Although it may seem like the Cubs don’t actually have any prospects left in the minors – what with the recent promotions of Willson Contreras and Albert Almora – there are actually still games being played and teams being fielded by members of the Cubs organization.
Some of them aren’t half bad!
I kid, of course, because despite player after player making their way to Chicago, the Cubs system is still loaded with talent and that talent is still making plenty of noise.
- With Willson Contreras in Chicago (working his way towards expiring his prospect status), the Cubs top prospect spot might soon be due for a shakeup. Among the candidates likely to take over that spot is 2015 first round pick Ian Happ. It just so happens that Happ was recently named the Carolina League Player of the Week (June 13-19), for the second time this season. He won the award on the strength of a 13-25 performance, including six doubles, a triple, a homer and six RBI. Happ is now hitting .296/.410/.475 on the season and will represent the Pelicans in Tuesday’s California-Carolina League All-Star Game in California.
- But that wasn’t the only recognition Happ received for his big week at the plate. In addition to Player of the Week honors, Happ was also named to the Prospect Team of the Week, by MLB Pipeline. Joining Happ in the distinction is left fielder Mark Zagunis who hit a laughable .440/.533/.720 over that stretch, including five doubles and a triple in just seven games. Zagunis recently moved up to Triple-A Iowa, but has faced no difficulty so far in the transition. In his 54 plate appearances at Triple-A this season, Zagunis has slashed .348/.426/.543 (.423 wOBA) with an excellent 13.0% walk rate and 18.5% strikeout rate.
- Zagunis wasn’t the only Smokie to make his way up to Iowa recently as teammate Jeimer Candelario joined him in the promotion. At the Des Moines Register, Tommy Birch writes about Candelario, his recent performance and how he’s the next top prospect to hit the I-Cubs roster. A third baseman by trade, Candelario is slightly blocked at the major league level (be it by Kris Bryant, Javy Baez or someone else). But with that in mind, I-Cubs manager Marty Pevey is finding creative ways to use him, specifically, at first base. He may be blocked by Rizzo there, of course, but increasing his versatility can help him get into games on an everyday basis (look at Baez and the number of starts/games he’s drawn). Candelario remains a wholly exciting prospect, and increasingly his versatility will make him even more so.
- The Cubs’ first pick in the 2016 draft, Thomas Hatch, may have come from the third round, but he’s continued to produce results like a first rounder. On Saturday, for example, he threw his nation-leading fourth shutout of the season, in the College World Series. He retired 22 out of the last 25 batters he faced and has allowed no runs in the NCAA tournament through 23 innings pitched. For a good roundup of the start (including some video of his performance), check out Mitch Sherman’s write-up on ESPN. And remember, Hatch was better thought of before an elbow injury knocked him off the mound and the radar in 2015, but he’s come back strong in 2016 after rehabbing, earning Big 12 pitcher of the year honors. He may not be a traditional first pick in the draft, but he appears to have plenty of exciting upside tucked away in that arm.
- At Baseball America, Ben Badler (and the staff) takes on a Prospect chat, featuring plenty of good bits. Among the most notable Cubs related part was Badler’s take on recent big money Mexican signing Jose Albertos. According to Badler, the reports on Albertos out of extended spring training (Bill Mitchell) have been great, he has a great feel for pitching, and even better stuff that continues to improve. At 17 years old, he’s a bit far away from the Major Leagues, but might be a name to watch in the coming years.
- At CSN Chicago, Patrick Mooney writes about Brady Aiken – the pitcher that tempted the Cubs in two consecutive drafts, whom they ultimately passed on in 2015 for Ian Happ – and where he’s at in his career vis a vis, Happ. At the moment, it looks a lot like brilliance (or luck) that the Cubs went with Kyle Schwarber in 2014 and Ian Happ in 2015 instead of Aiken (though they didn’t have the option in ’14), but that could eventually change as Aiken continues to work in extended Spring Training. It’s a really interesting read, with a lot of thoughts from Cubs amateur scouting director Matt Dorey. Rarely are you given so much insight on the Cubs thought process. This one is well worth your read.
- [Brett: A long FanGraphs look at the top pitcher in the draft according to the KATOH system … Cubs 10th rounder Dakota Mekkes. It’s a fun read on how a guy like that falls all the way to the 10th round, but I think there’s one aspect that probably should have also been discussed: Mekkes is a redshirt sophomore, which means he has quite a bit of leverage in signing. If he didn’t go early enough, and doesn’t get a huge bonus offer, he can go back to school knowing that he’ll be only a junior (rather than a leverage-less senior). Players like that tend to go after the 10th round, because then the team that fails to sign him doesn’t lose pool space. The Cubs probably figured Mekkes would go in the 11th round – maybe even right away – so they pulled the trigger. If the Cubs fail to sign him, they’ll lose $156,600 from their pool. Worth the risk to try and get a talent like this. But Mekkes is the guy you’ll want to keep an eye on whether the Cubs can save enough pool money elsewhere to sign.]
- Pedro Araujo, a 22 year old Cubs reliever for the SB Cubs, has continued to put up huge numbers this year in South Bend (0.53 ERA), after putting up equally excellent (although more realistic) numbers in 2015 (2.68 ERA over 50.1 IP) and 2014 (1.98 ERA over 36.1 IP). He’s already recorded 20 strikeouts in his 17 innings, against just 4 walks, and has kept opposing batters to just a .107 average all season. Given his age and his increasingly impressive performance, Araujo might be a candidate for promotion mid-season. Keep him on your radar.
- And finally, at Baseball is Fun, Eugene Emeralds center fielder and Cubs prospect D.J. Wilson makes an unbelievable catch in left center field. I’m not sure who installed the trampoline out there, but it’s good to see him put it to use.