Minor Leagues of Interest – Chicago Cubs

I will continue my series of looking at other teams minor league systems and their potential trade chips attempting to incorporate some of the feedback you have given me from the first two posts regarding the Astros and Red Sox. Just to clarify I am reviewing stats first as my premise. Here are the Chicago Cubs affiliates. This review is reflective of data up to but not including June 1, 2015:

Low Single A : South Bend Cubs ( 23-28, 7th place Midwest League Eastern Division)

18 year old shortstop Gleybar Torres is hitting .320 ( .397 OBP) thru 172 at bats. He has 9 doubles and 2 triples and has knocked in 30 runs. Chris Crawford from Baseball Prospectus had this to say about Torres : “I think that kid (has) got star potential as much as any prospect in the system sans the big three (Soler,Bryant,Russell) … He’s really good … I personally don’t understand why he hasn’t gotten as much hype as some of the other guys. What he’s done as an 18-year-old at the professional level … His approach is excellent and he has above average to plus tools pretty much everywhere but power and that might come too … and he’s going to play shortstop.”

23-year-old catcher Cael Brockmeyer is hitting .294 ( .383 OBP) thru 160 at bats

The Cub Junction site had this to say about the young catcher : “Cael Brockmeyer is one of the most underrated players in the Cubs organization. Quality bat, some burgeoning power, quiet leader, and great skills at either first or behind the plate. The problem is becoming that he is now playing a position (Catcher) that has a logjam at High A and AA. I almost gave Cael an A- grade, but a B+ will have to do. If he continues on his current path with his bat, he will be at an A by the end of the year.”

20-year-old center fielder Charcer Burks is hitting .283 ( .343 OBP) with 13 stolen bases thru 184 at bats

Burks was a 2013 9th round draft pick who has excellent speed and is also a highly rated defensive player.

Pitcher Ryan Williams is 4-1 with a 1.17 ERA thru 53 innings mostly as a starter ( 8 of 9 appearances). He is a contact pitcher with 37 k’s and only 2 walks

Williams was the Cubs Pitcher of the month for May.

21-year-old Jeremy Null is 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA thru 9 starts and 50 innings, he has 40 k’s and only 3 walks which is impressive for the big 6’7″ young fella.

Null recently was moved into the top 30 prospects list for the Cubs by Baseball America, the big league comparison for him is Doug Fister, Null averages between 88 to 91 on his fastball and tops out at 93.

High A – Myrtle Beach Pelicans (31-16, 1st place in Carolina League Southern Division)

22-year-old second baseman Chesney Young began the season at South Bend where he hit .315 thru 108 at bats earning a promotion, he is hitting .371 thru 62 at bats with a .459 OBP at Myrtle Beach.

He is a 14th round 2014 draft pick who is considered a “baseball player” in that he has the right instincts and knows what to do on the field, he is a contact hitter with average speed.

20-year-old Billy McKinney was having a great season at Myrtle Beach thru 103 at bats hitting .340 with a .432 OBP and 11 extra base hits, he has continued the hot hitting at Double A where thru 59 at bats he is hitting .305 ( .364 OBP) with 7 extra base hits.

McKinney came to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija trade last year with the Athletics, he was the A’s number 1 pick in the 2013 draft.

MLB.com reporter Johnathan Mayo via sbnation.com had this breakdown about McKinney:

“There were few, if any, high school bats better than McKinney’s. With a balanced approach and a smooth swing from the left side, he projects to be a plus hitter with above-average power.”

The offense sounds like it’s there but while scouts rave about those aspects of his game – the same isn’t said about his glove. Baseball Prospectus rates his defensive tools has about average to below average.

What helps him is his hustle and all-out effort on every play.

22-year-old outfielder Mark Zagunis is having a solid season at .301 ( .439 OBP) thru 156 at bats with 13 extra base hits.

Zagunis was drafted as a catcher out of Virginia Tech and still sees time behind the plate but the depth at the position in the Cubs organization and his athleticism has made him more viable in the outfield to move up the chain.

20-year-old pitcher Duane Underwood Jr stands out on the hill as he has posted a sparkling 1.60 ERA thru 9 starts (45 innings) with a 5-1 record.

