This winter, MiLB is identifying the most outstanding campaigns by players at every position for each Minor League system across baseball.
In other words, they’re creating full Minor League All-Star teams for each organization – which means things like age or prospect status were not taken into consideration – and the Cubs roster is out.
Catcher: Victor Caratini
First Base: Chris Dominguez
Second Base: Jhonny Bethencourt
Third Base: Jason Vosler
Shortstop: Zack Short
Outfield: Charcer Burks
Outfield: Mark Zagunis
Outfield: Luis Ayala
Utility: Tyler Alamo
Right-Handed Starter: Jen-Ho Tseng
Left-Handed Starter: Justin Steele
Reliever: Dillon Maples
Obviously, the Cubs system doesn’t have a ton of top-tier prospect cachet remaining, but it is good to see that a few of their actual top prospects were also the top performers.
Specifically, it’s nice to see Victor Caratini, the switch-hitting catcher who spent some time with the big league team this season, lead the way at his position. If the Cubs decide to steer away from the veteran backup mold, he could conceivably be Willson Contreras’ primary back-up next season. And that would be especially cool, because like Contreras (and, to an extent Kyle Schwarber), Caratini could play in the various corner infield and outfield spots from time to time, too.
To earn his place on the All-Star team, Caratini slashed a healthy .342/.393/.558 in Triple-A Iowa this year. In terms of overall Major League value, this 24-year-old minor leaguer has something to offer.
Similarly, it’s nice to see Jen-Ho Tseng make an appearance on this list, as he had a return to prospect prominence this season (minor league pitcher of the year for the Cubs), and even got a cup of coffee in September. Tseng’ll probably need some more innings before we see him more regularly in Chicago, but in the meantime he certainly put up fantastic numbers at Triple-A (1.80 ERA, 53.1 GB%, 6.3 BB%).
And then there’s a guy like Dillon Maples, who went from top starting pitching prospect, to afterthought, to hey wait a minute, this guy might actually have something special as a reliever!
Out of the Triple-A bullpen in 2017, Maples collected a 1.96 ERA and a massive 61.1% ground ball rate, but his true claim to fame were the strikeouts. In just 18.1 IP at Iowa, Maples struck out a ridiculous 28 batters (after striking out another 28 batters in the 13.2 IP at Double-A earlier in the year). He still walks too many guys, but it’s not difficult to dream on a guy with a 60 GB% and a 40 K% pitching out of the Cubs bullpen in big spots in the near future. And it’s great to see him turn his career around in a new role.
There’s a lot more information – including stats, scouting reports and comments from teammates and coaches – in the MiLB article right here, so I’ll encourage you to check that out. In the meantime, congrats to a bunch of great seasons from Cubs Minor Leaguers, prospects and journeymen alike.