Archive for the ‘Minor League’ Category

5 Cubs Prospects You Don’t Know About…But Should

Monday, May 30th, 2016

I’ve payed attention to the Cubs farm system for as long as I can remember. I’ve just enjoyed watching players, who have potential to make a difference in the future, develop into those players behind the scene. I always seem to latch on and find my favorites. Guys who tend to fly under the radar, but could still make some sort of name for themselves. Most never even sniff the cup of coffee they so desire, but it’s fun to watch them anyway.

This year I’ve identified eight guys that are not considered “top prospects” as far as the top 30 list for the Cubs that came out at the beginning of the season. When the list updates later this year, that may change, but for now none of the players listed below are on the list. As a result, these guys don’t get the publicity, but they are off to starts worth noticing.

1. Bijan Rademacher – LF

How Acquired: Drafted in the 13th round in 2012 out of Orange Coast College

2015 24 0.0 AA 433 19 4 4 47 67 60 .261 .379 .370 .748
2016 25 0.9 AA 128 5 0 5 20 28 17 .296 .453 .500 .953

Notes: As you can see, Rademacher is slightly older than the competition at his level by almost a year, and he is repeating the level after decent, but not eye popping numbers last year, but we’ve seen an increase in the power as he’s on pace to have more HR in a season than he’s had at any level so far, and he has increased the OBP well over just the increase in batting average.


2. Ian Rice – C

How Acquired: Drafted in the 29th round in 2015 out of the University of Houston

2015 21 0.0 A- 193 8 0 2 19 26 34 .252 .375 .340 .715
2016 22 0.4 A 70 5 0 3 11 14 13 .370 .486 .630 1.115

Notes: The Cubs have lacked catcher depth for a little while now. With Miguel Montero probably nearing the end of his time with the Cubs and David Ross retiring at the end of the season, a guy like Ian Rice could find himself in a potential backup role behind someone like Willson Contreras, who most feel is the future backstop of this team. We’ve obviously got a long way before that, but Rice could move quickly, if he hits, considering he’s a college guy.


3. Paul Blackburn – SP

How Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 draft out of High School

Year Age AgeDif Lev ERA GS IP HR WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 18 -2.5 Rk 3.48 6 20.2 2 1.452 10.0 0.9 3.0 5.7 1.86
2013 19 -2.4 A- 3.33 12 46.0 3 1.522 8.0 0.6 5.7 7.4 1.31
2014 20 -1.9 A 3.23 24 117.0 6 1.188 8.3 0.5 2.4 5.8 2.42
2015 21 -1.9 A+ 3.11 18 89.2 3 1.238 8.9 0.3 2.2 6.3 2.86
2016 22 -2.3 AA 1.62 10 61.0 2 0.967 6.6 0.3 2.1 4.7 2.29

Notes: For some reason, a guy that was picked in the 1st round, has played as a young player at every level he’s been at, and has shown he can be competitive, does not get the love he deserves. In my opinion, Blackburn is the most underrated player in this system and I think he can crack the big league staff in the next by 2018 at the latest, possibly even earlier. The knock on him is that he doesn’t strike hitters out, and we’ve seen that decline at each level he’s been at, but while strikeouts are a huge factor in success, so is the ability to get hitters out, and that’s what Blackburn has done. Note the strikeout to walk ratio increasing.


4. Jeremy Null – SP

How Acquired: Drafted in the 15th round in 2014 out of Western Carolina University

Year Age AgeDif Lev ERA GS IP HR WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 20 -1.3 A–Rk 2.25 1 16.0 0 1.062 8.4 0.0 1.1 7.3 6.50
2015 21 -1.3 A-A+ 3.38 21 117.1 7 1.185 9.8 0.5 0.8 6.3 7.45
2016 22 -1.0 A+ 2.55 3 17.2 0 1.358 8.7 0.0 3.6 6.6 1.86

Notes: I’ll admit that I’m a little biased on this one. Null was drafted out of Western Carolina, which is where I graduated from, but he’s worth noting. Again, not a guy that is going to blow hitters away, but he doesn’t walk a lot of guys either. He got a late start this year as he had some issues getting stretched out and had to start the year in extended spring training getting loose and ready for work, but since returning to Myrtle Beach this year, he’s made three starts and has looked good.


