Cubs Prospect Notes: Paulino, Happ, Zagunis, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Paulino, Happ, Zagunis, More

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Have you seen the new Bleacher Nation Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects rankings yet?

Over the past few days, Luke has updated and released his mid-season rankings, by catching up with the pre-season Top 40 list, then looking at the lower half of the Top 40 – numbers 40 through 21 – before finally examining the top half, including the new number one prospect in the Cubs system.

With all of the movement and graduations lately, it’s an especially important update. I’m definitely encouraging you to check it out.

  • Because, hey, Willson Contreras has officially graduated from prospect status according to MLB Pipeline, thrusting Ian Happ into the new number one spot overall. That said, their top three looks a bit different than Luke’s, which makes for an interesting discussion. Who would you put at the top, Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez, or Jeimer Candelario? I thought I was sure of my answer before, but after reading what Luke and MLB Pipeline has to say, I might have to reconsider.
  • By that, I mean it’s getting increasingly difficult not to gush over every single thing Jimenez has been doing at the plate. Although it just recently ended, Jimenez had been working on a nice nine-game hitting streak, capped off with three hits on Tuesday. His season slash line is now up to .342/.379/.543 (167 wRC+), but it’s an even more impressive .412/.436/.686 (220 wRC+) in his last 50 plate appearances. The dude just rakes.
  • Also, with Contreras graduated, there’s a new number 30 prospect on the list: lefty Jose Paulino. Paulino, 21, is a tall skinny left-hander, starting for the South Bend Cubs. Through two starts, Paulino has a 2.25 ERA and is drawing nice reviews on his fastball (which sits between 91-94 MPH, but has touched 96 MPH). He also throws a hard slider and a change-up, both of which have a lot of promise, but need even more work. You can read a full scouting report of Paulino on MLB Pipeline.
  • Mark Zagunis has been placed on the disabled list with a broken toe, and he’s hoping it won’t keep him out for the rest of the year. “It’s already a lot better than it was a few days ago,” Zagunis said via Tommy Birch at the Des Moines Register. “I’m not fully counting (a return) out by any means. But I’ve just got to take it day by day and see how I feel.” The early word is that the injury might keep him out four to six weeks, so a return before Iowa’s season ends on September 5th might be tricky. On the season, Zagunish is slashing .274/.360/.486 with 6 home runs. He is the Cubs eighth best prospect, according to Luke.
  • Albert Almora Jr. has been embracing his time back in Triple-A, after being demoted based almost entirely on roster-related crunches. Tommy Birch caught up with him recently. “It’s easy to come down and be like, ‘Whatever, screw it, I know I could play there,'” Almora Jr. said via Birch. “But, no, that’s not the way I am. I’m a competitor and I want to win everywhere I go so I came back and it was guns blazing. I’m trying to win games.” Guns blazing, indeed. In his ten games back with the Iowa Cubs, Almora has recored 16 hits (at least one in every single game). He’s slashing .356/.362/.511 over that stretch, including four doubles, a home run, and 10 runs batted in. He will definitely be back up with the big league team come September, where he will be used as a late inning defensive replacement and draw a start from time to time.
  • At Baseball America, the staff has been examining the best tools in baseball, from Low-A on up and the Cubs make a number of appearances. First, at Low-A, Eloy Jimenez comes in for some heavy praise as the Midwest League’s best hitter, the batter with the best power, and the most exciting player. That is a mighty dangerous combination, and you can see why baseball pundits are digging themselves some Eloy.
  • Then, moving up to High-A, Ian Happ gets the nod for best strike-zone judgement, Zach Hedges gets acknowledged for having the best control, and Ryan McNeil is identified as the best reliever. Gleyber Torres was actually called the best defensive shortstop and the player with the best infield arm, but he will now represent the NY Yankees, after being traded by the Cubs as part of a package for Aroldis Chapman.
  • Continuing up the ladder, Baseball America made their way to Double-A and found some more Cubs! There, Jeimer Candelario was identified as the best defensive third baseman (he’s since moved up), while Jacob Hannemann was identified as the best defensive outfielder. Candelario has drawn fairly differing reviews as a defensive third baseman, so every report that says he can handle it well is an important one. In other words, I’m very happy to see that.
  • No current members of the Cubs organization made the cut for best tools at the Triple-A level, but a few former Cubs did. Dan Vogelbach was labeled as the player with the best strike-zone judgement, while Arismendy Alcantara was called the best baserunner. Even without any Cubs on the list, this is an interesting series. You should really check it out.
  • Speaking of Dan Vogelbach, take a look at this extreme defensive shift put on him by the El Paso Chihuahuas. By my count there is but a single defender on the left side of the field (the left fielder) and that’s it – a pitcher, a catcher and six other players on the right side. His results suggest the shift might have worked. It just looks so strange.
  • Lastly, at FanGraphs, Chris Mitchell used his KATOH projection system to roundup and rank the prospects and teams traded at the 2016 MLB deadline. The result is quite interesting, and very revealing. According to Mitchell, the Chicago Cubs lost the second most prospect value at the deadline (by KATOH+), ahead only of the Texas Rangers. More specifically, the Cubs lost a combined, projected 14.9 WAR from the prospects they gave up (most notably 7.1 WAR from Gleyber Torres). Chapman will never record that many wins (above replacement) for the Cubs, but, of course, that wasn’t really the point of the trade. The Cubs are going all-in for this season, and they’re hoping Chapman can put them over the top. That said, Torres had the second highest KATOH+ projections of any prospect moved this deadline and was tied for the third most future value (according to Eric Logenhagen). This is another really important and enjoyable read. Don’t miss it.

Author: Michael Cerami

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