Austin Filiere

Cubs Breakout Players of the Second Half Get It Done Down the Stretch

Posted on Updated on

By Todd Johnson

While the first half breakout list tends to be players from South Bend and Myrtle Beach, the second half list is usually players from Mesa, Eugene, and maybe South Bend or Beach. There were a few prospects who had good seasons that we did see coming like Miguel Amaya, Aramis Ademan, and Jose Albertos. There were several players who put together good stretches together during the second half. Altogether, it was difficult picking out the winners.

Breakout Hitter of the Second Half

This was a tough call. Austin Upshaw was a player that I really liked from South Bend who hit almost .290 each month after being drafted this summer. Austin Filiere of Eugene hit .287 in the fourth spot with over a .400 OBP hitting cleanup along with five home runs. Andruw Monasterio came close to the definition of a breakout hitter along with Luis Ayala of South Bend. Monasterio hit .290+ in August while Ayala got his average up to .366 in July and .293 for the second half.

But if I’m gonna pick just one guy, it has to be Nelson Velasquez of Mesa whom the Cubs drafted in the fifth round this year. In August, he hit almost .300 and clubbed 6 home runs for the Mesa Cubs in the Arizona Rookie League leading them to a second half division title. In the playoffs, he hit 2 more homers and drove in 9. The sad thing about Nelson is we don’t have as many eyes on him after the death of John Arguello. Still, Nelson progressed each month since signing his pro contract. He is just 18 years old and I am really looking forward to him playing next year at Eugene and/or South Bend.   

Breakout Starting Pitcher of the Second Half

This one wasn’t really as tough as the hitter category. It basically came down to two players. Runner-up Jesus Tejada had an outstanding August for the Cubs’ Dominican Summer League 1 team. He threw a no-hitter and struck out 19 batters in consecutive games.

But for me, the biggest surprise was the performance of Duncan Robinson at Myrtle Beach. While Michael Rucker stole the show there in June, Robinson got off to a rough start in his July debut and then seemed to improve at every opportunity throughout the summer. I liked the fact that he kept improving by adding a cutter to his repertoire. Another thing I liked was that Robinson did not seem to tire as the season progressed. He had a 2.37 ERA in 10 second half starts while striking out 37 in 49.1 IP. I am really looking forward to him pitching next year at AA Tennessee.

Breakout Reliever of the Second Half

I think Dakota Mekkes stole the show in the first half. The second half winner is not gonna be that much of a surprise. South Bend reliever Jhon Romero is one who I did not see coming. He throws in the mid 90s with a wicked breaking ball.  Another surprise was Tyler Peyton of South Bend who had a 1.29 ERA just in August. One reliever I did see coming was Pedro Araujo for Myrtle Beach. With an ERA under 2, he basically owned the closer role and the Carolina League in the second half.

But when it comes right down to who was the biggest surprise or break out, it’s Dillon Maples. He progressed through four levels of the system at the age of 25. He has always had wicked stuff from the time he was drafted in 2011 but had injuries and confidence issues along the way. This year, the worm turned for him. With a wicked slider/curve and a fastball that approached 100 miles an hour, he was almost impossible to hit at every level. On September 1, he was called up to Chicago. In his first appearance, he walked one and struck out one.


When it comes to next year, I am not quite sure what to expect when it comes to possible breakout prospects. I am thinking Jonathan Sierra, but he most likely won’t begin play until the second half at Eugene. The same is true for pitcher Jesus Tejada.

More than likely, the first half breakouts for 2018 will come from either South Bend or Myrtle Beach. Hopefully, DJ Wilson, Kevonte Mitchell, or Joe Martarano can put it together for half a season. Or, it could even be one of this year’s draft picks or International players who steal the show – literally – like Fernando Kelli who had 58 SBs in 2017. When it comes to pitching, this year proved that opportunities will present themselves for pitchers to step up and become essential players. You never know who will get the chance.

 

Advertisements

Prospect Profile: Austin Filiere Has the Approach and Power to Succeed

Posted on

By Todd Johnson

As time goes by, I am becoming more and more impressed with recent draft Austin Filiere (pronounced Fill-air). The 8th Round pick out of MIT has mostly been playing third base at short season Eugene since signing his contract. He did get in a few games for Mesa before arriving in the Northwest League. He has shown two strengths in his 45 games, the ability to hit for power and the ability to work an at-bat.

