So Many Cubs Prospect Notes: Almora, Contreras, Stinnett, Candelario, Concepcion, Brooks, More

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So Many Cubs Prospect Notes: Almora, Contreras, Stinnett, Candelario, Concepcion, Brooks, More

Chicago Cubs

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How about some Cubs prospect notes as we await the Cubs game tonight?

  • The Cubs minor league hitting coordinator Andy Haines had some really nice things to say about top Cubs prospect Willson Contreras over at In short, “He’s been better than advertised, which is almost impossible … He’s so talented.” Haines later added that he admires Contreras’ ability to stay locked in while continuing to improve given how close he is the show.
  • In the same article, Haines added that he’s been encouraged by Albert Almora’s steady improvement in 2016. Obviously the defense stands out, Haines intimated, but it seems that the mechanical adjustments he made at the end of last season at Double-A Tennessee have carried over. I recently took a deep dive on Albert Almora’s season here at Bleacher Nation.
  • At Baseball America, Eloy Jimenez tops the Prospect Hot Sheet, written by Ben Badler, Matt Eddy, Josh Norris and Vince Lara-Cinisomo. “The Scoop,” as the BA staff puts, is that Jimenez is finally turning into the big, slugging prospect many pegged him as back in 2013 (when he was the number 1 prospect on the international market). “There’s still some swing-and-miss- to his game,” Ben Badler writes, “but his combination of hitting ability and power that’s now showing up in the games is exciting for a player who’s remarkably athletic for his size.” Jimenez was recently named the player of the week.
  • At The Des Moines Register, Tommy Birch writes about “Chicago’s Next Big Prospect,” Albert Almora. But instead of focusing solely on the numbers, Birch looks into Almora’s family, his past and his ascent through baseball. One of my favorite quotes from the article comes from Iowa Manager Marty Pevey about Almora’s defense. “At the point of contact, you look,” Pevey said, “and you see Albert’s already three steps into his route…” What an awesome compliment. Running fast is one way to be a good outfielder, but speed can fade. Good instincts are hard to teach. There’s a lot of background on Almora here and it is an excellent read/definitely worth your time. It’s hard not to really root for this kid.
  • Almora has been a hot topic, though, because Isaac Bennett also wrote about the young center fielder and how he is the “Captain of the Next Wave,” over at BP Wrigleyville. More specifically, Bennett takes a look into these well-discussed “mechanical changes,” to see what exactly is new and how well it has and could work in the future. Well, Almora has added a leg kick, and he does credit much of his improvement to that – however, he adds that the biggest change for him has been his confidence in his own game and motivation by the promotions of guys like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez. It’s another deep and excellent dive on Almora (including many direct quotes from the man himself), so you should be all up to date on his story and improvements.
  • After a so-so season in South Bend last year (4.46 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 9.8% walk rate) Jake Stinnett has dialed things up, after his promotion to Myrtle Beach. In eight starts this season, Stinnett has a 3.09 ERA (3.74 FIP) and a strikeout rate that is nearly two percentage points higher than last season. Oddly, last season, Stinnett was trying to strike every batter out, instead of letting them hit themselves into outs, but he’s learned that letting hitters get themselves out is a great way to keep a pitch count low and be more efficient over an entire season. Then, when you need to, you dial it up for the strikeout. We’ve seen Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Arrieta do it regularly this year (not to compare Stinnett to those guys – just saying that’s how they approach it). He has also made some offseason mechanical adjustments that has given his fastball a little more life (velocity). If he can cut down on the walks a little bit (9.7% this season), he could have a nice future ahead of him.
  • Let’s talk about everyone’s Spring Training darling, Jeimer Candelario. After a brilliant showing in the Arizona Fall League and this recent Spring Training Cactus League, Jeimer Candelario was the name to watch headed into the 2016 season. Unfortunately, he got off to a slow start in Double-A Tennessee, slashing just .203/.347/.342 in the month of April. But since May 1, Candelario has turned the heat up a little, slashing .264/.339/.406 with a 10.2% walk rate and strikeout rate of 17.8% (.348 wOBA). Narrow that down to just his last 11 games (50 PAs) and he’s hitting .383/.420/.553 with five doubles, a home run, and just seven strikeouts (14.0%).
  • Check out the skillz of John Williamson, a pitcher for the South Bend Cubs … I don’t mean on the field and I did mean skillz with a “Z”:

South Bend pregame freestyle. Go check out my guy @johnny_beisbol #SBCubs #whenithappens #embracetheflow

A post shared by Darnell McDonald (@macdime54) on

  • Over at the Des Moines Register, Tommy Birch has a nice write-up on top Cubs prospect Wilson Contreras, including his background as a kid growing up in Venezuela, his conversion from being an infielder to a catcher and on his ascent up the prospect rankings over the past two years. You might forget it, but Contreras’ came out of relative obscurity last year, and rocketed up the lists. After reading Birch’s piece and fully grasping his hard work and dedication, it’s not hard to see why.
  • Speaking of Tommy Birch and Wilson Contreras, he recently asked Marty Pevey a really insightful, interesting question that has opened up an entirely new set of possibilities. Read on.

  • Obviously, Contreras is first and foremost, a catcher. In fact, the primary reason he is still in the minor leagues is because he’s working on the game calling and receiving aspects of his game. His offense is already there. We’ll see what his future has in store for him, but perhaps he’ll carry more of a dual role, not unlike Kyle Schwarber did in 2015 (and was supposed to do in 2016).
  • Remember Gerardo Concepcion? The Cubs signed this lefty pitcher out of Cuba to a fairly substantial 5 year/$6 million deal back in 2012, but he struggled mightily ever since (injuries and sickness have played a role). In fact, as Birch writes here, Concepcion was 6-11 with a 5.57 ERA through his first four seasons in the Cubs organization, before this year. But after getting healthy and ready for this year, Concepcion got off to a hot start in AA Tennessee (0.00 ERA, 2.44 FIP in 17.2 innings of relief) and was ultimately promoted to AAA Iowa where he’s kept the good times rolling. In 9.2 innings at that level so far, Concepcion has a 1.86 ERA  and a 3.29 FIP. Iowa manager Marty Pevey has been impressed by Concepcion’s work and results and feels that he’s simply preparing him for a stretch run with the Chicago Cubs.
  • Concepcion was included in Luke’s lefty reliever discussion this morning in the Minor League Daily, by the way.
  • Lastly, at The Cubs Reporter, Arizona Phil relays that Cubs right-handed starting pitcher Aaron Brooks (who’s been on the 15-day disabled list since Spring Training with a hip contusion) made a rehab start for the Cubs on Tuesday in Extended Spring Training. He threw 32 pitches in his three inning shutout, and retired the final eight batters he faced. Brooks, you’ll recall, was the return for Chris Coghlan from the A’s. Similarly, left-handed relief pitcher Jack Leathersich (recovering from Tommy John surgery) continued his rehab work in Extended Spring Training, by pitching immediately after Brooks with a scoreless inning of his own. Leathersich was claimed by the Cubs off waivers last November and could figure into the big league picture as extreme bullpen depth in the second half of the year.

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Author: Michael Cerami

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