reliever John Romero does stepping up a level. Most people don’t know much about Romero’s fastball/curve combo and just how dominant he’s been over the last year in the lower minors (109 Ks in 83.1 IP). If another team took him, they would be taking a ginormous risk, but it would behoove the Cubs to see how he stacks up against elite competition.

Experience

In that same vein, part of me wants to see Trent Trent Giambrone and Zack Short get the experience of the fall league. The two 2016 draft picks rose quickly through the organization and this could help propel or give Short and Giambrone a head start towards AAA Iowa next year. Then again, the Cubs pretty much know what they have in those two. This would just be a bonus for their development. I could live with them not attending.

The same could be true of Aramis Ademan, who is currently at high A Myrtle Beach. While he has struggled a bit this year, he is still only 19 while most of his of international free agent class is in Eugene or Mesa. He’s playing way above his age group and learning as he goes. The fall league might just be another step to help prepare him for AA as I doubt the Cubs would have him repeat Myrtle Beach.

When the announcement of who the Cubs will send comes out, I will interested to see who they place in Mesa. Steele, Leal, and Wilson are pretty much givens. I am not really emotionally invested in who actually goes. However, it will be fun to sit down and figure why the other four or five prospects are going.  I am more interested in seeing who the Cubs themselves might value. be interested in seeing more of, or even showcase for a trade.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans Preview: Is a Four Peat™ Possible?

By Todd Johnson

The relationship between the Chicago Cubs and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans seems to be working out just fine. In the three years the affiliate has been in the Cubs’ system, the Pelicans won two Mills Cup Championships and made a third playoff appearance. Can the Pelicans make it back to the Mills Cup Championship Series for a fourth straight year? I think the odds are very good, but everything has to come together perfectly.

What Needs to Happen
One Good Half: Two years ago, most of the 2018 Pelicans’ roster was part of a team that dominated the short season Northwest League. Last year, several players from that team moved quickly but some of the pitchers seemed to struggle in full season ball at South Bend. For the Pelicans to make it to the playoffs, they have to win a first half title or a second-half spot. And, in a 10 team league, it seems a little bit easier to make the postseason if you get hot for a little bit. That’s what happened last year in Myrtle Beach as the Pelicans were a destructive force in May and June. This year, there are a few key factors that will determine if the Pelicans can get back to the promised land.

Pitching Certainty
It all starts with pitching. Starting pitching and relieving all have to be good. Considering the current backlog of prospects in the organization, most players are not going to be going promoted to AA Tennessee unless they have a completely dominant first half.

To begin, 2017 draft pick Alex Lange should be a great watch every sixth night for a couple of months. He has a devastating curve and, when his fastball command is on, he’s so hard to hit. The issue is if he can develop a change to go with his other two pitches. If he can, he is gone to Tennessee by mid season. One aspect of Lange’s personality that I love is his competitive fire. He has a burning to desire to win and also to dominate. His only issue this year could be overthrowing.

Jose Paulino is a 22-year-old lefty who struggled in the first half of 2017 at South Bend after dominating the Northwest League in 2016.  He rebounded to pitch well in July and August and playing at Myrtle Beach will only help him as long as he stays aggressive in the zone. He put together a great spring and I’m excited to watch him go at it in a pitcher’s park in Myrtle Beach.

Fourth round pick Keegan Thompson will make the rotation and actually pitch opening night. He has great command of all his pitches and works off a 91-93 mph fastball. As for Erling Moreno (who is injured), Tyson Miller, Matt Swarmer, and Bryan Hudson, they need to stay healthy and need to stay consistent from inning to inning.

Catcher PJ Higgins is returning to Myrtle Beach and he should provide excellent leadership for the young pitchers. Jhonny Perada, who has been nailing runners at second like crazy in spring training, could be one of the most improved players this year.

Maturity
Even though the Pelicans are a level higher than South Bend, they have the youngest average age of any of the affiliates this year. Maturity was a factor last year for some of this team at South Bend at the end of the first half. They made a push in August but fell a little short to get into the Midwest League playoffs. Another year older, they should also be another year wiser.

It looks as though 1B Tyler Alamo, who was very good in the second half last year (.306 with 5 HRs), will return and begin 2018 in Myrtle Beach. His maturity and leadership can only help these young guys.