Basic Info
Age – 21
Bats/Throws: R/R
6′ 1″ and 190 lbs.

Strengths
Approach at the plate
Home Run Power
Hitting with 2 outs and men on base

Areas of Concern
Defense
Arm Strength
Strikeout rate
A little pull happy

When Filiere was drafted, more was made of his college affiliation than his abilities. The esteemed Peter Gammons called him a third baseman who could one day be a GM. Still, putting his educational pedigree aside, it became clear that there was something there and it all revolved around Filiere’s ability to hit the long ball.

The model of consistency, Filiere hit 13 HRs each year at MIT. However, it was the summer of 2016 in the Cape Cod League where Filiere impressed the most. In the wooden bat league, Filiere hit 7 HRs in 117 at-bats for Harwich while hitting .248 with a .338 OBP.

Those type of numbers have continued at Eugene. Currently, he is hitting .247 with an outstanding .375 OBP. He has cranked out 5 HRs in 42 games. Eugene is not exactly the most homer friendly place. He’s also driven in 24 runs in 45 games, which isn’t bad at this level,

He has struck out 28.8% of the time, but when you look at that .802 OPS, you tend to lose all thoughts of anything else. 64% of his batted balls are either line drives or fly balls with only 35% being hit on the ground. You have to like that he gets lift on the ball and squares it up as his BABIP is .340. With a wRC+ of 129, he is putting up some good offensive numbers.

One concern I have about his stats this year is that he does not use the whole field. 54% of balls in play go to left, 17% to center and only 28% to right. That can be easily fixed but I don’t know if it needs to at this stage in his career.

Going Forward

So far, there’s a lot to like about Filiere. The power and approach all point in the right direction. While it is still early, I have come away impressed a lot by his approach. In 152 at-bats, he has seen 708 pitches or 4.65 pitches per at-bat. That’s good by major league standards. Another cool set of stats is that he hits better with men on base and has an OBP over .500 in doing so. With bases empty, he’s hitting just .218. He is also hitting .298 with two outs. He is a much different hitter depending on the situation.

For the better part of the summer, he’s been hitting cleanup for the Emeralds with a few chances hitting fifth and sixth, but that’s it. Manager Jesus Feliciano keeps him in the four spot because Filiere has succeeded best there with a .287 average and a .412 OBP in the heart of the lineup.  

He will be at South Bend to begin 2018. The Midwest League will be more conducive to his power stroke once May arrives as April is not exactly the warmest of months in northern Indiana. Next year, I would like to see his K rate go down closer to his amazing 14.9% walk rate.

He is going to be fun to watch.

Cubs 2017 Draft Update: Position Players Proving to Be Very Athletic

Posted on

By Todd Johnson

I think it’s tough for draft picks to come in to an organization in the middle of the year and play well. I also think that you really shouldn’t evaluate the draft pick based on two months after they’ve already played a full season. Many of them have basically been playing since January. At some point they have to get tired regardless of how good they are.

In looking at this year’s draft class, I think there a couple key things to take notice of for next year. One, there is some serious athleticism in the group as a whole. Two, there are some guys who I think can really hit and will prove so next year.

Impressive Starts
Several draft picks came out of the gate pretty hot. Some have cooled off while others have been able to maintain some semblance of success.

Austin Upshaw – He came out of the gate very hot and now has cooled. He is still showing a solid approach but his hits have not been at falling in August like they did in July. He will be fine next year. He should begin the year at Myrtle Beach. They are going to love him there.

Luis Vazquez – Heading into Sunday, he was hitting .316. That is very good for a high school product to do that in rookie league just jumping right in. I still remember thinking how athletic he was in his prospect a video back on draft day. I cannot wait to get Arizona Phil’s take during instructs. He should be at Eugene next year as an 18-year-old kid.

Brandon Hughes – Like Upshaw, Hughes came out of the gate hard and has since slowed down. He bats third or fourth for Eugene and he’s been in the lineup most every day. The first thing you notice about him is his advanced athleticism and build. I see him being at South Bend to begin 2018.

Chris Singleton – A later round pick, the athletic outfielder began at Mesa and has been promoted to Eugene where he slid right into the leadoff spot. I really like what I have heard from the Eugene radio broadcasters, but I have not seen him play on TV yet. I am thinking he will be at South Bend to begin 2018.

Cam Balego – The young infielder has been playing all over the diamond for the rookie league Cubs and has hit almost .400 last month. I have not read much about him and I think I might not until fall instructs.

