A number of prospect bits to start out your week …
- Jorge Soler played seven innings in right field yesterday at extended Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona, according to Arizona Phil at TCR, while also getting six plate appearances (and he even stole a base). He’s played consistently and increasingly over the past week, so we could finally be getting close to seeing him back at AA Tennessee (where he’ll return to a batting line that features one at bat, and one double). If Soler makes it back within a week or so, and manages to remain injury-free for the rest of the season, he’ll still get in the majority of a full season. That’ll probably be spent entirely at AA, but even that doesn’t much matter to me at this point. Having missed half of last season with the stress fracture, and having missed so much time the previous two years during the defection process, Soler just needs to play games. A lot of them. The last thing you want to see with a supremely talented guy like Soler (one in whom the Cubs have invested $30 million) is for his career to be derailed by injuries before it even starts.
- John Sickels features Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez as his prospect of the day, and looks back on his evolution as a pitcher. Sickels believes Ramirez may be most effective long-term out of the pen, where he could possibly avoid some control and shoulder issues. One interesting thing: Sickels says Ramirez has/had a very effective changeup in the past, though I don’t think I’ve seen him throw it yet (instead, he’s just been fastball/slider). I wonder if he’s scrapped the pitch now that he’s in relief? Or is it maybe because he’s faced so few lefties that it hasn’t made sense to break it out yet? We’re talking about just two innings of work, so there could be any number of explanations. I’m mostly just curious.
- BP’s Jordan Gorosh was back checking out the Cougars, and saw fast-rising pitching prospect Jen-Ho Tseng, and came away pegging Tseng with a mid-rotation ceiling. I think that’s meant as a good thing, as the actual report is very complimentary, noting Tseng’s good fastball, changeup, and curveball. The command and control look good, too, according to Gorosh. Those pre-season reports that had Tseng as probably now a top ten prospect in the system would seem to be holding serve (oh, and Tseng’s numbers look good, too: 2.73 ERA over 26.1 innings, 27 K, 5 BB).
- It was a little unclear last year what injury pitching prospect Josh Conway suffered on his way back from Tommy John surgery (which he had before the draft in 2012, and which allowed the Cubs to get him in the fourth round when he’d previously been generating first round buzz), but it sounds like it was a second Tommy John surgery, which he had approximately one year ago. This article has some quotes from Conway, who is throwing regularly in extended Spring Training. Hopefully he’ll get out into league play in the second half, and we can finally see what the Cubs have in him (with the understanding that the road back from consecutive Tommy John surgeries is probably longer than a year and a third).
- A moment to discuss AA outfield prospect John Andreoli, who has been a sleeper of Luke’s for a couple years. A 17th round draft pick out of UConn, Andreoli was not expected to be a significant prospect, but all he’s done since being drafted is hit, walk, and steal bases. After a slow start this year, Andreoli’s line is up to .310/.430/.402 with 18 walks against 21 strikeouts. He’s stolen 14 bases and been caught just once. In his last 10 games, he’s hitting .355/.512/.452. If you were going to knock him, you’d say that he’s going to turn 24 in June, and is a college player who has only reached AA in his third full professional season. That’s not the profile of an impact prospect, but … so what? Andreoli instead looks like more of a possible future complementary piece, which has value (especially if you can find it in the 17th round). There are some Tony Campana comparisons there (mostly just because of convenience – smaller, speedy outfielder, college bat), but Andreoli is bigger, takes more walks, and has a little more pop.
- Speaking of Soler, when he does return to AA, the outfield there is going to become a little crowded. Perhaps it’ll soon be time to see what Andreoli could do at AAA.
- Pitching prospect Dallas Beeler – who reportedly looked very good in the Arizona Fall League last year after coming back from a finger injury (and was subsequently added to the 40-man roster) – will be sent to AAA Iowa to start today (Tommy Birch). He’d been building up arm strength after missing time in Spring Training, I believe, with a dead arm period. Although his ceiling is not super high, he’s very much a legitimate big league pitching candidate, perhaps in a back-end or swing role. Beeler, 24, is a pitch-to-contact guy, who induces a lot of groundballs.