Staying Healthy
I often refer to Wladimir Galindo as “my guy.” He is still rather young but this guy can just put the barrel the bat on the ball and drive it places at will. The issue is that he has to stay healthy. He has yet to play a full season without going on the DL. He missed most of last year with a broken foot. As soon as he hit the ground in spring training this year, he started hitting and hitting well.

The Blossoming of Austin Upshaw
Everyone that watches Austin Upshaw plays comes away very impressed. This kid can flat out rake. There is some potential for potential for power there, too, but that will come in due time. I also like that he can play three infield positions (1B, 2B, and 3B) well. If all goes well, he might not be at the Beach very long.

Breaking Out
While the Cubs don’t have any top 100 prospects, there are three players who should be at Myrtle Beach this year who could be big talents in the organization fairly quickly with a breakout season.

Shortstop Aramis Ademan is already a top four prospect in the system but still needs to develop his bat some more. Defensively, he’s pretty good with his feet and his arm is very good. While he can turn on a fastball, he struggled a bit at the plate in his short tenure at South Bend. He’s still only 19 and should be a Pelican all year.

Outfielder DJ Wilson is an elite athletic talent who has yet to hit with any consistency. He has elite defensive skills and the potential for power, as he showed last summer when he was the Cubs’ July player of the month.

The guy I am looking most forward to seeing this year is Kevonte Mitchell. He is turning into a physical beast. Last time I saw him in person in was at Beloit, he looked Hulk-like and was tracking the ball well. Hopefully this year that pays off with a 20 home run season.

It’ll be interesting to see how this team looks at the end of the first half. If they can get it going on the mound, these young position players can score runs in bunches. They just need to be more consistent on a daily basis.

Other Affiliate Previews
Iowa

Tennessee

MLB.com’s Top 30 Concludes Prospect List Season with a New #1

By Todd Johnson

While Alzolay was ranked number one, he’s only got a couple of months in at AA and he still needs to work on his changeup quite a bit. I see his potential more as a reliever long-term. Although, he was able to stay in the mid-90s in the 6th and 7th inning last year. He just needs to continue to build up more innings to maintain his viability as a middle of the rotation starter.

As for Ademan, while he did well at Eugene on both sides of the plate, he struggled offensively at South Bend in his short time there. The Cubs will more than likely be aggressive with him this year and he will be assigned to Myrtle Beach. Oscar de la Cruz missed most of 2017 but still has a powerful potential in spite of his being oft-injured past two years.

When it comes to Jose Albertos, I just love him. By the end of the year he could take over the number one spot and I am looking forward to watching him do it at South Bend in the first half of the year. If all goes well, the young 19-year-old pitcher could end up in the pitcher friendly Carolina League for the second half of the year.

Rising Stars
Catcher Miguel Amaya shot up to number 11. If his bat comes along at South Bend in 2018, he could rise even more. David Bote, at #15 went from utility organizational guy to a player with bat to make it as a utility infielder in Chicago. Recent draft picks from the past two years dot the list with Alex Lange at 5, Brendon Little at 6, and Thomas Hatch at 7. Three 2017 draft picks also got some praise. At 17, Jeremiah Estrada is well liked along with Erich Uelman at 19 and Keegan Thompson at 19, two college starters who only saw brief action in relief last year at Eugene. Pitcher Michael Rucker moved all the way up to 21 and Zack Short made his first appearance on the list at 23. Pitcher Javier Assad, who I am looking forward to watching throw at South Bend, is at #24. That’s a very good sign as he is only 19. Meanwhile, lefty starter Brailyn Marquez debuted at #27 at the age of 19. He is still very raw but he does miss a lot of bats.

Who is still in?
Most of the usual suspects in the Cubs system still made the list. Although, it is quite clear that they have lost some of the former status. Usually, MLB.com’s Pipeline is slow to change. One bad season doesn’t befall most prospects. There was some slippage this year. Trevor Clifton still made the list at #28 as did Duane Underwood at #30. Both have their work cut out in front of them.

