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Cubs Top Prospect Supplemental, Part II: 10 Sleepers

Cubs Top Prospect Supplemental, Part II: 10 Sleepers
Zeke DeVoss

We've done the Cubs Top 25 Prospects and yesterday we gave you and additional 15 prospects who just missed.  Today we finish up the pre-season prospect series with a look at some sleepers to keep an eye on.  In some ways, this list is my favorite.  We all know who the top prospects are but these are guys who may be a little raw but with intriguing physical skills -- or haven't reached their potential but have put up interesting peripherals that may translate to better results in the near future.

  • John Andreoli, 22, OF: Andreoli is an on-base machine, supplementing his .289 average with 75 walks and 4 HBPs to give him an OBP of .402 for the season.  Andreoli has a solid build at 6'1", 215 lbs. but hit just 1 HR and put up an ISO of .087.  The Cubs think there is enough bat speed to give him some extra base power and double digit HRs, however.  He stole 55 bases last year and while he has above average speed, he's not a burner.  Andreoli will start the year in AA and if he shows increased power this year, he'll get interesting
  • Jose Arias, 22, RHP:  Arias looks the part.  He stands 6'5" and weighs a solid 220 lbs.  He's an intimidating presence and has the mid 90s fastball to match.  He commands the pitch pretty well and has gotten by in the past with velocity and location.  This fall, Arias made progress with his curveball and was generating swings and misses.  He's going to need it as he moves up against more advanced hitters.  He could be this year's Starlin Peralta.
  • Wilson Contreras, 20, C, R/R: The Cubs don't have a lot of catching prospects in their organization.  The best are Chadd Krist and Rafael Lopez but both project as backups.  Contreras is nowhere near advanced as those two but has a higher ceiling.  He's an athletic catcher who should have ideal size for the position when he fills out.  A former infielder, he moves well behind the plate and possesses a strong arm with a quick release.  At the plate he is an aggressive hitter (.273/.326/.357) and shows the potential for some extra base pop, but he'll have to refine his approach (4.1% walk rate) and gain strength (.084 ISO).  He's a project but there is something to work with here.
  • Josh Conway, 21, RHP:  Conway was considered one of the top 50 players in the 2012 draft until injuring his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery.  When healthy, Conway can dial his fastball up to 96 mph an couples it with a nasty slider that was one of the better breaking pitches among Cubs draftees.  He's not especially big at 6'1", 175 lbs. and given his injury history, he may profile best in the bullpen and that's certainly where he'll pitch when he returns this year.  He will likely debut at Boise.
  • Zeke DeVoss, 22, 2B, S/R: DeVoss is an intelligent player with a patient, disciplined approach at the plate.  He has  walked in 15% of his plate appearances so far in his career and put up an outstanding .382 OBP last year despite just hitting .249.   DeVoss has a wiry build at 5'10, 175 lbs. and the natural strength to shoot line drives through the gaps.  He struggled at the plate and the field last season and has fallen down the Cubs 2B prospect-heavy depth chart.  As DeVoss moves up he's going to get more strikes so he'll have to prove he can hit if he wants to keep pitchers honest.  He saw a ton of pitches last year and sometimes that's reflected more in the ensuing year's statistics.  He'll play at Daytona next year.
