Observations and Photos from the Kane County Games This Weekend

This is a joint effort here by Mauricio and me -- and my wife, who took the photos for this piece.  My wife and I were at the game Sunday and Mauricio was there both Saturday and Sunday.  I  added the photo gallery with about 40 pictures some of the new players and a few more familiar faces.  Scroll to the bottom for the photo gallery.

This is a supplemental piece to the recaps.  Your Daily Minor League Recaps will appear sometime in the wee hours of the morning as usual.

Mauricio

Notes: I'll be writing up Duane Underwood for Baseball Prospectus. My write up will appear on Monday. I also saw what Jacob Hannemann did at Daytona last night. It's a positive sign and I will need to see more of that from him before I change my mind on the player. The only tool I saw with Hannemann during his time at Kane County was his speed. The hit tool was not impressive.

Arrow Up 

Shawon Dunston Jr. – Dunston has put together a string of solid performances and his game against West Michigan was no different. Dunston lined three balls with solid contact against quality competition. Dunston keeps his hands high in his set up and he has a small leg kick for his timing mechanism. Dunston did a good job of keeping his weight back and driving through the ball yesterday and he’s slowly changing my previous evaluation of him. He doesn’t have a good arm so he profiles as a LFer only.

Standing Pat

Carlos Penalver – He’s still likely the only position player on Kane County that has a realistic shot at making the major leagues. Penalver made a terrific defensive play on a soft liner over the pitchers mound. He showed good instincts on charging the ball and spearing it with his bare hand. He made an accurate and strong off balance throw to get the runner just in time. It was aesthetically pleasing. The bat will have to come around in a major way, however. I thought he could hit .240 at the major league level. Now I’m not so sure.

Arrow Down 

Paul Blackburn – Athletic frame, average legs, square shoulders, rocks back with a high leg kick and follows through with a ¾ delivery. Falls off to first as momentum from rear leg swing carries him through. 90-93 with a touch of arm side run. When he’s right he can locate it. Gets into a lot of trouble when he can’t.  Curveball has only flashed, tonight it was loopy and uninspiring. The change falls off nicely but it’s also an inconsistent offering. Best case scenario: Blackburn is a 4th starter who can turn in the occasional good outing as he works primarily off command. A lot of things are going to have to break right for him to get there. He’s likely a 5th/spot starter who bounces up and down between the majors and the minors.

Trey Martin – He’s my guy, but with the defense slipping in centerfield coupled with a bat that never had much projection in it to begin with and it’s looking like Trey’s stock is dropping in a big way. Earlier in the year Martin played MLB caliber defense with good instincts, strong awareness and proper decision-making. He looked like a mess last night as he straight up lost a ball in the high sky and didn’t have the crisp first step I’ve seen from him in the past. He’s young and there’s definitely time to get it back but in this snapshot of time it’s not looking real good.

John

I won't do the arrow up, arrow down categories like Mauricio did, but I will provide my analysis and let you decide.

Chesny Young - Sometimes you don't know much about a player and he jumps out at you.  I know Young has put up some good numbers so far but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.   Young has a slender build and he doesn't exactly look intimidating at the plate, but this kid can hit.  He is still up at the plate with a patient approach.  Appears to recognize pitches early.  Tracks the ball well.  Shows a quick, short stroke that should allow him to hit for average.  He is going to be an OBP type plaeyr but probably not a whole lot of power.  Nice find in the 14th round.

Jeffrey Baez - This is a big kid.  You hear about the speed and athleticism and you think he is going to be built like Shawon Dunston but he is built more like Yasiel Balaguert.  He has a thick lower half and quite a bit of baby fat still present.  He is going to have to work hard to keep that body in shape.  Right now he shows some good speed, running down a fly ball down the RF line early in the game.  I didn't get to see the arm that has gunned down 2 base runners in a game twice in the past week or so.  Stance is relatively quiet then hands explode through the zone when he gets a pitch he can drive to his pull side. Good bat speed.  I didn't like his opposite field swing as, like many young hitters learning this skill, he slows his bat speed down and drags it through the zone, causing him to pop-up to short RF.  I am glad he had the mindset to go that way, but that stroke needs some work.  I like him.  I think there is some talent even if he didn't have a great game overall.

Shawon Dunston - No player has improved more since the first time I saw him than Dunston.  He looks like he has really smoothed out the hitch in his swing.  It's still there at times but it isn't nearly as pronounced as I had seen it in the past.  I'm much less worried because he has the quick hands to get away with a hitch as long as it is a minor one.  He hit the ball on the screws all day long.  Good swing plane, bat stays in the zone a long time.  He is going to make contact.  I don't have much question there.  The question for me is whether he will develop enough power to be an MLB regular.  He certainly has the  hands to hit for average power so I won't rule it out, even if he does have a slender frame and probably won't get much bigger.  The other thing that will help him is to improve on defense, if he hasn't already.  I didn't see him challenged in the OF today but I think that if I were him, I'd work on refining reads and routes this offseason.  The ability to play CF will take a lot of pressure off the need to develop more power.

