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

By Todd Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Troubled: Eddy Martinez, Charcer Burks

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

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

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

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


The Weekly – A Rough Week for the Affiliates, but Some Prospects Shine

By Todd Johnson

It was a brutal week for the Cubs’ minor-league system. There were two days in which it did not have a starting pitcher do well enough to get a pitcher of the day award. I wound up going with two relievers each day instead. Three of the four affiliates are under .500. Only Tennessee is exactly at .500. Meanwhile, Iowa has only won two games the last two weeks.

In spite of that, there were several positives this week as Myrtle Beach seems to to have awoken from its early-season slump. Tyson Miller had a great start for the Pelicans earlier in the week going 7 innings with 7 Ks. Meanwhile in Iowa, Adbert Alzolay made his third start of the year and it was a dominant one going 7 innings with just 1 hit and 6 Ks. Then, last night, Adbert struggled. He only made it through 4.2 innings and threw 92 pitches in that time giving up 3 runs on 8 hits. And then there was Oscar de la Cruz who struck out ten last night while Matt Swarmer had another masterful performance going 6.2 IP with 7 Ks.

Some hitters seem to be waking up as well. David Bote is hitting close to .500 since his return from Chicago. Wladimir Galindo is finally getting back on track after his post-DL stint slump. Yasiel Balaguert seems to have a had a good week for Tennessee (7 for his last 18) and Connor Myers is hitting the best he’s ever done in his two years as a Cub. He’s at .282 for Myrtle Beach. Andruw Monasterio is also coming back (6 for his last 14) after a little slump in late April. And Zack Short snapped out of his slump a bit with 2 home runs the other night and 2 more RBI last night.

Reliever Bailey Clark was promoted to Myrtle Beach this past week and his debut week was very good going 5.2 innings in 2 appearances this week. He gave up a run but he struck out 9. Dakota Mekkes is just shutting teams down when he pitches. He still has some issues with walks, but Mekkes should be in Iowa soon.

While there is no team with the record above .500 right now, I would not get too hung up on the affiliates’ win/loss record in the minors. It may seem depressing, but the real focus should be on player development. The Cubs have a lot of starting pitchers that are moving their way up through the system, along with some relievers, who could help to big league club in the short term. Their development, to me, is going to be the key storyline for the month of May. Dillon Maples, along with Alzolay, are near ready. Maples was averaging over 20 Ks per nine innings pitched until he threw a scoreless ninth last night without any Ks. That is odd for him.

As for the hitters, the Cubs may not have any “elite” hitters, but they do have several who are worth paying attention to and to watch improve. Aramis Ademan and Miguel Amaya are two possible elite prospects and I am beginning to grow on Monasterio, who is only 20, and at high A, and doing well (.319). I really like watching Austin Filiere and Jared Young and their approaches to an at-bat for South Bend. Last night, Young went 3 for 5 with his third home HR in 13 games to go along with 3 RBI on the night. Filiere also cranked out his second of the year.

On Thursday, the Cubs announced their minor league players of the month. Like me, the Cubs selected Jeffrey Baez as the hitter of the month while the Cubs took Matt Swarmer, who I profiled earlier this week, as the pitcher of the month with a ridiculous 26/3 K/BB ratio in April. Last night, Swarmer improved that to 33/3 or 11 to 1. Wow!

Also, reliever Chad Hockin underwent TJS this week and is out for the next year. Best wishes to him. He was one of my favorite kids to talk to last year in South Bend.

This Week’s Records
Iowa (2-5, 6-21)
Tennessee (4-3, 14-14)
Myrtle Beach (4-2, 12-17)
South Bend (1-5, 10-15)

Extended Spring Training
The Cubs keep adding to their international free agent class. While most of the signees will play in the Dominican this summer, there are a few who could debut in Mesa including shortstops Luis Verdugo and Fabian Pertuz along with pitchers Florencio Serrano and Raidel Orta. Nelson Velazquez and Fernando Kelli are hitting well according the box scores from Arizona Phil. They begin regular season play in about 6 weeks in Eugene.

