Every year prospects disappoint. They get hurt, they don't perform up to expectations, and some are simply errors in judgment. It goes with the territory.
At the same time, you will get your surprises, the "pop-up" prospects who didn't make any Top 20 (or even my own top 35) prospect lists this pre-season. These are not your bonus babies. They aren't even significant late round overslots. In fact. none of these guys even got more than a $150K signing bonues...yet here they are putting themselves in position to fight for a big league job someday.
These are the fun guys for scouts to find. Picking Kris Bryant second overall is exciting and will almost certainly have a much more profound impact on the organization, but sometimes it's more satisfying to unearth these diamonds in the rough.
Will Remillard, C
Jason McLeod had a sort of wry smile when asked once about the Cubs dearth of catching prospects. Maybe he was thinking of Remillard, a catcher they picked in the 19th round and signed to a modest $150,000 overslot (slot was $10oK).
An early report I got on Remillard is that he had some bat potential but tended to let his swing get long at times -- well, either that report was wrong or he's obviously fixed that because I haven't seen it. If anything, he's been short and direct to the ball, making consistent hard line drive contact almost from day one. Through 99 PAs he has struck out just 12.1% of the time. He couples that good contact ability with a very good approach, walking 9.1% of the time. One thing we haven't seen is HR power (just one this season), but Remillard has hit plenty of doubles and has put up a respectable .163 ISO (Isolated Power Rate) in a tough hitters league where even a respected power hitting prospect like Dan Vogelbach put up a .160 mark. Remillard should develop double digit HR power as he matures as a hitter.
The fact that he's putting up these kind of numbers as a good defensive catcher makes it even more encouraging. Remillard has a strong arm and quick release that should help him control the running game. Like all young catchers, he's still working on the nuances of the position, but that's nitpicking -- there are MLB catchers still mastering the nuances.
Stephen Bruno, 2B
When you are 5'9" and picked in the 7th round, nobody hands you anything at the pro level. You have to go out and get it. So that is exactly what Bruno is doing. All Bruno does is hit. He did it at Virginia and he has done it at every level as a pro. In 513 PAs, Bruno has hit .349/.433/.502 with 40 doubles and 6 HRs. This year he is at AA Tennessee despite having played just 86 games as a pro prior to this season. Bruno has not been overwhelmed at all, hitting .317/.413/.528.
Despite his size, Bruno is no punch and judy contact hitter. He can drive the ball and is able to hit any fastball with a short, line drive swing path that stays in the strike zone a long time. If there is a minus, it's that he is an aggressive hitter who doesn't take a lot of walks, though he supplements his OBP by getting plunked by an uncanny amount of pitches, including 10 already this season.
As for defense, the Cubs have tried to find alternate places for him to play -- even experimenting with him at catcher, but 2B appears to be his best position. He's a decent athlete and a good runner, so he may have some utility off the bench if he doesn't start. But don't count him out as far as sneaking into a starting role at some point. His bat is going to make it tough to keep him out of the lineup.
I had the chance to briefly speak with Bruno a couple years back and he is a good kid, very polite, and with a good sense of humor. On top of that, no one doubts his strong work ethic, so he checks off the mental makeup box as well. If Bruno doesn't reach the majors in some capacity, I'll be very surprised.
Bijan Rademacher, OF
A 13th round pick, most teams wanted Rademacher for his strong left-handed throwing arm as he has reportedly reached as high as 95 off the mound as an amateur. But Rademacher wanted to hit and the Cubs promised him the chance to let him do that. So far they can't be disappointed. Rademacher has hit .349/.430/.528 at Daytona this year and while he hasn't hit for much HR power (9 HRs since mid 2012) yet in his pro career, he has hit for some extra base pop this year, posting a career high .179 ISO. He has decent size at 6'0, 200 lbs., so some HR power might develop down the road. We spoke with Rademacher a while back and he is a thoughtful, intelligent player with a good approach to hitting,
My approach really is to stay within myself and get a quality pitch to drive, but other times it depends on the pitcher. For example, if the pitcher doesn't really have a plus strikeout pitch, I'll go up there looking for a fastball in a small zone knowing that this pitcher can't beat me if I get to two strikes.
Rademacher is a solid athlete with that strong arm and can handle RF defensively. The question right now is whether he will have enough power to start there. If not, Rademacher could make a good 4th OFer (the only drawback is that he doesn't play CF) who can provide a solid LH bat off the bench -- and maybe even some emergency relief.
Daury Torrez, RHP
Torrez signed for just $25,000 out of the Dominican Republic. That appears to have been a bargain, Torrez has shown advanced command and a 91-94 mph fastball with some sink and arm-side run. He's athletic and repeats his delivery well, able to locate his fastball consistently -- and thus uses it to pound the lower part of the zone or run it in on RH hitters and break some bats, It's such a good pitch that Torrez relies on it heavily to induce weak contact consistently, forcing a good share of groundballs (1.5 GO to AO ratio).
Torrez also throws a hard slider and a change, but both are still developing and have not yet evolved into pitches he can trust with any regularity. He has a feel for both pitches, however, so there is some promise in that regard. There is also some projectability left in that lean frame. Right now, however, it's all about the FB, particularly the movement and the command - and that in it of itself will take him a long way, but if he can develop a consistently good breaking ball to keep hitters honest, he could find himself in an MLB starting rotation down the road.
Zack Godley, RHP
Out of all the players on this list, Godley surprised me the most. He is an older pitcher (24) who was drafted as a college senior, has a physically maxed body, and really just seemed like organizational filler to me when he was drafted and signed for just $35,000. My assumption was the Cubs drafted him that high so that they could re-allocate bonus money to overslot picks.
While that was part of the plan I'm sure, the Cubs must have seen something else in Godley. He threw 88-90 mph as a starter at Tennessee, but he was throwing in the 93-95 range low in the zone out of the bullpen when I saw him at Kane County. He has also dumped his curveball for an 86-88 mph slider that ran away from RH hitters. It's definitely an upgrade from the reports I'd read from him out of college. What's more, he showed good command of both pitches that night, effectively working along two planes.
I was at a game with Mauricio and Jordan Gorosh, who were there for Baseball Prospectus and Jordan remarked what a guy like that was doing at the low A ball level (where he had 15Ks per 9 IP, 1.80 ERA, 1.69 FIP at Kane County). Just a couple of days later, he was promoted to Daytona, where he has pitched well in his first couple of appearances.
I later asked a scout familiar with Godley to make sure I wasn't off base here, but he told me that he saw Godley as a legit bullpen prospect, perhaps as a 7th inning reliever.
Not a bad find at $35K in the 10th round.
So...are any of these guys, future all-stars? Probably not, but a good organization doesn't just draft impact at the top of the draft, they also find useful role players and perhaps a starter or two later in the draft, or in the case of Torrez, the group outside the hyped up IFA bonus babies.
These are 5 guys who have caught my eye this year -- any players catch yours?
Filed under: prospects