Photo via the CCO

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

Pre-Season Evaluation

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?

Post-Season Verdict

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?

Future Prognosis

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

Pre-Season Evaluation

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.

Post-Season Evaluation

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.

Future Prognosis

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.

  • Myles – WCSW

    Rohan has as good a chance as anyone to break as the 25th player on the team. Hopefully he can be better than Clevenger :(

    • Cedlandrum

      I will keep beating this drum, we didn’t see the real Steve Clevenger in Chicago this year. He was the epitome of taking one for the team coming back from the side injury. If Soto and Castillo wouldn’t have been hurt Clevenger could have actually healed up. Since we had to sign Hill, I think the Cubs and Steve himself pushed him to get healthy.

      Clevenger can and will hit.

      • BluBlud

        I completly agree. Clevenger is definitely no Koy Hill. He can swing the stick and I wish the Cubs would consider him as the backup catcher behind Castillo(unless they feel him playing everyday at AAA is more valuable.

        • ssckelley

          Back in the day people thought Hill was a pretty good hitter as well. He hit for average in the minors and had more power. I am not saying this will be Clevengers fate but until he can prove it at the MLB level he is nothing more than a career .202 hitter. Hopefully this year he can prove otherwise.

      • Myles – WCSW

        Why would they push him knowing they weren’t competitve. That runs counter to basically everything we know about this franchise.

        Basically, I’ll believe he can hit major league pitching when I see it. I hope for his sake you’re right!

  • itzscott

    Just wondering how some on this board are penciling the Cubs in for 95 losses and proclaim they’ll have a better team than last season when last season the Cubs had Dempster, Maholm, Johnson and others for most of the year and have replaced these veterans with basically warm bodies?

    • Kevin B

      itzscott its not like the Cubs lost 100 games WITH Dempster, Maholm, Johnson and others, in fact they were like 19-10 in July of 2012 with those guys and had one of the better records that month. They were stil under .500 but nowhere close to being on pace to lose 100. It was AFTER they lost those guys the ship sank. I am happy they made the moves but if you look at the team they had AFTER those trades and look at the team now, its a much better team.

  • BluBlud

    Rohan, in my opinion, will probably be on the roster opening day. If not, he will probably be the first injury replacement call-up. He fills an area of need on this Roster, as I do believe we currently don’t have a backup first baseman. His ability to play other positions will really determine rather he’ll be here long term. If he turns into a good bench guy, we should definitely keep him, as we will have cheap control of him for 6 years. A cheap, productive bench guy for 6 years is not something you come across every day.

  • CubsFanBob

    Rider of Rohan ?

    • Luke

      I tried to find a pitcher with a Tolkien-esque name to write up along with Rohan. Spent much too long looking for one, in fact.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Too bad: Campana looks like a hobbit, but he’s no longer a prospect….

  • JBarnes

    I worked for the Cheifs the last 2 years and got the opportunity to see both of these guys play. Rohan is a big, thick bodied kid that i dont see being able to man 3rd on anywhere close to a regular basis. That said he can hit and moves well enough around the bases to be a decent bench guy. My first year in Peoria Rohan and Richard Jones (1B) were the offense. Rohan was more of a high average/doubles guy with some home run power and Jones was the left handed masher. Good combo for a low-A team but as far as Rohan goes i dont know if that high average will translate to MLB quite as well…maybe a .260-.270 bench guy which could still be a little high.

    Rosario is a little guy…Im not quite 6′ and he’s quite a bit shorter than I am. Even with his size, he has pretty good speed on his pitches. I remember him all of a sudden stop pitching during the season but dont recall a reason why. I was part of the grounds crew and he wasnt shy about letting us know about the length of the grass (being he’s a groundball pitcher). Great guy to be around, always joking and messing with people…he would interact not only with other players but regularly hung around the grounds crew and it wasnt uncommon to have to give him or other players a ride home after late games.

    • Luke

      Good stuff.

    • ssckelley

      I always wondered what happened to Richard Jones, he was such a good hitter at Peoria and then his hitting disappeared when he got to Daytona. I cannot imagine the pitching being that much better at Daytona than in Peoria where you go from hitting .900 OPS to .565. Was he hurt or something?

      • JBarnes

        You know I haven’t kept up with where he’s at and haven’t heard a lot about him lately either. Seemed like an organizational guy rather than a real prospect.

  • Good Captain

    Sorry to ask Luke but what GO/AO mean? i assume GO is ground outs but am less sure of AO?

    • Brett

      Air outs.

      • Good Captain

        Thanks Brett!

  • FarmerTanColin

    If he rakes in spring training I could see them dropping Campana or Sappelt for Rohan on the 40. Then he could platoon with Schierholtz while spelling Stewart, Rizzo, Soriano. Sounds like a couple hundred ABs are possible pending he can hit a bit.