Players of the Week

What’s Ahead on Cubs Central
Tomorrow, I am going to take a look at the Draft that will be held four weeks from Monday. At some point, I will also profile the development of Brendon Little, Tyson Miller, and Andruw Monasterio  this week. The Midweek Report returns this week and I am not sure what it will be about.

Things I Wrote for Other Sites This Week
Cubs Insider

Matt Swarmer
Some April Awards

Baseball Card of the Week
Photo by Rikk Carlson

The Weekly – An Interesting Opening Week of Rain, Snow, Miscues, and New Cards

By Todd Johnson

I was all set to have a big shindig of a post for the first weekend of the minor-league baseball season. However, the weather seems to have taken the wind right out of those plans. First, South Bend had its Tuesday exhibition at home canceled along with Friday night’s contest at West Michigan. Tennessee got rained out on Friday night, but they did finish it last night in Mississippi with a doubleheader. The Iowa Cubs did not play Friday night nor are they playing today because of cold and snow. Then again, Iowa played a doubleheader on opening day. And Myrtle Beach was rained out last night.

As a result, it was as weird an opening week I can remember.

On opening day on Thursday, all four affiliates got games in. Iowa split a doubleheader with Oklahoma City while Tennessee lost to Mississippi. Myrtle Beach lost to Frederick, and South Bend rounded out with their loss to West Michigan. Going 1-4 on opening day is not conducive to having good feelings.

There were a couple of common themes to play across all levels on opening day.

There were a lot of defensive miscues and errors and a lot of baserunners that were left stranded. It was tough to watch at times. Add in fly balls that landed in between several players or a grounder that two players just watched go between them because they each thought the other would get it. Nobody got an error but the pitcher gets charged with an earned run. Those are mental errors that need to get worked out quickly. I am willing to chalk it up to first night jitters and just working the kinks out.

Saturday night was a different story.

All three affiliates played in frigid weather. Temps at game time ranged from the low 30s in Iowa and South Bend to 41 in Pearl, Mississippi for the Smokies’ double bill.

The first game I watched was South Bend. Pitchers Javier Assad, Rollie Lacy and Manuel Rodriguez looked great in shutting out West Michigan. Lacy had hitters flailing at changeups and curves as he struck out 7 in 3 IP. In Tennessee, the Smokies won the suspended game from Friday behind 4 innings of no run ball from Zach Hedges and Trent Giambrone’s 2 for 3 with 2 RBI game. The Smokies lost the nightcap, a 7 inning affair, 7-5. Thomas Hatch gave up 3 runs in his 4 innings on 77 pitches but struck out 6. When he left, the Smokies were up 4-3. For the day, Trent Giambrone had 4 RBI for Tennessee.

Iowa also got a great start from Luke Farrell who threw 5 and 2/3 scoreless and struck out 6. However, after a night of scoreless ball, each team scored 3 runs in the tenth thanks in part to the new extra inning rules. Oklahoma City won it 6-5 after scoring 3 more runs in the 11th. While the new rule of starting the tenth with a runner on second did make it exciting, it also came across as a bit ridiculous especially since it didn’t help end the game any sooner.

Coming Up Next Week

The Annual Preview of a Preview for Eugene comes out on Monday and that’s all I have planned for the week. I am going to let the baseball do most of the talking every day. It will be nice to write about what does happen rather than what could/should happen.

Players of the Week

Originally, I had planned on doing selecting a hitter, starting pitcher, reliever, and team of the week. Due to all the inclement weather, that’s not gonna happen. Rather, here is who got the players of the day on Thursday Friday and Saturday this week.

