Javier Assad

The Weekly – Tyler Alamo, Baseball America Lists, and a Busy Week Ahead

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Sometimes, the games don’t seem so important.

Cubs Prospect Tyler Alamo was one of those in attendance last week at the shooting in Las Vegas. Tim Huwe (@tim815) first reported on this a couple of days ago. Included in Tim’s article was a link to an interview where Alamo recounts the harrowing events of that night including the loss of his friends.

MiLB News
Felix Pena was DFA’d this week to make room for pitcher Luke Farrell, son of Red Sox Manager John Farrell and brother of South Bend Hitting Coach Jeremy Farrell. Farrell appeared in nine games for the Reds last summer and had a 2.61 ERA in 10.1 IP, all in relief.

At fall instructs, the Cubs prospects are playing sim games but with pitching machines. Although, Koji Uehara, on a rehab assignment, did face a few batters.

The Arizona Fall League begins play on Tuesday. The Mesa Solar Sox have 7 Cubs on the roster: Relievers Pedro Araujo and Jake Stinnett, starter Alec Mills, catcher Ian Rice, infielders David Bote and Jason Vosler, and outfielder Charcer Burks. Their schedule goes through mid-November. I will try and keep up with their performances every Sunday.

Baseball America Offseason Prospect Lists

Baseball America has been publishing their top 20 prospects in each minor league the past couple of weeks. In the first week, Victor Caratini made it in the Pacific Coast League. And last week, Adbert Alzolay made it for the Carolina League. This week saw a large number of prospects make it for the Midwest League and the Northwest League. The problem was not all the prospects are still with the franchise. In the Midwest League, Isaac Paredes came in at number nine and Dylan Cease at number 11. No current South Bend Cub made the list.

Card made from a photo by Jared Ravich
For the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs hit the motherlode. Jose Albertos was ranked number four, Aramis Ademan came in at number eight, and Miguel Amaya was number 16. None of those three selections were surprising. However, at number nine, pitcher Javier Assad was a stunning selection as BA’s Michael Lananna praised Assad’s improving arsenal.

On Thursday, the Arizona League post was published. It’s not surprising that Nelson Velasquez was on the list. However, he was ranked at number 20. He is still a bit raw, but he still does have a lot of upside and room for improvement in his game.

The DSL list should be published this next week. It will be interesting to see if any young Cubs make it.

I think what the six lists do show is that the Cubs are not devoid of talent. There may not be a lot of prospects at the top of each league, but the Cubs do have several players who could be on their way up the lists.

Top 20 Chat Post

There was an interesting question in the Northwest League chat that accompanied the post. A Cub fan from Pasadena California asked about whether the Cubs should be concerned about Brendon Little’s performance in the Northwest League. Here is the response to that question:

Michael Lananna: Mildly concerned, but  don’t press the panic button yet. He’s the same guy. His control was erratic throughout his college career, and that’s still going to remain his biggest hurdle to the next level. This summer was just a small snapshot of that, and I’m sure the Cubs will work with him on his strike throwing going forward. He’s still an exciting left handed arm with power stuff.

Coming Up This Week at Cubs Central

I have three posts scheduled to be published in between playoff recaps over the next five days. The Cards of the Year post should be out Monday. Later in the week, Shohei Otani and his impending free agency gets previewed. Part 2 of the State of the Cubs MiLB System will hit the Internet as well at some point in the next five days.

A Mock Draft Already?
Baseball America also posted their first mock draft for 2018. I was surprised to see that they had the Cubs selecting wiry high school pitcher Cole Wilcox at 24 considering that OF Travis Swaggerty from South Alabama was taken at number 25, I would’ve preferred the Cubs have gone with the college outfielder rather than the high school pitcher. Then again, it was only a mock draft but it is interesting to see where players are falling now and then compare that to a few months from now.

 

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Prospect Profile: Javier Assad Improving in Increments

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By Todd Johnson

One of the cool things about the Cubs’ system is that you can watch players develop in increments. There’s so much press, coverage, and statistical information, it’s hard for a prospect go unnoticed at any stage. Last year (2016) at Mesa, an 18 and then a 19-year-old Javier Assad sort of became the de facto ace of the young rookie league squad. His fastball, at that time, sat around 88 to 91 according to John Arguello.

