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
The Good News
The Cubs are 1.5 games in front of Milwaukee. So, they will be leaving town in first place at the least. They only play 9 games in August against teams with winning records and they all happen in the first ten days.
The Sad News
Cubs Den founder John Arguello passed away yesterday. I send my condolences out to his family, friends, and web site. He was an inspiration in my starting this site and John was always helpful along the way. I wrote about his direct role in my career last night. He is already missed.
While tomorrow is the non-waiver trade deadline, I don’t think I will be surprised on who or what the Cubs acquire. I think a catcher will be acquired, and maybe even a pitcher. What could surprise me is what the Cubs might give up to acquire a catcher, reliever, and/or starter. I will post and update throughout the day on Monday. Despite Jed and Theo saying the Cubs have already made their big trade, the Cubs still have enough assets to get more.
James Norwood was promoted from Myrtle Beach up to Tennessee and Yapson Gomez went from Eugene to South Bend. Also, Jake Stinnett is off the DL and appeared in relief in Myrtle Beach. He will not be starting the rest of this year, which is only five weeks.
MLB Pipeline came out with its latest prospect lists this week. They produced a top 100 for all of MLB and each team got its own top 30 list. The Cubs only placed one player in the top 100. Jeimer Candelario was ranked at #92 and was followed in the Cubs list by Oscar de la Cruz, Jose Albertos, and Adbert Alzolay. The Cubs top 30 is a very pitcher driven list with 8 out of the top 12, and 19 total, being potential arms.
Meanwhile, over at Fangraphs, Chris Mitchell released the latest KATOH rankings. Mitchell uses data from prospect ranking along with MiLB statistics from the past two season to produce a “Wins Above Replacement” forecast up to six years. The Cubs placed three in the top 100. Mark Zagunis (#77), Jeimer Candelario (#83), and Victor Caratini (#91) received the honors. When it comes to just stats only, Ian Rice made that list at #60. In addition, Caratini, Zagunis and Isaac Paredes were found in the 70s on the stats only list.
John Sickels of Minor League Baseball should be coming out with his mid-season Cubs prospect list this week or next.
Also, Chris Kusiolek tweeted a couple of evaluations from Arizona on how a couple young players from the Mesa Cubs are looking early in their career.
Nelson Velasquez explosive hands w/ 6 bat speed; avg build, thick up thru trunk; Rotation; fairly compact path, off top hand. Above avg raw
— Chris Kusiolek (@CaliKusiolek) July 25, 2017
After a rough start, he has popped a couple of dingers and his average is climbing over .200. His fellow countrymen, Luis Vazquez, seems to following the same career trajectory but it closing in on .250. Kusiolek also chimed in on pitcher Brailyn Marquez who had an excellent start this week with 7 Ks in 5.1 IP.
Brailyn Marquez good proj build; physical, high waisted; extremely loose w/ compact arm swing; 92-94 w/ tail & bore. 84-88 CH; 73-79 roller
— Chris Kusiolek (@CaliKusiolek) July 25, 2017
It will be a busy week coming up at Cubs Central.
Monday – I will be reporting on any trades the Cubs make and the impact that could have on the MLB club and the MiLB system.
Tuesday – The Monthly All-Star Team will be published. There are a lot of new names this month. You might want to get used to that.
Wednesday – My monthly Baseball Cards of the Month post comes out. Action is this month’s theme.
Thursday – I will be rounding up the month of July on each affiliate. It hasn’t been the best of months for this farm system when it comes to winning.
Around the Minors This Week
It was a brutal week for most teams across the system. I will spare you the details but know that the DSL 1 team is playing well. Also, Brendon Little made his first start and now has to wait until next weekend after the Northwest League All-Star Break to make his second.
Players of the Week
My Other Stuff on the Web From This Week
By Todd Johnson
It was so strange seeing Eloy in a different uniform last night. He delivered a 2 run game winning single to lead the Dash over the Pelicans.
