Baseball America is continuing its series ranking prospects in each individual minor league, and they’ve just arrived at the Northwest League. I really enjoy this series because it allows us to see prospects compared against each other (1) even if they aren’t top 100 types, and (2) even if they aren’t in the same system. There’s only so much you can take away, obviously, but it gives you a rough idea of how the scouting community views some of the guys who may not be on an overall top prospect list or an individual team ranking list.
The Northwest League is where the Boise Hawks play. For the 2014 season, the Hawks were the Cubs’ short-season Low-A affiliate, though you’ll recall that, starting next year, the Cubs’ home in the Northwest League will be the Eugene Emeralds (and their badass beast of a logo).
Four Boise Hawks made Baseball America’s Northwest League ranking:
6. Jeffrey Baez, OF
9. Mark Zagunis, C/OF
14. Erick Leal, RHP
18. Rashad Crawford, OF
That’s a very interesting collection of prospects, and an impressive showing for the Cubs. With eight teams in the league, if every team had an equal number of prospects on the list, there would be 2.5 prospects for each organization. The Cubs had four. So, go Cubs.
Baez – not that J. Baez – has been a favorite among hardcore prospect hipsters for a couple years now, and has now played his second year in Stateside leagues, and got his first taste of full season ball (Low-A Kane County) at just 20 years old. The results were strong: Baez hit .255/.324/.472 in just about 300 plate appearances split between Boise and Kane County, with 13 homers and 17 stolen bases. There are some great raw tools there, but the hangup is the looming potential for contact problems as he climbs the ladder. Baez’s K rate was a manageable 22.2% at Boise, but rocketed up to 32.2% at Kane County. Still, the scouts were clearly impressed by the potential.
Zagunis, 21, was the Cubs’ third rounder this year, and he pretty much tore up Boise and Kane County, as you’d expect for an experienced bat (the identical 16% K and BB rates were particularly sexy). The impressive part is that Zagunis ranked immediately behind one of the top catching prospects in the draft, Max Pentecost, whom the Blue Jays tabbed at 11 overall, and signed for $2.9 million – or about $2.3 million more than Zagunis reportedly cost the Cubs. Well done.
Leal, 19, was young for the Northwest League, and posted a solid 3.73 ERA in a tough place to pitch. The peripherals weren’t as strong, though, with a meager 11.4% K rate and 6.6% BB rate. You may remember Leal as one of the pitching prospects the Cubs got for Tony Campana last year. He dominated in rookie ball last season, and could see a promotion to Low-A South Bend next year, which would be impressive for a 20-year-old. I wonder if Trevor Clifton got some consideration around this point on the list.
Crawford, 20, was a slight overslot signing for the Cubs out of the 2012 draft, and played at Boise for the first time in 2014. The numbers were meh, but scouts have dug his athleticism for a while. I wonder if Charcer Burks, whose numbers were fantastic this season, got any consideration in this range, too.