by Todd Johnson
The Mesa Cubs won the Arizona Rookie League Championship last night with an awesome display of hitting! The first four hitters (Jose Gutierrez, Carlos Sepulveda, Jonathan Sierra, and Nelson Velazquez) in the lineup each drove in two runs as the Cubs scored runs in bunches to defeat the Giants 13-3 and win the series two games to one. Delvin Zinn scored three times and Luis Vazquez scored twice while going 4 for 5. Jeffrey Passantino, Eugenio Palma, and Ivan Medina held the Giants scoreless over the last five innings to secure the win! This is the Cubs’ first rookie league title since 2002.
Cubs win first AZL title since 2002. Final 13-3 pic.twitter.com/6pYkQhsE5W
— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) September 8, 2017
Meanwhile in Hillsboro…
The Emeralds got on the board early against the Hops in game two of their series thanks in part to a Brandon Hughes home run to take a 3-0 lead. The Hops came right back to tie at three apiece. Each team would tack on another run with the Hops tying it in the bottom of the eighth. In the top of the ninth, the Ems blew it open by scoring six runs to win 10-4. Chris Singleton had a bases clearing double that put the game out of reach. The Emeralds will now face Vancouver in the championship. No dates have been announced as of yet.
In the Carolina League
Things did not go well for Myrtle Beach in their quest to go back-to-back-to-back. The Wood Ducks scored three runs on 5 hits in the fourth to take a 4-0 lead and held on to defeat the Pelicans 4-1. The Pelicans only managed four hits. The Pelicans and Wood Ducks will play two tonight in order to avoid Hurricane Irma in the best of five series.
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.
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.
By Todd Johnson
This was the month of the hitters. It was also month that was hard to narrow down to just nine position players. In the past, I have sometimes had extra hitters at a position and that’s what I went to this month.
On the other hand, it was a decent month for starting pitchers in the system. Big innings, slumps, and warmer air made the ball fly a bit more. However, 7 starters found their way onto the team.
As for relievers, there was bonanza of relievers in the middle of July. At least 15 Cubs prospects had ERAs ranging from 0.00 to 1.50. By the end of the month, that was down to 7.
A lot of tough decisions had to be made including whether to add some players from the Arizona Rookie League Mesa Cubs and a couple of hot hitters from the Cubs DSL 1 team. I decided against it this month as there were so many excellent performances at the upper levels.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I 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.
By Todd Johnson
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?
Alex 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.
Brandon 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).
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
Luis Vazquez and Peyton Remy
Ben Hecht and Braxton Light,
Jeremy Estrada, Skyler Messinger, Darius Vines, and Kier Meredith
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.
By Todd Johnson
30 picks in a little over six hours is a bit much to cover. It seemed as soon as I started learning about one selection, there was another one stacked. At pick 29, the Internet went down (thanks Mediacom!). I kept up on my phone as best I could until it was done. And guess what? As soon as the Cubs made the final selection, the Internet popped back on. Go figure.
As for the Cubs Picks…
They loaded up on pitching with 17 picks. Most of them are relievers, but a few were starters. The Cubs also popped a few HS prep arms in the 30s, although those players are unlikely to sign. With 13 position players today, college players were the order of the day. By the early 30s, the Cubs started picking prep players as backups in case someone in the top 10 does not sign, which is clearly a possibility.
What Picks Did I Like Most Today?
14. Luis Vazquez, a high school SS from Puerto Rico, is definitely intriguing. He has a big frame to grow into and his video, although staged, shows him to be a very athletic young man.
27. Darius Vines is a two sport athlete who I think comes across as maybe the best our athlete the Cubs picked this year.
24. Andrew Karp – The Cubs might be not be able to sign him. But if they do, they get a player on the rise who is only 20 with 2 years of big time college experience.
I also think the college picks of Brandon Hughes, Jared Young, and Ramsey Romano ar excellent. They all could be quality players in the low minors the next year or two.
