Minor league update for May

beckdawg

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People seemed to like the one i did for April so figure i'd do it again. I'm gonna try to keep it a bit more brief but if anyone has questions feel free to ask for more details and i'll give them if I have them.

Hitters
SB
Probably biggest news among the hitters is Roederer and Velazquez both getting hurt. I haven't heard anything about a serious injury so they might not be out long but both have been out for a week or two. Velazquez still has really good stats though his BABIP is pretty inflated. He's currently sitting with a 110 wRC+ but if you account for some of that being luck he's probably a tick or two above league average. Roederer is struggling a bit. His walk rate's good but he's strike out too much and his power is a little suppressed. I wouldn't worry too much about it because he's still 19 and the average age in the midwest league is 21.2. I suspect he's having similar struggles to Ademan last year at A+ in that it's just an aggressive assignment.

The most interesting thing for me anyways this month also relates to those two injuries. Because they were hurt the cubs called up two guys. One was Edmond Americaan who was a really late round CF out of puerto rico who signed over slot. He only has 8 PAs but i'm interested to see how he handles things as a precursor to a likely A- assignment after the draft. The other guy they called up was 2nd round pick Brennen Davis. I mentioned this once or twice in the prospect thread but this is my dude to watch. Simply put he's got 55 or higher grades on all of his tools except for his hit tool. That effectively means if he hits you're likely looking at a top 20 prospect in all of baseball because he can play CF. And like Roederer this is an aggressive assignment because he's 19. So, it will make you happy to see he's currently hitting .389/.450/.556 over the 20 PAs he's had in A. When you combine that with what he did in Mesa last year after the draft he's now hitting .320/.435/.387 over 92 pro ball PAs.

As for the rest of the dudes, Delvin Zinn has likely been the best hitter for SB. His BABIP is a little lower than Velazquez's but still kind of elevated. I'm not sure how good he is/can be but he's doing enough to likely warrant consideration for the top 30 when mlb.com re-ranks guys in july. D.J. Artis is playing decently as well. He's got a really good eye and takes tons of walks. But he's currently got similar problems to Schwarber in that while he takes walks he's also striking out a lot. Regardless, he's still at a 111 wRC+. Tyler Durna is also at a 110 wRC+ though it's hard for me to get too excited about 1B prospects unless they utterly rake and he only has a .126 ISO so he's not really much of a power guy. Jonathan Sierra is the only other guy I'd mention. He's not exactly killing it but his numbers to me look like he's just missing power and the scouting reports on him seem to indicate he has batting practice power it's just not showing up in games yet. He's only 20 and he's hitting .257/.302/.348 which is a 87 wRC+. His K rate is really good at 14% but his ISO is pretty low for a corner OF and I suspect that's why his walk rate is lower than previous levels. Either way, I wouldn't be too discouraged by this. He's the type of guy where if one thing in his game clicks the rest will fall into place.

MB
I'll cut to the chase here.... MB isn't pretty. Ademan and Amaya are the only two I am even going to bother to mention. Amaya has been pretty good in terms of OBP and SLG but he's only hitting .218. I think that's almost entirely BABIP related. Ademan in his second go around is killing A+. He's hitting .263/.377/.401(126 wRC+) with 14.0%/21.3% bb/k rates. If I wanted to nitpick I'd like to see a touch more power from him but that's really splitting hairs. I'd be some what surprised if he isn't in AA soon.

TENN
Here isn't MB bad but it's not great either. Jared Young looks pretty good but he doesn't look much more than a bench piece type guy to me. Maybe if you wanna dream slightly you could say he's Bote. Hoerner still isn't playing with a fracture in his wrist. Roberto Caro has hit well but he's 25 and i'm not sure he's really even a real prospect. He strikes me as good AAA filler and maybe a last guy on the roster type at best. Jhonny Pereda is pretty sneaky good as a C prospect. He's probably only ever going to be a back up C but as we've seen with guys like taylor davis even if you can only hit a little, it's hard to find good C. Connor Meyers is basically a CF version of Caro. Vimael Machin has also been pretty good in limited action. He might be a guy worth looking at as a top 30 type but i'm not sure. I don't know enough about him.

IOWA
Iowa has mainly been about 3 guys all year thus far. That's Dixon Machado, Phillip Evans, and Donnie Dewees. All have seen their walk rates skyrocket and as such they've all been pretty good pick ups this offseason for the cubs. Machado and Evans at 27/26 are on the older side but are probably worth something in trade talks to a rebuilding team. I think they've proven they deserve a shot to play in the majors and I doubt that's coming with the cubs. Dewees in my estimation has a decent shot of making the team next spring training as their last outfielder. He's a lefty which is useful off the bench and can play LF/CF. And with his 11% bb/k rate and .177 ISO he's got some intriguing underlying numbers.