  • Shawon Dunston, Jr., 20, CF, L/R: The Cubs challenged Dunston by starting him at Boise but he was overmatched.  He regained his stroke in AZ, hitting .286/.357/.410.  He'll always be compared to his father, a Cub favorite, and there are some similarities. Both are high energy, quick-twitch athletes with plus hand speed.  Both are also plus runners and yes, Junior has a good arm -- though not as good as his dad's (whose is?).  There are also differences.  Dunston, Jr. is a LH hitter who will use his speed to play CF, where he projects as above average defensively.  He's also a more disciplined hitter than his father, walking in nearly 10% of his PAs at Arizona.  Trey Martin has gotten more attention lately and has passed up Dunston for now, but it's easy to forget that Dunston was the more highly regarded player as an amateur.  It should be fun watching them both patrol CF this year.  Dunston will probably get another shot at Boise while Martin will likely be at Kane County.
  • Michael Jensen, 22, RHP:  Jensen continues to fly under the radar despite solid stuff and very good results (11-5, 3.47 ERA).  His peripherals support those results (7.39/2.57 K to BB ratio, 3.29 FIP).  Stuff-wise Jensen sits in the low 90s with his fastball and can reach 94.  He complements that with a big 12-6 curve that has a chance to be a plus pitch at the MLB level.  If there is something holding Jensen back, it's that he is 6'1, 185 lbs with not much room for projection.  He is what he is physically and improvement will have to come with better command and refining his change-up.  He'll start at Daytona and has #4 starter potential.
  • Carlos Penalver, 18, SS, R/R: In 2010 the Cubs signed two top international players.  One, Jeimer Candelario, is already appearing on Cubs top 10 lists and even in a couple top 100 in all of baseball.  The other, Carlos Penalver, is still more in the sleeper category.  Interestingly, Penalver actually got the slightly higher signing bonus.  The two are very different players.  Candelario will go as far as his bat will take him but Penalver also offers athleticism, defense, and speed in the middle infield.  He has a chance to be a plus defender at either SS or 2B with some OBP skills and extra base pop at the plate.  He has walked in over 10% of his PAs as a professional with the ability to make consistent contact.  The extra-base pop hasn't shown up yet but that will come when Penalver fills out his slight frame. Right now it's encouraging that Penalver has advanced pitch recognition skills and the hand-eye coordination to square up the ball frequently. Penalver will be one of the youngest position players at Boise this year.
  • Austin Reed, 21,  RHP:  Reed surprised me when I saw him visit Kane County.  I had heard he had a good change and a solid breaking pitch, but he was throwing 95, 96 mph.  It's one of those ideal projection cases where a kid grows up, gains strength, and adds velocity.  Because Reed already had a pretty advanced change and has an ideal pitchers frame, I'd be interested to see if the Cubs try him out as a starter this season.  He started 13 times in 2011 but had more success as a reliever last season (3.68 ERA/3.91 FIP)
  • Tayler Scott, 20, RHP: Scott is different than the usual player you'll find on these lists.  He had great results (5-1, 2.52 ERA) but so-so peripherals (5.43/3.66 K to BB ratio and a 3.38 FIP), but Scott is all about projection.  He is a native South African and spent much of his youth playing soccer, but took quickly to baseball and wound up moving to Arizona where the Cubs plucked him in the 5th round out of high school.  He has a lean, athletic frame at 6'3", 185 and projects to add to his fastball, which sits in the low 90s.  Kevin said he saw an improved curveball from Scott this spring.  Scott also shows a surprise feel for pitching for someone so inexperienced. He'll be at Kane County to start the year.

