With the Sean Marshall trade not being finalized until Friday, and then the holiday interruption, we haven’t yet had a chance to dig down a bit deeper into the two prospects the Chicago Cubs received from the Cincinnati Reds, in addition to starting pitcher Travis Wood.
The prospects – outfielder Dave Sappelt and infielder Ronald Torreyes – are both quality young players, who instantly boost the overall picture of the Cubs’ farm system. Given that a Marshall/Wood swap would have been understandable, the Cubs’ haul gets more impressive the more I learn about the two prospects involved.
First up, outfielder Dave Sappelt. Turning 25 in January, Sappelt has already had a chance to make it in the bigs, but disappointed in 118 plate appearances last year (.243/.289/.318). But he got that chance on the strength of an impressive minor league career, and favorable scouting reports, despite his slight build. Sappelt’s listed at just 5’9″ and 195 lbs.
Before the 2011 season, Sappelt had just two full minor league seasons, having been drafted in the ninth round out of Coastal Carolina University in 2008. Making it to the Major Leagues in such a short time is impressive, even for a player drafted out of college. That, I should think, mitigates some concerns about his relatively advanced age for a prospect.
Also mitigating? In the second of those two full minor league seasons, Sappelt put up a .342/.395/.507 line across three stops, with 53 extra base hits, and just 74 strike outs in 564 plate appearances. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was the Reds’ minor league hitter of the year that season.
In 2011, Sappelt played at AAA when he wasn’t in Cincinnati, hitting .313/.377/.458 in 336 plate appearances. By mid-season, prospect guru John Sickels wondered if scouts’ concerns about Sappelt’s size were overstated.
Sappelt is an above-average center fielder with a good arm, and he can play all over the outfield if necessary. He’s also considered a very good base runner, if not a particularly adept base stealer. He is frequently projected as a 4th outfielder in the bigs (primarily because he’s small and bats right-handed), but, as a superior defender in, say, left field, Sappelt could make for a quality, inexpensive starter.
Torreyes made a name for himself by tearing up A-ball last year at just 18 years old, hitting .356/.398/.457 in 306 plate appearances, with 18 extra base hits and 14 walks (serving in stark contrast to just 19 strikeouts). He was described locally as the catalyst for his team’s entire offense. Before that, all he did was hit well as a 17-year-old in rookie ball, the Stateside level that ends the big league hopes of many international prospects far older than Torreyes.
By most accounts, Torreyes’ torrid (I so wanted to use a lame pun there…) 2011 season had him on pace to be a consensus top 15 prospect (and fringe top 10 prospect) in the Reds’ system before the Mat Latos deal. After that trade removed three players ahead of him, Torreyes may well have cracked the top 10. Some national publications even put Torreyes on the outer edge of their top 100 prospects overall. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein would slot Torreyes just outside the Cubs’ top 10. Suffice it to say, Torreyes is a very good prospect.
But with those kind of numbers at that young age, why isn’t he considered an even better prospect? Well, as with Sappelt, the issue is Torreyes’ size. He’s generously listed at 5’9″ 140 lbs, and, on film, he looks like a boy among men. Of course, then he swings the bat, and you see that maybe he’s the man among boys.
Torreyes, like Sappelt, is considered a good fielder (some folks subscribe to the general theory that, if a very good prospect is playing second base in the low minors, he must not be very good defensively, otherwise he’d be playing shortstop – but most reports have Torreyes as a genuinely good defensive player) and a good base runner.
In fact, members of the Cubs’ front office, according to various reports, are so high on Torreyes that they’ve gone as far as to tell some that they see him as the second baseman of the future. That’s a lofty statement when (a) it’s coming from this front office, and (b) it’s about a 19-year-old.
In sum, the Cubs netted a couple very good prospects in the Marshall/Wood deal. Sappelt could contribute this year, and Torreyes could continue to develop into a star.
The only question that remains: will both still be in the Cubs’ system when the 2012 season gets underway?