Prospect Notes: Bryant, Soler, Underwood, McKinney, Straily, Johnson, Much More

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Prospect Notes: Bryant, Soler, Underwood, McKinney, Straily, Johnson, Much More

Cubs Minor Leagues and Prospects

cubs prospect lo vista bryant baez solerThere are about three weeks left in the Cubs’ affiliates’ minor league seasons, though that’ll hopefully be extended for most of the Cubs’ squads by way of the playoffs.

  • So, now that we’ve seen Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara up, with Jorge Soler on deck, is Kris Bryant coming up this year, too? Luke’s arguments in favor notwithstanding, Theo Epstein tells that it’s still not in the cards for Bryant. It’s Bryant’s first professional season, there are still developmental things for him to work on, and there aren’t any extraordinary circumstances at the big league level demanding his call-up. In that regard, it’s not merely a business decision to wait on Bryant, and Epstein certainly isn’t going to discuss any business aspects of the situation (other than unnecessarily filling up a spot on the 40-man roster). I think there’s an argument to be made for calling up Bryant so he can get a taste in September, but, in the end, the lengthy list of counterarguments wins me over. Assuming health and continued productivity, we’ll see Bryant up with the Cubs – likely for good – in mid-to-late April next year. Until then, you’ll just have to be patient.
  • Cubs VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod was on the radio with Bruce Levine and Wayne Randazzo this weekend, and the CCO has the transcript. As usual, McLeod was fantastic. Among his comments: (1) The Javier Baez call-up pre-September was the product of the Cubs determining what would be best for Baez going forward, and for the Cubs in 2015; (2) Jorge Soler learned a lot from “the bat” incident last year, and, despite what you might hear to the contrary, Soler is a guy his teammates love to rally around and look to lead; (3) Jen-Ho Tseng has three quality pitches he can locate, and has been impressive this year; (4) Duane Underwood “might have the most upside in our organization in the minor leagues as far as starting pitching” (whoa – file that note away); and (5) the Cubs don’t yet know what they’re doing for offseason ball, though they’ve now got an idea what positions they’ll be able to send to the Arizona Fall League (because the teams are shared, you can’t just send two shortstops and expect them to play – there’s something of a balloting/prioritization process for figuring out which positions you can send – we’ll talk more about the AFL soon).
  • John Sickels notes some great quotes from AAA Iowa hitting coach Brian Harper about the two remaining big-time positional prospects in his lineup, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant. A sample on Soler: “His strength is just unbelievable. I think the real strength of Jorge is that he doesn’t really chase out of the zone like a lot of young aggressive hitters do. Javy [Baez] for example, would chase out of the zone. Jorge has better discipline in the strike zone and he just needs to stay healthy.”
  • Speaking of Soler, Keith Law chatted (with a variety of Cubs bits), and noted that it’s conceivable Soler could be the best of the Cubs’ top prospects when all is said and done, though the bar for offensive performance will be higher because of his defensive position. Law also mentioned that new Cubs catching prospect Victor Caratini could have a quality bat, if he can stick behind the plate.
  • Addison Russell understandably gets the bulk of attention following Samardzija/Hammel trade (he’s destroying AA as a 20-year-old shortstop), but the other prospect in the deal – Billy McKinney – has been tearing up High-A as a 19-year-old in his first full professional season. I cannot overstate how impressive McKinney’s numbers at Daytona (in a very offensively-challenged environment) are, given his age and experience: .327/.424/.449 with 24 Ks and 18 BBs. His strikeout rate is well below 20%, and his walk rate is over 13%. He is 19. In High-A. He was drafted last year.
  • And the other other guy in the deal, Dan Straily, is quietly turning things around at AAA Iowa. After a rough start, he’s got his ERA down to 3.55 with an excellent 24.7% K rate and 6.9% BB rate. I am drooling at the upcoming 4/5/6/7 starter competition next year.
  • I can only assume the PTBNL in that deal is somewhere killing it.
  • Pierce Johnson had a near no-hitter yesterday, with the only hit he gave up coming in the sixth inning of a seven-inning game. After working his way through an injury-plagued year (not his arm, at least), Johnson, 23, seems to be hitting his stride. Over his last five starts, he’s allowed just two earned runs total. Since returning to AA at the start of July, Johnson is sporting a 1.38 ERA over 45.2 innings in which he’s K’d 28.7%(!) of the batters he’s faced. He’ll have to continue to work on his control (11.1% BB rate over that span), but the stuff is very clearly back to its formerly-impressive state. When all is said and done, Johnson will likely have gotten in about 100 to 110 innings on the year, which could be enough to see him moved up to AAA next year, depending on his offseason and Spring.


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.