Schwarber, Boise to debut tomorrow: Here are some players to watch

With the draft and now extended spring training in the rearview mirror, it is time for short season ball.  That means  the Boise Hawks of the Northwest League will be added to the minor league recaps starting tomorrow.

We previewed the full season leagues earlier this season, so let's take a look at the two short season teams now.  We do have Boise's roster, which now includes Kyle Schwarber, who tops the list.  Also a special thanks to Arizona Phil, who does all that great work down in AZ so we know what the heck is going on up here in Chicago.

Boise Hawks

The Top Prospects

Kyle Schwarber, C, 21: Thought by many experts to be the best hitter in the draft, Schwarber gets to skip AZ and go straight to Boise, Schwarber has a mix of a plus hit tool and at least plus power to go with an advanced approach.  Like last year's pick Kris Bryant, Schwarber already has a feel for how pitchers will try to get him out and he will adjust accordingly.  He will work counts, take walks, and make hard contact consistently when pitchers inevitably give him something he can drive.  Also like Bryant, Schwarber can naturally hit with authority to all fields, which should help hit for a high average.  Look for some high BABIPs early in the minors.  That is not to say he is on the same level as Bryant, who is an elite prospect and one of the best all-around hitters in the minor leagues, but I expect Schwarber to be able to handle Boise and move quickly, perhaps ending up at Kane County where manager Mark Johnson is one of the best in the Cubs organization when it comes to teaching catchers.  If Schwarber is to stick at catcher, we will probably find out early, if not, his bat should play anywhere and he has the athleticism to handle the corner OF positions, preferably LF since both Bryant and Jorge Soler have the kind of arms that profile well in RF.

Mark Malave, C, 19: Sharing the catching duties will be Mark Malave, who was signed as a catcher, but then moved off of the position and played all around the infield last season.  He returns to catching where his solid athleticism and strong arm make him a good bet to stay at catcher, according to one scout I spoke with.  Malave is a good hitter with an advanced approach at the plate, walking nearly 16% of the time and posting  a .381 OBP at rookie level AZ last year.  Malave doesn't have elite bat speed but he is a strong kid who should hit for some power as he gains experience.  He has been young for his league going back to his days in Venezuela and he has hung in there well against older competition.  Boise will be a great test for him.

Breakout Candidates:

Trevor Clifton, RHP, 19:  Clifton impressed and made enough progress in extended spring training to get the nod at Boise.  Clifton can throw hard, in the 92-96 range but there was some violence to his delivery when he was drafted so he didn't always know where it was going -- and why he lasted until the 13th round.  The Cubs appeared to have cleaned that up and he held his walks down to 11 inf 26.2 innings of ExST while striking out 34.  What probably got Clifton the Boise assignment, however, is his ability to use his 6'4" height to pitch with plane and pound the lower part of the zone the way the Cubs teach and induced twice as many ground outs as fly outs.  The very fact that he picked this up as quickly as he did after appearing so raw at draft time speaks volumes both to his aptitude/athleticism as well as the development staff down in AZ.

Jeffrey Baez, OF, 20: A pre-Theo high profile IFA signing with a combo of extra-base, pop, plate discipline, and speed.  Baez played well at Rookie Level AZ last year (.287/.357/.387, 25 SBs) and again in ExST: .322/.408/.511 with 2 HRs and 14 SBs.  He got his feet wet at Boise last year and struggled but still maintained his good approach at the plate.  He has average size so he isn't going to be a big power hitter so his ability to get on base,, speed, and whether or not he can stick in CF are keys to his long term success, though he could develop average power as well.  Baez is an exciting player who will be among the most fun to watch at Boise.

A few top guys rehabbing or working out some kinks who could move quickly if it all works out...