Ramsey Romano – He just got promoted to Eugene where he went two for five in his second game with two RBI. He can play all over the infield and I think this utility player will probably be at South Bend to begin 2018.

Austin Filiere – His average has been up-and-down but he has definitely shown some power in his bat. In the field, he gets by as a third baseman. His arm is average but that can be improved on. He will be at South Bend to start 2018.

Have some work to do…

Nelson Velazquez – He has flashed some serious athleticism and power in Mesa. However, he has not shown the ability to hit for average so far in rookie league and he strikes out a lot. Then again, he is still very young. He is one player who is going to improve dramatically with instruction this fall and in spring training. I think once he gets in the routine of doing things every day, we might see his power be a daily thing.

Chris Carrier – He has not had a good start to his career at both Mesa and Eugene where he is striking out about 75% of the time. More than likely, if he has a good spring training next year, he should be in South Bend.

Jared Young – I really like his approach at the plate and announcer Pat Zajak concurs. In other words, the BABIP Gods have not been kind to him in Eugene. I see him beginning the year in South Bend in 2018. He’s a pretty good sized second baseman.

I don’t know if any of these position players will show up on any prospect list in the next year, but that is not going to stop them from succeeding. I would not be surprised to see Velazquez and Vazquez make a list in 2019. It is rare for the Cubs to select a HS position player in the Theo era. I can only think of a few the Cubs have signed – Kevonte Mitchell and DJ Wilson who are both in low A this year, Tyler Alamo at Myrtle Beach, and Charcer Burks at Tennessee. It takes a few years to get going.

The Cubs’ 2017 Draft: One Month Later – 9 Out of 29 Are in Action

Posted on

By Todd Johnson

Last week’s draft signing deadline was a close cut for three prospects.  Alex Lange, Jeremiah Estrada, and Nelson Velazquez were all able to sign contracts with the Cubs. That brought the total number of draft picks signed to 29, a high for the Theo era.

Nine of those 29 picks are playing in South Bend, Eugene, and Mesa. The other 20, 16 at which are pitchers, have not begun their Cubs careers. Here some initial impressions about who is doing what and where.

At South Bend
Austin Upshaw – I really like this kid. He has a smooth left-handed stroke and some power. He can play either second base or first base.  He is hitting over .400 after a couple of weeks and has been put in the middle of the lineup.

At Eugene
Brian Glowicki – In 2 relief appearances, he’s given up one earned run and struck out three. In the second appearance on Sunday, he looked pretty good throwing in the low 90s.

Jake Steffens – He is a big boy and throws on a steep downhill plane. He’s not going to strike out a lot of hitters, but he will get a lot of ground balls.

Casey Ryan – He is a huge presence that on the mound. He’s made 2 appearances for Eugene and nothing has really happened other than a lot of ground balls. He’s got some nice arm side run that goes in on the hands of right-handed hitters.

Austin Filiere – In just 8 games he’s shown the ability to hit for power to all fields. He came on strong at first and is having a little slump in the last couple of games.

Jared Young – The first thing you notice is that he is a 6’2” second baseman. He has shown a good approach at the plate from the left side in just a few games. I am very impressed with how he carries himself when he’s looking for a pitch to hit.

Brandon Hughes – He provided all the offense on Sunday, including a home run. I think the Cubs are going to try and tinker with his swing a little bit to create more lift. At Michigan State, he relied on speed to get on base. He has only played in a couple of games so far with excellent results. Love the bat drop.

At Mesa
Cam Balego – He currently leads the team in hitting and has only been there a couple of weeks. He’s just played second base.

Chris Carrier – He started his first game on Monday night so it’s a little early to tell. He has good size and speed and we will know more when he gets to Eugene.

20 Others
I expect most of these players to be rostered by the end of next week with the majority of them in Mesa and Eugene, and a few might matriculate their way to South Bend. I would not be surprised to see some of the starting pitchers shut down for the year based upon how many pitches they have already thrown in college this spring.  

Pitchers
Brendon Little, Alex Lange, Cory Abbott, Keegan Thompson, Erich Uelmen, Jeremiah Estrada, Ricky Tyler Thomas, Rollie Lacy, Ben Hecht, Peyton Remy, Brendan  King, Sean Barry, Mitch Stophel, Brady Miller, Braxton Light, and Jeff Passantino.