Thursday the 5th – Brandon Hughes, Jen-Ho Tseng, Casey Bloomquist

Friday the 6th – Wladimir Galindo, Tyler Peyton

Saturday the 7th – Trent Giambrone, Javier Assad, Rollie Lacy

Baseball Card of the Week

And the first “Card of the Week” in the minor-league season goes to none other than Larry Kave of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans for his shot of Wladimir Galindo that I put into a 2007 frame. This morning, I will be uploading several cards using a variety of templates. Check the April Facebook album later today and throughout the week.

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

By Todd Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Affiliate Previews


Spring Training Notes: MiLB Teams Get Some Action In and Rosters Begin to Take Shape

By Todd Johnson

Getting Some Action In
While the major league players have just 10 days left in camp, the Cubs minor-league prospects are just now getting in the swing of it after 10 days as there season does not begin until April 5. Games started being played this week out in Mesa and the surrounding areas like Scottsdale in Yuma. Two key highlights of the week were four perfect innings from Jen-Ho Tseng and three scoreless from Jose Paulino. In addition, both Zack Short and Wladimir Galindo each cranked out home runs. And according to Arizona Phil, the source for all the Cubs minor-league news this spring, outfielder Eddy Martinez is off to a really strong start.

In the major league camp, the Cubs cut the roster down to 37. One of those cuts was World Series champion Justin Grimm. The writing has been on the wall for a little bit since he actually wound up going to arbitration against the Cubs. As a result, Grimm’s contract was not guaranteed this year. I don’t think the Cubs are going to try and re-sign him to a lesser deal. On Thursday this week, I wrote about who could possibly be the last reliever standing. Grimm’s cut narrows it down to Eddie Butler and what looks to be dark horses in Anthony Bass and Justin Hancock. Not quite sure how that is going to play out over the next 10 days but there are only 3 non roster invitees left in Bass, Kyle Ryan, and the hard throwing Hancock, who pitched at Tennessee and Iowa last year.

Roster Fluidity
With just 37 players left on the major league roster, minor league rosters are starting to take shape. They are far from final, though. For example, Iowa currently has 37 players on its roster along with four players on rehab. Let’s say that 7 out of the 10 nine roster invitees get signed to minor-league deals for 2018, that puts the roster at 44. Close to 15 of those players are going to have to either be moved down to Tennessee or cut. That will start a chain reaction to adjust the rosters for opening day of the minor league season. However, that’s not going to happen for another two weeks. I imagine rosters will be released on April 1 or 2 for most of the minor-league clubs.

A New Toy
My wife and I broke down and used some of our income tax refund to buy a new camera. We got a Canon EOS T6 with 3 additional lenses to zoom in. She wants to use it for the birds in the backyard and I want it for baseball…imagine that! I cannot wait to take some pics with it next month.

On a Personal Note…
My busy season at school officially ended on Thursday night when my academic team won the conference tournament!!! It was a pretty sweet victory and I have a mostly young team that loses just two seniors, but my leading scorer this year was a sophomore. I also had three underclassmen in the starting lineup every night. It was fun to watch them grow by leaps and bounds.

As a result, I have all kinds of free time now. I began flushing out the affiliate previews a little bit more this week and I also had time to write two articles. One was for Cubs Insider on the recent minor-league pace of play changes and the other was for BP Wrigleyville on which minor league affiliate to watch this spring.

My Annual Fantasy Team
I used to play in a lot of fantasy baseball leagues. Now, I have it narrowed down to one. It’s the same ten team league I have been playing in for years and we held our live draft yesterday. I think my team looks decent, although I am one starting pitcher short. Here is who I have:
C – Salvador Perez, Welington Castillo
IF – Votto, Altuve, DeJong, Moustakas, Starlin Castro, Chapman
OF – Judge, Reddick, Hoskins, Austin Hays, Marwin Gonzalez,
U – Logan Morrison
Bench – Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, Ronald Acuna, and Nick Senzel
SP – Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, McCullers, Arrieta, Taijuan Walker
RP – Wade Davis, Edwin Diaz, Sean Doolittle, and Brandon Kintzler (I will be replacing him with a starting pitcher in the next week)
Bullpen – Walker Buehler, Zach Britton

I like my team better for the summer than I do for April as I took some risks in adding a lot of future rookies on the bench and drafting Britton, who is currently injured.

