Prospect Notes: Skulina, Underwood, Johnson, Torres, Venezuelan Operations, More

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Prospect Notes: Skulina, Underwood, Johnson, Torres, Venezuelan Operations, More

Cubs Minor Leagues and Prospects

cubs azl spring training logoMinor league camp is fully underway, and I took The Wife and The Little Girl to the back fields yesterday to see what it was like. They both thought it was pretty cool, which made me smile. There was an exhibition game going on between some Cubs minor leaguers and a professional Mexican League team, so a number of other Cubs prospects were walking around and watching the game, just like the various fans in attendance. That, too, was awesome.

Among the other latest prospect notes …

  • So much prospect-y goodness in this MLB Pipeline piece, as their crew has been visiting Cubs camp (I actually saw Jim Callis talking to scouts last week at the back fields). Pitching prospect Tyler Skulina, who was disappointing last year in his full-season debut (after the Cubs signed him for slightly over slot in 2013 as a 4th round pick), is apparently looking very good with solid velocity – he was dealing with a knee problem last year, it turns out, which may have hampered his ability to generate the kind of velocity he was showing before the Cubs picked him. So maybe he’s a guy to watch for a breakout this year, together with the other excellent arms who will be at Myrtle Beach.
  • Also in that piece (seriously, there’s a ton, so read it), Cubs VP of Scouting and Player Development confirms that the organization believes something we’ve suspected since the 2014 season wrapped up: the pitcher with the most upside in the Cubs’ system is Duane Underwood.
  • The guy who is probably right there with Underwood is C.J. Edwards, who is getting a lot of positive attention in camp (CSN). And the guy who is probably almost right there with Underwood and Edwards, in terms of upside, is Pierce Johnson, who was just cut from big league camp. The fact that he was among the first set of cuts shouldn’t alarm you, by the way, because he needs to get over to minor league camp where he can start stretching out and pitching fully in games to get ready for the season. Indeed, even Joe Maddon had strong praise for Johnson even after the cut (Tribune).
  • The Effectively Wild BP podcast season preview of the Cubs includes a whole discussion with prospect guy Chris Crawford, and there’s just a ton of good stuff in there. Among them: Carson Sands has number two upside, Crawford is super duper high on Gleyber Torres, Bijan Rademacher is his pick for sleeper to watch (possible future big league starter, maybe even All-Star(!)), Pierce Johnson’s arm action scares him, and he likes Jen-Ho Tseng to be a potential mid-rotation guy in the big leagues. Here’s your money comment, though: Crawford could see the Cubs still being the number two system in baseball at this time next year even after graduating Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler.
  • How about some swing analysis of those back-to-back-to-back Soler, Baez, Bryant homers last week?
  • Over at The Cub Reporter, Arizona Phil has the minor league camp rosters, if you’ve been wondering about anyone in particular. I finally met Phil this week at the back fields – super nice guy, and super into what he does.
  • The political and economic turmoil in Venezuela has taken its toll on baseball operations over the past decade. Did you know – I certainly didn’t realize – that there are only four MLB organizations that still have a regular, ongoing operation in Venezuela? The Cubs, Tigers, Phillies, and Rays. Other teams still do scouting in the country, but you’d have to figure that the four teams with ongoing operations would probably have a leg up there. Of course, it’s not like the other organizations are leaving for no reason, as it’s become an increasingly unstable and dangerous place for Americans to operate.


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.