Had to make a last minute change yesterday as the Cubs announced that yet another player was going to get a crack at catcher and I think it was an inspired choice...
I hope you're not looking for Brett Jackson or Josh Vitters yet, by the way. I haven't given up by them but the upside isn't as exciting as it used to be. Both look like role players off the bench at the MLB level right now.
And here's how crazy the depth is getting: I really, really like some of the players I haven't mentioned yet and think they have a shot at being MLB players.
The Cubs just announced that Amaya will be playing catcher in instructs and if he is able to stick, that will do wonders for his stock. He's an intelligent, instinctual player with very good makeup and enough quickness and arm to be a good catch and throw type. His bat will play better as well. Amaya struggled a bit at Kane County before getting hot in the second half -- then cooling off in the last 2-3 weeks of the season again. He has solid bat speed and can handle most fastballs, spraying line drives from gap to gap. He has some pull power but that's not his game. Amaya has improved his approach the last couple of years and puts up consistently good ABs. His upside as a 2B was an average starter and if he takes to catching, he could be at least that there too. He immediately becomes the Cubs best catching prospect.
Ramirez was once the #5 prospect in a good Rangers system but command issues, arm troubles, and concerns about his delivery dropped him down the list. The Cubs will give him every chance to start and he has the pitches to do so., He works at 92-94 as a starter and is able to reach 97 in short stints. His calling card used to be his big curveball, which was the best in the organization but he has been mixing in a slider of late because it's easier to command and because he tended to hang the curve. His next best pitch right now may be his change up. Ramirez bounced back strong this year with a 9-3 record and a 3.11 FIP and struck out just over 30% of the batters he faced. His ceiling as a starter is as a #3, but many feel he may be best off as a hard-throwing late inning reliever where he can throw in the 96-97 range.
As a hitter, Balaguert has some exciting potential. He has good bat speed and the ball jumps off his bat. He started to display some of that power potential at Boise after struggling last season when the Cubs pushed him to Peoria as a 19 year old. The downside for Balaguert is that he's relegated to a corner though he does have the arm for RF. He's one of the more underrated hitters in the system with quick, strong hands and good batting eye (9.7% walk rate). He slumped a little late in the season but this is a player who I think will be a lot of fun to watch at Kane County next year.
Black is an undersized pitcher (5'11", 175 lbs) who generates mid 90s velocity that can reach 97 mph (and has reportedly hit 100 mph in the past). His secondary stuff is average (curveball, change) and the lack of a second out pitch likely relegates him to 7th inning work rather than a closer or set-up man. His slight build makes it very unlikely he sticks at starter, though the Cubs will surely keep him there for as long as possible.
Silva is a toolsy player capable of playing all 3 OF positions and an arm that is one of the best in the organization. At the plate he had a bit of a breakthrough in terms of power, hitting 15 HRs and slugging .483 (.199 ISO). Silva's biggest weakness is a hacktastic approach than can be exploited by savvy pitchers with good command. But if he can hone his approach to be at least adequate, he can be a valuable outfielder off the bench because of his defense, speed, LH bat, and power.
Contreras is the Cubs best current catching prospect but he has a long way to go. He's quick behind the plate and shows a strong arm but he's erratic both at blocking pitches and when it comes to throwing runners out. At the plate he has forearms made out of granite and good bat speed. He hit a career high 11 HRs and more than doubled his ISO% (.174 from .084 the previous season). He also improved his walk rate from 4.1% to a respectable 7.5% -- thought that disciplined approach was also erratic. Consistency is the key for Contreras, who plays the game with a lot of intensity and sometimes lets his competitive nature get the best of him. He has some growing up to do, but if he does, he has a chance to be a pretty good all-around catcher.
27. Gleyber Torres, 16, SS, AZIL
Torres is the more polished of the Cubs two big amateur IFA signings. He has a good feel for hitting and while he isn't a top notch athlete, he has good instincts at SS and the Cubs feel he has a chance to stick there. As a hitter, he's been compared to Freddy Sanchez in that he is a guy who has a chance to hit for average and some extra base power and perhaps average HR power. He has good hand-eye coordination and a smooth, short swing. He has at least average tools off the board with his bat and arm projecting as potentially above average.
I normally don't like ranking relievers but considering Rosscup has earned a 40 man roster spot and a call-up, he gets special consideration. It also helps that he he has unusual velocity from the left side, sitting 92-93 and touching 94. He couples that with a good slider and a deceptive delivery that plays up his velocity even more. Rosscup misses a ton of bats (13.7 Ks/9 IP at AA, 37% rate) The issue with Rosscup, as you might expect is command. He has really struggled with it since his call-up but if he can throw strikes consistently, he should have work for a very long time as a LH reliever who can miss bats.
I had some trouble deciding where to rank Pineyro because some like him a lot while others I talked to consider him to be "just a guy". And by that I mean a guy with average (or even fringe average) stuff who relies on location and command. Pineyro is often in the 88-90 mph range with his best pitch being his change-up. He threw a lot of strikes as a Daytona Cubs (1.8 walks per 9 IP) but is usually somewhere above the two walk mark, which is still very good. He can also miss some bats (7.6 Ks/9 IP, 20.5% rate). Overall, it was a pretty good haul for Scott Hairston. Pineyro pitched very well after the trade, going 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA (2.89 FIP) but like Hendricks he's going to have to keep sharpening his stuff and command while proving himself at every level.
Hanneman was another tough rank. We know that the Cubs fell in love with him and picked him in the 3rd round. They paid him an overslot $1M bonus despite him missing two years on a Mormon mission and playing only his freshman season at BYU. Scouts were impressed with his fluid athleticism, instincts, makeup, and how the game just seems to come so easy to him. He quickly adapted to Division 1 college ball and some considered him the best hitter in the conference outside of Kris Bryant. Hanneman has very good speed and a short stroke with some pop at the plate. As you might expect, the pitch recognition isn't there yet after having so much time off. He also relies mostly on his speed to play defense in CF and needs to get better reads and take better routes, but the Cubs believe he will pick those things up quickly with some reps and coaching. I think if Hanneman was just 19 like most freshman, there'd be a lot to be excited about and he'd be much higher on this list, but he'll be 23 in April so that excitement is tempered for me. He'll need to stay healthy and continue to adapt and move quickly. The guess is he starts at Kane County next year.
Filed under: Top Prospects Lists