View From The Bleachers

May 5, 2014

3 Cubs Prospects Who Deserve a Promotion

Filed under: Featured,Minor League — Joe Aiello @ 6:00 am

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?

22 -2.6 AA 123 21 8 0 6 15 5 0 17 34 .304 .423 .559 .982

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:

AAA 4 1 0.57 5 31.1 16 2 2 2 4 37 0.638 4.6 0.6 1.1 10.6 9.25

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.

2003 22 14 5 3.38 26 8 2 189.0 165 77 71 26 61 195 1.196 7.9 1.2 2.9 9.3 3.20
2004 23 10 6 4.35 18 7 0 128.1 110 67 62 23 38 115 1.153 7.7 1.6 2.7 8.1 3.03
2005 24 12 8 3.27 25 4 0 181.2 154 69 66 17 57 167 1.161 7.6 0.8 2.8 8.3 2.93
2006 25 14 6 2.98 24 6 3 163.1 137 57 54 18 42 136 1.096 7.5 1.0 2.3 7.5 3.24
2007 26 12 10 2.82 26 2 0 182.0 168 65 57 15 42 169 1.154 8.3 0.7 2.1 8.4 4.02
2008 27 8 8 3.61 23 3 0 162.0 167 65 65 12 36 123 1.253 9.3 0.7 2.0 6.8 3.42
2009 28 4 5 4.06 13 1 1 84.1 72 39 38 13 24 87 1.138 7.7 1.4 2.6 9.3 3.63
2010 29 17 8 3.14 26 1 0 169.1 145 59 59 11 55 169 1.181 7.7 0.6 2.9 9.0 3.07
2011 30 16 5 1.51 26 4 2 184.2 145 33 31 7 40 168 1.002 7.1 0.3 1.9 8.2 4.20
9 Seasons 107 61 3.13 207 36 8 1444.2 1263 531 503 142 395 1329 1.148 7.9 0.9 2.5 8.3 3.36

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.
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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail

  • PLCB3

    Kotaras went yard 2x yesterday for the Tribe

  • Dork

    It is nice to see some names on this list that we have not seen before. This is the part that has been missing in the past. Quantity in prospects is as important as Quality. Out of curiosity, what does Wada’s contract look like? It seem like he needs to get on the 40 man roster to be protected or is it a year to year contract?

  • Dork

    Is Bryant Major league ready now? Can you really hold him back for a year to protect that arbitration year? Do you offer a contract and bring him up, to protect that extra year? Am I a fan overly excited about a prospect? It is hard to wait on that one. I see Baez striking out and can wait a bit, but with Bryant, I don’t have that same feeling.

  • Kizzfastfists

    Javier Baez hit .294/.346/.638 in 240 PAs in AA last year and people were screaming that he was ready. Now Baez is struggling in AAA and everyone is freaking out. Bryant only has 127 PAs in AA. So while Bryant might be about ready for a jump to AAA he is not ready for the majors yet.

  • Eddie Von White

    Bryant is not Baez.

  • jswanson


  • Dork

    Come on Jed and Theo have to be pretty excited about Bryant too. I would guess that strike outs were an issue for Baez at AA also, though I have not looked at the numbers. I am dorky enough to look. I am not freeking out about Baez, but the strikeouts are a reason to let him get some more experience and the only reason to raise a little doubt. I admit I might be overly excited about Bryant.

  • Eddie Von White

    Clarification: just because Baez wasn’t ready doesn’t mean Bryant is not ready. Like Jed and Theo, I am pretty excited about Bryant too. The only difference is, my job does not rely on these guys making it. (Well, that might not be the only difference).

  • Dork

    Well ok after looking at the numbers I will back off a bit. The numbers at AA for Baez 2013 and Bryant 2014 is earily similar. Baez had a 31% K rate and Bryant is sitting at 33%. This is really too high for both. Their wOBA is within 1% point. Bryant has a BABIP of 391 which will probably come down some over time. One difference is that Bryant is walking more than twice what Baez did. I guess lets tap the breaks a little.

  • Dusty_Baylor

    I like Andreoli. No power…but at every level he hits for a good average, gets on base, and steals bases. If he can play OF he’s probably better than2 of our 3 current OF’s. Lol

  • Seymour Butts

    What are you doing? Making spread sheets?