Names to Know for Later Lists
Danis Correa is one of several young Latin pitching prospects who could breakout in 2018. He throws in the mid to upper 90s but needs some work on his command. I think Bailey Clark will turn some heads this year as he is now done with his degree at Duke and minor injuries.  2B Carlos Sepulveda was not on the list this year after missing almost of 2017. He could return later. The big breakout could be OF Fernando Kelli who will arrive from the Dominican Summer League where he stole 58 bases last year. Personally, I like the potential bats of infielders Austin Upshaw and Jered Young along with pitcher Jesus Tejada, who threw a no-hitter in the Dominican last summer.

It should be exciting as the Cubs system gets remade. It looks to be getting much younger since last year’s trades.

The Final Rankings List
I assigned point value to seven prospect lists this winter. A player received 10 for being named #1, 9 for #2, etc. I used Fangraphs, John Sickels, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, Keith Law. MLB.com, and my own Top 21.

Here are the final totals.
Adbert Alzolay -66
Aramis Ademan – 64
Jose Albertos -57
Alex Lange – 42
Oscar de la Cruz – 38
Brendon Little – 33
Victor Caratini – 28
Thomas Hatch – 23
Jen-Ho Tseng – 12
Dillon Maples – 7
Nelson Velazquez – 5

The Weekly: The Yu Effect, Prospect Ranking Totals, and Looking for Two Pics

By Todd Johnson

I am still so excited! I haven’t been this pumped up since November of 2016!

Cubs fans are now just 4 days away from meeting Yu Darvish and him taking part in his first official practice this Thursday. Now, with Yu in the rotation, Mike Montgomery heads back to the pen. It makes me wonder who Dillon Maples has to get past to earn a spot. It also makes me wonder how much this could affect Justin Grimm, who no longer has a guaranteed contract after losing his arbitration case. 

The Cubs starting rotation is now very deep at the major league level. A staff of Hendricks, Quintana, Darvish, Lester, and Chatwood puts the team on par with any staff  in the majors. They aren’t going to go 162-0, but I could see the Cubs winning 95+ games in 2018. A week ago, without Darvish, the Cubs were predicted to win 89 games by Pecota. Darvish has to increase that win total at least 5 or 6 games.

About an hour after the signing, I began shifting my thoughts on the organizational impact this signing has. It puts in place a staff for at least the next two years, depending on when Darvish could opt out of his deal. It buys the Cubs time to develop several young arms. After the 2020 season, Darvish is the only current Cub in the rotation signed to a contract. Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, and Chatwood’s contracts all expire at the end of the 2020 season.

As a result, the Cubs’ young arms can be brought along and developed as assets, as Theo always intends. With so many young arms, the Cubs could have a large stockpile they could use in a deal later down the road while still being able to cherry pick the best of their own to keep. It’s a win-win scenario.

And finally, there is no compensation pick attached to Darvish. Because he was traded mid-season, the Cubs do not lose their second round pick. So, it looks like the Cubs will be picking up a pick should Arrieta sign soon. That would give them 4 picks in the top 75-80 selections.

In Prospect News…

Baseball Prospectus released their Top 101 prospects for 2018 and one Cub made the list. Adbert Alzolay came in at #95. Here is what John Eshleman of BP had to say about Adbert:

Alzolay has a starter’s delivery in a reliever’s body with a change-up that could push him to either role. Currently, the pitch is not playable to turn over MLB rotations, but he could right now get outs from a bullpen with his FB/SL combination, playing to higher end of velo band in short stints. The relative quietness of his delivery given his size, a result of plus athleticism and a strong lower half that stabilizes his delivery. I project change up and command improvement enough to keep Alzolay in an MLB rotation.

While Theo Epstein and the Cubs see Alzolay as a starter for now, Adbert still has some work to do to get there.

MLB Pipeline announced they will release their latest Cubs’ Top 30 Prospect list on Thursday February 22. Over the offseason, I have been keeping track of the prospect rankings and assigning points to where each player has been ranked. Using Baseball America, Fangraphs, John Sickels, Keith Law, Pipeline, and Baseball Prospectus, the leader in points right now is Adbert Alzolay followed by Aramis Ademan. Only one point separates the two. Pitcher Jose Albertos rounds out the top three. Then it is a while until fourth place. Here are the top nine point values so far.
Alzolay -56
Ademan – 55
Albertos -50
Lange – 36
de la Cruz – 30
Little – 27
Caratini – 25
Hatch – 19
Tseng – 12

I did include my Top 21’s top 10 in these results. However, I did not include Caratini as I don’t consider him a prospect. Normally, I usually include Cubs Den’s rankings, but this year Michael Ernst’s did not rank them. Rather he placed them in tiers. Although, Michael did have Jose Albertos as the lone Tier 1 prospect. I don’t think that his ranking them would have changed the list and its point totals and rankings much.