In 2017, Assad continued his development at short season Eugene. Now 19/20, his fastball crept up a little bit more as the year wore on. It was not uncommon for him to top out at 94/95 in a game. Still, he sat most of the time in the low 90s often working easily up to 93..

What I took away from watching him in 2017 was that he’s got a little “dog in the fight.” He’s competitive and he attacks the zone. As the year progressed, he tended to quicken his pace, à la Adbert Alzolay, as he didn’t waste a lot of time between pitches. I think in 2018, we are going to start to see a much more fully developed pitcher.

Basic Info
6’1”, 200 lbs.
Throws Right
Signed as an International Free Agent in 2015
From Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Statistics can sometimes be irrelevant for a lot of minor-league players. There are instances where certain statistics can point out a weakness or a strength. I think a lot of time, people get hung up on just looking at one or two stats for the Cubs’ minor league pitchers, I tend not to get too hung up on either the velocity readings or ERA. Those are nice, but I think other statistics hint to where a prospect is at a certain point in their development. I like to look at statistics and how they compare in smaller splits as adjustments are continually made.

For example, Assad’s monthly ERAs in 2017 went from 2.45 in 3 June starts to 5.00 in 5 July starts and back down to 3.72 in 4 August starts. However, when you start digging deeper, his batting average against went down each month despite a roller coaster ERA. All the while, his K and BB rates remained consistent.

Pitching in Eugene was a bit treacherous this year and even more so when Aramis Ademan left to go to South Bend. It was not the best defensive unit on the face of the Earth. As a result, I don’t think it’s fair to evaluate Assad’s 2017 solely on his ERA or WHIPs which did go down each month. Instead, I think FIP and xFIP are likely more representative of his current development. They stood at 3.03 and 3.27 respectively. Both of those are very respectable.

When I saw Assad pitch several times in August, I was impressed by how much he had changed. Aside from quickening his pace, his curve had taken on a sharper bite. His fastball was not as wild and tailing up and away as it had earlier in the year. Even though he is 6’1” and 200 pounds, he is far from physically sculpted. I think as time goes on, his musculature could tighten up and he could gain a couple more ticks on his fastball.

Card made from a photo by Jared Ravich

As I start thinking about his future, I also noticed a set of stats that show some promise for the future. In 2016, 39.3% batted balls were pulled. In 2017, that percentage of balls was close at 39.1%. The biggest change occurred in opposite field hits increased by 5%. That tells me that hitters are not getting around him as much. It’s a stat and trend to watch for 2018 along with his BB rate.

Going Forward
The hardest thing for Assad to do in 2018 will be to earn a starting spot in South Bend. Alex Lange, Brendon Little, and Jose Albertos are most likely to be assigned there along with Bailey Clark and Jesus Camargo. Two 2017 draft picks, Keegan Thompson and Cory Abbott, will also be there to make the competition fierce in spring training. Assad is going to have his work cut out for him.

Under-Reported Stories from the 2017 Cubs MiLB Season

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By Todd Johnson

 

Looking back at the coverage by Cubs Central this year, I don’t think I have written enough about several prospects. They include hitters Ian Rice, Luis Ayala, and Andruw Monasterio. Eddy Martinez hit almost .280 in the second half for Myrtle Beach and I haven’t written a peep about it. Add in pitcher Tyler Peyton who was one of the best pitchers in August for South Bend. Pitcher Jesus Camargo of Eugene, along with his 2.36 summer ERA and changeup, was overshadowed by top draft picks Brendon Little, Alex Lange, and Cory Abbott, not to mention Jose Albertos. Luis Aquino had an ERA of under 1 at one point for Eugene and I didn’t talk about him much even though he was a Northwest League All-Star.

When it comes to 2018, I am sure there will be several new names to talk about next summer. Here are a few names who I think will get more press next season and that I should have covered more this year.

1. Nelson Velasquez
Any Cubs prospect who can hit home runs at a regular rate is going to draw attention. He is just 18-years-old and just completed rookie ball. He is cranking a HR every 12.2 at-bats. After August 1, he hit 8 HRs and drove in 25, 9 of those in 5 playoff games. He was named the Cubs August Minor League Player of the Month. I can’t wait to see him next year in Eugene.

