With basically a month completed in the minor league season, it’s time to look at some names that are potentially begging for a look and possible promotion based solely on their numbers.
1. Kris Bryant (3B – AA) – Since you’ve probably never heard of Bryant before now, I figured I’d mention him on this list. In all seriousness, Bryant has played very well in AA so far and has a lot of Cubs fans excited. There isn’t much to say about him other than when will he get here, and where will he play?
One thing to note is that Bryant is quite young for his league, almost three years younger than the average for that league. The home run numbers, while expected, are still nice to see play out through his development. There are reports that have him close to 80 on the scouting scale for power, so it will be important that the power continues as he moves through the system. The promotion is inevitable, and will probably come sometime this month, but the question then remains where will he play? Currently, Christian Villanueva is occupying third base in AAA, and you’d have to imagine the Cubs want to give him every opportunity to continue to develop there, but he’s struggling at the plate, hitting just .198 / .271 / .337 so far this season. My guess is that if Bryant continues to hit, we’ll see him promoted and split time between third base and right field.
2. Rafael Lopez (C – AA) – The Cubs made a curious move before opening day, electing to get rid of George Kottaras, who was acquired to be the backup catcher to Welington Castillo and decided to go with John Baker. Baker has done nothing at the plate (-0.3 WAR) or in the field (-0.1 WAR) so far this season. Couple that with the fact that he’s never really done anything at the Major League level and you begin to wonder if his days on the roster are numbered. The Cubs currently only carry two catchers on the 40 man roster, so Baker would essentially have to be removed to make room for Lopez, but it may be something to consider.
Lopez, a 16th round pick out of Florida State in the 2011 draft, is having a nice year so far in AA both with the bat and with the glove. So far a .304 / .442 / .522 slash line with 2 HR is what he’s been able to do at the plate and a 50% caught stealing rate (10 of 20) is a plus in the field. At this point, I’m not sure what the reason behind keeping Baker would be. Lopez may deserve the chance.
3. Tsuyoshi Wada (SP – AAA) – Before we get too excited about this guys numbers so far, and they are good, it’s important to note that he’s 33 years old. Now, commence looking at his minor league numbers so far:
If you’re like me, you probably have little to no knowledge of Wada or where he came from, so let’s go over the key points. He’s a two time Olympian (2004 & 2008) and a member of the 2006 Japanese National team that competed in the WBC. He spent the majority of his early years in Japan before signing a deal with the Baltimore Orioles in December of 2011 and then promptly got injured that May and needed Tommy John surgery. He signed with the Cubs this offseason and then was released in spring training and resigned. Below are his numbers in Japan.
Unfortunately, Wada is a man with a couple things against him. First, he isn’t on the 40 man roster, which means a spot would have to open up for him to be promoted, since he’s in AAA already. Second, there really isn’t much room in the rotation at this point and there isn’t much of a point in moving him to the pen, something he’s never done, to get him to the Majors. At this point, Wada will probably continue to pitch well and just have to be content waiting for one of the current members of the rotation to be traded (Looking at you Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel) or get injured. However, even then he’ll need to compete with guys like Kyle Hendricks, Chris Rusin, and Carlos Villanueva (I just threw up a little) for that spot.
- John Andreoli (OF – AA) – 17th round selection in the 2011 draft is hitting .325 / .441 / .422 with 14 stolen bases
- Corey Black (SP – AA) – Acquired in the Alfonso Soriano deal late in 2013, Black has two separate starts in which he left without allowing a hit.
- Marcus Hatley (MR – AAA) – 17 K’s in 11 IP for the Iowa Cubs with 7 games finished. He’s not the closer, but he’s a late inning guy who’s missing bats.
- Zack Godley (CL – A) – The 10th round selection in last year’s draft by the Cubs has a 16.6 K/9 rate in 13 innings of work and six saves. To put that ratio in perspective, that’s 24 strikeouts in just 13 innings.