Prospect Notes: Almora's Power Surge, Theo Impressed by Happ and Butler, Pizza Wars

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Prospect Notes: Almora’s Power Surge, Theo Impressed by Happ and Butler, Pizza Wars

Chicago Cubs

Brett’s got me all riled up about pizza again, thanks to this New York vs. Chicago-style post over at Baseball is Fun (which comes with a Cubs prospect connection, since it is a promotion involving the Myrtle Beach Pelicans).

And here’s the thing, I love both types of pizza, but I do have a problem with the very heart of the debate.

For some reason, New York (the city) has successfully stolen credit for regular old pizza. Go ahead and Google “NY style pizza” … it’s just a regular old piece of pizza – the type that’s available in all sorts of qualities all around the country (including Chicago!).

In Chicago, however, we have both regular pizza (and it’s wonderful!) AND deep dish or “Chicago-style.” It’s simply a tasty alternative (alternative being the key word) to – lowercase – pizza. In my mind, then, the thin crust/regular pizza options in Chicago are just as good as anywhere in New York while the deep dish in Chicago is superior to the deep dish everywhere else.

So if you’re keeping score at home, that’s a push on regular pizza and a win for Chicago on deep dish, meaning that Chicago is officially the better pizza capital of America. You’re welcome internet, I’m sure I just successfully put that debate to bed forever.

Now prospects.

  • Cubs center field prospect (and potential starting center fielder at some point this season), Albert Almora made a list of notable spring prospect performances after he went 2-3 with a grand slam Wednesday against the A’s (you can watch his four-run homer here). The home run was Almora’s fourth of the spring, a number allowing many to dream upon the development of power to go along with his natural and impressive contact abilities.
  • Through 62 Cactus League at-bats, Almora slashed an impressive .339/.344/.677. That’s obviously much higher than he’s ever expected to hit in the Majors, but it’s still a nice sign. Patience, however, still seems to be his greatest yet-to-be-developed skill. But to be fair, he’s still technically a prospect and just 22 years old. He’s got time and a bright future on his side.
  • Almora wasn’t the best performing prospect of the spring, however. That distinction inarguably goes to Ian Happ – the switch-hitting, second baseman/outfielder the Cubs selected with the 9th overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft. Happ made it up to Double-A last season, his first full year of professional ball – which is only slightly slower than the ridiculously fast pace the last two Cubs first-round picks (Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber) followed before him. Of course, no one expects Happ to turn into either one of those sluggers (very few ever do) and he did struggle a little upon reaching Tennessee. But like I mentioned, he has been absolutely tearing it up this spring. His .411/.469/.804 slash line leads everyone on the Cubs by a wide margin and has garnered attention from Theo Epstein, himself. “He couldn’t have been more impressive, not only with the bat, but the way he handled himself in the clubhouse,” Epstein said via the Chicago Tribune. “He won over a lot of teammates and coaching staff and the manager.” If the Cubs suffer a couple of significant injuries this season, Happ could step in as a starter. In the meantime, he’ll head to Triple-A Iowa, where he’ll be waiting in the wings.
  • Also at the Tribune, Epstein has been extremely impressed with Eddie Butler. Butler, you’ll recall, is the former Rockies top prospect the Cubs acquired this offseason in hopes that a change of scenery would kickstart his career. And while it’s only Spring Training, Epstein has already taken notice. “He was exactly what we hoped for.” Through 14.2 innings, Butler has allowed just 11 hits and 3 walks against seven strikeouts. That’s good for a 3.07 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP, and just a .204 batting average against. If Butler and the Cubs coaching staff can solve what’s been ailing him, his ceiling is extremely high. He’s also under control for a long time, so the Cubs will probably take him slowly but surely along – the upside is just too much to ignore.
  • At Baseball America, J.J. Cooper writes about a lesser-known Cubs prospect, 18-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan, who was one of the Cubs’ big signings in the IFA class before this year. I say lesser-known, but by the sounds of the scouting reports that may be just for now. “He’s legit,” Cubs farm director Jaron Madison said. “It’s a very mature approach on both sides of the ball. He’ll show you that he can be an everyday shortstop.” According to scouts, Ademan is further along defensively than offensively, but the defense is starting to look pretty special.
  • Cubs infield coordinator Jose Flores mentioned that former Cubs prospect Gleyber Torres has nothing on Ademan defensively, and Ademan is approaching the sort of instincts that Javy Baez has shown already. Which, wow. The bat is still developing, but Madison has noticed that he’s getting stronger and showing more power. If the bat comes around, well, the Cubs may have just stumbled into yet another dynamic infield prospect. But maybe we can wait until he plays some games stateside before crowning him the next Gleyber Torres. More at Baseball America.
  • At the Athletic, our friend Sahadev Sharma uses scouts’ evaluations to profile the “Coming Attractions” of the Cubs prospecting world. If you feel out of the loop on any of the Cubs’ top prospects – Jeimer Candelario, Mark Zagunis, Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez, Duane Underwood, Dylan Cease, or Trevor Clifton – Sharma’s piece is the perfect place to start.
  • And finally, at The Cub Reporter, Arizona Phil has your 2017 Minor League Spring Training roster updates. But remember, these Spring Training assignments aren’t necessarily final – guys will move around before the start of the season. In addition, you can use that page to check-in on the injuries/status of various Cubs minor leaguers.

Author: Michael Cerami

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