  • Chuck

    A corpse could be better than a couple of players in the MLB roster.

  • Chuck

    Don’t look now. The Cubs have surged into 4th. Here comes October baseball!

  • Dork

    I keep wondering if I should change my screen name, but sadly it remains appropriate.

  • Doc Raker

    Bring Bryant up and play him at 2b.

  • Noah_I

    Bryant is probably pretty close to a promotion, but the Ks are, if not an issue, at least something to keep an eye on. He’s also been pretty terrible at 3B (8 errors already), so the Cubs could easily end that experiment and move him to the outfield in Iowa upon promotion.

    I’d also note that I find it very doubtful that Baker is going to be off the roster anytime soon. It was pretty widely reported that he was kept on the roster for one reason: he’s known as a pretty good pitch framer, and pitch framing was the one giant hole in Castillo’s game. Baker is solely there to help Castillo with his pitch framing. As a note, WAR does not include pitch framing (this is why Castillo’s defensive ratings were so high last season).

    Now, if the Cubs are in contention in July, I’d expect to see Baker go and the Cubs add a more competent hitter at the backup position. Lopez isn’t going to be the guy to replace him, though. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lopez make the jump to Triple A soon, he’s a 26 year old in his second year in Double A. If anyone thought he was a legitimate prospect as a catcher in MLB, he wouldn’t been traded by now.

    Regarding Wada, if he continues to pitching anything like this, he’ll be the first guy up once an injury happens, despite the 40 man ramifications.

  • Noah_I

    I’m pretty sure Wada is just on a minor league deal, so it’s a year to year contract. If the Cubs add him to the MLB team, though, he may then be subject to team control rules, but that may be complicated by the NPB’s arrangement with the MLB regarding Japanese players.

  • Noah_I

    Bryant should get some time at Triple A. I agree with Joe, that he’ll likely be there by the end of the month, but both Baez and Brett Jackson (Bryant is a more complete hitter than both, but they all have K concerns) shows what can happen to hitters who strike out a lot as they reach Triple A and above. If the Cubs surprise and contend (a possibility because of how much the real contenders in the NL Central have also struggled), the Cubs could call up Bryant in late July or early August. If they aren’t contending, though, you won’t see Bryant in Wrigley until late April or early May 2015.

  • PLCB3

    I wouldn’t be concerned with the high K rates if they showed good overall discipline like a Jim Thome/Adam Dunn type. Players who work a lot of deep counts, walk a lot and have high OBP. While I agree that it is very possible that Baez, Bryant, et al are the future and could all be the real deal, along with Castro and Rizzo, I don’t want to rush any of them to the majors to chase something that might have slim odds.

  • Noah_I

    There is a point, particularly in the minors, where the K rate in and of itself is a concern. Brett Jackson, for example, showed a great walk rate and worked deep counts even in Triple A. But eventually his K rate was exploited, despite his willingness to take a walk and work deep counts. Anyone with a K rate above 25% in the minors should be viewed with at least a modicum of concern. Jim Thome didn’t strike out THAT much (just below 25% for his career in the Majors). Dunn got away with a massive K rate through his peak because he had 80 power. Bryant may be able to do the exact same thing from the other side of the plate, but the K rate is at least worthy of having an eye kept on.

  • PLCB3

    The difference between Thome and Dunn’s batting average and OBP is 125 points. That has to count for something. Even if Adam Dunn does have a monster K rate.

  • Dork

    40 man roster – Do the cubs need to protect Brett Jackson on the 40 man roster anymore? There is another name on the 40 man roster that I do not recognize Dallas Beeler? Beeler won today at Iowa. I just have not heard much about him.

  • Chuck

    At some point a high K rate is is also an indicator of the lack of the ability to make contact and/or lack of pitch recognition, which are HUGE problems at the MLB level. There is a world of difference in being a “picky” hitter that is willing to take strike 1 and strike 2 because they are not “their pitch” and not being able to make contact when you swing. Both can lead to deep counts, but the pitchers at the MLB level are much less likely to let you off the hook by walking you.

  • PLCB3

    But that’s how Thome and Dunn are. They have high K rates due to not making contact. A high K guy like Sosa on the other hand was a wild swinger. Thome and Dunn might not make contact as much, but they still lay off the bad pitches.

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