Quite a bit out there on Cubs prospects lately as the minor league seasons get ready to kick off later this week …
- Starting off with a Cubs prospect who is no longer a Cubs prospect: in 2012, Nick Struck had an outstanding season, and he was named the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. In 2014, Nick Struck was released by the Cubs. Such is the impending glut of quality pitching talent riding its way up the Cubs’ system. Struck never quite took the step forward from good minor league results to projectable performance at higher levels, and that spelled the end of his time with the Cubs.
- Also released by the Cubs this week, per Baseball America: RHP Paolo Espino, RHP Loiger Padron, RHP Orbandy Rodriguez, LHP Frank Del Valle, LHP Al Yevoli, C Wilfredo Petit, SS Walter Ibarra, SS Alex Sanchez, and OF Jose Dore. Espino was one of the Cubs’ more interesting minor league signings this offseason, but obviously the Cubs didn’t quite like what they saw in Spring Training (and it was going to be tough to get innings at AAA, anyway). Del Valle was at one time an intriguing Cuban defector prospect, and Dore was picked up from the Padres last year. This kind of organizational paring happens at this time of year for every organization, and the fact that the Cubs are paring away some interesting guys is probably a good sign for the health of the organization.
- (And, in case you missed it, the Cubs also released outfielder Reggie Golden last week.)
- The reason Duane Underwood wasn’t on the Kane County roster to start the year was indeed an injury, and his manager describes it as a forearm tweak (per Paul Johnson). Forearms obviously make you nervous, but the expectation appears to be that he’ll be back in a couple weeks, so maybe it’s not terribly serious. When he returns, he could join a six-man rotation featuring Paul Blackburn, Tyler Skulina, Daury Torrez, Juan Paniagua and Jen-Ho Tseng. Loaded, man.
- Not in the rotation? Dillon Maples, who is dealing with yet another injury – a broken rib in his upper back, which will cost him upwards of eight weeks (again, per Johnny-on-the-spot, Paul Johnson). Maples has dealt with a range of injuries and effectiveness issues since the Cubs paid him handsomely to forgo college back in 2011. He had first round talent, but it has never come together for him. And now he has to wait some more.
- Jake Hannemann will be the starting center fielder for Kane County to being the year after getting some high praise from manager Mark Johnson (per Paul Johnson). That means Trey Martin will be in left field, Yasiel Balaguert will be in right, and Shawon Dunston, Jr. will rotate around.
- Jason Parks chatted at BP, and among his thoughts: (1) Jen-Ho Tseng was the most impressive non-Big Four/Alcantara guy he saw on the Cubs’ back fields, and would now be a top ten Cubs prospect in his mind (though behind C.J. Edwards, at least, in the pitching pecking order); (2) Javy Baez playing second base – if and when he does at Iowa – means nothing about the Cubs’ long-term plans for him defensively (in other words, when he’s ready to face big league pitching, you have to find a spot for him, and then you can change things up later); (3) Parks still can’t get too excited about Dan Vogelbach, despite the physical transformation, because he’s still a 1B/DH guy, and those types don’t intrigue Parks until they show they can mash at the upper levels of the minors; (4) Parks would rank last year’s top Venezuelan signing, shortstop Gleyber Torres, over last year’s top Dominican signing, Eloy Jimenez; (5) Parks doesn’t see Kyle Hendricks sustaining success at the big league level; (6) Jorge Soler remains the weakest of the Cubs’ big prospects because of the rawness and in-game adjustment issues.
- The money question an answer? Parks was asked over/under 700 total career homers in MLB for Javy Baez and Kris Bryant combined, and he went with the over. Yowsa. I don’t even think I’d be that ballsy.
- Tommy Birch – who is the man to follow for all things Iowa Cubs related – writes about five storylines heading into the AAA season.