If you want to get into some prospect reading today, might I recommend a three-part series over at Vine Line, courtesy of friend of the program, Baseball Prospectus’s Sahadev Sharma.
Not only does Sharma look deeply at a wide range of Cubs prospects, he’s got an inside perspective on how the organization views a lot of these guys. The series includes a look at the elite guys, the up-and-comers, and the guys who are just a phone call away. Each is a fantastic read.
For example, here’s a small portion of Sharma’s writeup on catching prospect Kyle Schwarber, and the “catching” part of that title:
The Cubs took Schwarber under the assumption he’d end up in left field, but the improvements he made defensively in such a short timespan were impressive enough for the organization to shift philosophies in his development plan. They’re now allowing him to give catching a real try. Most college players prefer to shift out of catching so they can get on the fast track to the big leagues. Schwarber realizes that being behind the plate will slow his timetable, but it’s what he wants to do. That desire is what many believe is a separator for him.
Schwarber has worked hard with catching instructor Tim Cossins to improve his transfer and set-up, and the results have been eye-opening.
Everyone outside of the organization expected Schwarber to immediately become a LF/1B type as soon as he entered the Cubs’ system, and it sounds like that was the expectation within the organization, too. It speaks, then, to the progress he made last year that the Cubs are willing to slow things down in order to give him a real shot at catching. The praise you heard about the improvements he made are clearly not just lip service.
Sharma also mentions something of note to the Armando Rivero fans among you: not only does he have a fantastic slider and an overpowering fastball with late movement, he’s also got a changeup that could be serviceable. Three pitches … starting future? Well, Sharma says the organization still sees his best role as a reliever. We might get to see the Cuban righty at some point this year.
A range of guys like Jake Stinnett, Eloy Jimenez, Albert Almora, Eric Jokisch, and Christian Villanueva come in for write-ups in the series, so, again, it’s worth your time this afternoon.
UPDATE: And, hey, there’s another installment in the series up (thanks to Rob in the comments for the alert). Part four, on guys looking to rebound in 2015, is here. Your “whoa” moment in that one? Dylan Cease, one of the Cubs’ high-upside high school picks last year, who underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the draft, is not only already throwing, but he could be back pitching “competitively” by late April, says Sharma. That will likely be in extended Spring Training, but if Cease pitches a fair bit even in rookie ball this year, you’d be encouraged by that progress.