It was a very interesting year for the Chicago Cubs minor league system. On the one hand, there was a lot of disappointment (Nico Hoerner and Adbert Alzolay’s season-ending injuries, Jose Albertos’ results, Oscar De La Cruz’s suspension, etc.), but there were also a few really big wins.
If you can’t think of them, it’s because they’re too close to you: David Bote and Victor Caratini. Neither player was really a proper “top prospect,” but both contributed to the big league Cubs in very real ways all season long. That counts – perhaps more than we ever give credit.
But I’ll understand if the prospect hipsters want something a little juicer to bite into. Fortunately, I have just the thing … the Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year: Jared Young and Matt Swarmer!
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 18, 2018
Here’s part of what the Cubs had to say about their top two performing Minor Leaguers, after announcing them as winners (via press release):
Young, 23, batted .300 (134-for-447) with 19 doubles, eight triples, 16 homers and 76 RBI in 120 games this season between Single-A South Bend and Single-A Myrtle Beach. He began the year with South Bend, hitting .313 (81-for-259) with 13 doubles, six triples, 10 homers and 53 RBI in 69 games as he earned Midwest League mid-season All-Star honors. Named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month for June, he batted .340 (34-for-100) with four doubles, two triples, five homers and 27 RBI on the month before being promoted to Myrtle Beach, July 7. Young appeared in 51 games with the Pelicans to conclude the season, batting .282 (53-for-188) with six doubles, two triples, six homers, 23 RBI and a .368 on-base percentage.
Swarmer, 24, went 9-8 with a 3.22 ERA (46 ER/128.2 IP) in 24 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee. He struck out 135 batters while walking just 21, good for a 6.43 strikeout to walk ratio. He began the season with Myrtle Beach, going 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA (13 ER/51.1 IP) and 59 strikeouts in nine starts to earn Carolina League mid-season All-Star honors. He was named Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month in April after going 2-2 with a 1.74 ERA (4 ER/20.2 IP) in four starts. Promoted to Tennessee on June 5, Swarmer posted a 3.84 ERA (33 ER/77.1 IP) in 15 starts with the Smokies, striking out 76 batters and walking just 14.
According to the release, the Cubs will honor Young and Swarmer during an on-field ceremony before the Cubs game on September 27th, which Luis, Brett, and I will all be at because that’s Social Media Night! Woohoo!
As for these two prospects, I’ll point out that Luke ranked Young as the Cubs’ 29th best prospect back in August, with this to say: “If you could custom order a minor league hitter, you might get Jared Young. Left-handed swing? Check. Healthy strikeout rate? Check (16% in SB, 19.1% in MB). Good power? Check (10 HR in SB, 4 HR in MB). Positional flexibility? Check (he’s played four positions since being drafted). I guess we could ask for a bit of a higher walk rate (6.8% in SB, 7.3% in MB), but the trend line is in the right direction and he’s posted OBPs over .360 at both stops this year. I really can’t complain.
And he ranked Swarmer much higher, at number 12 overall in the Cubs system: “Swarmer came out of the 2016 draft, and so far has been one of the best pitchers for the Cubs from that draft, despite being selected in the 19th round. He opened the year with 51.1 innings in Myrtle Beach, but, after dominating to the tune of a 10.34 K/9 and a 1.23 BB/9, the Cubs sent him to Tennessee. Basically, he’s been the same guy: 9.06 K/9, 1.89 BB/9. He isn’t much of a groundball pitcher, but even Double A hitters have a hard time squaring him up. His ERA doesn’t look impressive (3.97), but this is a case where I think he’ll really benefit from playing front of a better defense (FIP 2.87).”
Congrats to both.