I seem to be in a tropical storm frame of mind these days (probably has something to do with the view out my window), so for today’s Prospects’ Progress I decided to pull two names from rain out capital of the farm system. That’s right, we’re going to Daytona. Bring an umbrella.

If you were a regular reader of our Minor League Daily Reports during the season, at least one of these names should be quite familiar to you. The other one is a trade acquisition that you have probably forgotten about altogether. Both are interesting players, though, and both could be in the majors sooner than we might expect for a guy who spent the season dodging rain drops in Florida.

To recap, Prospects’ Progress is regular series that considers a couple of players from the Cubs’ farm system and looks at how they progressed during the 2012 season. It is not a top prospects list or a ranking system; I’ll get to those things later in the winter.

This week’s candidates are OF John Andreoli and RHP A.J. Morris.

John Andreoli, OF

Pre-Season Evaluation 

I don’t think Andreoli was on anyone’s radar coming to the seasn. The Cubs drafted in him out of Connecticut in the 17th round in 2011, but his selection made little more than a ripple in a draft class full of much bigger splashes. He made it to Peoria for eight games that season and finished with a 2011 minor league OPS of .440. Given that lackluster (and brief) appearance, I don’t think it is any surprise that virtually no one gave him much thought as the 2012 season began.

And then the Cubs sent him straight to Daytona. That is a challenging assignment for a guy just entering his first full season a professional, but Andreoli handled it easily. Encouraging news, but is he a legitimate prospect?

Post-Season Verdict

He just might be. We are likely another year or so from knowing for sure, but so far I like what I see.

Andreoli, who turned 22 in June, finished a full season in the pitching friendly Florida State League with a line of .289/.402/.376. In 496 trips to the plate he walked 75 times and struck out 89 times. Those numbers are good for a walk rate of 15.1%. That is crazy high, particularly for a player in the FSL. Clearly this is a guy who understands the strike zone and is willing to take pitches to get on base.

He was pretty good once he got on base as well. His 55 steals led the league by a wide margin, and they came with some room for improvement. He was caught 20 times (also tops in the league). At this point in his career it reasonable to think his success on the base paths will only improve as he refines his leads, reads, and gains more experience. If Andreoli reaches the majors, it is not hard to imagine him stealing 40+ bases on a regular basis. And with that nice OBP and gaudy walk rate, it is not hard to imagine him reaching the majors.

The downside is his power. As in, he has none. A SLG of .376 is nothing to write home about even for the FSL (he ranked 67th). I suspect he has more power than showed up this season (after all, he is 6’1″, 215 lbs), but I don’t think long balls are ever going to be a big part of his game. If he can produce just enough to force opposing outfielders to play him honestly, I’ll be content.

Future Prognosis

Due to their similar backgrounds, levels, and numbers, the comparison of Andreoli to Matt Szczur is all but inevitable. However, I think the better comparison might be Tony Campana. Andreoli reached Daytona at a younger age than Campana, posted a much better OBP (.402 vs .335) and finished with the same number of steals (although Campana did wrack up his steals in somewhat fewer games). Andreoli might… might, I say… turn out to be a bigger, stronger, more patient version of Campana. A career line of .270/.350/.400 with 40+ steals a season seems like a very real possibility with this guy on the high side. That’s not a bad thing at all.

But first Andreoli has to prove he can produce at Double A. Tennessee is his next destination, and we will be watching to see if he can continue to get on base at an elevated rate. I think the move to the Southern League should help his power totals as well, if only slightly. I expect that Andreoli will be featured at the top of the Smokies’ lineup for much of 2013, and I think he will do quite well there. A September call up in 2013 is probably too aggressive, but I would not be surprised to see him in Chicago sometime in the second half of 2014.

A.J. Morris, RHP

Pre-Season Evaluation

Morris was the other guy who came back to the Cubs along with Michael Burgess in the Tom Gorzelanny trade. His inclusion was somewhat unusual in that he had already been effectively shut down for the 2011 season due to an arm surgery. Rumors suggested that the Cubs, still under Hendry at the time, were impressed enough with what they had seen before that injury that they insisted on his inclusion regardless of his health. So Morris became a Cub.

One year later, he finally took to the diamond in a Cubs’ uniform… a Daytona Cubs’ uniform. At age 25 he was one of the oldest pitchers in the Florida State League, but that does not matter much in the case of pitchers rehabbing from surgery. All we really needed to see in the 2012 season was a healthy pitcher. Success would have been nice as well, but the primary goal was health. Could Morris prove that he is still capable of pitching regularly out of the bullpen for the Cubs one day?

Post-Season Verdict

Not only did he show he could, he might have put himself on a fast track to the majors. In 52+ innings pitched for Daytona, Morris gave up 36 hits, 15 walks, and 1 home run. Florida State League hitters batted just .189 off him with fairly even splits between left and right handed hitters. Most remarkably, his GO/AO was a stunning 2.00. On top of all that, he was getting better as the season progressed. Hitters were not adapting to Morris; Morris was improving as he regained his feel for pitching.

Very good ground ball pitchers who do not walk many batters tend to do quite well as major league relievers. That description fits A.J. Morris perfectly. On paper he looks like exactly the sort of guy you want coming out of the bullpen with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh inning of a one run game. He is not ready for the majors quite yet, but he may not be far away.