Kevin Brown - I admittedly didn't watch Brown so much as I was focused on the two new players above.  Brown showed a solid approach.  Stance is crouched, though not as pronounced as Kyle Schwarber.  Good plane on his swing, more conducive to line drives than big power.  Physically mature body, not a lot of projection.  I think he can be a good hitter in the minors.  We'll have to see how far that bat can take him.

Jeimer Candelario - I mention Candelario because it look to me like he has lowered his hands.  I noticed it the first time I saw him but he was inconsistent with it.  After watching him the last 2 games. now it appears it is an adjustment he is consciously trying to make.  The purpose is for him to try to generate a bit more lift to his swing and add some power to his game.  He is a different hitter now.  He doesn't have the same quick, stroke to the ball that he has shown in the past.  This swing has been re-tooled to generate more power, dropping the bat head a bit more than I have seen in the past.  He looks more comfortable the last two games but the swing looks just a bit longer and thathas likely thrown off his timing this year.  It will take some time for him to adjust.

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  • Chesny Young looks like a baseball rat - you know, the one kid that never left the field from sun up to sun down.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    My wife had trouble getting pictures. He is constantly moving. High energy guy.

  • Is Ben Wells related to Kevin Fu#*in Powers?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Ben Wells IS Kevin Fu#'in Powers.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Kenny, isn't it?

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    0Yes. That is what I meant! :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Whoops. Too many glasses of sangria. heh heh heh

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Haha! Yes!

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    That was my first thought, too. Is Kane County "Eastbound and Down" from Chicago.

    Kind of disappointing news on Blackburn. Last year it looked like he might have some ToR potential. Can't wait to see Mauricio's thoughts on Underwood.

    Really encouraged by Dunston's play if late. His dad was my favorite player growing up, do I've got to cheer for the guy. Hope he can continue to improve and carve out a role on a future Cubs team, though it is looking more and more like that will be as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

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    Last year, Kane's lineup featured some top position prospects, including Almora, Vogelbach, and Candelario (whose stock was higher last year). Now, not so much.......just hoping one of these guys can contribute.

    The overall state of our system is great, but it's getting "top heavy", isn't it? I would like to see more of a pipeline coming through Low-A.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I agree and was wondering the same thing. After the initial wave of 3-5 guys what is next? And a lot play the same position. Was hoping for some good new for arms!!!

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    There's quite a bit after the top 3-5 guys (who I assume are Bryant, Baez, Russell, Almora & Soler), it's just not quite as elite.

    There are some younger guys who have the chance to become more elite as they progress, but we likely won't see anyone as good as the Cubs top 3 are now. C.J. Edwards, Billy McKinney, Duane Underwood and Jen-Ho Tseng are two of those guys for me. Schwarber should be solid. Obviously there's Eloy and Gleyber, but it will probably be 3 years before the Cubs know what they've got there.

    Besides the 3 arms already mentioned, Cease and Sands could join that list with Clifton and Mejia also in the mix. The talent is deep but also very young which I'm fine with as the first wave is already starting to crash on Chicago's northside. Wave two (Russell, Almora, Johnson, Edwards) and wave three (Schwarber, McKinney, Skulina, Tseng, Underwood) are following.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    While top-heavy is a good problem to have, I think the problems you're talking about will fix themselves once the big kids start getting the call to the majors. It's getting to the point where you CAN'T promote anyone else because there is nowhere to put them. Like Bruno probably deserves a promotion but he's not anywhere near the status of all of our big infield prospects. There's other examples too.

    I'm not worried about Kane being bad. They're only bad because of how many guys passed through already.

  • Totally OT. (and for that I apologise) In late September I'm going back to Evanston Township HS for the 40th reunion of that school's Suburban League football championship season ( the last year of the old Suburban League: Evanston, Oak Park, Proviso East, Morton East, Highland Park, and New Trier East) Our all-state running back was Ossie Rosinski. Who also happened to be the the 1st round pick of the Cubs (fourth overall). 5 years in the minors. In 1980 he batted .315 in 415 PAs, .405 OBP, 19 HR in AAA. 1981 injured and out of baseball for good. Man! So close! Anyway I just wanted to remmember him to all of you, not to get you down, but just to remind us that it's all so fragile.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Ozzie, not Ossie. And Waukegan was the last team there. The old suburban league went from Waukegan to Cisero

  • Get Young on a milkshake diet.

  • Nice to see that the Astros organization CONTINUES to make the right decisions that don't seem to be in question at all:

    https://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/astros-players-react-unfavorably-to-mark-appel-s-promotion--special-bullpen-session-180526499.html

    I used to think that they were close to being relevant, but given Singleton's struggles, Correa's injury, and now Appel pitching like crap (not to mention that Aiken dilemma), this team is STILL at MINIMUM five years away.

    Nice to build around Altuve and Springer, but man this team still has a lot of work to do.

  • Great Read !!

    I was disappointed in Paul Blackburn summary. Holding out hope he take make the jump to mid rotation pitcher since he is still only 20yrs old.

