I’m sure we sound like a broken record by now, but the fact that 90% of this offseason’s big-time free agents/trade candidates remain on the market is really throwing me for loop.
Usually, around this time of the year, we’re getting into preseason prospect notes/rankings, projections, and so much more. But now, it feels weird to write about anything other than Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Manny Machado, Chris Archer, or whomever else.
But until those big deals start dropping down, we must press on, business as usual. And to that end, here are some prospect notes for your Thursday morning …
- You might not know too much about Cubs prospect Chris Singleton, but let me assure you, his story is special, sad, and important. On June 17, 2015, before he was even a Cubs prospect, Singleton’s mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was one of nine people killed in the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina by a white supremacist. But instead of lashing out or getting angry, Singleton has used the time since his mother’s tragedy to preach a message of love over hate. “I think I was chosen for this, the path I’ve been on,” Singleton said via Cubs.com. “It’d be easy for me to not say anything about it, it’d be easy for me to sit back and play baseball and act like nothing ever happened in my life. I owe it to people and owe it to my family to speak the way I do and really try to shed a light on my message. I feel [my mother is] definitely with me.”
- Chris has created a website (www.thechrissingleton.com) and is giving speeches across the country. Part of his wonderful message is challenging his followers to go out and take a picture with someone who looks different than they do. And on January 12th, Singleton will be honored by the Scouts Association as the 2017 recipient of the Charlie Donovan Memorial “Passion for the Game” award. He’s doing a wonderful thing and I’m proud to say that he’s a member of the Chicago Cubs.
- At Baseball America, Patrick Mooney writes about the Cubs’ upside play in prospect Austin Upshaw. Upshaw, 21, was drafted in the 13th round of the latest MLB draft, but Cubs scouts are pretty excited about his potential. “It’s kind of like the rest of the college bats who we’ve always targeted,” scouting director Matt Dorey said to Mooney about Upshaw’s left-handed swing and strikezone management. “We thought there was going to be some power in there down the road.” Upshaw doesn’t have the power of Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, or Ian Happ, but he apparently has a good understanding of hitting and the positional versatility to be on the fast track to Wrigley Field. In 52 A-ball games last season, his first as a professional, Upshaw hit .290/.339/.381. As you can see, the power was not there yet, but his debut was impressive nonetheless, given how quickly he rose. He might be someone to watch next season.
- Speaking of which, Luke just undertook a little study to find the next breakout offensive prospect in the Cubs system, and you should check that one out if you missed it. Upshaw isn’t listed as one of the guys, but perhaps Ian Rice and/or Zack Short might surprise us this season.
- At Cubs Insider, Todd Johnson wrote an offseason prospect profile on Jose Albertos and it’s hard not to drool over the review. According to Johnson, Albertos’ fastball has easy mid-90s velocity and his changeup is the best offspeed pitch in the system. If he were done right there, the Cubs might have a closer in the making, but Albertos adds a work-in-progress curveball, which, if effective, would give him three plus pitches and an excellent shot at the middle of a Major League rotation. Albertos is generally considered to be one of the Cubs top two prospects (sometimes it’s Adbert Alzolay), so be sure to check out this profile before the 19-year-old explodes onto the scene in 2018.
- The final draft order will continue to change as more teams sign qualified free agents (see, this stuff is supposed to be mostly done by now!), but Baseball America has a draft preview for you and, as always, it’s well-worth your time – even this far out. As of now, the Cubs pick 24th (that should still be their pick come draft time) and BA guesses that they’ll go right back to the pitching mill like last season, only this time with a high school righty, Cole Wilcox. The Cubs have shown a preference for college talent in the first rounds of the draft in recent years, but perhaps a higher ceiling, high school type could make much sense for the next next wave of prospects in the 2020s. According to BA, Wilcox has a low-90s fastball and a very big frame. Presumably, that means he might be able to add a couple of digits to his heater, but that’s not clear just yet. I’d be surprised to see the Cubs add a high school pitcher, based on history, but like we always say, this front office is nothing short of surprising. They’ll go where the talent is.
- And finally, at Baseball America, Kyle Glazer and Teddy Cahill have a Cubs Prospect podcast, which they lead off with an announcement that the Cubs system is … one of the worst in baseball! Don’t worry, though, because they rightfully acknowledge that the Cubs system is weak because of many graduations and necessary trades (Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana, in particular). The point of a farm system is to win the World Series, according to Glazer and Cahill, and that’s exactly what the Cubs did.
- They also get into what I can’t wait to talk about more next season – the Cubs’ two first-round picks, Brendon Little and Alex Lange. Both guys are relatively big-time talents with first-round pedigrees and the stuff to rise quickly, but how likely is it going to happen? Well, I won’t spoil their podcast, I’ll just point you in the direction and tell you to enjoy.