One of the clear goals of the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod regime has been to improve the Cubs’ farm system. The Cubs have made some big signings in the international amateur market, headlined by the Jorge Soler deal. And, according to the reports, the Cubs had a strong draft. It is also well known that the Cubs are going to trade some of their more valuable veterans to add more prospects. But the Cubs started that process this past offseason. While the biggest name the Cubs picked up this year, Anthony Rizzo, is not a prospect anymore (but for the good reason that he is mashing with the North Siders), there are still several prospects that were added via trade in the offseason that are worth talking about.
Ronald Torreyes (2B)
How Acquired: From the Reds for Sean Marshall.
2012 Statistics: With the High A Daytona Cubs, 315 PAs, .246/.317/.362, 4 HRs, 7.0 BB%, 7.0 K%, .251 BABIP, 8 SB, 3 CS.
The Good: Torreyes has elite contact skills, with a career minor league K rate well under 10%. Based upon prior seasons, where Torreyes posted BABIPs above .370, it is very likely that his batting average is depressed by some by bad luck. The walk rate has improved greatly since the 4.6% he put up last season in Low A. He reportedly is a pretty good defender at the turnkey.
The Bad: Aside from the contact skills, Torreyes does not have any plus tools. He is not going to steal a ton of bases, and does not hit for power. On top of that, Torreyes is listed at a tiny 5’9″, 140 lbs, and based on the reports I’ve heard that height is a significant overstatement. He also probably cannot play shortstop in the Majors, limiting his defensive value.
Ceiling: Starting second baseman, playing good defense and hitting over .300 while collecting enough walks and doubles to not make the average empty.
Floor: The contact skills aren’t enough as he progresses through the minors and he becomes an organization guy.
Dave Sappelt (OF)
How Acquired: From the Reds for Sean Marshall.
2012 Statistics: With the Triple A Iowa Cubs, 369 PAs, .249/.307/.333, 4 HRs, 7.3 BB%, 12.2 K%, .275 BABIP, 8 SB, 2 CS.
The Good: Sappelt is essentially MLB ready. He can play all three outfield positions to one degree or another. Like Torreyes, his 2012 numbers in Iowa are probably at least somewhat the result of bad luck, as his career minor league BABIP is well over .300. Sappelt also has several at least average skills: contact, speed and plate discipline.
The Bad: Sappelt’s ceiling is limited to, at best, a second division starter. On a good team, he is a fourth or fifth outfielder. He reportedly does not use his speed particularly well, especially in the outfield where most say he doesn’t get great jumps. As such, his best position is left field, where his limited power potential reduces his ceiling.
Ceiling: Second division regular.
Floor: Backup outfielder.
Casey Weathers (RHP)
How Acquired: From the Rockies along with Ian Stewart for Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu.
2012 Statistics: With Double A Tennessee, 20 G, 0 GS, 24 IP, 5.63 ERA, 6.49 FIP, 7.88 K/9, 11.25 BB/9.
The Good: He throws really, really hard.
The Bad: He walks everybody. At 27 years old, time has all but run out for a former top prospect who just could never figure out how to throw with any semblance of control in professional ball.
Ceiling: If he figures out how to throw strikes with any semblance of consistency, he could still be an elite late innings reliever based on his stuff.
Floor: Out of baseball after this season. This is much more likely than the ceiling.
Zach Cates (RHP)
How Acquired: From the Padres along with Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na.
2012 Statistics: With High A Daytona, 7 G, 7 GS, 24 IP, 10.50 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 3.5 K/9, 4.88 BB/9. With Low A Peoria, 4 G, 4 GS, 18 IP, 3.50 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 6.00 K/9, 2.50 BB/9, with Rookie League Arizona Cubs, 1 G, 1 GS, 2.70 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 13.50 K/9, 2.70 BB/9.
The Good: Has a mid-90s fastball and reportedly at least flashes a plus change up. Since returning from the DL and going to Peoria, his peripherals have improved, albeit in a small sample size.
The Bad: Struggled at the start of the year following a promotion to Daytona. He was sent to the DL, but I have yet to find a solid report regarding an injury. It’s possible he was actually hurt, but also possible his mechanics got completely out of whack. Or it’s possible that he was exposed at High A. Only time will tell.
Ceiling: Mid-rotation MLB starter.
Floor: Organization guy.
So none of these prospects are particularly exciting, although Torreyes and Cates are both worth keeping an eye on as they progress. Sappelt will be up with the Cubs at some point this year, either following a trade of Reed Johnson, due to injury, or at the latest when rosters expand in September. He will probably be a backup outfielder for the Big League club at the start of 2012.