I don’t really think MLB Pipeline’s  list will change many people’s perceptions of either prospect or the Cubs as a whole. It has been a while since the Cubs did not had a clearly defined top prospect, let alone a top 100.

I hope that this summer sees some prospects like Albertos, Ademan, and Lange matriculate up to full season ball and onto prospect lists. Maybe next winter the Cubs could get 3-4 names on a list.

Also in prospect news, Fangraphs released their KOTAH projections. The list is a projection of WAR for the next five years at the MLB level. Two Cubs made the list. Charcer Burks came in at #61 with a projected WAR of 5 and Victor Caratini came in at #35 with a 6.7 WAR projection. I did not see Burks like that, but I like that he is highly thought of after a brilliant first half in 2017.

Just throwing this out there…

I am wanting to do profiles of two prospects but I don’t have pictures of them, yet. One is of Danis Correa, a pitcher who threw in just two games for Mesa after coming over from the DSL. The other is Jesus Tejada, who threw in the DSL the past two summers.

Upcoming Posts

This week, come Wednesday, Fernando Kelli gets profiled in the “Leveling Up” series. I really enjoyed profiling the excitement for the young outfielder. I also have two spring training previews for the major league camp and the minor league camp in the works for this week. The major league post hits Monday, the minors on Friday.

Baseball Cards of the Week

 

Cards of the Offseason – Part 2: Lighting It Up In New Templates

By Todd Johnson

When it comes to baseball cards, I am weird. When I was a kid, I loved collecting them around 10, 11, and 12-years-old. It consumed every summer. I used to have a card table in my bedroom where I had them all sorted into neat little stacks by team and arranged by division. I was consumed with collecting them and trying to find the money to collect them. But as the 70s turned into the 80s, there were other things that began to take over my time. Part of me still enjoys that euphoria I got from collecting those initial cards of the 1970s.

That was over 40 years ago. This winter, I added some new templates of more recent years and I’m kind of digging that, too, but in a different way. For the month of January and into early February, I found a few more pictures of prospects that are starting to show up in Google and Twitter searches. Some of the cards I made turned into instant classics.

There’s not really a theme that weaves throughout all of the cards in the second “best of” post for this winter. Instead, the 12 cards I’ve selected today I like for variety of reasons. The key to any great card is a great photograph. And each of the photographs of the following cards are special for a different reason.


Honorable Mention
There were only a few pictures of Cory Abbott, the Cubs 2017 2nd round pick, out there on the Internet. This is one of them from the Eugene Emeralds that I really like because of the arm action in the follow through. For the other card, Duncan Robinson is in a Myrtle Beach Merman uniform, a play on the show “Eastbound and Down” that followed the mythical career of one Kenny Powers. I really love that jersey and the picture by Larry Kave!

  
10-8
Coming in at number 10 is a picture by my friend John Conover that captures Aramis Ademan in action against West Michigan. While I do like action, I really like the lines in the background of the dirt and the shaded section of the grass as much as the player. Coming in at number nine is a picture by MiLB of Adbert Alzolay at the high class A All-Star game. It’s it’s a very appealing picture to me because he’s in a different uniform and I like the shade of that blue. Sometimes, the specialty jersey can get played out a little bit, but I love this picture of Brendon Little in a “Pirates of the Caribbean” jersey.

  
7 to 5
Duncan Robinson returns again in the Mermen jersey at number seven. When I love about this picture is how the rain in the background dances in the light in another capture by Larry Kave. In contrast, Duane Underwood’s number six card has him bathed in the sunlight in an old picture from when he was in the Arizona Fall League from USA Today. Larry Kave’s close up of Zack Short is special because the yellow lettering just pops on the card.

