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rubi silva smokiesAmong qualifiers (and before you ask, Javier Baez did not have enough PAs to qualify), the tenth best OPS in the Double A level Southern League belonged to a guy we have barely talked about all winter.

Rubi Silva has become somewhat of a forgotten man in the Cubs farm system these days, but that might be a mistake. While I doubt we should expect stardom from this outfielder, Silva is showing signs of perhaps being a very useful player for the Cubs in the somewhat near term.

But first, the disclaimer. The goal here is not to re-rank the prospects (that comes soon) or to assess the strengths and weaknesses of farm as a whole (that also comes soon). The goal for this series is to take each prospect individually, study the progress made so far, and see what we can learn about the future for that player.

So what makes Silva someone we don’t want to forget about? To start with, he’s a left handed batter.

Rubi Silva, OF
Born: June 6, 1989
Acquired: The Cubs signed Silva as a free agent out of Cuba. He was one of the first of the Cubs recent run of Cuban signees, and received a healthy $1.2 million bonus.

Season Summary

As a 24-year-old, Silva was decidedly on the older side of the fence for Double A position players, but given that 2013 was just his third professional season in the States, I don’t think we need to dismiss his numbers as simply those of a minor league veteran just yet. The highish age is worth noting, but that alone isn’t sufficient to tank his prospect status.

His walk rate, on the other hand, very nearly is. Over 126 games and 490 trips to the plate Silva managed to walk just 18 times. That is now his career high. His walk rate of 3.7% is the best he has posted with any team for which he has played more than twenty games. To it bluntly, that is very not good.

That he only struck out 20.2% of the time helps matters, but anyone who walks less than 4% of the time is going to find it tough to maintain much of an OBP as he moves up the system. That in turn, will depress his OPS. ┬áIt isn’t impossible that he can put up a quality OPS at higher levels with a very low BB%, but it certainly isn’t likely.

And, looking at his slash line of .284/.310/.483, we see that in fact his OBP wasn’t all that great. The SLG of .483 is nice, though, and, as I mentioned in the opening a paragraph, his OPS of .793 is good for tenth in the league (among qualifiers) in 2013. Toss in the ISO of .199 and we are looking at a guy with a respectable wOBA of .356 and a nice wRC+ of 126. Despite the walk issue, those are solid numbers.

Silva hit 15 home runs for Tennessee and projects to hit about that many, maybe as many as 20, in the majors. He also stole 15 bases for the Smokies. That speed would be more useful if he were on base more often, but as is I suspect he could repeat that figure in Chicago.

At the end of the day, then, Silva is a left handed hitting outfielder with 15+ home run power, 15+ stolen base speed, an acceptable strikeout rate, and some serious walk issues. I suspect many of you are looking at that and thinking “obvious platoon guy.”

So let’s take a look at the splits.

The Platoon Question

The thinking behind platoons is that a player typically hits best against a pitcher who throws with the opposite dominant hand. That means you would expect a right handed hitter to hit best against lefties, and a left handed hitter to hit best against righties.

Silva, being a left handed hitter, would then be expected to put up his best numbers against right handed pitching. And, indeed, his walk rate against right handers does jump to 4.1%. The total lines, however, look like this.

Versus RHP: .270/.303/.463 with a wOBA of .345 over 346 PA.
Versus LHP: .317/.326/.528 with a wOBA of .392 over 144 PA.

That is pretty much the reverse of the line we would expect. It is possible that this is just a one year fluke (his career numbers show a conventional split), but it is also possible that Silva is a reverse-split guy. That doesn’t lessen his value in a platoon situation, but it does mean that it might be a mistake to pigeonhole him as a platoon player right away.

At the end the day, though, whether as a platoon guy or a full time outfielder, we come back to that walk rate.

Prognosis

His winter league numbers (sample size alert) are not encouraging with just 3 walks in 24 games. On the other hand, there is clear BB% improvement between 2012 and 2013. What’s more, in August he not only posted his best monthly BB%, a healthy 7.2%, but he also put up a very nice OPS of .829 and a wOBA of .385. Random fluctuation? Or a player responding to coaching?

If Silva is improving his approach at the plate in such a way that he will emerge as as a more selective hitter, I think his combination of power and speed should make him a potentially valuable guy in an outfield platoon. On the other hand, if the apparent improvements are simply statistical mirages I suspect Silva is a season or two away from the AAAA label.

Look for Silva to open this season in Iowa, and I think he will put up some healthy numbers there. The key number to watch will continue to his BB%. If that figure comes up, we could be looking at Silva as a fourth outfield candidate by the second half of the season. Whether or not he can hold on to such a position as the rest of the Cubs big bats start to arrive in the majors remains to seen.

Photo via Smokies on the Radio and Roger C. Hoover

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Crap. I feel bad for Luke’s hard work on this piece, which people will ignore in their anger. I set it to post at this time earlier today, you know, before all freaking hell broke out.

    • SenorGato

      It’ll be OK. Prospect talk is basically all we have anyway and today only made that more true.

    • Adventurecizin Justin

      I say thanks for posting it because I don’t care to read about Tanaka any longer. He is dead to me now ha!

      Silva interests me. His walks are still down, but he seems to be improving under this system. We need a guy like him to step up…we need as many trade chips as possible to help speed up the rebuild. So you think he could get an ST invite?

    • MightyBear

      I will never ignore one of Luke’s prospect write ups. They are too good to miss.

