Cubs Sign Two Out of Independent Ball: Righty Jose Almonte, First Baseman Matt Warkentin

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Cubs Sign Two Out of Independent Ball: Righty Jose Almonte, First Baseman Matt Warkentin

Chicago Cubs

Not to be missed in the flurry of everything else at the big league level and the affiliated minor league level, independent leagues have also kicked off their seasons in recent weeks. That means not only more baseball going on, but it also means more players trying to work their way back into affiliated baseball and teams scouting them for signings.

So, just like that, the Cubs have signed two more players out of indy ball.

First, there’s former Red Sox and Diamondbacks prospect, Jose Almonte:

Almonte, 25, made just one start for the New Jersey Jackals of the Frontier League, but struck out eight over 5.2 innings and must’ve flashed enough stuff for the Cubs to pounce. Scouting the history, it looks like Almonte was a legit Red Sox IFA prospect who had worked his way up to High-A by 2017 as a 21-year-old, with success along the way (and was traded to the Diamondbacks in a deal for closer Brad Ziegler mid-season in 2016). But then he missed the entire 2018 season (surgery?), and barely pitched at all in 2019 (rehabbing?). So then you had the pandemic season, and he had to go the independent ball route to get back on the radar. Seems like it happened very quickly, though, which is intriguing.

The Cubs have also signed Canadian first baseman Matt Warkentin:

Warkentin, 24, came to the States to play college ball and summer league ball, but it looks like he went undrafted in 2019/2020, so he went the indy route in 2021. He raked for five games in the Pioneer League, and that was apparently enough for the Cubs to want to bring him in and see what’s what. Listed at 6’6″ 250 lbs back in college, Warkentin is a bigggg dude, and he hit for a lot of power in college and summer ball.

It would be a pretty incredible story for an undrafted, indy ball player to become a legit prospect at age 24, but you might as well take a swing if the raw talent is intriguing enough.

To that end, with the lost season last year, with a dramatically shortened draft last year, and with the affiliated minor leagues shrinking by 25% this season, it feels much more plausible that you could scout your way into a legit player out of indy ball. Obviously it was always possible, and it seems like there’s a story or two around MLB each year, but it’s so rare. I wonder if it’s going to get slightly less rare.

Each of Almonte and Warkentin are unassigned at this point, and are presumably in Arizona participating in – or getting ready to participate in – the extended Spring Training taking place there for now.


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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.