  • Scott Frazier, RHP, 22:  Frazier should have started at Kane County but he had all kinds of problems finding the strike zone.  There is no denying the stuff, however, as Frazier features a mid 90s fastball and a power curve.  Great size makes him an intimidating presence on the mound but also causes all sorts of delivery concerns.  He pitched sparingly in ExST (1 IP)  so it appears the Cubs may have been working out some mechanical issues on the side.
  • Josh Conway, RHP, 23: A top 50 prospect before tearing his UCL, the Cubs took a flyer and Conway has had some bad luck since then.  He appears to be healthy now and once he regains his game shape could move quickly with his mid 90s fastball and wipeout slider.
  • Trey Masek, RHP, 22: Masek was also rehabbing in AZ.  He was a first round prospect heading into last year but some overuse, a drop in velo late, and injury concerns dropped him to the 5th round.  Masek, like Conway, isn't a big pitcher but throws hard, capable of hitting the mid 90s and mixing in a curve, slider, and change.  Starter's repertoire but stamina an issue if he is to pitch in that role.
  • Ryan McNeil, RHP, 20: Big bodied athletic pitcher with a strong arm with chance to develop as a sinker/slider type workhorse in the middle of the rotation.  Has some good life to his low 90s fastball which could project higher as he matures and gets healthy.

Others to watch...

  • Erick Leal, RHP, 19:  Not overpowering but showed a nice clean delivery and some polish last year.
  • Greyfer Eregua, RHP, 20: For VSL/DSL fans, Eregua showed some success with average stuff and good command/feel, but he is undersized.
  • David Garner, RHP, 21: Undersized two pitch pitcher (low 90s, plus slider) who profiles in the bullpen.
  • Rashad Crawford, OF, 20: Great athlete with size and speed, but raw baseball skills.  Kind of player the Cubs have taken in the 10-15 range of the draft the last 3 years (Charcer Burks, Kevonte Mitchell).



Filed under: Minor League Previews


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    So will Schwarber be catching for Boise? You hinted at it, but didn't specify.

  • In reply to Phil James:

    Yes. Hearing mostly catcher and a little in the OF.

  • Nice. we wont have to wait long for the Schwarb. We should have an idea of where hes at by the end of the season.

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    I know in the video interview for Boise, Schwarber, said he was there working with the pitchers. Also, McLeod, said that, Schwarber & Zagunis, would be splitting time between catcher and OF at some point.

  • In reply to Chris Lattier:

    Thanks Chris!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What happened to Trey McNutt? He was one of my favorite pre-theo prospects and I haven't seen him in any recaps....

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    In reply to #murica:

    He's been hurt; has not pitched at all this year. He's probably not a prospect anymore.

  • In reply to #murica:

    Rehabbing after shoulder surgery. Career in jeopardy. Tood bad, he had some nasty stuff when he was on.

  • Hopefully we'll see Schwarber move on to Kane before the summer is out. What do you think, John, any chance of this?

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    Any word on where Zagunis will go first? I'm guessing Arizona for a little bit?

  • In reply to Chris Lattier:

    That is my guess. He was signed before Schwarber but wasn't added to Boise roster.

  • If the kid can play MLB avg defense at catcher, or even a tick below that; while also playing MLB avg defense in LF, and hit like he is projected... He gives us a ton of flexibility for late inning subs. Usually, your b/u catcher is the last bench player you use... but if you have in LF that day, it's like carrying an extra catcher who's bat carried him to corner OF...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I said something similar the other day about Schwarber playing C/LF with regards to all the flexibility it would give the manager with respect to daily lineup construction and in-game substitution/pinch-hitting. This could be a trend with Baez's ability to play SS-2B-3B, Bryant can play 3B-LF-RF, Alcantara SS-2B-CF... now I'm sure they won't constantly be moving all the guys around like utility players, but it does give the mgr. a lot of flexibility and many injury backups.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I'm not huge on MLB history anyone feel free to chime in, is there a precedent for someone who split duty like that?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Sounds like Evan Gattis.

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    Also, if Zagunis and Schwarber are capable in the may allow us to carry 3 catchers on the roster at some point.

