A bunch of Chicago Cubs prospect items to enjoy …
- Cubs prospects keep killing it in the AFL, with each of Mark Zagunis and Willson Contreras going deep this week. Zagunis is hitting a fun .227/.485(!)/.409 in the league, continuing to take his walks (11) and striking out less than he walks (8).
- Contreras spoke about his offensive breakout 2015 season, the success of which he attributes in large part to his time in the Venezuelan Winter League last offseason. He also continues to work behind the plate, and you won’t find anyone, right now, who’ll tell you he can’t be a good catcher at the big league level. If the offensive changes are sustainable – and they sure looked to be last year – then the Cubs have a tremendous prospect on their hands (but you probably already believed that). He’ll start out the 2016 season at AAA as a guy with the potential to be an above-average big league bat and an above-average defensive catcher. That’s a big-timer, my friends. Sometimes I have to force myself to pump the brakes on him a bit, because I’ll want to see it repeated next year for a period of time before I go all in. But nothing he’s done in the AFL so far – .308/.391/.641 – has slowed the roll. I have a strong suspicion that we’re going to see Contreras rocketing up the various top 100 lists in the offseason, and I’ll be sure to plug our man Luke, who ranked Contreras the top prospect in the Cubs’ system as early as his midseason update in 2015. I love Contreras, but even I called that ranking at the time “bold.”
- And speaking of which, Chris Crawford talks about a bunch of prospects here, but I’ve got to share his thoughts on Willson Contreras: “This might have been the most pleasant surprise of the first half of the Fall League. I knew Contreras had the catch-and-throw skills, and I had seen the statistics that suggested he could hit, but I wasn’t prepared for just how advanced he is offensively. The extension he gets on his swing is impressive, and he hit the ball hard to every part of the field in my multiple looks. This isn’t Kyle Schwarber with the bat or anything, but add in a 55 glove and 60 arm, and I think it’s obvious why so many believe it’s Contreras who will be the backstop of the future in Chicago.”
- Meanwhile, Jeimer Candelario is hitting an absurd .378/.395/.784, but the AFL and small sample caveats apply – that’s still good for only the fourth best OPS in the league.
- Keith Law mentioned each of Contreras and Candelario in his latest chats, saying that he believes Contreras can factor into the Cubs’ catching picture as soon as some point in 2016 (I’d agree, depending on injuries/usage/etc.), he loves what he sees at the plate from Contreras and has heard he’s better than average behind it, and he believes both Contreras and Candelario can hit enough to be big league regulars, but Candelario may not be able to play big league defense at third.
- A very interesting behind-the-scenes-from-San-Francisco’s-perspective read on the Eddy Julio Martinez story, and how the Cuban outfielder came to be the next Cubs prospect and not the next Giants prospect. It seems it was all on the up-and-up, as the Giants expected to have to get a signature from Martinez, himself, after agreeing to a deal with his California-based agents, and, when they tried to get that signature, he would not sign. Here’s the crazy part, at least according to the Giants’ sources: they believe the Cubs saw that initial media report that Martinez had agreed to a deal with the Giants for $2.5 million, and immediately contacted Martinez’s agents in the Dominican Republic to offer him $3 million. For their part, the Cubs reportedly say they were in communications with Martinez’s agents in the DR all along, so it’s not quite true that they just leapt in at the last minute like that.
- Mauricio Rubio offers thoughts on Rob Zastryzny, including the addition of a much-improved curveball to his fastball/change approach. Small sample, but I’ll also point out that Zastryzny has 14 Ks in the AFL so far through 11.0 innings, and has walked just one.
- A nice read from the Hardball Times on how the Arizona Fall League – always thought of as an offense-heavy league – works for developing pitchers.