    • Danny Ballgame

      Yankees suck, prospect porn rocks

  • CubFanBob

    Forgotten man indeed

  • SenorGato

    Crazy that even with the top 4 the system still desperately needs star power. Silva sounds like hes just above non-prospect status but I guess a ton of future MLers fall into there. Not really that interested but yeah I could see him getting a shot in the majors eventually. I have my doubts it will be Chicago.

    I’m a little dissapointed that there isn’t a big bat in the draft so I assume the next potentially big impact prospect that comes in will be a pitcher. Here’s looking at you, Tyler Beede!

  • cubsfan1594

    Do you believe the outfield from Tennessee (Sczcur, Silva, and Andreoli) will all start in Iowa?

    • SenorGato

      Jot Luke but I could see all of that bunch in Iowa. Not sure there’s anyone to stop it though I wonder if they all have enough AA PAs. IIRC Andreoli was a midseason promotion to AA so maybe he doesn’t, but I suspect the other two will.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Andreoli might start in Tennessee, but if he does I think it will be a roster crunch problem. All three could start in Iowa for sure.

      • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

        Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Kalish (L), Mitch Maier (L), Jae-Hoon Ha, Casper Wells, Josh Vitters (if he doesn’t make the MLB team), Matt Szczur (if they want to promote him), and Rubi Silva and John Andreoli?

        Looks like an already-crowded AAA OF to me.

        Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Ryan Roberts, Chris Valaika, Jeury Valdez, Greg Rohan, Chris Coghlan, Edgar Gonzalez… Logan Watkins or Mike Olt (if he doesn’t win the MLB 3B gig)?

        Seems like an even more crowded AAA IF!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          That’ll likely thin out by the end of May. I strongly suspect some of those minor league vet types have clauses in their contracts under which the Cubs will release them if they haven’t made the 25 man by X date.

  • Edwin

    Nice write up Luke. The K and BB rates just worry me too much.

  • ssckelley

    How does Silva look defensively in the outfield?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      He’ll be fine in the corners. I think his CF defense may be a little suspect, but I’ve seen worse.

      Shouldn’t be an issue.

      • ssckelley

        In that case he needs to make it with his bat and if all he can play is the corner outfield he needs to pick it up to be an every day player.

  • JB88

    Where was Silva hitting in the lineup in August? I wonder if his slash line was impacted at all due to what Baez was doing that month.

  • Bilbo161

    If I remember he had a couple of months last year when his walk rate was better. Those months were preceded and separated by poor walk rate months. To me than means he can walk more in at least month long spurts. I think that is promising consider he has a tremendous arm and can play all 3 OF positions.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    I saw Rubi play in the FSL. He has a really nice smooth swing, he looks like one of those guys who is going to develop power as he gets older. Started last season in Tenn.
    He really is a classic, “can’t walk off the island” kind of hitter when I saw him though, he swings at anything close.
    He is a very good competitor and hustles, and you could tell he was liked and respected by his teammates.

    • AA Correspondant

      Agree whole heartedly. I noticed the same thing.

  • Fastball

    maybe he is striking out 20% because he is looking for the walk too much. If his eye isn’t that good or he isn’t protecting against borderline pitches in hopes of drawing a walk his K average is skewed compared to his walk average. I wouldn’t consider him a platoon player. I would consider him a valuable prospect who could be included in a trade at some point.

  • CubsFaninMS

    Us Cubs fans will call this day… RUBI SILVA DAY! Nothing happened this wonderful day except for a thorough review of Silva’s potential.

    • Danny Ballgame

      I have been listening to Hey Hey Holy Mackerel on repeat all day

  • Danny Ballgame

    Almora is the #4 OF prospect, according to MLB.com. Hooray prospects

    • Adventurecizin Justin

      Hooray & Hurryup!

      • Xruben31

        Where’s Soler?

        • Jon

          Not on the list.

        • Cubsin

          Jim Callis listed Soler as the #11 outfielder, so he just missed the top 10.

  • AA Correspondant

    Rubi was a lot of fun to watch in AA last season. He is a dynamic player that can do a lot of things.

    His biggest flaw, in my opinion, is that he simply does not see a lot of pitches. He is a swing at first pitch type batter that became very predictable. The Southern league is a pitchers league with several “Im gonna blow it by you” type pitchers, and Rubi believed (and guessed right a lot) that the first pitch fastball might be the best pitch he’d see during an at bat.

    A great arm in the outfield and highly athletic, I always enjoyed watching him play. Like you mentioned above, he does not walk very often, and his swing first approach was a little frustrating at times.

    I wish him the best in AAA.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Silva would be nice addition to Shark in exchange for 5 Angel prospects

  • http://BN Sacko

    Get a contract with WGN to watch AAA Iowa! Holy…

  • Matt Trueblood

    On the old Up and In podcast, Kevin Goldstein once talked about Silva as a guy he liked. Silva was a 2B at the time, no carrying tool or standout skill, but just able to do several things well and affect the game with athleticism. I don’t know if he’s a big-leaguer, in the end. Moving to the OF might have put too much pressure on the bat. He’s Engel Beltre Lite, which is a fifth outfielder. He’s got some things going for him though.

  • coondawg

    Luke …..hypothetically speaking if we have the exact same prospects but also still have Hak-Ju-Lee where do you think he is ranked BA has him as the Rays #2 ranked prospect. But where would he be on our team ?

    • CubFan Paul

      #7ish

      • coondawg

        Above or behind Candlestick?

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