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    Excited to see Schwarber sign so quickly and get right back on the field in Boise. Should increase the chances that he can move up to Kane County before the end of the year.

  • John, where do you rank Schwarber in our list of prospects?

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    Not john, but he listed his the other day in order as Bryant, Baez, Almora, alcantara and then Schwarber. Soler 6

  • In reply to jswick23:


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    This is off-topic but I will go on record as saying I was hoping for a bigger name than Schwaber in this draft. I know nothing except for the opinions of others. If the amazing staff at Cubs Den (and Mr. Gallo) is happy than I am happy. Here is what Keith Law wrote in 2007 about our future HOF third baseman and what he wrote about our "significant reach" in 2014.

    Maybe if he knew what he was talking about an MLB team would actually hire him!

    Keith Law Through the Years:

    The Cubs were hoping to get Vitters, and they got him. Vitters is a very advanced bat that will be above average both with average and power at the pro level. He has tremendous bat speed, and he will get much stronger as he matures. His arm/glove are playable at third base, but he might surprise in the future with more work and instruction.

    The Cubs reached significantly for Kyle Schwarber (Round 1), the fourth overall pick in the draft, a bat-first catcher who has maybe a 10 percent chance to stay behind the plate, and a higher chance to end up having to DH in pro ball, which might pose a problem for the Cubs unless they know something we don't about MLB rules. Schwarber does have huge raw power and a very good eye at the plate; his swing is really rotational with good leverage from his legs, but he sets up with a wide base and rolls over his front foot, which can pull him offline and hurt him against left-handed breaking stuff. I had him as more of a back-of-the-first-round talent.

  • In reply to Daniel Rosenberg:

    Well, you know, he is an expert...

  • In reply to Daniel Rosenberg:

    Vitters was a consensus top 3-5 player in that draft. Just about everyone had him as the top HS bat.

  • In reply to Daniel Rosenberg:

    Law doesn't do a really good job at projecting talent.

  • In reply to Daniel Rosenberg:

    Law loved Vitters, but wasn't high on Bryant until the end of the draft and even then seemingly reluctant about it, so I'm not too worried if he isn't crazy about Schwarber.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    We should all start questioning Law on twitter about his Vitters and Bryant opinions because he loves that so much.

  • In reply to Gator:

    When law isnt right he says "its not an exact science yada yada yada"

    when he is right - he will pimp/rag on the guy endlessly.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Seems like alot of Law's problem with Schwarber is that he projects Kyle as a 1B/DH. Almost everyone else, though, thinks he can play LF if Catcher does not work out. Even Law thinks Schwarber has a good bat, he just thought of him as more of a bat-only guy, basically Dan Vogelbach 2.0.

  • Wouldn't mind seeing Schwarber go 0-5 with 5ks tomorrow like Bryant did in his debut... That has worked well for him so far! But seriously I'm very intrigued by the pitching in Boise. There are some potential sleepers there.

  • Malave is one of the converted catchers too and has been playing there full time in EXST. It's weird to me that they would put both of them on the same team, especially if Zagunis ever spends time there.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    Kane County has like 4 catchers going albeit one the DL. They are all rotating between C, IB, DH currently with Carhart also being able to play 3B.

    Getting guys with Positional flexibility can only help if the Cubs continue the trend of carrying 13 pitchers for whatever reason. It also helps in late game scenarios.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    All are versatile players so they will get ABs but just one of those log jam things. I expect it will take care of itself.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    Mulave was signed as a catcher but was moved to other positions because the Cubs felt that they wanted him to establish himself offensively before adding the pressure of learning such a difficult defensive position. Technically, he has been converted to catcher, but I don't think anyone in the system looked at him as anything but a catcher even while he was playing the infield.

    I think that Schwarber and Mulave will split the bulk of the catching time, while playing other positions on "off days". I wouldn't be surprised if Zagunis spends most of his time in the outfield until Schwarber moves to Kane County, or they decide to make him a full time left fielder.

