No more stalling. Today we actually reveal a part of the mid-season updated to the Bleacher Nation Top 40 Prospects list. Today’s edition, numbers 40 through 31, features a number of players who are tough to project for one reason or another. The Projections here cover a wide range (when they can be projected at all), but their Risk factor is consistently high for a variety of reasons.
Don’t overlook the players in the bracket, though. Even if they never play for the Chicago Cubs, prospects in this range were the keys that brought Dan Haren from Miami. These are the sorts of players who are frequently included in supplemental deals of that nature, and I suspect the Cubs will be making a trade or two like that each year for the next few seasons. Even though they aren’t major prospects, they are still very valuable players to have in the organization.
So let’s get started. The 2015 Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects opens with…
40. Felix Pena, RHP. Tennessee.
Previous Ranking: Unranked
The primary thing keeping Pena from being higher on this list is his age. At 25 he really should be in Iowa or Chicago, not repeating Double A. On the other hand, the improvements he has made this go around are significant. The strikeout rate in particular is up to 10.29 K/9, and Pena leads the Cubs’ farm system in total strikeouts by a healthy margin. The walk rate is a little high for my taste at 3.61 BB/9, but that is much better than the 5.53 we saw last season. The same can be said for the home run rate; it was 1.63 HR/9 in 2014, and is now 0.81 in 2015. His FIP down a full two points, from 5.72 to 3.53.
He moved to the bullpen in his last two appearances, and in that capacity I think he may be able to move quickly. I am ranking him here with a bullpen future in mind. It will be very interesting to see what a guy with that strikeout can do when left to concentrate on relief work full time.
39. Jonathan Martinez, RHP. Myrtle Beach.
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Martinez is one of those pitchers who, on paper, looks like he shouldn’t be having the success he’s having. The strikeout rate is too low (5.18 K/9), the home run rate is too high (0.91 HR/9), he doesn’t get many ground balls (0.51 GO/AO), and yet he’s sitting on an ERA of 3.00 while hitters bat just .212 off him. With the exception of July he has a WHIP under 1.00 in every month of this season, and in July it was only 1.07. For now this guy has hit on a formula that is inducing weak pop ups and fly balls, and it is working for him.
I am not convinced he can stick in a rotation with that recipe, but I would be interested to see what he could do in middle relief. If the usual bullpen bump in velocity resulted in an uptick in strikeouts, he could be fairly effective that role.
38. Rob Zastryzny, LHP. Tennessee.
Previous Ranking: 25
Zastryzny is hard guy to rank. The scouts and professional analysts seem to like him (MLB Pipeline has him 14 slots higher than this, for example), but the results are just not consistently showing up. Right now he looks decently good in the strikeout department with a K/9 of 7.35, but his walk rate is much too high at 4.41 BB/9. Add in that he is giving up nearly a home run per nine innings and we’re looking at a FIP of 4.48. I like the concept of his velocity-changing stuff, but so far it just hasn’t turned into results. He’s also dealt with some injury issues this year.
I can point to games that make me think Zastryzny is mid-rotation starter in the making, and I can point to games that make me think he’s… well… not. Until some more consistency appears I’m staying cautious in my ranking.
37. Darryl Wilson, OF. Arizona.
Previous Ranking: Not eligible (2015 draftee)
The Cubs spent a large portion of their 2015 draft slot money to lure Wilson into the system, and even though he has not played very much yet, so far he has looked like a guy who is worth the investment. Through his first week of action (massive sample size alert) Wilson has walked 3 times, struck out 3 times and hit .250/.333/.417. The draft experts said he had the potential to be a high average, low power, left handed speed demon who could stick in center field, so we’ll see if he lives up to that billing.
That billing, by the way, and the fact the Cubs seemed determined to sign him, are the largest factors in his ranking on this list. I have very little additional information to go on, and so I am staying cautious in this ranking as well.