  
4 to 2
Even though he didn’t get to see a lot of action after being drafted, Rollie Lacy comes in at number four in a night shot from the Emeralds that blends in perfectly with the staggered background in a 1999 template. I just love the many shades of black in the card. At number three, Alex Lange gets bathed in the trees that really offset the action in the card in this warm up shot from the Emeralds. For number two, I just love this blue sky blending with the stadium lights of Eugene reliever Casey Ryan. It is a classic action shot of him warming up in between innings in. I think the blue sky and the stadium lights reflecting against his hair is magical.

Number 1

2017 draft pick Chris Singleton has been through more in the last three years than anyone can imagine. His mother was killed in a church shooting in South Carolina. It didn’t stop Singleton from chasing his dream. When I look at this picture, I see a determined look in his face and how the world is just melting away behind him.

Starting later next week, spring-training shots should be floating around the Internet. I will take a few of those images and begin to make cards for spring training. It will have its own folder over on the Facebook page and I’ll have a post in early April for those cards. I’m really excited to see how much some of the players have changed over the winter and it’s always exciting to see them in a blue Cubs uniform in the Arizona sunlight.

The Weekly: Keith Law, MLB Pipeline, and NRI Lists Highlight the Week

By Todd Johnson

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

It was a pretty exciting week as far as lists go. On Monday, Keith Law released his top 100 prospect list. Two Cub prospects, Aramis Ademan and Adbert Alzolay, found their names in the second half of the list. In addition, Jose Albertos later made Law’s “Just Missed List” of 10 prospects outside the top 100. That is a great sign heading into the season for Jose and the Cubs. On Friday, Law ranked the Cubs very low in his annual farm system rankings (subscription required). No shocker there.

Over the past two weeks, MLB Pipeline listed their top 10 prospects at each position in the minors. Catcher Victor Caratini was the only Cub prospect to make any position list and he came in at number 10.

And then last night, MLB Pipeline released their top 100 prospects. I did not expect to see any Cubs make the list as Jim Callis spoke previously that it would be very hard to get a Cub on there. And no Cub made it.

Starting in about a week, MLB Pipeline will be putting out their top 30 prospects for each MLB team. Alzolay looks to be their number one prospect on that list for the Cubs.

Spring Training Invitees

With just two weeks until the beginning of Spring Training, the Cubs began assembling the camp roster this week. In addition to minor league players on the 40 man like Mark Zagunis, Adbert Alzolay, and Duane Underwood, the Cubs invited 19 other non-rostered players to come to camp. They include:

Pitchers: Anthony Bass, Craig Brooks, David Garner, Justin Hancock, Thomas Hatch, Williams Perez, Alberto Baldonado, Daniel Camarena, and Kyle Ryan.

Infielders: Ryan Court, Mike Freeman, Jason Vosler, and Chesny Young.

Outfielders: Jacob Hannemann and Bijan Rademacher.

Catchers: Taylor Davis, Chris Gimenez, Ian Rice, and Ali Solis.

A few names stick out to me in Hatch, Rice, Garner, and Brooks. I am not surprised to see Rice, Garner, and Brooks get invites because they have already played at AA. As for Hatch, I’m gonna look forward to seeing what he can do as he has yet to play at Tennessee. This might be a little crumb for him. I can’t wait to see how Rice does in that setting along with Garner  and Brooks, both who throw in the mid to upper 90s.

Additionally, a few names that were omitted also stand out to me.  Jake Stinnett, Yasiel Balaguert, Charcer Burks, and the newly signed Wynton Bernard did not receive the special invitation. In most years, the NRI is usually just a formality as the Cubs tend to use players from across the system in games. It’s going to be true again this year. Burks should get some playing time and Stinnett will likely pitch for an inning or two just to see how they match up against MLB talent. That might be good for both of their confidence levels.

Coming Up Next Week 

On Tuesday, I have an article coming out for BP Wrigleyville where I talk about 10 things to think about regarding the 2018 draft. On Wednesday, 2017 first-round draft pick Alex Lange gets the “Leveling Up” treatment. The “Position Break Down” series ended last Friday with relievers. So, now I have to come up with some new things to do until Spring Training. One of them involves the year 2021. I may just come right out with one post about that year and what the end of that season means. 

Baseball Card of the Week