Ian Happ is probably the name most care about in Iowa. That being said, I'm not sure how much better he is than last year. His walk rate is more or less identical to his MLB walk rate and ditto for his ISO. His K's are down to 25.5% which is encouraging but still seems high. So, barring injury I wouldn't expect him in the majors before Sept.

In my previous post from april I'd mentioned Robel Garcia as part of AA. He got promoted. The good news is he's still raking in AAA at .279/.364/.544(120 wRC+). The bad news is he's striking out a fuck load at 37.7%. It's only 77 PAs so not the largest sample and his other numbers look some what ok.

Conclusions
So I think I was a bit more optimistic in my talk from April. I think that a the teams approach of spending so much pick wise on pitching the past several years really shows in terms of hitting in MB and TENN and had they not stumbled upon a few under the radar guys for Iowa it too would look pretty bleak in terms of hitters. I still however really like the group in SB and that was before Davis was called up.. I don't want to entirely over hype him but if he continues to hit he's not like say Almora was as a prospect. Almora was obviously a fantastic defensive prospect. He could hit a little and I mean we more or less have seen that type of profile in the majors. Davis if he can hit for even like a .270 average has legitimately 25-30 HR potential and might steal a similar amount of bases in CF.

Additionally, I mentioned two of these guys previously but since then MLB.com has put out their top 30 international prospects. Cubs are likely to sign 3 of the top 3 guys. They are linked with the top C in the class Ronnier Quintero(#6 overall). They think his best case is like .280 with 25 HRs as a solid defender. Kevin Made is one of the top SS in the class(#11 overall). He kinda looks tool wise similar to where they pegged Ademan prior to him signing. That is to say a decent SS defensively with a chance to hit a little. The last guy they are linked with is catcher Brayan Altuve(#30 overall) who coincidentally reminds scouts of Contreras. I'd likely throw a bit of caution on the last two as while they may end up being top 30 types, I don't think they are likely to be stars. I think you're hoping they are Ademan level of prospect. Quintero though might be more than that. Elite hitting C's are super super rare.

I'd also expect to see the cubs go pretty heavy into position players in the first 10 rounds of the forth coming draft. From my understanding the pitching isn't very good in this class to begin with. I plan to make a draft topic where i may go into more detail but suffice to say it wouldn't shock me to see the cubs maybe go pitcher in the first and then focus solely on hitters for most of the next 9 rounds.
 

beckdawg

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I'm getting kinda sleepy. I'd hoped to do pitching and hitting together but think i'm gonna fall asleep. I'll hit the pitching side later and answer any questions people may have as well. The quick version on pitching is way more positive than hitters but there's been a number of injuries.
 

CSF77

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As far as hitting goes Davis is the hot topic right now. The other quality prospects are on the DL.

Ademan I really don't care if he hits for power ever. If he gets on base and plays strong D up the middle it is good enough.


Garcia seems interesting at Iowa. They list him as a SS but I've seen him moved around.

Pitching is far deeper as that was the draft push for a few years. They are just starting to push hitting again and the system is showing it.
 

CSF77

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Oh this weekend series for Iowa.

Clifton Friday. Alozay on Sat and Rea on Sunday. All 3 are pretty interesting arms and could impact the team next year after the turn over in the pen and rotation.
 

beckdawg

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Ademan I really don't care if he hits for power ever. If he gets on base and plays strong D up the middle it is good enough.
It's not so much that he hits for power in terms of HRs. But I'd like to see his ISO in the .160-.170 range at least. You can get there by hitting doubles and what not as well but if you're not hitting for some extra bases it really caps your value.
 

CSF77

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It's not so much that he hits for power in terms of HRs. But I'd like to see his ISO in the .160-.170 range at least. You can get there by hitting doubles and what not as well but if you're not hitting for some extra bases it really caps your value.
Maybe. I feel if a player can push a .350 OBA with lead off speed and plus D there is always a opertunity.

That said he has avg speed.
 

beckdawg

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So pitching.... I'm probably only going to talk about starters here as most minor league relievers below like AAA and possibly AAA aren't making the majors.

