Not to detract from Lester Day – and how about the PTBNL decisions, eh? Still waiting on those – but there’s a little prospecting news to share. With Jefferson Mejia exiting the Cubs’ top 20 prospect list on MLB.com thanks to the Miguel Montero trade, there was a spot to be filled. The MLB.com crew considered the list, and inserted 20-year-old righty, Duane Underwood. He actually slots into the 19th spot, ahead of outfielder Bijan Rademacher, who was recently added.
That suggests that, since the last addition (Rademacher in mid-November), the MLB.com guys – headed up by Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo – received some positive additional reports on Underwood, who is coming off of a strong rebound campaign in 2014: 2.50 ERA in 100.2 innings at Low-A, with 84 strikeouts and 36 walks.
Underwood, the Cubs’ second round pick in 2012, was always viewed as a bit of a project, but one with a huge arm and huge upside. The Cubs don’t have a ton of guys in the lower minors with top-of-the-rotation potential, but many see Underwood as that guy – it’s a big question as to whether he’ll ever reach that.
As for MLB.com, here are some of their comments:
He was inconsistent in his first two seasons but had his best year as a pro in 2014 after taking his conditioning more seriously.
Underwood usually pitches at 92-95 mph with his fastball, and he could regularly work in the mid 90s once he fully matures physically. His hard curveball shows promise, while his changeup is more of a work in progress.
Chicago knew Underwood would be a long-term project who would need time to develop. His control and command took a nice step forward last season, and if he puts everything together, he could be a mid-rotation starter or a late-inning reliever.
Recently, Underwood ranked as the only Cubs prospect in the Midwest League rankings by Baseball America, and ranked as the Cubs’ 9th best prospect, according to John Sickels. That’s more in the range where I would have him (top 14), but I can understand the varied opinions, given how much projection is still involved.
The long story short on Underwood is that he still has huge potential, but we’ll see if he can take another step forward in 2015. He’ll likely head to High-A Myrtle Beach to start the year.