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    I haven't seen Blackburn. I think Mauricio has seen him more than once. I like that the velo is up to 93 but haven't seen him so can't say.

  • The situation in Kane County isn't all that discouraging. If anything, it shows how rare it is to find GENUINE MLB prospects. The Cubs finally have some, they move up through the system quickly, and at the lower levels you're left with the fringy guys and the never-will-make-its.

    As prospect hounds on this site, we like to follow the fringy types, and for years we've been used to having ONLY guys like that to follow. Now, with the "Magnificent Seven" prospects and another dozen MLB-maybes, the lens we use to look at lower level fringe prospects necessarily needs to change.

    Using such a critical eye, no one right now at KC looks like a future MLB regular or MLB starting pitcher. Hopefully that will change with a couple of these guys, but for now, not much excitement.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Hate to reply to my own post, but since there's no edit function here.....

    I forgot that Jen-Ho is still at KC, he's obviously a strong MLB prospect. And Underwood certainly has the ceiling to match, though the floor is quite low, too.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Those two are MLB prospects. I still consider Blackburn one based on 2nd hand info. Mauricio is right in that we are talking potential 4th starter. But that's a prospect. And don't forget that Paniagua, Schwarber, Hannemann, have also passed through this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Right, that's what I meant in the previous post, the good prospects have moved on to higher levels, the fringy ones remain. FWIW, I think Paniagua projects as an interesting high leverage, late inning reliever. Needs to improve his command, but the stuff should play at higher levels. The age is a bit of a concern, and he's about to be a Rule 5 target, right?

    Schwarber is a Magnificent Seven guy of course. Hannemann, love the wheels, but he's really just a different version of Szczur, don't you think? Ceiling as a Reed Johnson-type utility OF.

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    In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Jeffrey Baez is a pretty good prospect who just got bumped up to Kane County.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Hanneman has a better swing. Better chance to hit with some power.

  • Skulina looks huge in that picture, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that 6'5" looks huge.

  • In reply to nukee:

    He's a big guy. Velo not quite back but he was still at 91 near the end of his outing, so he maintained what he had at least.

  • OT, but I just want to say congrats to Greg Maddux on his HOF induction today. He was a true role model and special player. I was lucky enough to see him hit 3000 Ks back when I was just 12 years old. I've never seen a baseball player as intelligent as Greg. He was truely a first class ball player.

  • I do want to say that Blackburn keeps flashing a curve that wants to be better but I haven't seen much improvement on it.

    I really, REALLY like Daury Torrez, 88 MPH change. He's probably my fave pitching prospect that isn't a popular name.

  • In reply to MRubio52:

    Agreed on Torrez.

    I hear the same thing on Blackburn, though I haven't had a chance to see him in person. He needs that breaking ball to get better this offseason.

  • MLB.com updated their rankings for 2014 and there are 8 cubs on the top 100. I am pretty excited about that, even if I wish McKinney would have made it.

    We will likely have 4-5 of our top ten as regular MLB players at some point next year (AA, Baez, Bryant, Soler, and vizciano), and I think we will have another big wave of talent come into the system during the 2015 draft and IFA period.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Cubs have

    #4 Kris Bryant
    #6 Javier Baez
    #7 Addison Russell
    #37 Arismendy Alcantara
    #41 Albert Almora
    #54 Jorge Soler
    #60 CJ Edwards
    #79 Kyle Schwarber

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Soler's ranking is absurd. He should be somewhere between Russell and Alcantara. Even with his limited time this season he still looked like a monster.

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I liked the MLB list to open the year but I don't like the update. Bryant behind Correa bothered me, and Soler is way farther back than he should be and even though Almora has had a rough season, I dount agree with falling more than 25 spots.

    It's no big deal, and the lists don't realistically mean anything. Just not a fan of the update.

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    What is up the the catching situation? Is Schwarber, Carhart, Zagunis, and Malave catchers or not? Why is Cutler in his 4th year of AA despite averaging .310 over the years? Who are the top 5 legit catching prospects?

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    Top catching prospects are Zagunis, Remillard, Malave, Contreras, Lopez. Of course, if Schwarber can stick there he goes to the top and Brockmeyer has a shot to crack the list if he can stick at catcher. Not a strength of the org, though.

  • Off topic...

    This evening I drove from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne in the van with the barely functioning AM radio. Cincinnati's WLW was the only station I could get for most of the drive. A call in sports show after the Reds loss.

    One guy complained bitterly that the offense was so boring. Three up and three down over and over.

    One guy complained about the off season signings and how they could have signed so and so as well as so and so instead. Host pointed out that the signings were supposed to be the bench, not the starters.

    Third guy complained that the winning percentage with Votto is worse than the winning percentage without Votto and this proved the team is just no good. He went on to complain that the Reds could have traded two starters (he named them, but I did not catch the names) ("better than what the Cubs gave them") for Russell, a sure future star and shortstop no less.

    I was laughing all the way home.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    Ha! I guess they have their meatballs too.

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    Will Carhart be a catcher? What about Cutler?

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    Cultler is a 27 year old, repeating AA for the 5th time. He is an org player not a prospect.

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