  • With all of the pitching, I wonder how the FO will manage the limits. I would assume at these levels piggybacking starts will be the norm but with a few of the pitchers working on things or rehabbing will that be shorter exposures (1 to 2 innings). It will be interesting to see how it plays out in terms of development especially with the new crop of college pitching just drafted.

  • In reply to Gator:

    guessing they will do what they did last year.. gave them small pitch counts in relief appearances and slowly ramped their work all the way to the end of the year.

  • We got Bruno back. Adding Schwarber and Clifton to my daily prospects to watch list will be fun, as well as guys like Sands, Stinnett and Steele, but I want Soler, Johnson, Edwards and Maples off the DL and playing as well. That will make for an interesting summer.

  • Thanks a lot John, great stuff. I was hoping for a Boise preview

  • Im wondering, whats the prognosis of Edwards and Soler? After the AS Break , or the end of June? After all, our expert Kieth Law calls Soler a better prospect than Puig.

  • Chris Crawford posted his review of the Cubs draft on his new site today. He loved the Cease pick in particular and thought the Cubs did an excellent job on Day 2 and later. Not so high on the Schwarber pick...thinks he could end up at 1B, but says the bat would make him an all-star if he can stick at catcher.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    He also says: "If he can catch he’s a potential all-star, but there’s so little chance of that happening that I can’t get on board with this pick.This would have been one of my favorite classes if they would have gone with a better player at pick four — and I will readily admit that if Schwarber can catch we’ll look stupid for questioning the pick — but even if Schwarber is just an average first baseman, this was still one of the better hauls of the National League."

  • One of my biggest pet peeves in analyzing an MLB draft is the idea that a mid or late round pick is a reach if drafted early, for two reasons that are linked.

    1. You can't trade back in the draft like NFL,NBA, or NHL to get that player that has a lower value. In this case the Cubs would not have got their guy by waiting, so how is it a reach?

    2. The success rate in MLB drafts over time is incredibly poor. How can one say a guy drafted 10-15 spots early is a reach with the sports track record on these picks? If this was a 5th round, or maybe even a 2nd round guy there could be some argument but in a draft with no trades and a suspect success rate there is no reasonable argument for a reach in a same round value pick.

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    hmmm....Cubs just signed Yorvit Torrealba.

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    In reply to Chris Lattier:

    Koyie Hill wasn't available?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Chris Lattier:

    Also, why didn't we pick up Jordan Pacheco? D-Backs did, but we were higher in waiver order.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    It's a minor league deal. They're looking for a veteran to impart some wisdom to the kids while they sort out the upper level catching situation.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Maybe when Castillo comes back and they drop Whiteside from the 40-man this means Torrealba is their new AAA guy...not that Whiteside wouldn't accept the assignment but maybe they just make a move to get someone they like better.

  • In reply to Chris Lattier:

    Interesting,.... does that mean they think that Castillo is going to be out for a while? Or that they have just decided they can't put up with that 'awesome' 1-2 punch of Baker/Whiteside until he is back?

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    No -- I heard Castillo was hitting off the tee yesterday with good results. Probably coming off the DL when he's available, I'd guess. Just maybe adding depth -- maybe they prefer him to Whiteside/Baker...we'll see.

  • It's crazy how a guy gets drafted and a week later he's already in the games. What's happening to Torres and Jimenez this summer? Do they stay in Arizona?

  • Neither is on the Boise roster right now, so unless Jimenez goes to the DR, as was originally stated, both should be in Mesa right from the start.

  • Indiana should have been in the College World Series this year. Gut wrenching loss in the Region Final.

    Glad to see him with the organization though.

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    Boise will be in Spokane next weekend. I will try and be at the first 3 games of the series and give my thoughts on the game like last year. I'm glad Schwarber signed early so I can see him play. I had to miss Bryant last year.

  • In reply to Darin Spangler:

    Nice. Let us know how it goes.

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