Short Season Roster Review


We have now gone through the end-of-season roster for all four of the Cubs full season farm teams player by player. I am not going to give Boise, Arizona, and the two teams in the Dominican Summer Leagues the same treatment I gave to Iowa, Tennessee, Daytona, and Peoria, but I did go through those rosters and pull out some names that every Cub fan needs to know.

Players in the short season leagues are often in their first year or two as a professional. Many of these players were signed recently as international free agents or were just drafted in 2010 or 2011. In the case of the Dominican Summer League, many of the players have not yet turned 18. As a result, evaluating these players purely from a statistical standpoint can be extremely challenging. There are sure to be some very good players that I overlook in these highlights, but it is safe to say that every name on this list is a player to keep track of over the next few years.

For hitters at this level, I look for players who show patience at the plate. I don’t mind some strike outs, but I want to see plenty of walks and a high OBP to go along with them. I also want to see evidence of at least one strong offensive ability, such as power or speed. For pitchers, I am looking for guys who dominated. High strike outs, low walks, few home runs, and a low opponents batting average are all important.

Instead of sorting these players by position, I am going to group them according the team on which they finished the season. First up is the Dominican Summer League.

DSL Cubs 1 and Cubs 2

Mayke Reyes – OF. At 21 he is definitely old for the league, but I’ve given players from Cuba the benefit of the doubt on the age front in other leagues. Reyes gets on the list with a .456 OBP and 23 steals. Three home runs are nice too, but I’m guessing any power he provides will just be a bonus. Speed is a great weapon in the hands of a guy who can get on base, and Reyes shows signs of being that sort of player.

Loiger Padron – P. Ideally, Padron should be playing in the United States next season, and that will give us a better idea what his future could be. Stats wise, he is a little enigmatic. His WHIP is just barely over 1.00 and opponents hit less than .200 off him, but his strike outs are lower than I would expect. He doesn’t get many ground ball outs, either. If all I saw were his K/9 and his GO/AO, I wouldn’t be impressed. But with that WHIP and OBA factored in, I have to put him on the list. Hopefully he puts in an appearance in Arizona or Boise next season.

Jeimer Candelario – 3B. Seventeen year old players should not be over hyped. Keep that in mind as you read this; I am really trying to not hype this guy to the moon. But the numbers are… exciting. He doesn’t turn 18 until late November. He is from New York City. And he posted an OPS of .921 in his first season as professional. In 249 ABs he collected 50 walks to go with just 42 strikeouts. With 5 HR and a SLG of .478, he has some power. With 4 steals in 8 attempts, he has some speed (as well as some work to do). He is also a switch hitter with a batting average of .337. There are a few minor criticisms. He has 17 errors in 72 games; on the other hand, he is a 17 year old third baseman. I’ll take errors for now. His numbers against left handed pitching look more human, but they are still perfectly respectable for his age and league. Feel free to start drawing mental comparisons to Starlin Castro. He beats Castro’s numbers at the same age and level. Candelario has nothing left to prove in the DSL and I think he will be in the United States next season, possibly as high as Peoria. Wherever he lands, Jeimar Candelario will be one name you will certainly be hearing again in the years to come.

Jose Arias – P. At 6’5″, Arias has the frame scouts love in a right handed starting pitcher. With 50 Ks in 43 innings and a GO/AO as a starter over 2.40, he has the type of dominance I love to see in a pitching prospect. Arias made significant strides in his second season in the DSL; I think he will move to the mainland next season. If the Cubs opt to keep him as a starter (and I hope they do), he may begin the year in Arizona or Boise. At some point I think he’ll get a shot at Peoria.

Arizona Rookie League

Hayden Simpson – P. On paper, Simpson had a terrible year. In reality, Simpson had a terrible year, but an excusable one. Just after being drafted in the first round in 2010, Simpson came down with a really bad case of mono that cost him a lot of weight… including muscle. His official weight is now listed at 170. I beg to differ. When I saw him pitch at Peoria in the middle of the year, he could not have been a pound over 150… and I’m being generous at that. Given the circumstances, it comes as no surprise his fastball was not all that fast this season. Suddenly his ERA of 6.27 doesn’t look as shocking. When you consider that he still struck out more than he walked and managed a GO/AO of 1.29 despite not having his best weapon, his season looks even better still. In short, he had to learn to pitch without his fastball. That could pay huge dividends for his career when he regains his strength. Needless to say, his focus this offseason needs to be a mixture of cheeseburgers and the weight room, but I have no doubt that the Cubs strength staff have this guy near the top of their priority list. Simpson was a controversial first round pick, but I still like the move. In 2012 we should finally get to see just what kind of a pitcher he can be.