Here’s today’s brief synopsis of each pick along with their draft card.
Rollie Lacy – RHP – Creighton
6’3″ 195 – Friday night starter
2.54 ERA, 88.2 IP, 83 Ks, 18 BBs
Ben Hecht – P – Wichita State
6’3″ 185 – Closer/Reliever
Struggled this year. 41 Ks in 30.1 IP
Austin Upshaw – IF – Kennesaw State
He hit 8 HRs in 200 ABs this year. He batted .327 and slugged .516. He is a draft eligible sophomore. He could go back to school.
Luis Vazquez – SS – Alberto Melendez Torres School, Puerto Rico
He was a challenger to find info quickly on. However, I did find this video. He looks pretty lean and has a lot of physical projection left.
Jared Young – 2B – Old Dominion
Third Team All-American this year
He hit .347 with 7 HRs and 34 RBIs as a Junior. His OBP looks good at .441.
Brandon Hughes – CF – Michigan State
He has a nice frame. Stole 30 bases this year and was named 2nd Team All-Big Ten. He hit .330 with 5 HRs in 200 ABs.
Peyton Remy – RHP – Central Arizona College
He threw 59.1 innings striking out 58. He’s just 19.
Casey Ryan – RHP – Hawaii
He was the closer for Hawaii. He threw in 23.1 IP and K’d 20 while putting up a 1.52 ERA. Opponents only hit .188 against him. I like the frame.
Chris Singleton – OF – Charleston Southern
Bats and Throws Right
He hit .278 as a junior with 18 stolen bases.
Brendan King – P – Holy Cross
Four pitch mix
He threw 80.2 IP with 60.2 and a 4.35 ERA. As a junior, he had a 2.84 ERA with 74 Ks in 82.1 IP.
FB: 90-92, CB: 73-76, CUT: 86, CH: 84-85
Sean Barry – RHP – San Diego
He did start twice this year but mostly came out of the pen. He struck out 54 in 42.2 IP.
Skyler Messinger – SS – Niwot HS, Colorado
MLB.com listed him at 6’3″ 295 pounds. I know it’s a typo, but I found it funny.
Bats and Throws Right
Brady Miller – RHP – Western Oregon
Struck 57 in 54 IP. He had an ERA of 3.50 in 10 starts.
Braxton Light – RHP – Wallace State
He struck out 50 in 38.2 in relief. He had a 1.86 ERA and 9 saves.
Mitch Stophel – RHP -King University
45 Ks in 38 IP. He had a 4.74 ERA.
Bryce Bonnin – RHP – Barbers Hill HS, Texas
6’0″ 180 lbs.
Committed to Arkansas
According to Baseball America, they like ehim better as a pitcher.
MLB.com has him at #74 in their top 200. He could be a tough sign, MLB.com said this of the young SS/P:
Entering his high school senior season, there was some question as to whether Bonnin was better as a position player or a pitcher. Arkansas lists him as a shortstop among its incoming recruits, and he does display arm strength, athleticism and offensive potential. But he might not make it to the Razorbacks because he came out firing fastballs up to 95 early in the year and could go in the top three rounds as a pitcher.
Bonnin’s heater settled at 90-92 mph at times later in the spring, though he should have consistent plus velocity once he focuses on pitching and gets a little stronger. His slider has similar upside, usually arriving in the low 80s with sharp, late action and looking like a wipeout pitch when he runs it into the upper 80s. He rarely throws a changeup because he hasn’t needed it against high school competition.
Bonnin throws across his body and with effort and a long arm. He has no problems finding the strike zone, but his mechanics and relatively small stature lead some scouts to project him as a reliever. Others think his athleticism gives him a chance to refine his delivery and make it as a starter.
Darius Vines – RHP – Oxnard
2 Sport Athlete
He struck out 95 in 83.2 IP. He had a 1.94 ERA and is only 19. He might be my favorite pick today.
