Epstein, McLeod finally get their man in Zeke DeVoss

Epstein, McLeod finally get their man in Zeke DeVoss
Zeke DeVoss

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.

Why?

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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  • Of the position players that will probably be in the big leagues by the end of 2013, the one thing that the lineup will lack is pure power. None of these guys have the ability to hit 30 home runs in a season. DeVoss may be very good, but he is not what the Cubs should be looking for to fill out their lineup when he will be big league ready. The guys you named above don't scream "We need a guy who can get on base, and has some speed to complement us". Marwin and Darwin seem to be suitable utility men in the infield. The only reason I can see DeVoss as somebody in our long term plan is that he is a left handed hitter. I say we inflate his value as much as possible, then trade him for some big league talent when we are contenders once again.

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    I think at 2B or possibly CF DeVoss skill set is very suitable. They need on base guys. Agreed they also need power, but not necessarily from the position that DeVoss will play. They'll need to find those on the corners, 1B, 3B, LF, RF and perhaps supplementing that with above average power at positions like CF and SS. Both Jackson and Castro could be 20 HR guys, which would be very good considering the positions they play. Getting a possible 20 HRs at catcher from either Soto or Castillo is a nice bonus as well. But I agree that the Cubs need 30 HR power and they really don't have that kind of prospect except for maybe Vogelbach, Golden, or Baez -- and they're all a long way away.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    While I agree that there is not much power at the upper levels of the system, I think the need for 30 HR power depends on how it is packaged. The Theocrats have said that they are still trying to figure out how Wrigley plays, and the spring/summer - small ball/long ball duality has been mentioned. One way to approach this is to focus on speed, high OBP, and gap power - backed up by good pitching and defense, of course. Since I do not think the Cubs will be playing the traditional 3-run HR style as long as the Theocrats are running the show, I wonder if 30 HR power without any of the other attributes I mentioned will only be a "last resort" when filling out the roster. Only one-third of the top 100 OBPs in 2011 had 25 or more HRs. Could 8 15-25 HR, high OBP guys be the "ultimate" Cubs line-up?

    BTW, belated Thanksgiving greetings to John and all the knowledgeable contributors - was in Germany Thursday and Friday, and of course we don't do Thanksgiving in Europe. I am certainly thankful I have found this terrific site.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Thanks Norway.

    It's a point well taken. The Cubs could well have a team much like you mention. Every prospect we talk about here seems to be a 15-25 HR guy and current players like Castro and Soto can certainly contribute that as well. I still want that one player who can just be an anchor in the middle of that lineup. In general, I like guys with all around skill sets and good athleticism, but just give me one 30 HR guy and I'll be happy ;)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    For the sake of discussion, John: Given that high OBP, high HR players are relative few, what would you be willing to give up to get your 30-HR guy? OBP? Defense? Contact? And again, just for the sake of discussion, Carlos Pena was one of the 30-odd players last year who was in the Top 100 of OBP and had more than 25 HRs.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I'd be willing to sacrifice some defense at somewhere like 1B or LF where you can hide a so-so defender. Sometimes just having that one big hitter can make things a bit easier -- but that's easier than said than done. Those kind of guys are far and few between. To acquire one would be costly in terms of either payroll or players traded. I'd definitely trade some defense though at a non-key position for some serious run production ability.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I think it could Norway. My favorite type of lineup would be exactly the ultimate one you described.

  • Anybody with the Zeke deserves to be a professional baseball player.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    LOL..Agreed!

  • John, great article--interesting story, esp because of the tie in with Theo/Josh. Thanks!

  • In reply to johnbres2:

    Thanks!...and you're welcome!

    Let's hope that Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod and Wilken were all right about him. All 4 of those guys can't be wrong, can they?

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    Good work John!

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Thanks Michael!

  • I seem to recall, either on this blog or somewhere else, that around the time Hendry was about to lose his job, or had been told he's fired but it hasn't been announced, somewhere in that time, Tom Ricketts was touring the Cubs minor leagues and it was reported that Ricketts just went nuts watching Devoss play. He enjoyed watching him play so much that it was all he can talk about. The next week Maples, Dunston Jr. and all the rest are signed, the next week Hendry is gassed and this whoe "Building the Cubs from within" evidence is launched....

    not saying it was Devoss that initiated all that, but it is interesting that Ricketts could truly see the benefits by watching a player excel in the Idaho league....

  • In reply to felzz:

    Interesting story, felzz! The DeVoss domino effect! I guess if you're going to get excited watching someone play, it would be a player like DeVoss.

  • Good stuff, John. Very much hoping that Zeke can stick at 2B, and progress quickly, too - it's one (of many, I guess) spot where the Cubs could stand to have an in-house upgrade asap.

  • In reply to Brett:

    Thanks Brett. I'm hoping that as well. We already have two legit CF prospects -- not so much at 2B.

  • Lets not take too much away from Darwin Barney's 3/4 season that was above everyone's expectations.

  • In reply to Cubs8ball:

    Barney is a bit limited in what he can do offensively. He's a good defender, though. I think if you have a very good offensive team with a hole at SS or 2B, you can get away with playing someone like Barney and hitting him 8th, but the Cubs aren't that team right now.

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