36. Brad Markey, RHP. Myrtle Beach.
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Markey was good, not great, as a reliever for South Bend. Then he moved into the rotation in Myrtle Beach and started posting excellent numbers (and winning awards). Through 6 games and 35.2 inning he has 24 strikeouts against just 5 walks and one home run allowed. Batters are hitting .176 off him. I liked what I saw when I watched him in person, but I still think I saw more of a middle reliever than a long term dominant starter. It is as a future middle reliever, one with a non-trivial chance of being a flash in the pan, I am ranking him here. If he continues this success in Double A next season, though, we could be talking about a Top 15 billing.
35. Wladimir Galindo, 3B. Arizona.
Previous Ranking: Not eligible (Had not played above the VSL)
I had been looking forward to seeing what Galindo, who turns 19 after the season, could do in the Arizona Rookie League all spring, and I have not been disappointed. He has not appeared in any games since July 15 (and yet is not in the disabled list), but in the short time he was active he hit .358/.400/.522. For the Cubs to maintain a deep and profitable farm system they will have to find plenty of talent in the Caribbean, and Galindo looks like he could be one of those talents.
34. Jeffrey Baez, OF. South Bend.
Previous Ranking: 38
Baez had a very unremarkable season well underway, one that had him in danger of falling off this list altogether, and then July hit. Or, to be more precise, in July he hit. A lot. A first half .190/.262/.268 hitter morphed into a second half .355/.372/.572 destroyer of ERAs (and winner of awards). One first half homer turned into six in the second half (and counting). Nine steals became sixteen. The walk rate has gone down quite a bit, but given the rate at which he is hitting that isn’t much of a surprise.
So which is the real Baez? We’ll find out at higher difficulty levels. For now I’m celebrating the all around offensive monster we have seen lately and hoping this 21 year old can keep it up next year in High A.
33. Jacob Hannemann, OF. Tennessee.
Previous Ranking: 23
Hannemann has made some highlight reels with his acrobatic catches for the Smokies this season, but after he hit his way out High A early this season it was his bat I was most interested in watching. That bat got off to a slow start in Double A, accumulating an OPS of just .585 in the first half, but he has made some adjustments and raised that figure to .734 so far in the second half. The strikeout rate of 22.2% is near the same as he posted in High A, but that might be a little high for him to enjoy long term success.
Then again, the glove is probably good enough for him to fight for a job as a left handed hitting fifth outfielder in another season or so. It sometimes looks to me like the tools are still coming together for Hannemann; we may be talking about him as a possible late bloomer in a year or so.
32. Daury Torrez, RHP. Myrtle Beach.
Previous Ranking: 29
Torrez moved up to High A and, compared to his Low A numbers, raised his strikeout rate to 5.84 K/9 and dropped his FIP to 3.63 while continuing to get plenty of ground ball outs, and yet he still slid a little on the Top 40. The Cubs farm system is just that deep.
Torrez is continuing to use his non-overpowering stuff to great success in A ball, and so long as he continues to find that success he’ll project as a potential back of the rotation starter. One good trend to note – hitters have had an increasingly tough time squaring him up in the second half. That sort of steady improvement, even if it doesn’t result in a ton of strikeouts, will probably keep him in this range on this list for awhile yet.
31. Cael Brockmeyer, C. Myrtle Beach.
Previous Ranking: Unranked.
It is hard to believe that Brockmeyer is only 6’5″ and 235 lbs, and even harder to believe that he can pack his huge frame behind the plate, but that is exactly what he does pretty successfully. He has had some success at the plate, too, hitting .274/.356/.414 with South Bend while posting a very good 12.3% walk rate. The numbers and the walk rate both dropped somewhat in Myrtle Beach, not a good sign given that he is already 23, but those figures have been steadily improving as the season progresses.
He will need to move quickly if is not going to be completely passed by the age curve, but the Cubs willingness to try him in short stints at both Iowa and Tennessee imply they are willing to move him as quickly as his bat will take him. Late blooming prospects are a real thing, and it may be that Brockmeyer is one of them.