billy mckinney smokiesThe Cubs sent four players to the Yankees yesterday, and three of them were prospects. I’m not going to get into the valuation angle here; this is just to roughly sketch who these prospects were, what Yankee fans can expect from them in the future, and what the Cubs lost.

I’ll skip over Adam Warren since he isn’t really a prospect anymore and since anyone who has followed the Yankees is probably more familiar with him than most of us are. That leaves three: one elite prospect, one good prospect having a down year, and one wild card.

The undisputed key to the trade, I had Gleyber Torres ranked Number Two in the organization in the last edition of the Top 40, and with Willson Contreras graduated to the majors, he was a strong contender to take over the top spot. Many other publications had already listed him in that top spot, and given his .275/.359/.433 line with Myrtle Beach, it is hard to argue. At just 19 years old, his walk rate was an impressive 10.3% and his strikeout rate a slightly high 21.3%. Given the walk rate and the .157 ISO, that strikeout rate isn’t bad, but it could be better.

Defensively, I think he could stay at shortstop so long as no one is looking for Gold Gloves out of him. He could plausibly become above average (though it’s not necessarily likely), and he could pair that above average defense with 15+ HR and 20+ steals at the Major League level. I see him more as a good lower in the order hitter than a top of the order guy, but either way he has the bat to play every day in the majors. Look for him to reach the majors as soon as late 2017. He could be part of the regular infield for the 2018 Yankees.



Billy McKinney has become something of a forgotten man in the Cubs’ organization, but I think he likely to break out again. He broke his kneecap late last season, and so far this season his power has simply not shown up. The rest of his peripheral numbers are fine (13.5% BB rate, 19.5% K rate, .320 BABIP), but his weak .070 ISO had led to an anemic .252/.355/.322 line. I suspect, but cannot prove, that he lost some strength in his swing, probably in the lower half, while rehabbing. When that comes back, and I see no reason to think it won’t, I suspect his ISO will bounce back into the .140 range. That means more extra base hits, and more balls that are turning into outs today going for singles. When that happens, McKinney is going to look like a breakout prospect.

Then the question, again, will be position. He doesn’t have the power for the corners, and he doesn’t have the glove for center. Long term I see him as a good, offensive minded fourth outfielder or platoon type. He has a high floor, assuming his power comes back, and is a fairly safe bet to make the majors. Look for him in Yankee Stadium mid to late next season.

Rashad Crawford is the wild card. You might have been able to find four better defensive outfielders in the Cubs’ organization, but it would have taken some looking (Almora, Martin… maybe Hannemann?). A switch-hitter, Crawford has added a lot of muscle to his 6’3″ frame since he was drafted, and to some degree the effects of that muscle are just now starting to be felt. His 22 steals indicates he has plenty of speed (he can handle center, no doubt about that), and his career high .131 ISO implies his power is starting to come around. He needs time to develop it, but Crawford has a lot of potential.

On his good days I can see Crawford emerging as a .700+ OPS, 15+ HR, 30+ SB, very good defensive center fielder in the majors. I can also see him heading to Japan in three or four years. It is possible that Crawford will post the highest WAR for his new team of any player included in the trade. It is also possible that he never makes it out of Double A. That said, I think the Yankees grabbing him was a very smart move on their part. Most of the time lottery tickets like Crawford don’t pan out, but when they do they can pay off significantly. I don’t see Crawford making it to the big city until late 2018 at the earliest. Late 2019 is more likely.



Triple A: Iowa Cubs
Iowa 6, Memphis 2
The Cubs jumped out to a three run first inning lead.

Double A: Tennessee Smokies

The Smokies had the day off.

High A: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Myrtle Beach 9, Carolina 5
The Pelicans scored five times in the final two frames to pick up the win.

Low A: South Bend Cubs
South Bend 9, Peoria 8
South Bend 9, Peoria 2
The Cubs scored eighteen times in fourteen innings. That’s a good day.

Short Season A: Eugene Emeralds
Eugene 7, Vancouver 6 in twelve innings.
The Emeralds came back from a five run deficit to force extras on the road.



Rookie: Arizona Cubs
Brewers 7, Cubs 4
They lost the game, but have in fact won the first half division title and corresponding playoff ticket.

Other Notes

  • Next time you are having a bad day, just be glad you aren’t these guys. A minor league team in the High Desert league had some black widow spiders visit their dugout. I suspect that team wasn’t concentrating entirely on the game.
  • Preston Morrison has quietly been having a good year with South Bend, and yesterday he was rewarded with a trip to Myrtle Beach. In 17 games (16 starts) Morrison has a Low A ERA of 2.24 with 85 strikeouts and just 23 walks over 92.1 innings. He has allowed just two home runs while generating an impressive GO/AO of 1.74. If he can continue generating that sort of a ground ball rate while still striking out batters at a healthy clip at the the higher levels, it is only a matter of time before someone starts comparing him to Kyle Hendricks.
  • It also looks like Donnie Dewees is headed to Myrtle Beach.  Dewees, along with Jimenez and Martinez, has been part of a very talented South Bend outfield until now. He started off the season very well (April OPS of .977), but then struggled a bit through May and June before turning it around. His July line of .361/.411/.410 strongly implies that he has learned the lessons the Midwest League has to offer and is ready for a bigger challenge.



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