SB
Pitching overall in SB has been really fantastic. Faustino Carrera(age 20) has roughly an 8 k/9 and 2.75 bb/9 with a 2.91 ERA. FIP suggests he's been a little lucky but he's also underage for the level. He's probably got a shot at back of the starting rotation with those sort of numbers. Riley Thompson is probably the most impressive guy in SB. He's at 9.20 k/9 and 2.25 bb/9 with a 2.45 ERA. I'm legitimately curious how he lasted until the 11th round. I mean I know teams will often basically draft money saving college seniors 6-10th round but he really looks like someone who should have gone in the top 5 rounds. He's got 2 really legit pitches in his fastball and curve and the thought during the draft was whether or not he'd develop a change up. Supposedly he's shown a good enough one thus far from what I've ready. He's a name to watch.

Cam Sanders has a 2.09 ERA but he looks to be getting lucky to me. His k/9 and bb/9 aren't all that impressive. Brailyn Marquez is the biggest name prospect wise from the pitchers in SB. He's been dominant with his stuff(12.09 k/9) but he's walked a bunch of guys(5.40). Not entirely sure what's up with the command as it was really good in A- last year. Still a 20 year old left with that kind of K/9 is a big deal.

I should also mention Jose Albertos is back in SB. He's only thrown 5 innings so it's hard to get a real grasp on whether or not he's over his command issues from last year. He has walked 7 guys in those 5 innings but he's only given up 3 hits and 2 ER. He's someone I plan to keep an eye on in June. You'll likely see guys called up to A+ and I suspect he will be given another shot at the starting rotation. He's been pitching out of relief.

MB
Javier Assad looks like a potential MLB starter. He's not going to be an ace but he's basically a year older version of Carrera in terms of numbers at a higher level. He definitely fits the mold the cubs like to go for of middling k rate guys with better than average command. This is more your Kyle Hendricks type thinking than going after guys who are literally nothing or turn out to be stars.

Paul Richan is a bit more extreme version of that so far. He's under 2 walks per 9 but his k rate isn't as good. His ERA is kind of garbage but frankly in the minors it is kind of irrelevant. You end up with a lot of guys playing out of position defensively or who aren't great yet.

Luis Lugo I'm not entirely sure where he came from. I think he was a minor league signing. He's a bit old for A+ but he's been pretty good. Jesus Camargo has also been good. Alex Lange had a really bad first 4 starts. His last 5 have been better. I'm not sure I'd say "good" but it's progress. Bryan Hudson has been hurt. Not sure what. Erich Uelmen has also supposedly looked fairly good although the numbers have been kinda meh in 2 starts post coming off the injury list.

I'm not sure anyone in MB has more than back of the rotation #4/5 type talent save for maybe Lange or maybe Assad if you wanna dream big. But the nice thing about this kind of depth is if you're not paying $10-20 mil a year for a #5 starter you can push that money into TOR guys who are less risky than developing your own.

TENN
While MB and SB both have pretty good pitching, TENN is probably better than both. Keegan Thompson had one really good start but hasn't pitched since. Michael Rucker is a starter but because they have so much depth they've been using him in a relief role. He has a terrible ERA right now because he's giving up too many HRs and he has an absurdly low 48.6% strand rate. Typically that's like 75%. But at 11.72 k/9 and 1.42 BB/9 that's truly a weapon. I'm not sure their plans for him long term. They may just keep him in the bullpen in that Monty/Chatwood type role but if they do those are some absurd k/bb per 9's to go with.

As for the main starters, Justin Steele hasn't been terrible but he too has a bad strand rate. I suspect there's not much defense in Tenn because the strand rate of the team overall seems pretty low. With that being said he's walking too many guys. De La Cruz is getting some what similar underlying numbers but has better overall results. Neither are particularly "amazing" but i wouldn't classify their seasons thus far as bad either.

The real cream of the crop comes from Tyson Miller, Cory Abbot and to a lessor degree Thomas Hatch. Hatch has some weird results. He's given up 30 earned runs overall but 15 of those came in two starts. In his other 39 innings of work he has a 3.46 ERA with really good k/bb per 9 rates(9.12/2.79 for the season overall). Statistically he looks like more than the scouting I've seen on him. Typically i look at a guy with that k/bb per 9 in AA as a potential mid rotation guy but the scouting I have read doesn't seem to think he's that good so IDK.

As for Cory Abbott, he's sitting with a 9.11/2.24 k/bb per 9 and a 2.88/3.11 ERA/FIP. I personally would make the case that those numbers look like something closer to a #2 starter but again, scouting I've read don't love cubs pitching prospects as much as their results would otherwise indicate. That being said, scouts never really love Kyle Hendricks either and he had good results(not as good as Abbott mind you).

As for Miller, he really fits that mold of starter I mentioned before. He's sitting at 7.94/1.59 with a 2.06/2.64 ERA/FIP. He's been a bit lucky but any time you're striking out 8 per 9 and walking under 2 you're going to be pretty good.