There is a lot up in the air with this group of arms. I think Little might see some action in the pen but start next year. I doubt if Lange pitches this year after throwing over 120 innings at LSU. I think it could take a while to shake these roles out. You would think that Abbott, Thompson, Uelmen, and Estrada are destined to be starters. 

Position Players
Nelson Velazquez, Luis Vazquez, Chris Singleton, and Ramsey Romano

I’m looking forward to seeing how Velasquez and Vazquez do in rookie ball. The Cubs have not selected a lot of high school position players the past few years so they are the exception rather than the mainstream type of pick. As for Singleton, his mother was killed in the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting for around 2015.

Hopefully, I can see some of the newest Cubs when South Bend travels to Beloit in 10 days.

Cubs Have More Prospects to Breakout in the Second Half

Posted on

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.

Looking at the Cubs Draft a Few Days Later: Development Will Be the Key

Posted on

By Todd Johnson

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Now that there is some distance between me searching for basic information on draft picks the day of the draft and finding out detailed information, I am beginning to like, for the most part, what the Cubs did on draft day. Overall, it was a good draft haul that is built on ascending players, some established arms, and a couple of high risk players.

Here is who I like best from the three days and a brief statement why I like them.

Brendon Little – P – Manatee – 97 from the left. Any questions?

Image may contain: one or more people and textAlex Lange – P – LSU – I think the Cubs got a steal when he dropped to them. He is one of the top college arms who with a little pro coaching could really take off. He already has a plus curve.

Keegan Thompson – SP – Auburn – Experience, Experience, Experience

Nelson Velazquez – OF – Puerto Rico – He has tools that could develop into a top flight outfielder with power and speed

Austin Filiere – 3B – MIT – Track record of power and he went to MIT

Chris Carrier – OF – Memphis – Sculpted body who might have lurking power in his body somewhere waiting for the Cubs coaches to draw it out.

Brian Glowicki – RP – Minnesota – Experience closing in a power conference

Luis Vazquez – SS – Puerto Rico – Like Velazquez, he’s young, moldable, and has a lot of raw tools.

Jared Young – 2B – Old Dominion – He comes from a good baseball school. The more I read, the more I like about him.

Image may contain: 1 person, textBrandon Hughes – OF- Michigan State – The Cubs can take his swing and adjust it. He hit for average and he has the body to hit for power and natural speed.

Casey Ryan – RP – Hawaii – He’s a big man with a power arm at the back of the pen.

Brendan King – SP – Holy Cross – Those Ivy League guys seem to do well for the Cubs.

Darius Vines – SP – Oxnard – He’s a toolsy player but the Cubs like his pitching more than his hitting. Hopefully the Cubs can sign him.

I am sure there will be some prospects who surprise everyone, too. The Cubs scouts have shown that they can find some gems in later rounds.

Now comes the hard part – signing them. The Cubs should be able to sign between 25-28 out of the 41 picks from my calculations. You need to be following @Savermetrics on Twitter, he has a pretty good collection of tweets, hometown articles, and quotes about what the players’ intentions are.

Here is what I think will happen between now and the final day to sign on July 15 (I have also heard July 7).

Definitely Signing
Brendon Little, Alex Lange, Cory Abbott,  Keegan Thompson, Erich Uelmen, Nelson Velazquez, Ricky Tyler Thomas, Austin Filiere, Chris Carrier, Brian Glowicki, Rollie Lacy, Austin Upshaw, Jared Young, Brandon Hughes,  Casey Ryan, Chris Singleton, Brendan KIng, Sean Barry, Brady Miller, Mitch Stophel, Jacob Steffens, Ramsay Romano, Cam Balego, and Jeffrey Passantino

Pretty Sure
Luis Vazquez and Peyton Remy

50/50
Ben Hecht and Braxton Light,

Unsure
Jeremy Estrada, Skyler Messinger, Darius Vines, and Kier Meredith

No Chance
Bryce Bonin, Hunter Ruth, Joe Donavan, Ben Ramirez, Tanner Allen, Alex Cornwell, Russell Smith, Cooper Coldiron

I will keep you posted on who signs and when they debut. Eugene should get the most players while South Bend will get a few. It is rare that draft pick goes to Myrtle Beach, but it does happen occasionally the first year. The last time it happened was Dave Berg.

