Photo by Tim Sheridan, Boys of Spring

Prospects exist at all levels of the minors. In some cases they are so close to the major leagues that we already know what to expect from them in the future, and in other cases they are so low in the system that all we can do is recognize the existence of real potential. In this edition of Prospects’ Progress, we get one of each.

Prospects’ Progress is an article series that will consider many of the Cubs’ farm hands two at a time. Each article, covering one hitter and one pitcher, will focus on how those particular players progressed over the course of the 2012 season. This is not a prospect ranking or top prospects lists. Those articles will be coming later in the winter.

Today we take a look at outfielder Dave Sappelt and pitcher Yao-Lin Wang.

Dave Sappelt, OF

  • Pre-Season EvaluationDave Sappelt, 25, came from Cincinnati in the Sean Marshall trade. In 2011 he appeared in 38 games for the Reds, hit .243/.289/.318, stole one base, and generally looked like a potential fourth or fifth outfielder. Unfortunately for Sappelt, the Cubs outfield bench slots were filled by Tony Campana and Reed Johnson. Sappelt was sent to Iowa for much of the 2012 season looking to prove he deserved a permanent position in Chicago.
  • Post-Season VerdictWell, things could have gone better for Sappelt. The good news is that he torched Triple A left handed pitching to the tune of a .331/.365/.452 line. He stole 15 bases in 21 tries and finished his minor league campaign with four triples and seven home runs. Along the way he played quality defense in all three outfield positions.

    The bad news is that he only hit .236/.292/.341 against right handers. At 5’9″ he is unlikely to develop very much power, so his path to playing time depends on his ability to get on base, steal some bases, and his glove. That glove is not in question. Of the outfielders who finished the season in Chicago, Sappelt might be second only to Brett Jackson in the defense department. His bat remains a different story. A Triple A season OBP of .314 is not encouraging.

    On the other hand, he did put up some quality numbers during his call up in September. In 26 games he managed a .275/.351/.449 line thanks largely to his gaudy 1.237 OPS against left handed pitching. If the 2013 Cubs have a spot for a lefty crushing reserve outfielder, Dave Sappelt might be in good shape.

  • Future PrognosisFortunately for Sappelt, the Cubs have a young center fielder who managed an OPS of just .488 against left handed pitching. As the Cubs slowly bring Brett Jackson along I think there will be plenty of opportunities for Sappelt to find some at bats in center or as a defensive replacement in left.

    For Sappelt to make a lasting career with the Cubs, I think he needs to raise his OBP against right handed pitchers and become more aggressive on the base paths. In short, if he can emerge as a somewhat slower, better defending version of Tony Campana who can actually get on base on a fairly regular basis, he could find himself starting in the Cubs’ outfield for much of the 2013 season. At worst I see him having a valuable role off the bench as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement.

Yao-Lin Wang, RHP

  • Pre-Season EvaluationYao-Lin Wang is one of the most exciting and enigmatic pitchers in the Cubs’ system. He put himself squarely on our radar by leading the 2011 Northwest League in K/9 at 10.3. In 2012 we simply needed to see more of the same. If Wang could prove that he could continue to regularly strike hitters out while keeping runners off the bases, he would have a chance of appearing on a few Top 20 Prospects list in the off season.
  • Post-Season VerdictHe had a good year, but not quite a great one. His 9.5 K/9 finished 28th in the Midwest League, and his 3.04 BB/K was good for 54th. His 12 saves were just 12th in the league, but he did not spend the whole season as a closer. He finished the year by starting nine games for the Chiefs. His ERA as a starter was 4.57 versus 3.19 as a reliever. However, that number as a starter is badly skewed by a disastrous final start in which he gave up 7 earned runs in just four innings. His performance seems to be pretty even between the two roles. Naturally the Cubs would prefer him to make it as a starting pitcher, but at this point of his career I think he could go either way.
  • Future PrognosisWang, 21, remains an intriguing possibility, but he did not have the breakout season we wanted. He did confirm his status as a strikeout pitcher, one of the better ones in the Cubs’ system, and as a starter proved he could also force the ground ball out. If he can maintain his 2012 starter 1.76 GO/AO and continue to strike out roughly a batter per inning, he is going to be an effective starter one day. Those are two big ifs, but I like his chances. Look for Wang to get 110 innings or so for the Daytona Cubs in 2013. If he can put everything together he could emerge as a possible No 3 starter one day. If he can’t, he may still have a nice career as a middle reliever. He may not be a Top 20 guy yet, but he is definitely one to keep watching.
  • Cedlandrum