Kier Meredith – OF – Robert B Glenn HS, North Carolina
Speed to burn
Ranked 215 on BA’s top 500
Bats and throws Left
Committed to Clemson
Jacob Steffens – RHP – Santa Clara
Big Body and Frame
Missed most of 2 years
Pitched 102.2 innings this year and struck out 101.
Cam Balego – IF – Mercyhurst
He resembles a few picks the Cubs have taken today. He’s an infielder with the potential for power.
Ramsay Romano -IF – Cal State Long Beach
He will be playing in the College World Series and Cub fans should be able get a good look at him. He led the team in hitting this year at .313.
Hunter Ruth – RHP – Bucholz HS, Texas
He is ranked number 151 on MLB’s top 20. He is going to be a tough sign. MLB Pipeline said the following about the big high school right-hander:
There’s a ton of arm strength, with Ruth getting the heater up to 95-96 mph at times. He’ll often live off of his fastball, but he’ll show a really good breaking ball and a feel for a changeup as well. There is some effort in his delivery, which is a bit unorthodox. That arm action along with elbow injury, does leave some wondering if he’s more of a reliever in the future. It’s hard to figure out where good talent that has gone down with TJ surgery in high school should go in the Draft. Based on ability, Ruth definitely belongs in the top five rounds, with some scouts thinking he could have snuck into the conversation of high-upside high school players being discussed at the back end of the first round. If a team doesn’t want to sign and rehab him, Ruth can stay home and head to Florida to get healthy there.
Joe Donovan – Catcher – Westmont HS
I was a little surprised the Cubs went this long before taking a catcher.
Andrew Karp – RHP – Florida State
The Cubs are taking a gamble here as Karp will more than likely go back to school as a draft eligible sophomore. I like this pick as he is an ascending player.
MLB.com said the following:
Karp pitched midweek for Florida State this season as a redshirt sophomore. Injuries limited him a bit early, but he eventually got his fastball up to 94 mph, and he mixes in three different off-speed pitches. Karp put himself on the map with an 11-strikeout performance against No.5 Florida in March, but his late-season struggles muddle his Draft standing a bit.
Ben Ramirez – SS – Eastlake High School
He is ranked number 199 on MLB.com stop 200. here is what they had to say about him:
Chances of signing him up are slim.
Ramirez has considerable upside and potential at the plate that teams might be interested in adding to their system. When he’s right, he’s nice and short to the ball, allowing him to drive from the left side of the plate. He tends to fiddle with his stance and listen to too many people, with his swing lengthening as a result. He does have power potential, but he’ll need to find a more consistent swing path and use his lower half better […] Signability might be an issue for Ramirez, who has a commitment to attend Southern Cal should the Draft not go his way. But a team willing to roll the dice early enough and be patient with his development could get a solid all-around third baseman when all is said and done.
Tanner Allen – CF – Prep School
MLB.com said the following:
A former LSU commit who is now set to attend Mississippi State, Allen was a 4A First Team All-State performer in Alabama back in 2015. The second baseman followed up his sensational 2015 season by helping lead his high school team to a state championship last year. He was then selected as a member of the 40-man roster for the U18 National Team as an outfielder. In addition to his baseball accolades and skills on the diamond, Allen started at quarterback for the UMS-Wright football team for three straight seasons. Allen has drawn comparisons to Keith Lockhart, who played in the Majors for a decade and was known for his consistent bat and infield play. While he could use more time to develop in college, Allen has adequate arm strength and a smooth, simple approach at the plate, often resulting in line drives and quick, hard contact. Allen attended MLB’s Prospect Development Pipeline premier event in Atlanta this January.
Alex Cornwell – LHP – Maranatha HS
Russell Smith – LHP – Midlithian HS
At 6’9″ tall, there’s a lot to work with.
Cooper Coldiron – IF – Houston
Jeffrey Passantino – RHP – Lipscomb
I profiled him back in the winter