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.
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.
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