IOWA
So before I start, I just realized that Rucker is now in AAA I believe. He threw 2 innings on the 27th but hasn't pitched since. I'm not entirely sure if that was just a spot call up because of an injury or if he's sticking here for awhile.

As for the rest of this lot, some what unsurprisingly you got your 4A types in Colin Rea and Alec Mills who don't get me wrong have pitched well but they are on the older side and I'm not sure I'd consider either a prospect anymore. Underwood hasn't been very impressive. Swarmer and Clifton are a bit more interesting. Swarmer I'm not sure is much more than Mills/Rea in terms of talent but he is a bit younger.

Clifton still strikes me as interesting. He's sitting with a 9.72/4.05 k/bb per 9 and a 3.51/5.04 ERA/FIP. For a starter nearly 10 k/9 is pretty elite. Were that in the majors you're talking about probably top 10 or 15 in K rate. Walks are still higher than I'm comfortable with but it's not *that* bad. Not to put an unfair comp on him but to give you an idea of how this can work out, at 23 Max Scherzer had a 13.42/3.74 k/bb per 9 at AAA. Clifton is 24 so some what similar age that where if something can click in he might become better. Simply put, he's only mildly interesting with that walk rate but if that starts ticking down he could quickly become a very good prospect and even if it doesn't that stuff is gonna play in a bullpen which may end up being where the cubs need him in the next year or so.

Alzolay is the main prize here. His first AAA start was garbage but he's been dominant in his last two going 11 innings with 15 K's, 2 walks(one intentional) 5 hits and 2 ER. If that sorta stuff continues he'll be very interesting next year and potentially out of the bullpen later this year.

Conclusions
So the main thing I take away here is just the overall depth. Even at AAA where they are weakest, I feel like there's a fair amount of talent. I think this is also where there's some of the scouting undersells the cubs. Guys like Assad are never going to be that appealing to scouts. But I also think that makes that type of pitcher undervalued. Command in general is just something I feel gets greatly undervalued. You look at guys like Hendricks and Quintana with decent but not great k rates and pretty good walk rates were never big prospects but have been better pros than people expected.

I should also mention that there's a number of interesting names who haven't played yet this year. Yovanny Cruz is fairly well regarded. Richard Gallardo was the best pitcher in IFA last year and is expected to start in Mesa. Brendon Little hasn't pitched yet this year. Jeremiah Estrada was a guy that they signed fairly significantly overslot but hasn't really pitched much. Not sure what the issue is there but he has talent. Kohl Franklin is also a guy they've signed over slot last year.

When the front office talked about waves of pitching, this is what I think they meant. They've built up so much depth that they don't necessarily need to draft the same way they have in the past by just dumping picks into pitching. I also think they can be a bit more strategic about how they use IFA money and picks. For example, they can take guys who are a bit more risky with a bit more high end as opposed to your Assad types because were that player to fail they have enough depth to absorb the loss.

All that being said, don't expect the cubs to necessarily be filling in #1 or #2 starters with home grown talent. I still think this is a team that's looking to fill 3-5 reliably and address #1/2 either via trade or by just buying FA pitching with the proceeds from being a lot cheaper on the back half of their rotation with home grown talent.
 

CSF77

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Hatch is a over rated Mills. Both can spin a gem but the over all body of work is lacking.

If I had to place money on which guys become major league starters. Alozay would be hard to bet against. Rea I could see being on a small market team vs a mad house like Wriggley.

And that is the main issue. As long as they are in a winning window I really don't see room for development. The short leash will always be in play. So they really can grow as players like we are seeing from Lucas on the south side. He was dumpster trash and now he is ace material because he was given the chance to fail and figure it out. That only happens on low demand scenerios.
 

beckdawg

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Hatch is a over rated Mills.
Don't really agree with this. They are different pitchers. Mills is the more typical cubs build of the 7-8 k/9 guy who doesn't walk people. Hatch has better stuff but less command. For example, to start the season Fangraphs had Hatch at 55/55/50 on fastball/slider/change up but a 40 command. Mills was at 45/50/40/55 for fastball/slider/curve/changeup and a 60 command. Mills sits 88-92 while Hatch sits 92-93.

What's killing Hatch right now aside from his defense is HR's. 8.89 k/9 and 2.68 bb/9 is really good especially for a guy who's viewed issue was command coming into the season. Right now he's giving up 4% more HR's on flyballs and stranding 13.7% fewer runners than 2018 and yet his FIP is 4.83 compared to 4.77 last year. In other words, he's better. Strand rate is mostly sequence based and some what out of his control. HR/FB is some what under his control but it's also pretty random and can disproportionally hurt you if your strand rate is low.