Coming Up Next Week
The final article in the “Leveling Up” series comes out on Wednesday. Outfielder Brandon Hughes, who should be at South Bend in 2018, has his possible future profiled about what kind of player he’s going to be.

After that, I don’t have anything planned for two more weeks until MiLB opening week+. Nothing is pre-written as most of the off-season is. So, I’m just gonna go with the flow of what is happening for about 10 days. It should be a lot of fun for a change. And I will probably make some cards … just like this jem.

Baseball Card of the Week

Made from a photo by Jen Nevius

Cards of the Offseason – Part 1: New Templates with New Pics

By Todd Johnson

I did not see this post coming…at all.

When the offseason began, I made an album on the Facebook account for offseason cards. I often get several new pics over the offseason as I come across assorted local articles and search results begin to include other pictures. I thought maybe, just maybe, that I might make 20-25 new baseball cards this winter.

To make a short story long, at the end of last season I thought that I would recreate Topps’ 2017 design. I liked how extremely close I came without using an editor. I made a few cards. As some Arizona Fall League (AFL) pictures came in from MiLB and the AFL, I began exclusively making 2017 cards for about 6 weeks until the AFL season ended.

Then I got a little bit ambitious about a week before Christmas. I showed some of my students how I used PIXLR, an online photo editor, to help make the templates for each year. Up through this past fall, the templates I made cards from were from my card collecting years. There were a couple of years in the 1950s, most of the 60s, and then my peak card collecting years, 1970-1986. I do have a 1990 template but that was where the fun ended. 

Anyway, I got a lot accomplished for school stuff the last week of the semester. As a result, I had little or no work to do over break. In other words, I was free to fart around, something I haven’t had time for the past couple of years. So, I began to try making more modern cards from the past 30 years. In the end, I added over 16 templates from 1990 onward and two more from the 1950s. I really like most of the templates, but there are 3 or 4 I am still working on.

Yesterday, I found some more pics to make cards for the leveling up profiles and the position breaking. I uploaded them to the Facebook album and I was stunned I had made over 70+ cards this offseason. I knew then it was time for a post.

So, with further adieu…

Honorable Mention
Normally, I don’t make a lot of big league players unless it is from their debut or rookie season. I just love the light and shadow on Dillon Maples in his debut last year. It also looks good in one of my favorite new templates, the 1953 Topps. Dillon also looks stunning in a mixture of red, white, and Cub blue in a 2003 template.


Coming in at number 10, Jake Stinnett pops in this picture by Clubhouse Corner from the Arizona Fall League. I love this 2008 template but the popout Topps tab is sometimes hard to work around. Larry Kave’s capture of Zack Short meshes well with many shades of blue contained in another 2003 card. Rikk Carlson’s closeup of DJ Wilson just jumps off the page in the 2017 frame.

As I looked at the large number of cards, each tier became harder and harder to pick. International Free Agent Florencio Serrano looks great in a 1999 frame at number 7. I haven’t decided what affiliate’s uniform will blend with the color in this template best. At number 6, Dylan Heuer captures the “Popeye” arms of Mark Zagunis perfectly in a 1953 frame. Larry Kave returns at number 5 with Thomas Hatch in a 2007 frame which I beginning to like more and more. What I love about this picture, though, is the yellow line at the top of the outfield wall blends with Hatch’s cap and the lettering on the card.


Getting to the top four took a lot of thought. I found this rare picture of pitcher Brendan King, a 2017 draftee of the Cubs. He pitched in Mesa this past after signing and I found the pic on the Twitter account of Holy Cross Baseball. I used a filter to make the blue pop and I liked it a lot. Coming in at #3, Duane Underwoods closeup from the former CSN-Chicago gets some love in a 2017 frame. At number 2, this was one of my favorite cards of the entire and it is of Adbert Alzolay in the Arizona Fall League. The lighting of the game makes the card along with his gray Mesa Solar Sox hat being similar in color to the gray 2017 frame and his glove.