That's a total of 50 names between the three pieces but we've still left off quite a few interesting players.  Make sure to follow us on our daily minor league recaps during the season where you can get the jump on emerging talents, surprises, and breakthrough players

Filed under: prospects

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  • I think if josh conway can come back close to his old self he could be a steal in the draft. Is it possible john that he could still be a starter ?

  • In reply to seankl:

    I think they'll try him as a RP and see how things go. It's possible but he probably fits best as a reliever when all is said and done.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Im with you, John. Conway isn't large physically and doesn't have the type of build that will allow him to grow much physically. An 175Lber throwing in the mid 90s normally leads to arm trouble down the road, and Conway has already had problems. Id try him as a r/p first.

  • Not a huge deal, but Scott is listed at 6-3 on the Boise Hawks site and B-R. A little more of a pitchers build. He's one of my favorite deep sleepers so I thought it was odd that I never noticed him being 6-1.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I was using Fangraphs but that may be an old number. I'll trust the Boise site since it's affiliated with MLB. He did look taller to me and a little thin, which makes more sense at 6'3"

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    They also list him at 165 lbs...which would definitely make him look even taller.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    6'3", 165 lbs? He's not that thin. I'm going to stick with 6'3", 185 lbs. Measurements can lag behind.

  • The cubs website have a few players listed as 5'10 that taller.

  • In reply to seankl:

    I have had some of those measurements questioned by people who are close to the players. Was also told it takes a while for MLB to change them.

    A good example is PJ Francescon, a pitcher I considered for this list. I heard from a good source is 6'0" to 6'1", but he's listed at 5'11". May not seem like much but could make a difference in how they're perceived. Francescon, btw, is a deep sleeper and he'll be at Daytona or possibly TN. Good sinking FB and solid secondaries.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Like they have starlin castro at 5'10, castro has to be at least 6'2.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Junior Lake is said to be 6'4" or even 6'5" but I believe is listed at 6'2"

  • In reply to seankl:

    B/A listed Castro this spring at 6'2'' and 195. Seems about right if you notice him stand next to Shark, who everyone knows is 6'5".

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    On the other hand, there is Ronni Torreyez, who is about a foot shorter than his listed height.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Yes. It goes both ways. In fact, it's probably most often exaggerated.

  • Yes! I knew Andreoli would be there.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Really a surprise player. I think he already has a shot at being a 4th OF'er down the line and if he hits for some power, who knows? Maybe more.

  • I like seeing the system with power arms, I saw the cardinals today and it looked like all there pitchers threw hard. Hopefully the FO keep gathering more and more high upside arms.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Cardinals are loaded with power arms. That's where Cubs want to get.

  • I always like young power arms and Austin Reed intrigues me a bit. I have a feeling he will be tried out as a starter, he's someone we should keep on eye on. While I don't think he will be a front line starter, it never hurts to have more power arms in your system.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Reed intrigues me as well. I believe his brother also started throwing harder as he matured. He has the pitches and the frame to be a mid-rotation guy and the Cubs need all the power starters they can get.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    ITA John, with his build and arm he has potential. One can never have enough promising arms

  • Great job (again), John. This kind of info makes me wonder what fans around the league have anything close to the knowledge of their prospects that we do. We're sure blessed to have you.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Thanks cubs1969! I appreciate that.

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    John, do you think the Cubs are looking at any of the Mets' players they are looking to deal, according to MLBtraderumors? The Hansel Robles kid looks like the kind of arm the FO wants to stockpile. What would the Cubs have to give up to get him (assuming Mets are either wanting players who are ready now, or don't require being put on the 40 man roster).

  • In reply to Ray A:

    I saw that list and Robles is the one who stands out. Good arm. Reese Havens is also a nice talent who has never lived up to expectations, partly because of injuries.

  • When recently asked about breakout prospects beyond the big 3 this year, the one guy from this list Theo mentioned was Penalver. I just became intrigued.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Interesting. Don't know how I missed that piece but I just looked that up - and I'm kind of excited he likes a lot of the same guys I do, including Amaya, Hernandez, Blackburn and, of course, Penalver.

  • now i hope during this years draft we draft appel, meanea, or gray then in the second round i want them to draft a catcher sense we are low in our farm system. wouldnt it be nice if we had a legit guy competing with willington in 3-4 years for a starters spot?

  • In reply to kingpro98:

    That 2nd pick is going to be interesting and I can see why with the way this draft is structured. Lots of good college arms and high school catchers -- and a good one in either category should still be available for the Cubs in the 2nd round.

    The depth at those positions may also push down some high ceiling high school arms too. Lots of ways this could break.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The trick with the new CBA, of course, is that if I'm a high-ceiling high school arm pushed down far enough, it makes sense to not sign and take my chances again in 3 to 4 years.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It is, but even getting the equivalent of Duane Underwood in the 2nd round would be a plus. The Cubs didn't take the Astros strategy but did manage to pool enough money to sign him overslot.

