It's a pretty light day in the minors with the Smokies (AA) getting the day off and Iowa postponed. I thought we could use this opportunity to write a bit about new Cubs SS Son Ho-Young. I mentioned that I talked to a scout about him and while he didn't talk about him as a star, the shortstop did enough to leave an impression, particularly his strong throwing arm, good speed, and defensive skills. A second scout I spoke with wasn't as impressed and felt it was more of a depth move as Cubs shortstops start moving up the ladder -- and that it was better to take a chance on a young kid than just fill those spots with minor league veterans.
So does this kid have a chance? Maybe.
"In his first season at Hongik, he was a great defensive player with a good throwing arm," Sung said. "He had above average speed and could steal bases. He was a fearless player."
What's interesting, however, is that Son actually dropped out of college and has a reputation of leaving schools and having something of an immature, arrogant attitude,
“He had some talent, but he wasn’t a serious baseball player,” said Hongik University baseball coach Jang Chae-geun.
“We are aware of those issues,” said Sung. “He left teams several times when he was in high school. I think that history would cause KBO teams not to pick him in a draft because players of such character generally don’t adapt to professional baseball.”
His coach also added that he could run, throw, and hit but that he had difficulty fitting in and didn't want to play anymore. Since then, however, Son seems to have matured a bit,
"I think he grew up and matured as a person during that time off," the scout said. "I don't think his past should be a problem. He will get a new opportunity, and I believe he will be able to make adjustments."
A scout for the team, Sung-Min Kyu, agreed with that sentiment,
“People may think he is a bit arrogant judging by his behavior, but he’s not a child anymore,” he said. “He told me that his determination to become a true baseball player got stronger than ever while he worked at construction sites for the past last eight months before he met me. I have been watching him for a long time and I judged that his fielding ability, which is one of the most important abilities for a shortstop, is good enough to challenge for a spot in the big leagues.”
No financials are reported but Sung added that the Cubs got a real bargain on this deal considering the shortstop's raw talent. He'll play in the U.S. -- probably in Arizona, as soon as he can get his visa.
It's an intriguing signing and there isn't much to lose here. The Cubs might just have themselves a steal.
Let's get on with the abbreviated recap...
- Ben Wells was once a promising prospect that the Cubs signed as an overdraft out of a small Arkansas high school but injuries have cost him development time and velocity. He's tried to adapt as a pitcher who throws a hard two seamer with good plane, pounding the low part of the zone and drawing weak ground ball contact. He had some success with that last season but after another injury to start the year, he's struggled so far in 2014. He fell to 1-2 with a 4.35 ERA after 2 innings of 3 run baseball. Most concerning was that he walked 4 batters, something he cannot afford to do -- he now has 13 walks in 10.1 innings.
- Another once promising pitching prospect, Starlin Peralta, has had an up and down start to the season and today's outing was on that downside. He pitched 3 innings and allowed 3 runs, walking 2 and striking out 2. His ERA is at 4.96 on the year.
- A third formerly well-regarded prospect, Zach Cates, has had better success. He's worked strictly out of the bullpen since late last year, when he was pitching in the mid 90s and topping out at 97. Cates also has a promising but inconsistent breaking ball, and a solid change. Where he has improved this year is with is command. He had a 3 inning outing in which he did not walk a batter while striking out 3. He did give up a run, raising his ERA to a still good 1.76 and what's more impressive is that he has walked just 1 batter in 15.1 innings. He has struck out 12.
- Not much offense to speak of. The only hits on the day came from Dan Vogelbach and Marco Hernandez, though red-hot hitters Gioskar Amaya (2 walks) and Bijan Radenmacher (1 walk), also found their way on base
- After his worst start of the season, big RHP Tyler Skulina bounced back with a solid 5 inning performance in which he walked just one batter and struck out 2 while giving up just one run. Unfortunately for Skulina, the Cougars were locked in a pitching duel and he actually left trailing the game 1-0. Skulina has a 3.81 ERA on the year with 9 walk and 16 Ks in 26 innings. He has flashed good stuff, particularly his slider, but he has lacked consistency so far --- something that plagued him as an amateur. Still, he's a guy to keep an eye on according to a couple scouts I talked to this offseason.
- LHP Nathan Dorris has been a dependable, versatile pitcher for the Cougars over the past two seasons, working with an 87-90 mph fastball and a big breaking curve, Dorris has shown an ability to miss bats, though he sometimes struggles to throw strikes with that big bender. Today he pitched 2 scoreless innings with one walk and 2 Ks to pick up the win. He's now 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA and has 8 walk and 15 Ks in 16 innings.
- RHP Zach Godley was a 10th round pick last year who was picked in part because of his good size and a fastball that reaches 93 mph but, truth be told, the fact that he was a college senior and could be signed relatively cheaply factored in as well. He's turned out to be more than just a guy who helped facilitate big money signings, he's been a very good closer for the Cougars, even if at 24 he's a bit old for the league and there isn't much projection in his physically mature body. But there is no arguing the results. Godley pitched 2 scoreless innings in which he walked 1 and struck out 5 to pick up his 5th save. He has a 1.54 ERA with 4 walks and 21 strikeouts in 11.2 innings. I don't care how old he is -- that's an impressive K rate and if he keeps doing that, he might just put himself on that prospect radar when all is said and done.
- OF Jacob Hannemann has struggled some with consistency but the fact that he's holding his own after playing such little baseball over the past 3+ years is impressive. Hannemann went 3 for 4 today with a double and a triple -- but his most important hit went about 45 feet as he successfully laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to drive in Danny Lockhart with what turned out to be the game-winning run.
- The Cougars first run of the game, the one that tied the game, was driven in by...who else? Yasiel Balaguert. Balaguert scored Hannemann from 3rd on a ground out for his organization leading 19th RBI. He also singled later in the game.
- Catcher Will Remillard just continues to keep hitting and he tallied 3 more today to raise his OPS over 1.000 (1.007) with a line to .373/.458/.549. Granted, it's still just 59 PAs -- but it's an impressive start for the first year pro.
Filed under: Daily Cubs Minors Recap