But it is time to move on.
There are other prospects for me to lavish my attention and words on. Most people know that the past strength of this organization was in developing hitters. As I said yesterday, the strength has shifted to pitching. That doesn’t mean that the Cubs have no hitting, the opposite is true. They do, it is just far from being developed or performing at a high level.
Several of the Cubs’ top hitting prospects have been discussed on here over the past 3 years. Jeimer Candelario, Mark Zagunis, Chesny Young, Eddy Martinez, Wladimir Galindo, and Isaac Paredes have all been profiled and highlighted by Cubs Central. Even DJ Wilson was profiled last winter and Joe Martarano just joined the Cubs full-time. I just profiled Miguel Amaya a week ago for BP Wrigleyville, while Aramis Ademan is set for tomorrow on here. I m always hyping Delvin Zinn as an athlete to watch who is now in Mesa. They are the well-known names. But there are others, who over the next year, could make their name(s) shine brighter.
1. Nelson Velazquez – The Cubs 2017 fifth round pick is a child in a monster body. The outfielder has yet to play, but should be rostered at Mesa soon. In a system devoid of power hitters now, Velazquez stands out as someone with the potential to hit a lot of dingers.
2. Brandon Hughes – I have only seen him play in four games, but the kid can hit. Drafted this year out of Michigan State in the 16th round, the 6’2″ OF was known more for his speed. Last night, he had three doubles. I think he has the frame to develop power but not the swing just yet. That could be something that is worked on with the 21-year-old.
3. Jonathan Sierra – This year, it has been about flashes for the tall and lanky 18 year-old OF. Currently at Mesa, he’s been up and down. While he hasn’t hit for a high average, he does take his walks showing a good approach at the plate. The lefty showed the same discipline in the DSL last summer. Right now, it’s all about potential. If you look back at Eloy’s early career, he didn’t set the system on fire until South Bend. I think Sierra could have that same career arc that just needs game experience for everything to click.
4. Alsonso Gaitan – I have no idea who this 19 year old kid on the Cubs DSL #2 team is. What I do know is that he is destroying pitching in that league. Signed last summer out of Mexico, the right-handed hitting OF is batting .382 this season and over .450 in his last 10 games. Every day lately, I check the box scores and he is going 3/4, 2/4, or 2/5. He is one to keep an eye on.
5. Luis Vazquez – The Cubs have not drafted a lot of high school position players since 2012. They do take a while to develop. For Vazquez, out of Puerto Rico, his lanky frame with a long swing could generate some power down the line. I love his recruiting/showcase video because you do get to see the potential of a star in the making.
6. Carlos Sepulveda – Most Cubs fans who follow minor league baseball know who Sepulveda is. He is a left-handed hitting second baseman who has missed most of this year with injuries. He is just 19 and I hope to see him hit again before this year is out. He has a great eye at the plate and was beginning to develop some “doubles” power last year at South Bend.
Between the draft, international free agency, and maybe even some trades this winter, the Cubs will be acquiring new talent to develop in hopes of having them major league ready by 2020/2021. The system is not bare, far from it.
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.
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.
Keegan Thompson – SP – Auburn
6’2″ and 210 lbs.
Pitchability is a major plus
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.
Erich Uelmen – SP – Cal Poly SLO
6’3″ and 195 lbs.
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.
Nelson Velazquez – OF – Puerto Rico
6’1″ and 200
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.
Jeremiah Estrada – P – Palm Desert HS
6’1″ and 185 lbs.
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.
#Cubs 6th round pick Jeremiah Estrada: “Most likely, I’ll choose UCLA… It’s longer, but I think it’s worth it.” 5/5
— Wes Saver (@Savermetrics) June 13, 2017
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.
Austin Filiere – 3B – MIT
6’1″ 185 lbs.
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.
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.
Brian Glowicki – RP – Minnesota
5’11” and 190
From Downers Grove
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.