    I think the hard guys to sign would be guys like Kohl Stewart (if he falls), because he's the top HS arm and a prized QB recruit, but I think the Cubs should have a good shot with most of the HS arms that will be there.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Okay, gotcha. I was misunderstanding. Definitely, second round you can give a HS guy like Underwood enough to skip out on college -- especially with the opportunity to work with Johnson.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Johnson gives the Cubs a nice secret weapon.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    As much as we get excited by guys like Soler, Almora, and Johnson, I really think the best changes Theo has brought to the Cubs are the ones that have been implemented at the organizational level. Developing "the Cubs Way" so that everyone is being taught the same way is a big change. Having Bill Buckner to make the Boise guys defend every swing they take in video sessions and Derek Johnson to polish raw pitchers should have a big impact down the road. Individual prospects will flame out -- we know that -- but by ensuring good and consistent instruction throughout the organization, we're maximizing the returns from prospects. That's what is going to get us that long elusive World Series title.

  • In reply to kingpro98:

    I hope we pick 1 or 2 catching prospects with upside too. The one who intrigues me that could be available with our 2nd round pick is Brian Navarreto from Baez's Alta Mater. Unfortunately, he may be too tall to stick there. But the kids a ball player and I think he can play any of the 4 corners eventually too.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think Navaretto could be there in round 3 or even 4. He's one of the most raw catchers in this crop but a nice ceiling because of rare athleticism for a catcher. It will depend, as you hinted, on whether, teams think he can stick at catcher long term.

  • This is totally off subject, but for some reason it entered my mind while reading this article. What ever happened to Angel Guzman and Esmailin Caridad?

  • In reply to RipRyanFreel:

    Guzman has had issues on & off the field since he was cut loose by the Cubs. A drug suspension in 2012 (Non PED). He was listed on the Dodgers AAA roster for last season, but I haven't heard anything about him this season.

    Haven't heard much of anything about Esmailin Caridad though.

  • In reply to RipRyanFreel:

    Guzman has been injury plagued and Caridad struggled with command and has wallowed in the Cubs minors since. He did pitch well at times for Iowa last year but he is out of the picture for now -- and may find himself trying to get a shot with another organization soon.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks!

  • So the Great One's son is off the radar?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'd consider him more of a deep sleeper. Had to leave off some interesting names.

  • John, quick question. I did not see Trevor Gretzky on your list of prospects. As a fan of athletes produced by a good gene pool, I was wondering how you rate him, why he did not make the list, etc. Thanks.

  • In reply to Pete:

    Gretzky is interesting and if I made this list a little longer he would have been on there. He still had that tall, lanky frame last time I saw him, which was this fall in instructional league. With him it's going to be about gaining strength and developing power. He'll probably be a 1B or maybe a corner OF'er, so he's going to have to hit and hit with power.

  • Great list John. These lists keep us more informed than even the most avid fans. And 50 players that are all exciting on your 3 lists. The Cubs farm system is trending up.

  • Would love to see another Dunston in Wrigley!

  • In reply to fsufrenzy911:

    Me too! Dunston, Sr. was one of my favorite players as a kid.

  • They can bring back the Shawon-O- Meter, except this time it would be sponsored by Bud Light.

  • In reply to cubman:

    Haha! I like it. Well except for Bud Light ;)

  • Thanks for all the prospect analysis, John. We Denizens are fortunate to have such coverage of our future stars.
    A nice story and photos about the Dunstons on the Boys of Spring site:
    http://boysofspring.com/hohokam-making-cubs-memories/

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks for the kind words and that link. Tim Sheridan does a great job with that site. Always one I look forward to every spring.

  • Hey John, one more question: Where do you see Rock Shoulders in these assessments? (Other than his Best Name Award.) Is he more athletic than Dan Vogelbach; that is, athletic enough to play OF?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I like Shoulders a lot and would say he's a little like Reggie Golden in that he's big, strong kid with plate discipline and tremendous power potential. Both also strikeout a lot. Ultimately I went with Golden because he also has the athleticism to be a plus RF'er while Shoulders is probably relegated to 1B.

    He's close and definitely one of the names I had to leave off. He may even be that 51st name. He and Chadd Krist were the most difficult to leave off for me along with a few interesting young pitchers.

  • Any thoughts on Gretzky's kid?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Ooops! Missed the question above...

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