Cubs Prospect Notes: Howard’s Health, Amaya Catching, Sanchez Breakout, Mervis Timeline, More
Some Chicago Cubs prospect notes for your Thursday afternoon …
- Great news on the injury recovery front, as shortstop prospect Ed Howard is reportedly on track to have a normal Spring Training and head out for a full season assignment when Spring Training ends (i.e., doing things like usual). Howard, 21, injured his hip in a freak accident at first base early last season, and missed the rest of the year after surgery. The 2020 first round pick was being challenged with a High-A assignment despite his struggles at Low-A the year before, and he was starting to show flashes of development at the plate before the injury (and the glove was always plus). Post-injury, we’ll just have to see if he’s lost any athleticism or lateral quickness, which would obviously be a serious issue for a guy whose calling card was supposed to be his superlative defense at shortstop. I’m hopeful, and having a normal Spring Training and full-season assignment is a great start.
- Meanwhile, catching prospect Miguel Amaya is finally going to start working behind the plate this week in Arizona, according to Patrick Mooney. You’ll recall that Amaya was not able to catch during the 2022 season because of Tommy John surgery the previous fall. And then before he was supposed to start catching again in the Arizona Fall League, he suffered a Lisfranc fracture in his foot late in the regular season, so that was that. Thus, Amaya hasn’t worked as a catcher in over a year and a half.
- It’s critical that he get back to it and shows that he’s still got the chops back there – the Cubs are going to want to know this year whether he can be at least a part-time big league option for them behind the plate in 2024. That is to say nothing of the bat, which obviously we hope continues to show promise this season, likely at Triple-A (or maybe first at Double-A, and then up to Triple-A soon thereafter). For now, the Cubs can stay focused on Amaya’s development, as they have quality reserve catching options behind Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart, with both Luis Torrens and Dom Nuñez signed to minor league deals.
- If you’re looking for a super young breakout candidate in the Arizona Complex League, Adan Sanchez is a pretty good bet:
- Sanchez, who was the Cubs’ top signing in last year’s IFA class, would have been a completely in a normal track to return to the DSL this summer, given that he won’t turn 18 until May, and he’s a catcher (it was rare enough seeing catching prospect Moises Ballesteros come stateside in his first full pro year, and he was at that time six months older than Sanchez will be). But the fact that Sanchez has been in Arizona working going back to Instructs means that he’s going to be in extended Spring Training, and then in the ACL as one of its younger players. If he hits, as a catcher, he’s going to be extremely on the radar.
- Last year in the DSL, Sanchez hit .328/.451/.389/140 wRC+, which doesn’t really tell you a ton (other than (1) the power isn’t there yet, which is fine because he’s so young, and (2) he hits a load of line drives), but I do like that he was walking at a 14.6% clip and striking out just 15.9% of the time. The stateside debut always tells you a lot, though, so he’ll be one to follow closely. (Ditto Alexis Hernández and Jefferson Rojas, each of whom has also already come stateside and was a bonus baby in the class with Sanchez.)
- Spring Training is not going to be a big league tryout for Matt Mervis, whose timeline to the big leagues will be dictated by his development and the right time for him to maximize his contribution to the big league team (could depend on injuries, could depend on how the Cubs decide to optimize the lineup, etc.). Maybe that means he’s there on day one, maybe not. But the Cubs “have stressed to Mervis” that Spring Training won’t be the deciding factor for his arrival on the big league team. It’s not a tryout. That’s the right approach: you just want development to be the focus, because you hope he will contribute to the lineup LONG term, not just day one.
- That’s all the more reason for Mervis to go play for Team Israel in the WBC this spring, even though it’ll take him away from big league camp for a bit. That could be a valuable development experience for a guy who could be a really good big league hitter.
- The MLB Pipeline crew conducted a top-100 prospect draft to build teams. Kind of a fun exercise (only PCA got drafted, though).
- The Chicago Cubs have a top ten farm system, according to Keith Law.
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