    I like Sappelt. I felt all year at Iowa that he hit in poor luck. I haven’t seen his BABIP or anything but it just felt that way to me. He is a really good athlete who looks like he belongs out there. I think Dale or someone compared him to Reed Johnson. I could see him being a similar player as the older bench player Reed Johnson for sure.

  • tim

    I think Daytona will be too crowded for him to be a starter. If Rosario, Peralta, and Jensen advance, I’d expect them to join Whitenack (hopefully for a brief stay), Francescan, Cates, Pierce Johnson, Paniagua, or some combination thereof. Wang sounds more like a two inning guy every two or three days type, if not the closer.

    • Luke

      I suspect he’ll spend part of the season at the back of the pen, then rotate into the rotation towards the end of the year. Or vice versa.

  • Jade

    His BABIP at Iowa was .293
    It was really hard to look up. I have blisters. Gonna go lie down for a few hours…

    • Cedlandrum

      Wow thanks, I am surprised it is that high.

  • Cubbie Blues

    Sappelt’s INFFB% in 2012 was 20%. That is extremely high. Couple that with 42% FB. Looks like he needs to train with Campana in the off-season and both need to work at getting the ball on the ground.

    • Drew7

      “Sappelt’s INFFB% in 2012 was 20%. That is extremely high. Couple that with 42% FB.”

      1) I’m pretty sure IFFB% is calculated as a % of FB. In other words, since 5 of Sappelt’s 25 FB were IFFB, his IFFB% is 5/25 = 20%, so we really aren’t “coupling” here.

      2) Campana needs to sit on the pine until he is summoned as a pinch-runner; the guy should never have a bat in his hands.

      3) Defenses *want* you to hit the ball on the ground. OPS by hit-type in 2012:

      GB = .497
      FB = .830
      LD = 1.690

      So we definitely do not want someone slapping the ball on the ground *unless* they have no other way to get on base (Campana).

      4) Most importantly, there are no conclusions to be drawn after such a small number of PA’s for Sappelt anyway.

      • SirCub

        Actually, you do want to couple them. If your INFFB% is high (typical of light hitting players), you want to keep your FB% low. 20% of 30% of your AB’s resulting in infield flies is a lot better than 20% of 40%.

        The point CB was making is that if you don’t have enough pop to do damage with fly balls (like Campana and Sappelt) and you have enough speed to potentially benefit from a high BABIP, then you should try to hit the ball on the ground, which is totally what Campana needs to do, and Sappelt would probably benefit from that approach as well.

        • Cubbie Blues

          What he said.

          As far as Campana goes I agree. He should ride the pine until (and it is doubtful) he gets his OBP up.

        • Drew7

          “Actually, you do want to couple them. If your INFFB% is high (typical of light hitting players), you want to keep your FB% low”

          Everything I’ve ever read indicates IFFB’s fluctuate wildly year after year, and I’ve never heard of certain players being more prone to hitting them. Do you have a link to a study or something?

          Regardless, if you are such a “light hitter” that you decide to stop trying to hit linedrives and flyballs, you probably shouldn’t be playing in the MLB anyway.

          • Cubbie Blues

            Link Here is a link that suggests hitting the ball harder reduces the amount of pop-ups a hitter has, which would not fluctuate year to year.

