What if I told you that the best offensive shortstop in the Cubs system this year was not named Nico?
You would, of course, call me crazy. You’d probably be right.
But, statistically it’s true that Nico Hoerner has not been the best offensive shortstop in the system this year. After the best 10-game stretch of his career recently, the honor right now actually goes to 2015 IFA bonus baby Aramis Ademan.
Ademan, 20, has his slash line up to .275/.422/.490 in his second tour up the middle for the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, which is tremendously impressive. In fact, Ademan has been baseball’s second most productive High-A shortstop with a 161 wRC+ after 17 games.
Despite missing 9 days with injury, this was Ademan over 10 games between April 11 and April 28: 12-for-29 (.414), 5 XBH (.793 SLG), 10 BB (.575 OBP) and 5 K (12.5 K%). Ademan had three multi-walk games over those ten contests; he had just four in all of 2018. His two home runs matches his total for the final 105 games of last year. What a difference a year makes.
Aramis Ademan BP, Spring Training, 3/19. Definitely feeling some optimism about his year ahead. Expect he’ll be far more comfortable. pic.twitter.com/Fh7z5Lxrpf
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) March 20, 2019
What is amazing to me is that following a 2018 in which Ademan was the youngest regular in the Carolina League, he still has not faced a pitcher younger than him in 2019. In Ademan’s four-year career, he has just 34 plate appearances against younger pitchers. To merely have his head above water is an accomplishment; to be excelling with a .422 wOBA is the sign of a truly good prospect.
Perhaps having those deep struggles last year in an aggressive assignment has helped him focus on and make the changes he needed to make to excel?
The most important change in the young season so far is to Ademan’s walk rate. While his current 17.2% mark is likely not sustainable, his willingness to take free passes at a double-digit rate would increase his offensive ceiling considerably. It displays a comfort that Ademan did not have last year when he was pressing; in his final 33 games last year, the BB% was just six percent.
From his batted ball profile, the biggest change we can see on balls in play is a continued adoption of an all-fields approach. This actually was a maturation that began last year:
Beauty of the new MLB minor lg spray charts is we can see something the raw numbers don’t tell us. Aramis Ademan’s Pull% drop from 2017 (49%) to 2018 (45%) was relatively insignificant. But check the spray charts of his hits — a clearly more willing all fields approach. pic.twitter.com/EXnIbtUpA8
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 22, 2019
This season, the raw batted ball numbers do tell an interesting story, as Ademan’s Pull% is at a career-low 38.9%, with a near-equal 36.1% of balls going to the opposite field. Here is a look at all batted balls that the left-handed hitting Ademan has had this season, courtesy Baseball Savant:
This is a pretty great chart for the approach Ademan should be attempting, in my opinion. He’s clearly focused on left-center field, and having success hitting to that gap, even if he’s only produced one extra-base hit there so far. However, when a pitch demands it, Ademan is able to access his pull-side power, resulting in two home runs and a double down the right field line. [Brett: As we’ve seen so often, even if homers aren’t going to be your primary offensive vehicle, virtually all prospects still have to generate significant power, at least on mistakes, in order to keep pitchers honest and keep the BABIP at a playable level.]
The other thing different this season is that the Pelicans have twice tried out Ademan at second base, his first time playing the position in his career. I posited in the BN Prospect Rankings that while Ademan is a solid defensive shortstop, I thought he could be an elite defensive second baseman. The strength of his abilities are his hands, where balls deep in the hole at short are where you see a fringe-average arm.
The uphill battle Ademan projects to face should he ultimately end up at second base are the higher offensive load that position demands. However, if Ademan continues to build on his patient, all-fields approach, it should be a manageable bar for Ademan to eventually reach.