When Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod came to the Cubs one of the first things said about the farm system was that there are few impact players at the top, but that there were some "interesting" players at the lower levels.
One of those players is certainly 2B/OF Zeke DeVoss.
Because Epstein and McLeod drafted him before. DeVoss was Boston's 38th round pick in 2009, McLeod's last draft with the Red Sox. This wasn't an afterthought pick, however. The only reason DeVoss lasted that long was that he had a strong commitment to the University of Miami.
That didn't stop the Red Sox from trying desperately to sign him with a well-above slot bonus. In fact, they nearly succeeded. The DeVoss negotiations went down to the wire before the top prep prospect chose college. Here's what Alex Speier from WEEI in Boston wrote about the negotiations at the time...
Last summer, among those signability questions, the one who came closest to signing but still enrolled in school was Zeke DeVoss. DeVoss is a tremendously athletic player who was taken in the 38th round, having slipped there because there seemed little chance that he would bypass college. The Sox nearly convinced him to change his (mind), and the two sides made significant negotiating headway before DeVoss ultimately decided to honor his scholarship commitment at the University of Miami. (While discussions were characterized by sources as having come “close,” they never advanced to the point where DeVoss took a physical for the club.)
Luckily for the Cubs (and themselves), Epstein and McLeod came up short that time because it meant DeVoss was eligible this season as a draft-eligible sophomore. This time, he was drafted by our own Tim Wilken and signed for an above slot $500,000. He has paid immediate dividends for the Cubs.
DeVoss hit .309 over two levels and showed advanced plate discipline, putting up an incredible .448 OBP. That ability to get on base coupled with his speed make him an ideal leadoff prospect for the future. If he has a weakness, it was that he didn't show a lot of extra base power, something he will need down the line if he's to continue drawing walks against more advanced pitchers.
To that end, the Cubs do feel like he can eventually develop some gap power. Despite being just 5'10" and 175 lbs., DeVoss is wiry strong with the ability to add a bit to his frame without losing speed. Although he had a minor injury that caused him to miss a couple games and had the Cubs being cautious with him on the bases, DeVoss managed to steal 16 bases in 20 tries. When right, he has game changing speed, as his 5 steal debut with Boise would attest.
Defensively, DeVoss is learning to play 2B, where his offensive skill set would be a huge asset. Although he struggled some with errors, most scouts feel he has the hands and range to stick their full-time. He is one of the few prospects the Cubs have that could significantly upgrade their overall athleticism -- a glaring weakness with recent Cubs teams.
Things could change down the line, however. The Cubs have already added Starlin Castro while athletic prospects like Brett Jackson, Matt Sczcur, and Junior Lake are all likely to make their MLB debuts by 2013. DeVoss, as an advanced prospect who could move quickly, might not be too far behind.
One thing seems certain is that DeVoss will not get lost in the shuffle as the Cubs make major changes in their organization. As the player Baseball America once called, "the one that got away" from Boston's otherwise strong 2009 draft, DeVoss is definitely one prospect that the new Cubs front office already knows very well.
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