I had this list all done and then about 9 P.M. last night I was looking for pics in a Twitter search. Lo and behold, there was a picture of Wladimir Galindo by Jared Ravitch from 2016. The black of uniform fits perfectly with the black of the card and gray outline and the blue fencing provides a backdrop for Wladimir’s face. It’s a great closeup of Wladimir in a 1953 classic frame.

Only 6 more weeks until spring training!

Position Breakdown Series: Third Base Is Where the Power Is

By Todd Johnson

I am not quite sure of what is going on at third base in the Cubs system. There has been a lot of player movement in and out of the position. While versatility may be of value to the Cubs’ brass, it is wreaking havoc on these rankings. I do know that there are most definitely four prospects who see most of their time at third base. All four also happen to be some of the most prolific home run hitters in the system. So, while it may be the hot corner, it is also power central.

Last year’s rankings had Matt Rose at number five, Jason Vosler was fourth, David Bote came in at number three while Wladimir Galindo was ranked second to Jeimer Candelario. Rose is now with the White Sox and Jeimer should be playing almost every day for the Tigers at third base in 2018.

As a result, there’s a new number one.

1. I had no qualms putting Wladimir Galindo at number one. There was no hesitation and no second-guessing. The potential that he has to hit for power and average far outpaces anyone else on this list. What makes the ranking more emphatic is that he only played 44 games last year. His presence, despite the injury, was impactful as he hit .290, showed some power, and drove the ball with ease to the opposite field. That’s not something anyone else on this list can do.

2. Jason Vosler – Out of nowhere, he cranked out 21 home runs at AA Tennessee in 2017. Through 2016, he had hit only 15 HRs total. So, 21 was quite a pleasant surprise. However, in the second half, his batting average took a major tumble as he fell below the Mendoza line at .211. In the Arizona Fall League, he did see a lot of action at first base. He also hit .210 there but walked 12 times in 23 games for an OBP of .323. It will be interesting to see how he does at Iowa in 2018. Will the power return? Will he hit for average? Which Jason Vosler will we see?

3. Sometimes a hitter’s development can coincide with an increase in power. Such was the case for Jesse Hodges last year at Myrtle Beach. His daily approach and maturity finally began to pay off as he was one of the best hitters in the Carolina League. Prior to last year, he had always been known as somewhat of a swinger who wanted to get the big home run. Last year, the home runs came but as a result of working counts with a solid approach at the plate. His K rate shrank down to 20.8% and his walk rate improved to 8.9%. Look for that to continue at Tennessee. I am pretty excited to see what he can do at AA in 2018.

4. When it comes to maturity at the plate, 2017 8th round pick up Austin Filiere is pretty advanced. While his average was in the .260s, his on base percentage was at or near .400 all year long. In addition, he cranked out six home runs in 49 games. That’s a pretty good number for PK Park in Eugene, which is usually pretty stingy when it comes to giving up the long ball. I would love to see him continue to build on the foundation he established in 2017. Who knows, maybe we could see the Cubs’ first 20 home run hitter at South Bend next year. He has that potential. With a good year at South Bend and other environs, he could ascend to number 2 on this list quickly.

There is really no exclusivity to this position anymore. For instance, Ian Rice saw action at third in the Arizona Fall League and Andrew Monasterio moved over to third to make room for shortstop Aramis Ademan. Jhonny Bethancourt, for example, saw a lot of action at third but struggled there defensively. It’ll be interesting to see who else plays the position in 2018. David Bote and Chesny Young have both seen a lot of action at that position in the past but both are better suited to second base.

It will also be interesting to see who plays the position in the Dominican in early June and then later that month in Mesa and Eugene.