Underwood was the Cubs 2nd round pick in the 2012 draft, MLB.com had this to say about him : Underwood has more upside than any Cubs starting pitching prospect. He operates at 92-95 mph with his fastball and could work in the mid-90s once he adds more strength. Both of his secondary pitches elicit swings and misses too, with his hard curveball more reliable than his change-up.
His control and command got better last season as well, giving Underwood all the ingredients necessary to become a frontline starter. If he can build on the progress he made in the second half, he could begin to advance quickly through the Minors.

Double A – Tennessee Smokies ( 28-23, 2nd place in Southern League North Division)

22 year old catcher Kyle Schwarber is hitting .322 (.450 OBP) with 12 home runs.

He is the 2nd highest ranked player in the Cubs system and was their first round pick in the 2014 draft. ( #4 overall). MLB.com says this about him : “If he can stay at catcher, Schwarber’s bat could make him a superstar. He moves well for his size and has some arm strength, but his throwing and receiving need a lot of work, and most scouts outside the organization don’t think he can make it as a backstop. If he has to move to left field, where he played some in Indiana and in his pro debut, he still should make an offensive impact.”

23-year-old catcher Wilson Contreras is also having a year at Tennessee hitting .321 ( .388 OBP) with 18 extra base hits (14 doubles)

Baseball Prospectus said this about him :

“Contreras is a converted 3B, so the position does not come naturally to WIllson. The tradeoff, though, is that he’s got better speed than a normal catcher does. He won’t get a chance to use it defensively (though he has a plus hose on him, so he has the skillet to be a defensive asset once he has experience), it will help him as far as base running and legging out extra bases. His bat profiles as a bottom-of-the-order type; that’s not a knock on him, just a reality of a catcher that isn’t offensively incredible.
Contreras has been praised for his ability to hit a good fastball, which is important, but it’s an open question what he’ll do against better breaking pitches.”

22-year-old first baseman Dan Vogelbach is currently on the disabled list but has posted a .320 average ( .436 OBP) thru 147 at bats with 17 extra base hits (14 doubles)

He is a 2011 2nd round draft pick, MLB.com says this about him : “Vogelbach is more than just a one-dimensional masher. He controls the strike zone, makes consistent contact and uses the entire field, so he should hit for a solid average while providing plus power. He has yet to fully tap into his pop, though he’s also still just 22.
There are two obstacles to him becoming a regular for the Cubs: All-Star Anthony Rizzo and persistent questions about whether Vogelbach has enough athleticism to be more than a DH. He has gotten himself in much better shape than the days in high school when he carried 280 pounds on his 6-foot frame, but he’s a base-clogger with limited range at first base.”

Triple A – Iowa Cubs ( 26-24, 2nd place Pacific Coast League American North Division)

22-year-old shortstop/second baseman and now third baseman Javier Baez is hitting .304 (.389 OBP) thru 115 at bats with 11 extra base hits. His recall up to the Cubs seems imminent as they contemplate moving Kris Bryant to LF to work Baez into the lineup some.

With many of the previous year’s prospects now on the major league Cubs roster Carl Edwards Jr, a 21-year-old pitcher sits atop most rankings, he is at triple A Iowa now after beginning the season at double A, his numbers don’t stand out just yet there but this is what MLB.com says about him :

” Edwards usually operates in the low 90s with his fastball and has reached 97 mph, but the velocity doesn’t matter as much as its natural cutting life. Hitters rarely make hard contact against his heater and have tagged him for just two homers in 237 innings through three pro seasons. His secondary pitches continue to improve, with his curveball now sitting in the upper 70s with good depth and his change-up featuring some splitter action.
Edwards’ offerings have so much life that they’re not always easy to control. He’s a good athlete, however, and should develop at least average command. The only real concern with him becoming a frontline starter is an extremely skinny frame that may not be suited to taking the ball every fifth day.”

21-year-old Albert Almora is also highly regarded, some see him as the Cubs third best prospect, he is struggling a bit at double A with a .247 average thru 150 at bats. This is what MLB.com says about him ” Though he barrels balls easily and delivers line drives all over the field, Almora is extremely aggressive at the plate and more advanced pitchers have used that against him. He’s a career .294 hitter through three pro seasons, but he rarely walks (.322 on-base percentage) and hasn’t been able to tap into his average raw power (.424 slugging). If he can develop a more patient approach, he could become a .280 hitter with 15 homers per year at the big league level.
That could be enough to make Almora a star because he looks like a future Gold Glover in center field. Despite just average speed, he gets tremendous jumps and takes precise routes that allow him to track down balls from gap to gap. His strong, accurate arm is another asset.”

