The Cubs have made a fairly high volume of moves this winter, but most of them have been of the predictable, safe, speculative, and probably low impact variety. Those are exactly the sorts of deals a team needs to make every year whether they are winning, losing, or somewhere in between, but they aren’t the sorts of deals that make fans hunger for the spring.
In a word, I think Cubs fans are getting a bit bored. They need a jolt, a shock. A surprise.
So let’s talk about some surprises. For today’s Prospects’ Progress we’ll take a look at two players who surprised us in one way or another in 2012. But first, a reminder. This series evaluates the Progress made by Prospects. It doesn’t rank them or list them or put them in any sort of an order. Any player in the Cubs’ farm system is eligible to be written up in this series. The rankings are coming, but not until 2013.
And on we go to the prospects. Don’t forget your surprised face.
Greg Rohan, 1B/3B/OF
Rohan made it to High A Daytona in 2011, but he did so at the age of 25. He posted an OPS of .996 in 31 games there, but again, he was 25. Granted, he did not turn professional until the Cubs drafted him out of Kent State in the 21st round in 2009 at the age of 23, but the fact remains that a 25 year old slugger should beat up on High A pitching.
His age alone was enough for much of the baseball world to write him off as a non-prospect or a bust, but that opinion was not quite unanimous. Thanks to a 2011 OBP of .378, there were a few hold outs. Maybe, these hold outs thought, just maybe this is a guy who really can hit but hasn’t gotten the chance to show that against better pitching. If he got a chance, what could he do?
As it turns out, if he got a chance, he could in fact hit at the highest levels of the minors.
Thanks to Anthony Rizzo in Iowa and Justin Bour in Tennessee, Greg Rohan opened the 2012 season back in Daytona. Needless to say, he kept hitting. Finally, with two months to go in the season, the Cubs moved Rohan from Daytona to Double A Tennessee. When he kept hitting in Tennessee (OPS of .890), he was moved to Iowa for the last month of the 2012 season. He held his own there, too (OPS of .779). For the season he struck out just 78 times in 548 plate appearances, and walked 43 times.
Those are not the numbers for a future star, not by a long stretch, but they are the numbers of a guy who might have a major league future. It isn’t hard to imagine Rohan as a backup corner infielder / corner outfielder and a right handed bat off the bench for a major league team. Now, what major league team do we know of that needs a guy who fits that description?
Greg Rohan should be a serious contender to claim a job on the Cubs bench in 2013. His patient plate approach and strike zone discipline should play well in a bench or platoon role, and with the Cubs loading up a lineup with lefties, that’s not a bad characteristic to have in a right handed hitting bench player. I’m not sure how viable he is in right field, but at the very least I think he has the arm for it. Filling in at first or third on a part time basis should not be much of a problem for him.
I don’t see Rohan having much of a major league future beyond that of a utility player, and perhaps only a limited future in that capacity (depending on his defense), but I do think he is a safe pick to reach the majors, assuming there is roster space. I don’t think he’ll head for Chicago in the spring, but he should get a look before September roles around.
Jose Rosario, RHP
Easily the biggest surprise in Baseball America’s 2012 Prospect Handbook was the Cub ranked No. 22 in the system. Jose Rosario was not exactly a well known name, even among those who followed the farm system closely. What’s more, he was ranked above a number of other pitchers that were both more well known, and, frequently, well thought of.
On top of that, Rosario was a guy who has been in the system since 2008. He spent two years in the Dominican Summer League, another year in the Arizona Rookie League, and didn’t reach Short-Season A Boise until his fourth year as a professional (age 20). That’s not an atypical timetable, but it isn’t a standout one either.
A lot of fans entered the 2012 season wonder just who this Jose Rosario was and what he could do.
If you’ve been a regular reader over the past year, you know I love ground ball pitchers. Rosario finished the season with a GO/AO of 1.99. That’s right, I’m a fan.
His WHIP (1.432), K/9 (7.7), and K/BB (2.79) were solid, but not great. He started twenty games and averaged a little over five innings per start; that is also a solid number for a twenty year old pitcher in Low A. That GO/AO, though, verges on the ridiculous. If that continues as he moves up the system, he is going to have a bright future.
When he resumes moving up the system, that is. The Cubs shut Rosario down after a 2.2 inning start on July 18th, and I am not sure why. Unless he had surgery (and Google has no mention of that), he should open the 2013 season in Daytona’s starting rotation.
Add Rosario to your lengthy list of potential mid-rotation starting pitching prospects in the lower levels of the Cubs’ farm system. It remains to be seen just how high the upside here is, but the K/BB ratio make me doubt his ceiling is any higher than a future No. 3. If he is healthy and continues to get grounders in Daytona this spring, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fast tracked a bit. A Tennessee promotion in July or so could be distinctly possible.