Future Prognosis

Look for Morris to travel up to Tennessee next season. He will have a harder time repeating those fantastic walk and GO/AO numbers in the Double A Southern League, but, if he can do it consistently through the first half of the season, do not be surprised if he is moved to Iowa. And if he continues to throw strikes and earn plenty of ground ball outs at the highest level of the minors, don’t be surprised if he is in the Chicago bullpen in September.

2013 is a key year for Morris. We know he is healthy and that he can dominate younger levels of the minors. Now we need to see how he measures up against the best prospects in game. If he does well, he could be a fairly cheap option for the middle of the Cubs pen sooner rather than later. On the other hand, there are plenty of teams in baseball who could be interested in acquiring a guy like Morris. The Cubs have a lot of potential bullpen arms coming up behind him. I would not be surprised to see the Cubs include Morris in a deal for some upgrades at other positions this winter.

  • cubchymyst

    Luke (or anyone else who have seen them play), between Szczur and Andreoli who do you think has the better contact skills?

    • BluBlud

      I would say Szczur, if only slightly. I think the szczur might be slightly more patient also. If you look at both of their numbers from FSL last year, Szczur had the better all-around season. His numbers only dropped or got worse with his promotion. Szczur is a year older, so you can make the claim that Andreoli’s development is ahead of his.

      • BluBlud

        “I think the szczur might be slightly more patient also.”

        Meant slightly more aggressive.

      • cubchymyst

        Thanks for the response, I am liking that both Szczur and Andreoli have posted high OBP with good walk rates so far. As long as they can make good contact both look promising and both could end up a lot better than Campana.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke


        And on Szczur, don’t forget that he was slow to adjust to High-A, but once he did adjust he took off. I suspect he’ll do the same thing in Double A next season.

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    Too bad Andreoli does not hit from the left side. We have way too many right handed hitting outfielders at all levels in our system. Maybe they should try to get him switch – hitting.

  • Tommy

    Wow! We actually got something for Gorzelanny! I had forgotten all about that guy. Sounds like Morris has got some decent stuff. Will be fun to see how he performs in AAA if he gets there next year.

    Great read, Luke.

    • terencem

      Burgess had a pretty good year, too. He was kind of a lottery ticket originally so it was nice to see soild numbers from him even if his home runs were down from 2011. His 45 BB/63 K ratio in in AA are his best to date.

      • Chet Masterson

        I have been considering Burgess a dude totally fying under the radar. His 2012 (I thought) should have been way more impressive to people than it seems to have been.

        He did hit half as many HRs (20 v 10) but his SLG only dropped from .427 to .422.

        Meanwhile his BB to K #s have gone like this
        2008: 55BB to 162K
        2009: 54BB to 135K
        2010: 57BB to 116K
        2011: 60BB to 111K
        2012: 45BB to 63K

        I thought that was a really encouraging sign that his SLG didn’t drop off horribly, while he still managed to cut his Ks dramatically. I thought this was maybe due to him really taking heart to the regime change.

        Whatever it was, I am hoping he gets a shot at Iowa in 2013 to show his improvement is for real. Not sure how it’s going to work with Adduci, Brett Jackson, Campana, maybe Sappelt and maybe Ty Wright already in the Iowa OF.

  • Boots

    Not sure but I think that link to “A.J. Morris” may be to a different player?

    Seem that we have a lot of these solid, potential middle relievers in the system, while lacking the front end starters. Of this group, do any project as possibilities to shift to starters down the road?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Boots. Sometimes Baseball-Reference auto-grabs the wrong guy when there are multiple folks with the same name.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      None of the solid middle relievers would profile as potential front end starters even if the Cubs did move them. And the Cubs have no shortage of middle and back of the rotation starting pitching prospects. Front of the rotation guys are relatively scarce in the farm system (although that situation is improving), but to find more the Cubs are going to have draft them, sign them, or trade for them. I don’t see many opportunities to stretch out a reliever into that sort of a guy.

      • Kyle

        The possible exception being Cabrera, who they are talking about stretching out this spring.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          That’s the one i was thinking of.

          I’ve wondered a time or two how Zych would handle a starting job, but he’s been a pure reliever since his college days. That’s worked out pretty well for him so far; I’m inclined to leave him there.

  • When the Music’s Over

    I wonder if the Cubs will try to stretch this guy out. With a high ground ball rate, and good control, he could be a decent candidate.

    • AB

      He had TJS a few years ago so I doubt it. Plus he’s already 25.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I doubt the Cubs would. The system is not hurting for starting pitching prospects with roughly his stuff right now.

  • MightyBear

    I hope Andreoli or Szczur end up as a good lead off guy who can run. The Cubs have needed one for years. 400 OBP and 50 steals is just what the doctor ordered if he can keep it up through all levels.


    Thanks for doing a story on Andreoli. He’s really an intriguing sleeper-type guy who no one talks about. I’m not sure I agree with you, however, that he’s really comparable to Campana. Andreoli’s speed is not really in the same class, and I wouldn’t expect him to continue to steal 50+ bases as he moves up the ladder…but you never know.

    I’m excited to see how he does at AA next year. Guys like him who play in the FSL in their first pro season are likely candidates to actually improve their numbers in the subsequent season, when they “only” move up one level. I won’t be surprised if Andreoli hits 300+ with a 400+ OBP in the more neutral environment of the Southern League next year (I wouldn’t be shocked if he broke out and hit 330 or so.). If he can do that and also tighten up his SB PCT a bit, he might wriggle his chunky self onto some people’s radar.