Card made from a photo by Jared Ravitch

2. Javier Assad
He has shown the proclivity to miss bats as an alarming rate. He has also shown the ability to be inconsistent. I think making 25 to 30 starts at South Bend could lead to more consistent efforts on the mound. I just finished a profile on him yesterday that will come out next month. He has some interesting stats including how opponents are hitting him. He struck out 72  in 66 innings at Eugene this year.

3. Jesus Tejada
The 20-year-old was the hottest pitcher in the Cubs’ system in August. He threw a no-hitter and struck out batters at an alarming rate in the Dominican Summer League. Opponents only hit .141 against him in August when he seemed to put it all together striking out 26 in 23 innings. I tend to think he will be at Eugene next summer.

4. Brendan King
The kid from Holy Cross may be next year’s sleeper pitcher. Like Duncan Robinson, the Ivy Leaguer’s arm has shown the ability to spin a ball in Mesa this summer. He had a 2.82 ERA in 22.1 IP and struck out an impressive 29 batters while walking only 5. Those are some good numbers.

Card made from a photo by John Arguello

5. Fernando Kelli
So, there’s this guy…an outfielder in the DSL and he stole 58 bases. It’s not like I didn’t mention him because he did make an All-Star Team in July. I just didn’t cover him in depth with a profile. I don’t know that much about him other than his stats page. He just turned 19 and hit .320 with an amazing .437 OBP this summer. Just in July, he had a .477 OBP! There’s not a lot of information on him otherwise.

I am sure there will be other prospects breakout in 2018 who I didn’t foresee. Luis Hidalgo, who spent four seasons in the Dominican Summer League, is one to keep an eye on next year. He arrived in Mesa in August and did not stop hitting (.339) while there. While he doesn’t really have a position, he does have a huge bat. Didier Vargas, Emilio Ferrebus, and Danis Correa are three pitchers to keep an eye on for next year along with 2017 international signing Florencio Serrano. Two young shortstops who could raise some eyebrows next year are international free-agent Luis Verdugo and recent draft pick Luis Vazquez.

You never know who will breakout and when.

It Is Opening Day in Eugene – Let the Title Defense Begin

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By Todd Johnson

The Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs’ short season Class A team, opens up at home tonight to begin defense of its Northwest League title. The roster was released on Tuesday to oohs and ahs throughout the Internet (Well, actually, it was just me and another guy in Louisiana). Still, I find it very exciting as they usually play at 9 Central when most Cub affiliates have just ended their games. They have my sole attention every summer.

This year’s team, for now,  is a mixture of international players and some of last year’s draft picks. Most of the players played in Mesa in Rookie League last year where they made it the AZL playoffs. There are a few players who played in the Dominican Summer League and skipped Mesa this year. There is a lot of talent on this roster. The Emeralds begin their title defense with the following players.

Pitchers: Luis Aquino, Javier Assad, Jesus Camargo, Holden Cammack, Bailey Clark, Enrique de los Rios, Andin Diaz. Elvis Diaz, Hector Alonso Garcia, Yapson Gomez, John Michael Knighton, Mark Malave, Junior Marte, Manuel Rodriguez, Jhon Romero, Andry Rondon, Matt Swarmer

Catchers: Miguel Amaya and Gustavo Polanco

Infield: Aramis Ademan, Jhonny Bethencourt, Joe Martarano, Rafael Narea, Edgar Rondon

Outfield: Zach Davis, Jose A. Gonzalez, Kwang-Min Kwon, and Connor Myers

It is worth noting that short season rosters can contain up to 35 players with 25 active per night. Most of those inactive for a game are pitchers.

Here are a few key players to keep an eye on over the the next 70 games.
1. Bailey Clark – I don’t know how long he will be at this level. He missed spring training finishing up his degree at Duke. He showed up in EXST in May and has been getting ready for the season. To be honest, his upper 90s fastball should be too dominant for this league. I wrote about him last year and I expect to see him in South Bend quickly.