            • Drew7

              Among the top 30 highest IFFB% in baseball:
              Adam Jones
              JJ Hardy
              Hanley Ramirez
              Carlos Pena
              Mike Moustakas
              Josh Willingham

            • Drew7

              And the link didn’t work, but I would like to see it.

              I would think that a swing a round bat harder, while trying to hit a round ball, would result in more *just misses* (thats *if* there is a correlation at all).

              • Cubbie Blues

                I just tried it and it worked for me.

                • Drew7

                  Ok, I tried it on my phone and it worked.

                  Interesting article, but its still really hard to draw any conclusion like that from it. Just way too many variables. It seems like it also may have something to do with a player’s hit (contact) tool, as well.

                  • Cubbie Blues

                    Oh, I agree it’s hard to draw a final conclusion from just that article. I was actually surprised I was able to find anything at all though. I think you have me coming for the wrong viewpoint though. My thoughts on the two of them is this.

                    So we definitely do not want someone slapping the ball on the ground *unless* they have no other way to get on base (Campana).

          • OCCubFan

            What about Joey Votto? He has an incredibly low number of infield popups over his career?

  • Norm

    Dave Sappelt = Reed Johnson

    • terencemann

      Sappelt has a long way to go to be as valuable as Johnson has been in his career. Also, they’re totally different players, Sappelt has no power at all but more speed than Johnson.

      • Drew7

        MiLB Career:

        Johnson – .292/.381/.433
        Sappelt – .299/.351/.439

        They’re only different now because Johnson is much older. 25 yr old Sappelt = 25 yr old Johnson w/ better defense.

      • Norm

        4th outfielders that won’t beat you with the bat, won’t beat you on the basepaths, no ‘plus’ tools, right handers that excel vs lefties…

        “totally different players”??

        And yes, Sappelt does have a long way to go to be as valuable as Johnson has been. I don’t see why that needs to be pointed out considering Reed has about 3500 more plate app’s…

  • ETS

    Hey luke, as you do these prospect progress reports do you think you could include their current 40 man status and if they are rule 5 eligible this year?

    • Luke

      I’ll be doing a separate Rule 5 piece later in the fall.

      • ETS

        Thanks Luke. I look forward to it.

  • Frank

    I’d be interested to see what a L/R platoon of Jackson/Sappelt could do.

  • lou brock lives

    Anybody think Anibel Sanchez made himself some significant dollars last night ? I’m sure GM’s all over baseball were watching that start & licking their chops afterwards.

    • Dr. Percival Cox

      He’s pitching himself to a level that some GM will really, really regret.

  • Rizzo 44

    I want to see the Cubs trade Soriano, Barney, and Marmol to the Rays for Shields or Price. I would like to see a trade for Chase Headley that has BJax, Garza, and lake going to the Padres. Cubs sign Chase to a 5 or 6 year 85-90M deal. Sign BJ Upton to play CF 4 years 60M with an option. Sign Josh Hamilton to 5 year deal 140-150M (thats what it might take). Sign Jeff Keppinger to 2 year 8M deal put him at second. Sign Shane Victorino 2 years 20M to play CF. Trade DeJesus and Lahair to the Indians or Mets. Sign Jake Peavy 3 years 45M, Sign Anibal Sanchez 3 years 40M, and Francisco Liriano 3 years 30M. Yes I know thats a lot of money, but the Cubs have it and this doesn’t block any future stars. Its a total of 104M but that doesn’t include the Salary relief you get for DeJesus, Soriano, Marmaol, Barney and Lehair. In all with BP additions I would say the Cubs would spend about 145-150 for this team next year. Just my opinion. Don’t say this wouldn’t make the Cubs better unless you have a reason please. If we had this team on the field next April we would be no worse than 85 wins.

    • Rizzo 44


      • Zach

        That had to be the dumbest thing that came out of a human’s mouth.

        • TWC

          That has to be the single greatest use of hyperbole in the history of the universe.

          • DarthHater

            Bah! I crap bigger hyperboles than that.

