The Chicago Cubs have enjoyed their fair share of top-shelf talent in the past five seasons. Through stringent draft strategy and heavy importance on player development, former President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein understood it best to build a championship-winning ball club.
Inauspiciously speaking, you can be the best at what you do and still miss on talent. For an organization that takes their international scouting so seriously, it does happen. In this instance, that talent is Aramis Ademan. Ademan ranked as the club’s top overall prospect in 2018. Three short years ago, the Cubs saw the now 22-year-old shortstop in a unique light.
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He projected as a “steady above-average hitter” in his first organizational scouting report from Baseball America. His “high floor” seems nothing more now than a pipe dream, and while still a part of the top 30 prospects within the organization, Ademan does find himself on the fringe of dropping off the list altogether.
After signing a $2 million bonus as part of the 2015-16 international class, Ademan got off to a rousing start in his first couple of seasons in professional baseball. In his first season in rookie ball, Ademan his .254 with a higher walk rate than strikeout rate and double-digit steals. He improved his numbers in a big way the next year at Low-A, slashing .286/.365/.466, and posted a 135 wRC+ and ten stolen bases to go with his four home runs. Shortly after that, the bottom began to fall out.
At 18 years old, Ademan did play well below his age curve after making the jump in 2017 to Class-A. In 29 games, he held his own, hitting .244 while managing a consistency to his strikeout rate without too much of an uptick. In 2018 after earning his status as the top overall prospect, things went south.
He slashed just .207/.291/.273 in 114 games at Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach. The following season it was more of the same with a slight improvement. The on-base percentage, slugging percentage and wRC+ did improve.
Defensive numbers have not helped Ademan’s situation by any stretch. At Class-A in 257 innings, Ademan made seven errors. It was not a significant number but not great either. More games meant more innings the seasons following, and in each of his seasons at Class-A Advanced, there have been 23 and 24 errors, respectively. In whichever capacity or way fans can spin the narrative, there is no appealing way to justify the production drop.
The Cubs selected standout prep shortstop Ed Howard in the 2020 MLB draft and current backbone of the team Javier Baez looks like a prime extension candidate. The club’s first-round pick from 2018, Nico Hoerner, is expected to be with the big league club in 2021, and current top ten prospect Chase Strumpf out of UCLA adds continued depth to the infield.
Ademan being just 22 years old makes it a tough call for the Cubs, moving into the future. On the one hand, there is, in theory, plenty of time for Ademan to pull it together. Adding more young international talent in recently signed Cristian Hernandez and Reginald Preciado’s acquisition as a part of the return for Yu Darvish, may make it challenging for Ademan.
This year could very well be a year that determines Ademan’s future with the team. For his sake, let us hope he can rise to the challenge.