2. Javier Assad – He was the ace of the 2016 Cubs rookie league team that made the playoffs. He struck out 42 in 37.1 IP last year with a 2.87 ERA. John Arguello said that he is more physically mature this year. His unofficial stats from EXST (courtesy of the Cub Reporter) were impressive. He had a 2.55 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in 24.2 IP. He struck out 26 and batters hit only .229 versus him. At the tender age of 19, expect him to be an Em all season.

3. Miguel Amaya – He’s just 18 and he drew rave reviews this spring for his catching abilities and his developing power. Amaya was signed by the Cubs in 2015 as a 16-year-old and he also is still growing. In EXST this year, he unofficially hit .350 with 4 HRs and was on fire as camp ended hitting .531 with a .600 OBP over his last ten games. I am extremely excited to see him play!

4. Aramis Ademan – Aramis is also a member of the 2015 IFA class and he is already considered the top defensive SS in the Cubs system. He will be skipping rookie ball and going right to Eugene. This spring, he proved he his bat is more advanced than previously thought. He hit .270 over 28 games with 1 HR. He’s not going to be a power guy. It is all about defense for him.

5. Joe Martarano – The former Boise State linebacker is now 100% committed to baseball. I like that. I like that he is 6’3” and 235-240 lbs. I like that he can hit for average as well as power. He did play some for the Cubs in the summer after being drafted in 2013. He did not play at all in 2016. He showed no signs of rust in EXST hitting .324 with a .448 OBP. I find that plate discipline to be amazing with how little he’s played after focusing on football for so long. The kid can hit.

6. Rafael Narea – Another IFA, he came on strong this spring. The 19 year-old-shortstop hit .290 and showed a deft bat and plate discipline as he only struck out a 4% rate.

The roster is also notable for the one player not on it. Pitcher, and top young prospect, Jose Albertos is staying behind in Mesa to work on his grip on his curve, which he keeps spiking in the dirt. Eventually, he will make his way to the great northwest.

Last year, over 50+ players flowed through Eugene. Once the draft picks sign, many more players will be coming. Expect to see the college position players arrive in late June. I doubt you will see first rounder Alex Lange as he is in the CWS for the next two weeks. However, top pick Brendon Little should be in the bullpen or making short starts of two innings. It will be exciting to see who all shows up!

Draft Picks Who Should Be in Eugene by July

The list could include OF Chris Carrier, 3B Austin Filiere, P Cory Abbott, P Erich Uelmen, P Ricky Tyler thomas, IF Austin Upshaw, OF Brandon Hughes, 2B Jared Young, P Brandon King, and closer Brian Glowicki. There might even be a few more.

 

A Saturday Six Pack – Things to Look Forward to in June

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By Todd Johnson

The six pack moved to Saturday this week to make room for some end of the month stuff. Now that May is done, it is time to look forward to June. The first half of the minor league season ends in two weeks while the major league season just begins to crank into gear.

Here are 6 things I am going to look forward to in June.

1. Starting Pitching
When I think of the troubles of the Cubs first third of the season, starting pitching stands out to me. Yes, it’s true, the hitting needs to improve, but when you’re giving up 5-6 runs a game, that is hard to overcome. I think handling this issue has to be done in a very deft manner. I say that because you have to balance winning this season and winning beyond this season. I am OK with Lester, Arrieta, and Hendricks. I am not a fan of John Lackey. While Eddie Butler has caught my eye, he is more an answer to the second question than the first. Where does that leave the Cubs? Do they need to go out and get two starters for this season? Do they need to get just one for this season and the postseason? Or, do they just think about acquiring long term starters who they hope will work out for just this year? Hopefully, we will have the answer in less than four weeks.

2. Trades
I have never been one to be big on speculating trades. While I am sure one is coming for a pitcher, I am pretty sure that the Cubs are going to be rely on their own prospects to fill position player roles. But here’s the thing – if Theo and Jed see a player they think can help them win the championship, they are going to go out and get that player regardless of whether he is a pitcher or a position player. Keep that in the back of your mind.