    • Cedlandrum

      I’ll take some of what you’re having bro. Soriano, Marmol and Barney doesn’t get you either of those guys. You are starting with a list that is highlighted with Baez to get one of those guys.

      Then with the Padres, Garza isn’t probably the kind of player they are looking at either.

    • Josh

      Congratulations you just ruined your chances of being a GM in baseball

      • AB

        Most importantly, he corrected himself on the spelling of LaHair

    • Kyle

      Others are going to be meaner about this, but I’ll just try to explain it nicely: The other teams have no interest in any of the proposed trades, and at least half of your free agent offers are probably too low.

    • Ari Gold

      Wow, that all sounds very reasonable for 1 offseason.

    • Jade

      So trade everyone but Rizzo, Castro, and Shark for better players? Wow, why didn’t Theo think of this?

    • tim

      I doubt Theo will spend like Ned Colletti. Theo’s plan is to build from within.

  • When the Music’s Over

    Any reason why Wang was kept to only ~80 IP this year?

    • Brett

      Just part of the Cubs’ philosophy with younger arms. I don’t think – though I’m open to being corrected – it was an injury issue.

      • Luke

        The Cubs do prefer to ramp up their pitchers gradually as far as innings are concerned. Most farm systems are this way.

        I also get the sense that circumstances left Wang in the pen a little longer than may have been the original plan, but I could be wrong about that.

        Either way, I expect his innings to ramp up next season.

  • Kyle

    Just going off of what I’ve read and very limited time actually seeing them, I like Sappelt’s defense a touch more than Jackson’s. It’s very close.

    I’m pretty befuddled by Sappelt’s season. I loved him going into the year. As a long-term 4th OF or even a poor man’s starter. Then his AAA season was horrific. When the best thing you can say about a guy is that he had an .825ish OPS against his favorable platoon split at AAA, you know it was bad.

    Then, small sample or not, his MLB appearance was not only decent, but showed decent peripherals. Way better than his Iowa stats, more in line with what I expected from him.

    It’s probably a testament to my perverse love of Sappelt and platoons that I’d almost be willing to try a Sappelt/Jackson platoon in CF next season.

  • Tommy

    It’s probably a testament to my perverse love of Sappelt and platoons that I’d almost be willing to try a Sappelt/Jackson platoon in CF next season.

    I think that is pretty much what Brett was intimating as a possibility in his article.

    • Brett

      Or Luke. :)

      • Luke


        • Jade

          I haven’t seen a ton of Jackson and the few times I did see him throw home from shallow center I anticipated a play at the plate and the throws were just terrible, way up the line or really short and weak. Maybe he was hurt? I’d heard he had a plus arm, but these were just bad/weak throws.

          • Bill

            I have the same questions concerning Jackson’s overall defense. I saw him misplay several balls, or take terrible angles, in his short time up. He didn’t look like a great defensive CF when I watched him play, but maybe I watched the games where he played bad.

            • Luke

              I’ve seen much better things out of him in the minors. I’m not worried about his defense in center at all.

              • Kyle

                I’m not worried about it, but I’m not excited about it either. It looks to me to be MLB average in CF right now (which is really, really good by most of the world’s standards, of course).

                • Luke

                  I’d agree with that. Average to a bit above average in center, or well above average in a corner spot.

                  And I still think he’s going to get pushed into a corner slot by a superior defender before his Cubs career is more than a few years old.

                  • Jeff

                    are you referring to Almora?

                  • hansman1982

                    Isn’t that supposed to kind of be Jackson’s thing….a little above average at everything but not spectacular at anything?

                    Kind of fitting that he was the top prospect of the Hendry system…

  • Fastball

    I am all for signing pitching and more pitching but not off every other teams scrap pile. I think we can make some trades with our milb mid and lower level players. A lot of what we had at the mlb level isn’t readable. So FA market deals have to be a focus. Those trades mentioned in the long post aren’t double unless Theo has Koyie Hills photo album of all the other GM’s in baseball in extremely compromising situations.