At Sunday’s Convention-closing Down on the Farm panel, C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber impressed the fans (one of whom said he loved them like he loved his wife and kids – I wonder if he ranks them, too), and Jason McLeod and Jaron Madison impressed, as well. Among the highlights from that panel:
- As expected – which is not to say it’s not impressive – shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres is likely to start the year at Low-A South Bend, which is incredible for a guy who just turned 18. You can expect plenty of hype for Torres, one of the Cubs’ big international signings last year, as the season goes on. He’s a natural shortstop who may well stick there long-term, and he’s got a very advanced approach at the plate. That’s the type, especially at 18, that can rocket waaaaay up prospect lists with a good first half.
- McLeod said that the Cubs are looking at about 30 names so far for their top pick in the June Draft (the Cubs select 9th), and that will be whittled down as players start to play again this year.
- Armando Rivero got some love as a near big-league-ready power reliever, and although he’ll be in big league camp again this year, it’s going to be tough for him to make the bullpen out of Spring Training, given that he’s not yet on the 40-man roster. That makes things a little tricky at the start of the year.
- Kyle Schwarber prefers to catch, and feels like he made great progress after the draft, working out things that he never knew he was doing wrong. The Cubs have said he’ll get his shot to keep catching this year, and it could be at AA Tennessee.
- Two guys that Farm Director Jaron Madison threw out as possible breakout guys: Victor Caratini and Jeimer Candelario. Interestingly, each is a switch hitter, each plays some third base (though Caratini will also continue to catch), and each could start the year at High-A Myrtle Beach.
- McLeod specifically mentioned the great year Duane Underwood had, as well as Jen-Ho Tseng and Paul Blackburn at Kane County last year. He thinks outfielder Bijan Rademacher quietly had a great 2014 year, from the regular season to the AFL.
- Outfielder Kevonte Mitchell, although drafted because of his athleticism (he was a basketball star in high school), had a surprisingly good debut at the plate – especially in his approach – last year, despite his youth. He’ll be one to watch.
- Fun deep-dive-pitching stuff: we’ve known for a while that C.J. Edwards has late life on his fastball, and that seems to make him particularly hard to square up. He says it’s not really a cutter, though – it’s just that his natural four-seamer has cutting action. You can’t always teach that kind of thing, and it’s good to know there could be a sustainable gift behind Edwards’ previous success with his fastball.
- If you want even more from the panel, each of The CCO and Vine Line has a great write-up.