3. Trey Martin/Dylan Cease
I really like Trey Martin. I think he is an underrated prospect, maybe the most underrated in the Cubs system. He is an outstanding defender who covers as much ground as anyone in all of baseball in the outfield. As a hitter, while his growth has been slow, he has improved at every level. He got off to a sizzling start at Tennessee in April before a hamstring injury sidelined him after 8 games. He should be back this week and be a key cog in helping Tennessee get to the first half title. I hope to see Dylan Cease very soon, too. It’s been about 10 days since his ankle injury and I am ready for him to come back and anchor the staff at South Bend as they try to capture a spot in the postseason.

4. Eugene and Mesa
While the Dominican Summer League begins today, Eugene and Mesa are less than two weeks away. I love the late-night action that Eugene provides as usually they’re the only game going past 9 o’clock central. I am also looking forward to watching the Mexican connection of Jose Albertos, Javier Assad, and Jesus Camargo pitching for the Emeralds. In addition, I am excited about seeing Joe Martarano debut as a full-time Cub. And, throw in one of my favorite prospects, Delvin Zinn, who should be ready to go after an injury in extended spring training. Then there’s Miguel Amaya and Aramis Ademan, two 2015 international free agents, who will be making their stateside debuts. It should be an exciting beginning as Eugene tries to capture back-to-back championships.

5. The Draft
There are nine days to go. On Monday I’ll have a post about some risers and fallers. There will be six more names for you to know. I will have wall-to-wall coverage for you each day of the draft. After the draft is complete, I will, with the help of @WesSaver, have when each draftee signs.

6. Cubs Still in Play for IFA Despite Penalties
Ben Badler of Baseball America published an article this week that talked about how the Cubs are in on another top young player from Mexico, pitcher Florencio Serrano. The Cubs can only spend $300,000 max for a signing bonus this year. But because a portion of a bonus for a Mexican player goes to the team, the Cubs can technically spend a little bit more than their limit. A few weeks ago the Cubs were also said to be in the running Luis Verdugo, a young Mexican shortstop.

Check back tomorrow morning for “The Weekly.” I’ll have a recap of  2/3 of the Cubs/Cards series, some news on the DSL, and our players of the week!

The Annual Eugene Emeralds Preview of a Preview

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By Todd Johnson

2016 could not have gone any better for the Eugene Emeralds. Manager Jesus Feliciano led the club to their first Northwest League title in over 30 years. In addition, the Emeralds broadcasted their home games on MiLB.TV which allowed for Cubs fans all over the country to watch.

The Emeralds were led by a devastating starting pitching rotation anchored by Dylan Cease, Manny Rondon, Bailey Clark, Pedro Silverio, and Bryan Hudson. They used team speed and timely hitting along with good defense en route to an amazing 54-22 record.

When it comes to the 2017 Emeralds, today’s preview is actually a preview of a possible preview in June. Once spring training camp breaks the first week of April, extended spring training begins. Over the course of those next 10 weeks, the roster for the Emeralds will begin to take shape. This year, it should be a mixture of players from last year’s Mesa team, last year’s Dominican summer league teams, and position players and relievers from the 2017 MLB draft. The roster is usually pretty fluid because of pitching limits for draft picks who already played a full season of college or high school baseball.

Who Can Emeralds’ Fans Expect to See in 2017?

The two names that come to the forefront the most at are pitcher Jose Albertos and shortstop Isaac Paredes. Both are 18 years old and were signed out of Mexico as international free agents.

Card made from a picture by Bill Mitchell/MiLB

Albertos only pitched for innings in 2016 but throws mid to upper 90s heat and commands his fastball at will. He was shut down for most of the season after straining his forearm in his only start in Rookie League for Mesa. However, the buzz and hype on Albertos is quite large and quite real. He entered most Cubs prospect lists as a top 10 prospect.

As for Isaac Paredes, the young shortstop is well-built and a hitting machine. He hit over .300 in rookie ball at 17-years-old and he got a little glimpse filling in at South Bend for a couple weeks at the end of 2016. He should be in Eugene to start the year where he will play shortstop and maybe see a little third-base.

Both Paredes and Albertos should advance quickly this year. They may only be in Eugene for the first half.