Day 2: Cubs Load Up on Arms Early, Position Players Later

Posted on Updated on

By Todd Johnson

It was an interesting day as the Cubs selected 8 more players to join the organization. The day started off with a rapid selection of starting pitchers including a promising Keegan Thompson in the third round. As the day wore on, the Cubs drafted 5 pitchers and 3 position players.

I like what the Cubs collected. They took some chances by selecting OF Nelson Velazquez who is an extremely raw player from Puerto Rico. He could be a star or a bust. Uelmen might be a sneaky sign. Cal Poly -SLO is not a magnet for players, but the Cubs got Casey Bloomquist from there two years ago.

I think almost all of today’s picks will sign. 6th round pick Jeremiah Estrada might go to UCLA rather than play for the Cubs.

I will be back tomorrow at 11 with a live blog of day 3. There will be no preview in the morning.

Here are some brief notes and video about each player taken by the Cubs today.

Round 3

No automatic alt text available.

Keegan Thompson – SP – Auburn
6’2″ and 210 lbs.
90-93 FB
Pitchability is a major plus
22-years-old

Came back with a very good season after having TJS. His stuff is still coming back. He appeared in 15 games as a starter with a 2.41 ERA. He struck out 75 in 93.1 IP while walking only 17. MLB.com said this of his stuff:

I like that he has overcome adversity with TJS and now focuses on getting batters out versus blowing everyone away. His CB is a plus pitch. Like Hatch, and likely Lange, he may be move a bit faster, or at the least, start higher at Myrtle Beach next year.

He was also a former teammate of Trevor Clifton and Tyler Alamo on USA Baseball.

Round 4

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, playing a sport

Erich Uelmen – SP – Cal Poly SLO
6’3″ and 195 lbs.
Big Frame
21-years-old
Good sinker
90-94
Improving rapidly from year-to-year
Same school as Casey Bloomquist

He threw 98.1 innings this year. As a result, I doubt if he sees significant action this year. His stats are outstanding for his junior year. He struck out 100 with a 2.93 ERA. He only walked 23. Baseball America spoke highly of him (BA #273). He comes across as an ascending player.

Round 5
Image may contain: one or more people and text

Nelson Velazquez – OF – Puerto Rico
6’1″ and 200
Physical Specimen
Great Speed
Raw Tools

Originally came to the US and went back. He is very much unrefined. I did find an article in Spanish where he crushed two home runs. He was the third ranked position player from Puerto Rico behind Heliot Ramos and Ricardo de la Torre (who went one pick behind in the 6th). Sounds like he is coming into his own.

He is likely destined for rookie ball in Mesa.

Round 6

Image may contain: one or more people

Jeremiah Estrada – P – Palm Desert HS
6’1″ and 185 lbs.
Throws Right
Bats Switch
Wiry
More potential
UCLA commitment
Has some room to fill in on his frame

In 2016, he was one of the top pitchers on the summer All-Star circuit. In his senior season, his stuff was not as good. However, MLB.com ranked him at #93 in their Top 200. They said of the young man:

It looks like he could be a hard sign.

Round 7
No automatic alt text available.

Ricky Tyler Thomas – P – Fresno State
I profiled him early in the season when he was going great.

I think he might get some rest in this summer. Then again, I think he profiles as a reliever. So, we could see him in Eugene out of the pen.

Round 8

No automatic alt text available.

Austin Filiere – 3B – MIT
6’1″ 185 lbs.
3B/SS
Has power
Hit 13 HRs every year
MIT has a baseball team? Played well for Harwich in the Cape Cod League and played outfield there. He hit 7 HRs with 27 RBI in just over 30 games in 2016.

Per Brad (@ballwok), Peter Gammons did a nice write-up on him.

He should be in Eugene after he signs.

Round 9

No automatic alt text available.

Chris Carrier – OF – Memphis
Good size at 6’2″ 204
Sculpted frame. still room for more.

He hit .330 with 16 HRs with 50 RBI and an OBP of .438 in his senior season. Like Filiere, Carrier will head to Eugene for most of the summer.

Round 10

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports and baseball

Brian Glowicki – RP – Minnesota
5’11” and 190
Throws Right
From Downers Grove
Closer
For his senior year, he recorded 16 saves with a 2.20 ERA. He struck out 39 in 32.2 IP. Opponents hit just .216 against him. A huge Red Sox growing up, Glowicki will have some adjusting to do.

Say hello to Eugene. He should love it there in the summer.