The 2019 All-BN Minor League Team: Position Players

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The 2019 All-BN Minor League Team: Position Players

Chicago Cubs

I want to leave space to talk about the hitters, so let’s jump into it! If you want to read me wax more nostalgic about the system’s season overall, check out this recap.

Catcher: Miguel Amaya, Myrtle Beach, 20, .235/.351/.402, 122 wRC

In a season in which Amaya had TWO plate appearances against a pitcher younger than he is, he managed to cut his strikeout rate, increase his walk rate and increase his ISO. Plagued by endurance issues in 2018, Amaya was even better after the Futures Game this year, hitting .258/.369/.452, and showing fresh enough legs to earn an assignment to the Arizona Fall League.

Amaya’s power is still a secret that only a few of us know about, but I’ll tell you: when he gets to the world of the juiced ball, you’re going to see it.

First Base: Tyler Durna, 22, South Bend / Myrtle Beach, .291/.370/.406, 128 wRC+

Durna left the South Bend Cubs before their championship run, but I can tell you from watching that team in the first half, he was such a big part of that team keeping its head above water in the first half. The offensive numbers are good of course, but Durna’s work defensively, particularly scooping out the throws of South Bend infielders, was hugely valuable.

This type of first baseman – in my head I think of Casey Kotchman or Lyle Overbay – is a relic of a different era, but it’s a really nice thing for a minor league squad. He’s the system’s best contact hitter.

Second Base: Robel Garcia, 26, Tennessee/I0wa, .284/.369/.586, 135 wRC+

Baseball seasons are so long, and narratives come flying in at us one after the other, that it’s easy to lose excitement about first half storylines. But I refuse to stop beating the drum on Robel’s story, and how incredible it was to watch him rise from absolute obscurity to the Major Leagues. Robel had a lot thrown at him – different positions, different teams, inconsistent playing time – and it didn’t matter. He just kept bombing the baseball.

Shortstop: Andy Weber, 21, South Bend, .275/.338/.400, 113 wRC+

Weber was in the middle of everything for the 2019 Midwest League champions, starting at shortstop in 115 regular season games for South Bend. Andy got better as the season went along, hitting .292/.364/.416 after June 10, and then .300/.364/.467 in the playoffs. Weber is a really intriguing defensive infielder with a lot of bat-to-ball skills. Underrated player in this system.

Third Base: Cam Balego, 24, Myrtle Beach, .247/.368/.386, 125 wRC+

My favorite minor league stories are about capitalizing on your opportunity, and Balego’s 2019 was one of those. Probably the 26th guy to make the Myrtle Beach roster, Balego got a chance on April 16 when a hole opened at first base for the Pelicans. He hit two doubles in his second game. He homered in his third. Those games started a 9-game hit streak. And he never looked back. Despite the age, Balego is still developing (first 66 games: 22 BB; last 47 games: 36 BB), and I’m really interested what’s left.

Outfield: Brennen Davis, 19, South Bend, .305/.381/.525, 160 wRC+

Brennen’s season began last winter, in the Sloan Park weight room, with no one watching. It began on the backfields, working with hitting instructors to rebuild his swing. It was in Extended Spring Training, as the Cubs intended to hold him back to play with Eugene. But he excelled in Mesa, and an outfield job opened for South Bend, and the rest is history.

Davis had multi-hit games in 16 of the 50 he played, showed more power than anyone knew was game ready, and played with a maturity that doesn’t at all match the amount of baseball he’s played in his life.

Outfield: Yohendrick Pinango, 17, DSL Cubs 1, .358/.427/.442, 145 wRC+

The only player from the DSL, or even short-season baseball, to make the list. Pinango reached base in 60 of the 62 games he played in, and boasts a leadoff profile the Cubs haven’t had in awhile. Pinango walked more than he struck out and stole 27 bases in 32 chances. The young Venezuelan outfielder hit .404 in his final 25 games, somehow finding a way to continue improving despite a seemingly unsustainable initial pace.

Outfield: Cole Roederer, 19, South Bend, .224/.319/.365, 101 wRC+

Picking a third outfielder was tough, but Roederer getting his wRC+ above water late in the season solidified it for me, particularly when you remember this is a high school draft pick being sent to a full-season league in his first full professional season.

The thing I was happiest to see was his development. Roederer walked 18 times in his first 54 games through the first three months, just not a high enough number for a guy who sees the baseball really well. He adjusted and embraced drawing walks when the calendar flipped to July, and in his final 54 games, walked 34 times. He also allowed his speed to play more, stealing 10 bases during that time, and his defense in center improving as time went on.

Utilityman: Vimael Machin, 25, Tennessee/Iowa, .295/.390/.412, 130 wRC+

When Machin hit .307/.421/.455 in the Puerto Rican Winter League last offseason, it was enough for me to include him on my 2019 potential breakout prospects list. “The line between ‘tops at AA’ and ‘useful I-80 up-and-down guy’ is thinner than you’d think,” I wrote. Well, Machin did break out, as Tennessee’s most consistent hitter, and then starring in a late season cup of coffee with Iowa. His blend of versatility, contact ability, smart baserunning and switch-hitting makes him a perfect fit for the I-80 shuttle.

Designated Hitter: Nelson Maldonado, 22, AZL/Eugene/South Bend, .332/.378/.456, 137 wRC+

Had to find a spot for the Cubs 2019 draftee with the best debut, and there was no question that honor goes to Maldonado. After the obligatory eight game debut in Arizona, Maldonado was sent to Eugene, and just destroyed the Northwest League. He hit .414/.470/.534 in 15 games before the Cubs just threw their hands up in the air and sent him to south Bend. Maldonado emerged as the team’s most dependable hitter in the playoffs, collecting one clutch hit after another, batting .345 over the seven games.

Honorable Mention

Pedro Martinez, Clayton Daniel, Yovanny Cuevas, Christopher Morel, Luis Verdugo, Nico Hoerner, Edmond Americaan, P.J. Higgins, Ronny Simon, Dixon Machado, Grant Fennell, Kevonte Mitchell


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Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.