Pitching

Depending on who the Cubs draft, I think we’re going to see a decidedly Latin feel to the Emeralds starting rotation. Javier Assad was the ace of the Mesa staff last year. He comes with a low 90s fastball and is still working on his secondaries. 2016 draftee Matt Swarmer looks to have added some weight this spring and is an interesting pitcher who is very, very raw when it comes to professional skills but seems to be picking up things at a very fast rate.

Two pitchers who also missed all, or most, of 2016 include Jesus Camargo and 2016 draftee Stephen Ridings. In 2015, Camargo was the top starter for the Mesa team and last year Ridings missed all season after being drafted. Camargo has good control while Ridings throws in the mid-90s and has some issues he needs to work out when it comes to where the ball goes. 

Position players

Card is made from a picture by John Arguello

In addition to Paredes, Second baseman Delvin Zinn is one of the best athletes in the Cubs’ system.  The Cubs originally drafted Zinn in 2015 but he chose to go to Mississippi State. He never did play for the Bulldogs instead going to junior college. The Cubs redrafted Zinn last year and he saw a little time in Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League. In just a short tenure at Mesa, his skills improved dramatically. This showed how open he was to coaching. I expect him to be one of the most exciting players to watch for the Emeralds this summer as he has great speed and the 19-year-old should improve hitting over the course of the 74-game season

Catcher Michael Cruz brings some left-handed power to a position the Cubs normally don’t draft high. The 2016 draftee spent most of his time last year working on his defensive skills in Mesa. I think this year we will see his bat play more in short season ball. As a result, he may not be in Eugene long.

Another key hitter will be catcher Gustavo Polanco. The converted first baseman has a definite hit tool as he led Mesa in hitting in 2016. He has a short compact swing that has yet to translate into home runs. Outfielder Luis Ayala should provide a calming effect at the top of the order as a pure hitter and a player who can get on base and set the table for the lineup.

More than likely the Cubs will take prep bats with their first two picks in the 2017 draft. As a result, expect only college players to show up and to begin to play immediately in Eugene after being drafted. In fact, I expect the Cubs to have a lot of draft picks in the bullpen.

Depending on how they do in extended spring training, Emeralds’ fans might be getting some of the top 2015 international free agents. Shortstop Aramis Ademan and catcher Miguel Amaya are defensively ready to play short season ball. Extended spring will test whether their bats are. 18-year old pitchers Brailyn Marquez and Faustino Carrera are two other left-handed pitchers who could crack the rotation at Eugene with a solid spring.

There’s a lot to like here on the Eugene roster, but they will need some time to develop. Right now, the pitching may be a little bit of ahead of the hitting, but there will be a lot of 18 to 20-year-old kids who will be learning the art of professional baseball. 

The actual Eugene roster will be listed somewhere between the 15th and 17th of June. This will be just in time for the season to begin.

Sleeper Prospect

I really like Marquez to be the breakout pitcher of the year. At 6’6”, Marquez seemed to have a natural feel for pitching last year in the Dominican Summer League. As for hitters, I think Delvin Zinn hits the mark for his natural athletic ability that will help him transition at the plate and in the field.

First to Be Promoted – Paredes/Cruz/Albertos

Arizona Cubs – Treading Water in the Desert

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The Arizona Cubs are not your average affiliate. The rookie league level team in Mesa is a mishmash of rehabbing players from Chicago and its minor league affiliates, young international players, and recent draft picks. Most games take place in triple digit heat late at night and often are subject to local monsoons. If the Cubs are lucky, there might be seven people in attendance.

This year, the young Cubs have been the home to several rehabbing pitchers and its lineup seem to include mostly converted catchers and shortstops. The team will play a total of 56 games in a season that ends on August 29, a full week ahead of most of the minors. The Cubs did win a playoff spot already by winning a first-half division title with a 16-12 record. Since then, several players were promoted to short-season Eugene. As a result, Arizona has struggled to go 6-12 in the second half.

Pitching
When the season began, young 17-year-old Jose Albertos was going to one of the key young pitchers on the staff. In his first start, the young righty struck out 7 in 4 IP. His fastball sat 95-97 and he showed a plus curve. The next day, he went on the 60 day DL. The tone for the season was set. Of the 41 pitching starts this year, 21 were by players no longer on the team. And, most of those starts were of the 1, 2, or 3 inning variety.