Regardless, it may not even matter to be blunt. Hatch may end up in the bullpen and that's not the worst thing in the world. Mills isn't all that interesting in the bullpen other than as a long relief role while Hatch's stuff plays up in the pen should he not distinguish himself as a starter.
 

CSF77

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Don't really agree with this. They are different pitchers. Mills is the more typical cubs build of the 7-8 k/9 guy who doesn't walk people. Hatch has better stuff but less command. For example, to start the season Fangraphs had Hatch at 55/55/50 on fastball/slider/change up but a 40 command. Mills was at 45/50/40/55 for fastball/slider/curve/changeup and a 60 command. Mills sits 88-92 while Hatch sits 92-93.

What's killing Hatch right now aside from his defense is HR's. 8.89 k/9 and 2.68 bb/9 is really good especially for a guy who's viewed issue was command coming into the season. Right now he's giving up 4% more HR's on flyballs and stranding 13.7% fewer runners than 2018 and yet his FIP is 4.83 compared to 4.77 last year. In other words, he's better. Strand rate is mostly sequence based and some what out of his control. HR/FB is some what under his control but it's also pretty random and can disproportionally hurt you if your strand rate is low.

Regardless, it may not even matter to be blunt. Hatch may end up in the bullpen and that's not the worst thing in the world. Mills isn't all that interesting in the bullpen other than as a long relief role while Hatch's stuff plays up in the pen should he not distinguish himself as a starter.
That is fair enough. I was mostly looking into the results. Both have spun gems. But in general both are missing a track record of quality work.

This is the thing on that. If you and I were evaluators we would have missed on Hendricks if we were just looking over the input info. Can't break 90 but good command of so so stuff.

He has kinda proven the process as wrong.

It is really hard to find a guy that has plus stuff with command. The Cubs for the most part have drafted college kids that had little leverage. They have avoided most high celing types. Now on the international market they have gone the risk route and the top 2 arms are from those ventures.
 

DanTown

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Cubs don’t have a need for a guy right now but with Hamels last year and then potentially Q/Lester after that, would love to see something like Azolay/Clifton/Thompson/Chatwood battle for the long role/5th starter.

Amazing the Cubs have literally gotten nothing out of the draft last three or four years and yet they’re here.
 

CSF77

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Cubs don’t have a need for a guy right now but with Hamels last year and then potentially Q/Lester after that, would love to see something like Azolay/Clifton/Thompson/Chatwood battle for the long role/5th starter.

Amazing the Cubs have literally gotten nothing out of the draft last three or four years and yet they’re here.
Jon Lester 20:$15M,21:$25M mutual option ($10M buyout)
  • 2021 option guaranteed with 200 innings in 2020 or 400 IP in 2019-20) (I doubt that he breaks 200 innings this year)
Cole Hamels Expecting him gone. He is a #4 starter at best now.

Yu Darvish

  • 19:$20M, 20:$22M, 21:$22M, 22:$19M, 23:$18M
  • may opt out of contract after 2019 season
Never know if he opts out here. I would guess that he sits on the the nest at this point.

Tyler Chatwood
20:$13M

Jose Quintana
20:$10.5M club option ($1M buyout)

Kyle Hendricks
  • 20:$12M, 21:$14M, 22:$14M, 23:$14M, 24:$16M club option ($1.5M buyout)
Mike Montgomery (Arb2)

I'll be honest here. There will be 1 spot open. Cole's. Q and Chatwood are on a 1 year lease. If they fail this year I expect both in trade talks as they restructure the team. Lester has a 1 no trade and a 10 mil buy out. I expect him bought out. He is not worth the 25 Mil at this point. Loyalty be dammed.

So 2020: They go deep I expect Alozay in as the 5. If they tank then Q and Chatwood become trade bait. Both hold value on their 1 year deals at decent cost to said team.


That said there is no one at Iowa outside of Alozay that should start in the majors.

Colin Rea is 6-1 2.77 ERA but 43 SO in 55 IP. I don't see them going with another Hendrick's type. 1 time is luck. You don't bank on that.

Alozay is at a .71 WHIP and 12.42 SO/9. You could almost justify promoting him today with that running.

Clifton is a 5 at best. Right now it is more about giving up walks than anything else. 4.74/9 He halves that then we can talk about him.

That is why they are better off promoting Alozay this year. Get his feet wet then start him next. Q and Chatwood are gone soon after and it is a year wasted development wise letting Chatwood start.

The year after they have Abbott and Miller leading the push. They both bring in different values so much could happen between now an a 2 year point. Talent wise Abbott is better. But Miller has the command thing going.
 
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