19 thoughts on “Minor Leagues of Interest – Chicago Cubs

  1. I just do not see the Cubs as a Hamels fit this year. Although they have the prospects, no question, I don’t know that they are ready to go “all in” yet, and move any top guys. Texas is a real good possibility, and I have always felt the Dodgers still are. Cubs could be a Harang fit.

    1. No way the Dodgers are a good fit. They’re a top heavy system. Outside of their big 2 (Seager and Urias) it really thins out. Those 2 are about as untouchable as you can get with prospects. Next in line is Grant Holmes who is a nice pitcher with a fairly high ceiling but after that do they have enough to make a complete package? Nope.

    2. Texas is the perfect fit. Alfaro and Mazara gets it done. They would probably want Harang and Paps too if we ate a lot of $$

    3. Fear not, Matt, he is an excellent fit for the Cubs this year and they are very in on Hamels.

  2. Loving these – any way you could add in some formatting, to break it up by level and then the player itself? Great information contained here, but hard to read as a wall of text.

    1. Yeah, i love these too. my only constructive feedback would be to add k% and bb% for both pitchers and hitters and also ISO

  3. Cubs have a loaded prospect system when it comes to offense but a little behind in pitching. The Phils still require more good pitching, as would almost all teams. If the Cubs come to the table in July, can we get a power outfielder a catcher and a pitcher in a trade involving Hamels who would add another #1 pitcher at the head of their rotation?

    Paps also should be able to be traded if the Phils will eat some of his salary which could bring back, perhaps, another prospect starting pitcher. Some believe that Harang can bring back more help from a team’s lower (High A) echelons.

    So far considering prospects from the Red Sox (no trade unless they include that catcher or Betts in addition to pitching), their system is less strong than the Cubs. Same as to the Royals and Texas whose systems lack the offense offered by the Cubs prospects.

    If things go as expected, July should be a hot month for the Phils and we fans. And that is after drafting @ #10 in just a few days. It is our consolation for having the present ugly team on the field.

  4. There should be, at minimum, 3 prospects added to our Top 10, and maybe 2 more in the top 15-20, after the #10 pick, and trades for Hamels, Harang and Pap. I may be underestimating.

  5. Whats the story with Billy Mckinny, is he hurt this season? His numbers looked great last season for his age. Checked his babe ball reference and he hasn’t played this season.

    1. Great job on your write ups. You are a good edition to a great site.
      I do agree about formating it a little different, but the info us well worth the read.

      1. Wow thanks again for the info. That is the first time Baseball Reference has let me down. Check Billy McKinney’s baseball Reference it doesn’t have this season. I usually check stats on Reference over the MILB site.

  6. I so much prefer the Cubs system to that of the Rangers that I’m surprised others don’t as well. The Cubs have more than enough for a Hamels deal without including any of their top 5 prospects, let alone their big 3. We could toss in Harang, Paps and another reliever and they could still beat the return from other organizations, with a very nice package comprised solely of their 5-30 prospects. Plus the positional fit is unrivaled – they have exactly what we’re looking for: advanced catchers with decent bats, hard-throwing pitchers, middle infielders with strong offensive profiles, outfielders with middle of the order

    I can’t think of a better potential headliner to a Hamels package than Kyle Schwarber, surely nobody who might actually be available. Even if he’s not available(or is but destined for left field) any deal would surely dig into the Cubs upper minor catching depth. Zaguris could even return to catching in our system as a decent buy-low candidate. Those currently playing catcher on every level are very impressive. It’s rare to see such a strong collection of young catchers and the Cubs have to be commended for successfully converting players to the position.

    A few months ago I thought Schwarber, Baez, Almora was the perfect Hamels package and I’d still take it in a heartbeat but the emergence of other Cubs prospects(as well as that of Tocci & Quinn) has me considering other alternatives. I’d still love to keep the first two but prefer McKinney to Almora. I also like the way Underwood & Edwards are developing. Torres of course looks like a future star and would be a downright steal as the 3rd player in a deal.

    I’d still start a Hamels package with Schwarber and Baez…and honestly might be willing to stop right there. Back in April I didn’t think a deal was possible without those top 5 prospects but now believe it could be if they’re willing to offer 5-6 lesser names. Underwood, Torres, Brockenmeyer, McKinney, Sands, Jimenez gets it done for me

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