However, there have been a few pitching prospects who have performed well enough to be considered for Eugene when Arizona’s seasons ends.

Yapson gomez 78Javier Assad – At 6’1” and 200, Assad is not the projectable type, according to John Arguello, but Assad does have a low to mid-90s fastball complemented by a mid 70s curve, also according to John. Assad does have the most starts on the team with 6 and has 40 Ks in 34.2 IP with a 2.60 ERA.

Yapson Gomez – I have been following Yapson’s career since he was in the Venezuelan Summer League. At 22, the lefty is a little undersized to be a starter at only 160 pounds. This year at Arizona, he has excelled out of the pen. In 37.1 IP, he’s struck out 43 with 1.10 WHIP and a 2.65 ERA. He has only walked 9 all summer.

Eugenio Palma – This lefty has had the most success in Arizona. He began the year as a reliever but has made two starts in a row now. He’s a little bigger than Gomez but not much. A 1.67 ERA shines brightly in 32.1 IP and 30 Ks with only 6 walks. He has reliever written all over his profile.

Michael Rucker – He was the Cubs 11th round pick in 2016 and has gotten off to a late start. To date, he’s only thrown 4 IP but has been impressive doing so. Then again, he’s a D-1 pitcher playing against recent high school grads and international players. However, 7 Ks with no BBs shows some pretty good control. I think he makes it to Eugene for a bit this year and likely could be at South Bend in 2017.

Matt Swarmer and Nathan Sweeney – To me, Swarmer screams project, and for John Arguello, Sweeney does the same. Both are long, lean pitchers who need to add some weight. Don’t expect a rush on either kid, although Swarmer seems to have much better stuff right now and likely will do well the rest of this year as long as he stays in Arizona. In 2016, I see Swarmer being an anchor in Eugene. He likely will not be with most of his draft class at South Bend. Sweeney could repeat Arizona or he could improve over the next 10 months to get to Eugene.

Hitting

Michael Cruz – the 2016 draftee has shown the ability to have some decent hitting and on-base skills. Word is that he is in Arizona to work on his catching skills. While he is only hitting .267, his OBP shows what a great approach he has at .391. I think he will be in South Bend next year.

paredes 72 2016 azlGustavo Polanco – This kid just rakes. The power could be there, but right now it isn’t. At .323, he leads the current roster, but it seems he has an issue in taking walks – only 3 all year.

Isaac Paredes – Everyone I have read from Arizona loves Isaac. He can hit for average and he can hit for power. He got off to a late start due to an injury, but the 17-year-old has rebounded all the way up to .303. Although he is listed as a SS, he will likely move to 3B.

Kevin Zamudio – Here’s another catcher who can hit. Although he had a poor July, he’s a great August at .333 and he leads the team in RBIs.

Jhonny Pereda has done well this summer. This catcher has a .298 average with a .375 OBP.

Delvin Zinn and Kwang Min Kwon are two teenagers who have come to play as of late. Zinn is an extremely athletic player who was drafted by the Cubs two years in a row. Even though he is 1 for 15 right now, don’t let that fool you. Next year, after some fall instructs and spring training, Zinn should start to acclimate to the pro lifestyle. The same is true of Kwon who has only played five games to date and has shown the ability to take a walk.

Going Forward
I am not quite sure what the playoffs hold for this team. They don’t really have a starting rotation or a definite ace. They have some players that can hit but they are also learning some new positions. It should be interesting to see Arizona throw the kitchen sink at whomever. All three rounds of the Rookie League playoffs are single elimination. They only have to be hot for three games.

Next season is a long way away.
There will almost be a year of development before the 2017 season for these players. In fact, Eugene does not begin play until mid-June. That’s 10 months to work on and develop their skills. Paredes could likely make some major prospect lists at the end of the season (I have him on my Top 21), not many of the other players will. There could be a few sleeper prospects who breakout next year. It’s an interesting mix of talent, that so far, has not hit its stride.


Ed. Note – The Yapson Gomez card is made from a picture by John Arguello