Gioskar Amaya – SS. Amaya is exactly what you would expect from a good middle infield prospect. He bring some speed, a good OBP, and just a little bit of power that adds up to 13 steals and an OPS of .927. I think he spends next season in Boise, but Peoria is not out of the question.

Marco Hernandez – Inf. Hernandez is very similar to Amaya. Hernandez hits left handed and seems to have more power, but otherwise they are very similar on paper. I think they will be moving through the system together as well, likely with Hernandez playing some second and third base.

Daniel Vogelbach – 1B. It is not fair to compare Vogelbach to Prince Fielder, but he will be living with those comparisons for a long time. As a larger, lefty swinging first baseman, that is just something he will have to get used to. It is far to early to say much about Vogelbach except that he has a ton of power and quite a bit of patience at the plate for a young hitter. That is a great combination, but let’s see what he can do with a full season in the minors. Normally I’d expect a high school draftee to start in Boise, but given his patience I would not be surprised to see the Cubs give him an early shot at Peoria.

Javier Baez – SS/3B. For now, he is probably behind only Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur among the Cubs offensive prospects. That could change rapidly (Vogelbach and Candelario come to mind), but for today that status is enough for him to make this list. His future is most likely at third base. I think we will get our first long look at Baez in Boise next season.

Brian Smith – P. Pitchers are tough to evaluate statistically in Arizona, but despite the challenges of pitching in the desert Smith had a decent season. The left handers’ numbers were more impressive as a reliever, but I think he will continue to start for at least a while longer. Look for him in Boise or Peoria next season.

Northwest League – Boise Hawks

Pin-Chieh Chen – OF/2B. I’m not sure where Chen ultimately winds up playing on the diamond, but he will be exciting to watch as he moves through the system. His 20 steals show off his speed, but at 6’1″ there is plenty of reason to believe that he will add some power to his left handed swing as he progresses. He will begin next season as a relative unknown for a lot of Cubs fans, but he could end 2012 as the Second Baseman of the Future. Peoria fans have a lot to look forward to with this guy coming to town.

Reggie Golden – OF. Golden makes this list because of his status as a prospect, not his performance in Boise. While he was good at times… even great at times… his season was pretty pedestrian. The mix of power and speed is there for all to see, but if he keeps striking out like he did this season, he may never get a chance to show those tools off. I think he moves up to Peoria next season, but he is a long, long way from Wrigley.

Jean Sandoval – P. Sandoval did not get many innings this year, but he was spectacular when he was on the mound. He has the strike outs, the ground balls, and the low opponents batting average I like to see in a young pitcher, and then some. As a reliever he was good; as a starter he was even better. He only pitched 51 innings this year so he will almost certainly be on a pitch count for most of his outings next season. He should be a candidate to start about half a season for Peoria, and to spend the rest of the year either in extended spring training or coming out of the bullpen for Boise or Arizona.

Yao-Lin Wang – P. Wang has some work to do when pitching against right handed hitters, but for the season his numbers are very solid. With more than one strikeout per inning and only 7 home runs in 14 starts, he placed himself firmly on my radar heading into 2012. Look for Wang in Peoria.

Benjamin Wells – P. Wells will be joining Wang on the Hawks, but I see some indications that Wells could move up the system in a hurry. While Wang has a much more impressive strikeout rate, Wells gave up half as many home runs on the way to an incredible GO/AO of 3.16. In general, a ball on the ground is a win for the pitcher. Wells totaled three times as many ground outs as fly outs in 2011; that is beyond impressive. That strongly suggests he has a pitch or two that hitters just cannot square up against, and that in turn could mean that Wells will advance rapidly once he gets some experience behind him. He should begin the season in Peoria, but I would not be surprised to see the Cubs challenge him with a promotion to Daytona.

Willengton Cruz – P. I’ll finish off this list with a 6’2″ lefty who just missed striking out one per inning. Cruz gives up a few too many walks for my taste, but I’ll make allowances for experience. He also should start in Peoria next season. With these three arms in the rotation, runs against the Chiefs may be hard to come by next season.

There are a lot of other names I could mention here, but projecting out of the very low minors is risky at best. Any of these players could turn into a complete bust while the next Randy Johnson goes over looked. That’s the nature of minor league baseball.

This wraps up my reviews of the players in the Cubs farm system. If there are any Cub prospects I overlooked or that you just want another opinion on, feel free to ask away in the comments. You can also reach me on Twitter @ltblaize.