5. Gerardo Concepcion – RP

How Acquired: Signed out of Cuba in 2012

Year Age AgeDif Lev ERA GS IP HR WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2010 18 -6.7 Fgn 3.36 16 101.2 6 1.436 9.1 0.5 3.8 4.7 1.23
2012 20 -1.8 A 7.39 12 52.1 6 1.911 12.0 1.0 5.2 4.8 0.93
2013 21 0.6 Rk 0.00 2 3.2 0 1.364 2.5 0.0 9.8 4.9 0.50
2014 22 -0.1 A-A+-Rk 3.32 0 59.2 1 1.173 7.1 0.2 3.5 8.3 2.39
2015 23 -1.0 AA-A+ 6.90 0 44.1 4 2.053 11.0 0.8 7.5 7.9 1.05
2016 24 -1.3 AA-AAA 0.66 0 27.1 0 0.695 3.6 0.0 2.6 8.2 3.13

Notes: The Cubs signed Concepcion out of Cuba for $6 million over five years, so you can expect them to try to move him to the Majors at some point this season to know what they have. Up until this season, it appeared that the investment they made in Concepcion, albeit small, was not going to work out. After trying him as a starter, unsuccessfully, he’s pitched out of the bullpen and has been less than impressive. To be honest, had he not been a foreign guy they paid money to, I could have seen him get released after posting the numbers he did in 2015, but this year something has clicked. His 2016 numbers, which include time at Tennessee and now Iowa, have been a remarkable turn around. I don’t know what to attribute it to, but something seems to have clicked and fallen into place. He’s worth watching down the stretch this season to see if the Cubs give him a look.


Honorable Mention

  • Zach Hedges (SP) – 2.35 ERA in 9 starts for Myrtle Beach
  • Jake Stinnett (SP) – 3.09 ERA in 8 starts for Myrtle Beach
  • Spencer Patton (RP) – 0.50 ERA in 18 innings with a 13.5 K/9 ratio for Iowa
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Catching up with the Arizona Fall League

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Though the season for the parent club ended on a sour note almost a week ago, that doesn’t mean that all Cubs related action has come to a halt. In fact, almost two weeks ago, the Arizona Fall League started its season, and there are several Cubs minor leaguers who are playing this fall. On October 13, the 2015 season started in Arizona, so there have been quite a few games already. While most of us were wrapped up in the Cubs’ postseason run, some of their future players were getting extra work in a league that many casual fans probably don’t know exists or at least know very little about. I’ll take a quick look at the basic structure of the league and its schedule, and then a brief look at each of the Cubs affiliated players who are down there this year.

The league

As I mentioned earlier, the season started on October 13, and it runs until the last regular season game on November 19. They have an all star game on Saturday, November 7, and the championship is on Saturday, November 21. There are 8 teams split across an East and a West division, with the teams in Salt River, Scottsdale, Mesa, Glendale, Surprise, and Peoria. The team in Mesa plays at Sloan Park, and that is where the Cubs affiliated players are, along with other minor leaguers from the Angels, Marlins, A’s, and the Rays.

The Cubs have quite a few players in Mesa this fall, including a few prospects worth watching closely. Here’s a look at who they are:

The players


Corey Black

Originally a draftee of the Yankees, Black came to the Cubs system in 2013. This has been his fourth full season in the minors, and the 24 year old has spend the last two seasons with AA Tennessee. This year, he made quite a few more relief appearances than he did in 2014, and he ended up throwing just 86 innings for the Smokies. He does boast an excellent strikeout rate with 101 Ks in those 86 innings, but his 1.407 WHIP in 2015 is a little worrisome.

David Garner

Garner left Michigan State early to join the Cubs in 2013 after they drafted him in the 7th round. He was drafted out of high school by the Reds in 2010, but opted for college instead. He split his time between South Bend and Myrtle Beach this year, and actually did considerably better after moving up to Myrtle Beach. There, he had a 0.890 WHIP in 30.1 innings and 36 strikeouts to just 10 walks.

Pierce Johnson

Johnson was also drafted out of high school originally, but declined in order to go to Missouri State. The Cubs took him in the first round in 2012, and coming in to the 2015 season, he was ranked 83rd in the Baseball Prospectus top 100 list. Because of a back injury, he spent the first couple of months in extended spring training this year, but he was able to throw 95 innings in 16 starts for AA Tennessee this year. He looked great in that time, and maybe, just maybe, he could be that extra starting pitcher that the Cubs are looking for in 2016. Perhaps not right away, but I could see him brought up in the second half of the season.

Rob Zastryzny

Zastryzny had a pretty rough year in AA Tennessee, posting a 6.23 ERA in 14 starts. His WHIP was a troubling 1.731, and he gave up 77 hits in 60.2 innings. He’s not pitched particularly well in the Fall League so far either. On Saturday, he threw 5 innings in his start and gave up 6 hits and 2 runs. He did strike out 7, however.


Cael Brockmeyer

Brockmeyer played in 4 minor league levels this year, going from single A South Bend all the way to AAA Iowa. His best performance came in Kane County last year, when he went .297 in 77 games there. He did play at the AAA level in 2013 also (for just 2 games), but spent all of 2014 in low A.

Willson Contreras

Contreras has been with the Cubs organization since 2009, when he was 17. Contreras spent all of 2015 in AA Tennessee, where he put up numbers that are worth your attention, especially when you consider that he spent the majority of them at catcher. In 521 plate appearances, he had an OPS of .891 and had 151 hits to just 62 strikeouts. He’s also spent the last two winters playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he’s gone up against guys at least 5 or 6 years older than he is, and he still hits extremely well.


Jeimer Candelario

This 21 year old third baseman seems like he just might have a bright future. Another player who joined the Cubs system as a 17 year old, he split his time this year between Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. Between the two stops, he had a combined OPS of .770 and hit 35 doubles, 4 triples, and 10 home runs. In 6 games in Arizona so far this fall, he’s hitting just a scant .478 and has 4 doubles and 3 home runs already.


Mark Zagunis

The Cubs took Zagunis in the 3rd round out of Virginia Tech last June, and he spent all of this year in Myrtle Beach. In 512 plate appearances there, he had an OPS of .818. He had 24 doubles and 5 triples. He’s had just 2 hits so far this fall, but he’s drawing walks like crazy. In 5 games, he’s already been walked 8 times, so while his batting average is .182 in the fall league so far, he has an OBP of .526. He drew 80 walks for Myrtle Beach this season (in 115 games). Just to give you some perspective, Kris Bryant drew 77 walks in 151 games for the Cubs this year.


2008: The Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the top offensive player in each league, is presented to Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis (.312, 29, 115) and Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez (.289, 27, 111). The honor was established in 1999 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Henry Aaron surpassing Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record.

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Minor League Update: Lower levels shining

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015


Cubs first round pick Ian Happ has really wasted no time at all since being drafted. He signed quickly (and under slot), joined the short season Eugene Emeralds in time for their opener on June 18, and already has 3 homeruns and 3 stolen bases in just 10 games there so far. Fellow 2015 draftee Donnie Dewees has also made his debut with Eugene, but he has appeared in just 2 games so far. The stay in Eugene could be a fairly short one for Happ, so  keep an eye out for a promotion to South Bend sometime in July. He has the potential to move very quickly through the system, so seeing him finish the season in high A Myrtle Beach would not surprise me. Happ has two years of college baseball under his belt, so that kind of quicky movement through the single A level is possible, and then longer stays in AA and AAA when the time comes. Either way, keep an eye on the Eugene box scores, and if you live in that area, go see a game soon.


Speaking of players who you should make a point to go see, 18 year old shortstop Gleyber Torres is doing everything he can to earn a promotion to Myrtle Beach from South Bend. If, like me, you live in the Chicago area, a trip around the lake to South Bend might be a good idea, so you can see this guy in person. If Happ gets promoted there soon, having both of these guys on the same team is probably going to force my hand, and I’ll be making a trip there to see a game. Torres has a .319/.385/.411 slash line so far, and has 10 stolen bases in his 65 games this season. Of his 79 hits, 11 are doubles and 2 are triples to go with 2 homeruns, so he hits for extra bases pretty nicely.

South Bend pitcher Jeremy Null has had a quality season so far as well, with a 2.33 ERA and 1.096 WHIP in 12 starts, in which the South Bend Cubs have gone 6-2. Null was named to the Midwest League All Star game, and was chosen as the MVP of the game, after striking out the side in the first inning during the all star game last Tuesday. (Be sure to check out the link, as there are several videos of his performance in that game. Worth watching.)


Though I understand the planning behind Kyle Schwarber‘s brief promotion to the majors and then return to the farm system, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still wish there was a way to have kept him in the majors, but that’s probably short sighted. It’s hard watching the Cubs get swept in St. Louis, of all places, and not think about how a bat like Schwarber’s might have helped. Nonetheless, his long term development really hinges on learning to be a full time catcher, which is exactly why he’s in Iowa. Since joining the team a little over a week ago, Schwarber went right to work at the plate, with a homerun, a triple, and 2 doubles in just 6 games so far. He will undoubtedly return to the Cubs with roster expansion in September, but if he can do well enough behind the plate in Iowa, an earlier callup than that is a possibility.


It would be overly speculative of me to really throw any names out there, but as the calendar rolls over into July tomorrow, keep an eye on the trade market. The Cubs are a contending team, and it is clear that the NL Central is never going to be easy on them this year, so some additions are definitely necessary. Because of that, some of these touted minor league prospects that we’ve fallen in love with might be leaving our system. Guys like Dan Vogelbach and Albert Almora come up in talks about acquring Cole Hamels, so be prepared for a steep price tag along those lines. Vogelbach seems like the most likely candidate to be moved, as he is major league ready at the plate, but his defense is sorely lacking (he’s a born DH, I suspect). The one position he does play serviceably, first base, is occupied for a long time to come by Anthony Rizzo. So, if I have to guess who is a part of a trade package first, it’s Vogelbach. He’s a great hitter, but I just don’t think we’ll ever see him do it in a Cubs uniform. If he can be a part of a trade that gets us into the playoffs this year, then I’m fine with that.



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Minor League Update: Olt and Ramirez rehabbing, Soler soon

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015


After both made a stop in AA Tennessee, Mike Olt and Neil Ramirez moved up to AAA Iowa to continue their rehab. Olt went 1-2 in his first rehab start on Friday, and will be joining the Iowa Cubs today. The Cubs do not plan to rush his return to the big league club, as it is unclear where he will fit in with Kris Bryant currently firmly entrenched at third base. Ramirez had a very successful time in AA, and it is expected that he could return to the Cubs sooner than Olt.

Otherwise, it looks as though Jorge Soler is about a week away from a rehab assignment himself, which is encouraging news. It will be good to see him in our outfield again very soon. It is sounding as though Soler will probably be back before the All Star break.


I think you’d have to be under a rock to not be aware of what’s going on with Kyle Schwarber, but he is making his return to the Cubs’ farm system after a 6 game hiatus in the majors, which proved to be quite successful (.364, 1 HR, 6 RBI). He will very likely spend the rest of the minor league season in Iowa, barring something unforeseen with the major league club.


The short season Eugene Emeralds started last week, and both Eloy Jimenez and 2015 first round draft pick Ian Happ are on the roster. Happ started the season off with a bang, hitting his first professional homerun on Saturday, in just the third game of the Emeralds’ season. Jimenez already has 5 RBI on the season.

Elsewhere, Mark Zagunis is putting together a very nice season in high A ball in Myrtle Beach. So far, his batting average is 40 points higher than what he hit in single A at Kane County last year, and he is showing power in his swing that wasn’t there in years past either. So far, Zagunis has 5 HR this season, compared to just 2 across 3 levels of the minors last year, both of which came in short season Boise.

And finally, if you weren’t already watching the box scores in South Bend for Gleyber Torres, it would be a good idea to start doing so. Torres, in spite of being just 18 and 3.5 years younger than the league average, has torn up single A pitching in his 61 games there so far. If not for his age, I’d expect him to move up to Myrtle Beach soon, but he might not, given the fact that he’s already at an advanced level for his experience as it is. Even still, he has clearly demonstrated that he can handle single A, so I would be interested to see what he can do at the high A level at some point this summer.

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Minor League Update: Happ signs, Ramirez returning soon?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Last night’s news that Kyle Schwarber is, at least temporarily, headed to the majors caused quite a stir in the farm system and will continue to do so when he moves from the majors back to AAA after Sunday’s game, which is what our front office has made clear will happen, regardless of his performance. The hope is that he gains some experience and a chance to face major league pitching before going to Iowa to work on his catching. Otherwise, there are a few other bright spots in the minor league system.


Though technically not a minor leaguer, the news that Neil Ramirez is beginning his minor league rehab assingment in AA Tennessee is very encouraging. Our bullpen has looked very strong lately, but having him return would mean Brian Schlitter would be less necessary as the automatic call up when we need bullpen help. Ramirez is expected to make his first rehab appearance tomorrow while the Smokies are hosting the Mississippi Braves.


In a pretty quick turnaround, the Cubs have already signed first round draft pick Ian Happ. They were able to sign him at a $3 million bonus, which is under slot and could mean more money for other picks as they work to sign them. This also means that he could start right away with the short season Eugene Emeralds as they start their season on Thursday. The hope is that Happ can move pretty quickly up through the levels of the minor league system on a trajectory similar to that of Kris Bryant. With that in mind, his stay in Eugene could be very short, so look for him in South Bend before too long.

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