Think back with me for a minute to your high school physical education experience. If you are like me, you went to a private school that was kindergarten through 12th grade and you had very few students. For us, PE was segregated by gender, which was then broken down by grade levels. 7th – 9th graders were in one class and 10th – 12th grade was in another. For that freshman, you were on top of the world when it came to the competition in the class, beating up on the scrawny 7th graders in dodge ball and kickball. The flip side was when you were a 7th grader, you were tiny compared to the rest of the class and competition was tough. The minor leagues are a lot like my gym class.
Recently I got into a little debate with someone who follows me on Twitter about Josh Vitters. His argument for why he felt that Vitters was a “bust” was because he had been in the minor leagues for five years and still hadn’t been called up to the Majors. I tried to remind him that he was drafted out of high school, but he wasn’t buying. With that said, I wanted to take a minute to highlight some guys in the system that may be a tad over their head when it comes to the level of competition they’re playing with due to their age. These are the sophomores in the class of seniors. The Cubs have several players who rank amongst the youngest for the level they are playing in.
Starlin Castro (ML) – We’ve kind of forgotten how young he is because he’s played like a man among boys, but the fact of the matter is that he’s still the 11th youngest player in the Majors at the ripe old age of 22. What is discouraging to me is the call to trade him because of the defensive and mental miscues. He’s an incredible contact hitter who is still learning the game on the big stage. Give him time to continue to work on his craft in the field and develop more plate discipline. These things come with experience.
Josh Vitters (AAA) – When you combine the two leagues for AAA, Vitters does not rank as one of the top 20 youngest, but when you look at the league he’s in (Pacific Coast League), he ranks as the 14th youngest player at the age of 22. This year has seen a massive resurgence for Josh as he’s finally showing signs of living up to the hype and maybe even grabbing the top spot on the Cubs top prospects list.
Jae-Hoon Ha (AA) – If you didn’t get a chance to watch the highlights of the Futures game on Sunday, you missed Ha light up the box score with a home run and a single in a losing effort for the world team. Ha actually spent time last season in AA and held his own. Because of that, then temptation would be to be disappointed in his performance so far this season, but that’s where the age factor needs to be considered. Ha ranks as the 10th youngest player in the southern league.
Ronald Torreyes (High-A) – Signed as an undrafted FA out of Venezuela, Torreyes went is playing for the Daytona Cubs and has struggled after really playing well last year as an 18yr old in Low-A for the Reds. The numbers he put up in Low-A (.356 / .398 / .468) justified the placement in Daytona. At 19, though, Torreyes ranks as the 5th youngest in High-A, just 25 days older than the youngest on the list.
Jeimer Candelario (Low-A) – Below is a scouting report from Baseball Prospectus on the youngster from November. He’s ranked as the 3rd youngest player in the Northwest League and doing well.
Tools Profile: Candelario has a fantastic combination of pure hitting ability and offensive polish. He’s continued to show good offense at the plate in limited time with Boise this season and ranks as the 3rd youngest player in the Northwest League
Year in Review: This Dominican signee was among the most impressive players in the Dominican Summer League in terms of both numbers and scouting reports.
The Good: Candelario has significant offensive potential. He earns raves for his highly-polished approach, and is a switch-hitter with power potential to all fields and a knack for consistent hard contact. He’s a solid runner with the tools to become an average first baseman.
The Bad: Candelario’s swing works much better from the left side; his power is reduced greatly with his contact-based swing against lefties. He’s still messy defensively, and there are worries that he could be forced to first base or left field should he fill out and slow down.
Ephemera: Candelario was 16 days old when id Software released Doom, the groundbreaking first-person shooter.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a middle-of-the-order run producer.
Fantasy Impact: He hasn’t played a game in the United States, so let’s calm down a bit here.
Path to the Big Leagues: Candelario will likely spend the spring adjusting to playing in the United States, then play in a short-season league. His upside is tremendous, but he’s eons away.