Cubs Prospect Notes: Almora, Happ, Maples, Cease, Williams, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Almora, Happ, Maples, Cease, Williams, More

Chicago Cubs

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Did you catch the Prelude to the Bleacher Nation Top 40 prospect rankings?

If you did miss it, but enjoy Prospect Notes, I suggest you check it out. Luke will be releasing his Top 40 Cubs prospects over the next few days, but this article is a primer on how he ranks individual players, what he values and how he values it.

Not only is it an interesting read for people looking forward to the BN Top 40, but it’s also cool to see how prospect evaluators do their thing.

And today, Luke gave a look at seven Cubs prospects who just missed the cut for the Top 40, so check that out, too.

Elsewhere …

  • Albert Almora didn’t quite break Spring camp with the big league team, but he’ll be there soon enough. After playing in 18 games this Spring, Almora has left a strong impression with the Cubs, and especially Joe Maddon. “He’s turning into a complete player,” Maddon said via Patrick Mooney (CSN). “He’s hit the ball well here. But beyond that, his defense has been great. His route-running has been really, really good. He can be impactful.” Having read this quote, I’m reminded that there are many types of players finding success in MLB. Perhaps we’ve become too accustom to the power-hitting, on-base types with adequate defense. There are plenty of other guys out there, making their bread primarily on the strength of their defense (like Jason Heyward or Kevin Kiermaier, for a couple examples). Obviously, Almora might not ever be as good as either of them, but his defense may already be close. So, just remember: you can add value in many ways, especially when your deficiencies are the rest of the team’s strengths.
  • At ESPN Insider, Eric Longenhagen passes along a few notes from the Spring camps of several organizations – among them, you’ll find Ian Happ and the Chicago Cubs. According to Longenhagen, Happ’s bat explodes through the zone, with very quick hands, and he has used that to display above average power to every field. Although he’s a work in progress at second base, he should stick there eventually, while he continues to “mash” at the plate.
  • At the same place, you can read more on Donnie Dewees (who’s been turning heads since last season), Dan Vogelbach and Dillon Maples (who reached 94-95 MPH with some natural cut on his fastball recently). [Brett: There’s a name I didn’t expect to hear about this spring. After being a big-time bonus signee back in 2011, Maples struggled with mechanics, command, and injury, and I wasn’t sure he’d ever come back on the radar. He’s gotta be a full-time reliever at this point, but if he’s in the mid-90s (and commanding it), with movement, plus a hammer curve, he could be a breakout relief prospect for the Cubs this year.]
  • If you haven’t been following John Arguello (@CubsDen) on Twitter this Spring, you’ve been missing out. Over the last few days, he’s been sharing some insightful bits from his time spent around camp. Just a few examples:

  • I am particularly excited for Dylan Cease, who was a first round talent that dropped, because of Tommy John Surgery. For more from Arguello and his time spent at the backfields, check out this article here.
  • In case you missed it, Ryan Williams has been keeping a diary during his first big-league Spring Training for The latest entry is his fourth and final installment, so you should check it out. We’ve seen plenty of interviews regarding the big league camp experience for young players, but to hear their thoughts and opinions in their own words is far more enlightening. It sounds like Williams – who, along with Cease is a pitcher to keep an extra special eye on, this year – has a solid plan for 2016, and is itching to make it up to the majors for the very first time.
  • Speaking of Cease, Arguello delivers a brief overview of his past, before identifying what is so exciting about his future. In particular, Cease has been working on a curveball to match his 97-100 MPH fastball, and, by most accounts, it is developing into a plus pitch as well. His changeup, as of now, is fringy – and most starters require at least three pitches – but Cease has plenty of time to develop it, and, at worst, looks like a high-leverage reliever in the Major Leagues. This season, Cease’s first full year post-Tommy John surgery, will be a huge development year for Cease; the Cubs may yet have a top of the rotation pitching prospect in the organization.
  • Finally, at Baseball America, Ben Badler schools us all with some key lessons learned from international signing reviews. Not unlike Luke’s primer on evaluating prospects, Badler’s article details the way international scouts examine young prospects from all over the world, who may not have the polish or pedigree of many players from the States. In fact, there’s an entirely different way of scouting them, and it’s fascinating. From tools vs. skills, to the exceptional riskiness of pitchers, Badler’s piece is full of useful, new information and is definitely worth your time.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami