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Teen Beat: A look at some of the Cubs top prospects under 20

Teen Beat: A look at some of the Cubs top prospects under 20
Kwang-Min Kwon

We're in the process of putting our Top 25 list but for today as appetizers we're going to start with some of the  youngest players in the organization. Many won't crack the top 25, but they are players to look for in the future,  You're most likely to find these players in the complex leagues -- the AZL, DSL, while a few will graduate to Eugene. And one may find himself in Tennessee by the end of the year.

And before you ask, Eddy Julio Martinez is already 20 and will actually be 21 in January.  Besides I have not seen him at all yet.

The Star

Gleyber Torres, SS, 19

I am not going to write much about him here.  We'll save it for the top 25.  By now even the casual prospect fan knows Torres quite well.  The precocious 19 year old will probably  start in Myrtle Beach and may find himself in Tennessee (AA) when the year ends.

The up-and-comers

These two prospects will also make our top 25, so again, we won't go into too much detail.

Dylan Cease, RHP, 19

He barely makes the cut because he turns 20 in 10 days.  Cease can hit as high as 99 (one reading had him touching 100 on one pitch), but pitches with better command and more movement in the 95-96 range.  Despite not having a prototypical power pitcher's frame, Cease has an athletic build and generates his delivery without max effort, which gives some hope he  can be a starter.  The breaking ball and change-up were a bit rusty, and his command was inconsistent, but given his injury and layoff (despite a surprisingly quick recovery and return to action), that was to be expected.  The expectation is we'll see a more complete pitcher next season.

Eloy Jimenez, OF, 19

The broad shouldered Jimenez really started to tap in to his raw power early and often, nearly making the South Bend team out of the spring.  Instead he headed off to Eugene where he had a solid, but unspectacular season - so in retrospect it was probably the right move.  Jimenez came back into camp with renewed energy and the coaches around here noted a change of demeanor.  Once one of the first IFA signings to go directly to instructs, Jimenez was now much more comfortable being the "veteran".  And it showed on the field as well as off the field.  Jimenez still needs to work on his defense but his raw power is tremendous.  He launched quite a few baseballs onto the roof at the adjacent Under Armour Performance Center building, something I did not see any other player do.   His approach wavers at times.  He can go from too aggressive to too passive to anywhere in between, so there is still a learning curve there.  He does make good contact for a power hitter and may be able to put up a solid average to go with big power numbers if he develops.  On defense, his arm is his biggest asset.  He has the athleticism to handle RF, but needs work on his reads and routes.

DJ Wilson, CF, 19

Wilson was a relative unknown at the draft and some Cubs fans were confused by the pick,  but he was one of my absolute favorites during instructs. It is impossible not to watch him when he is out there.  He is an energetic, athletic, speedy player that one scout called "a dynamo".  Another industry evaluator opined that the Cubs just don't have another player quite like him in their system.  Most know about the speed, but Wilson has the whole bag of tools.  He can go get it in CF and has a better arm than you  might think.  But what will really surprise people is the bat speed and the strength he packs in his relatively frame.  I was watching some drills when I got distracted by some loud cracks of the bat on the adjacent field.  I quickly went over to see who it was, expecting to see one of the Cubs big power hitters.  Instead it was DJ Wilson hitting lasers off the breaking ball pitching machine.  The more you see him and the more you learn about him, the more you will like him.  How the hit tool develops will be key.

Bryan Hudson, LHP, 19

We didn't get to see much of Hudson as he sat out most of the Rookie League season and the younger Cubs pitchers don't do a whole lot of live pitching in instructs.  When he did pitch he showed some glimpses of why the Cubs liked him.  He was at 89-91, t92 when I saw him and flashed a couple of curves with plus potential. He is tall and lanky but surprisingly coordinated for someone with his build/age combo. He is still raw and is inconsistent with his arm slot, but he is young and if he puts the work in -- and there is a lot to work with-- then he could turn into something interesting quickly, especially if he fills out and gets stronger.

The Wait and See Approach

These players are not top 25 prospects, but they have the tools and the hope is that they can develop the approach to make the best use of them.  In no particular order...

Miguel Amaya, C, 16

Signed out of Panama as part of the Cubs strong draft class, Amaya doesn't even turn 17 until March.  Of all the catchers I saw down in AZ, he was the most athletic at any age.  He moves well behind the plate and shows a solid but not great arm...yet. It was better than advertised and at his age we can expect to continue  to see improvement. He is intelligent and there's an intense, competitive nature about him.  You normally don't see leadership potential from someone his age the first time in pro camp, yet you do get that sense from Amaya.  I like his makeup and I think he'll put in the work he needs to master what is perhaps the most challenging position on the field.  He lags behind a bit with the bat.  It still has a ways to go.  He hit some line drives but didn't show any power, but again, remember he is just 16.

Aramis Ademan, SS, 17

Of the new crop of infielders, Ademan was my favorite.  He is not going to wow you.  I would not use the word explosive to describee hm.  He's just...smooth in every area of the game.  He has good range to both his left and right to go with the arm strength to stick at SS, particularly  because he gets rid of the ball quickly.  At the plate he makes contact so easily with  a short simple swing.  Ademan's BP session was typically one line drive after the other with the bat control to hit it to all fields.  He doesn't have a particularly large frame, so I cannot see him ever growing into much power, but a good defensive SS, who can hit for average and put up a solid OBP?  That'll play for a lot of teams.

Kwan-Min Kwon, OF/1B, 18

Less than one week from his 18th birthday, Kwon already looks fully grown.  There probably isn't a whole lot of physical projection there, but he drew some raves here for his power.  He did win the HR derby and he did it without having to sell out.  It's easy power.  He showed a willingness to work the count in games and will surprise you with his athleticism.  He can play the OF now but as he continues to mature, it is hard to imagine him anywhere but first base, where I think he can be an asset.  I've mentioned in the past that there is a quiet competitiveness with Kwon.  He doesn't say much, in part because of the language barrier, but there is a sense that he desperately  wants to win whatever competition he is in-- even if it's just an instructs contest.

Jonathan Sierra, OF, 17

Some of his teammates were calling him "Strawberry" during the HR contest because of his long, lean build, sweet swing, and raw power.  Sierra had one of the prettiest swings of any of the young players here -- maybe even among the older players as well.  Though the raw power is there, Sierra showed more of a gap to gap type hitting style throughout much of instructs, though he did show glimpses of his raw power at times.  Like any power hitter, it will take time before we see that raw power translate to game power and perhaps Sierra will fill out a bit and get stronger as well.  After all, he will be 17 for the entire year and has a 6'3", 200 lbs. frame that looks like it has plenty of room left.  Off the field, he's a hard-working, humble kid who asked a lot of questions of the more experienced players. Many of the (slightly) older players treat him like he is their kid brother.

Andrew Monasterio, SS, 18

Monasterio impressed the Cubs brass enough during the spring that he earned an assignment to rookie level AZ despite not turning 18 until the end of May.  Monasterio is a fluid athlete who moves very well to his left, turns the DP well, and has some surprising  gap pop in his bat.  Monasterio also has a surprisingly disciplined approach for his age and makes contact easily.  If I have one concern is that I am not sure he has the arm to make the plays in the hole at SS, so 2B may be in his  future if that does not improve.  He also has room to grow physically and that  could change the  equation as well.  Monasterio is a popular teammate and has shown himself to be very coachable.

Wladimir Galindo, 3B, 19

There wasn't a lot of high level talent on the AZ Rookie League team but Galindo stood out because  of his very good bat speed and in game gap to gap power.  He is very much  a work in progress at 3B and will have to improve to avoid being moved to LF.  There is raw power that is still untapped, but Galindo had some hand/wrist injuries that kept him out of many  games and may still have been affecting him in the fall.

Rafael Mejia, 1B/3B, 18

Mejia is rough  around the edges  at the plate and at times struggled to stay in rhythm.  He occasionally showed some pre-pitch hand movement, but at other times he locked in and showed some surprisingly good raw power.  He has a thick build and isn't overly athletic and will likely be relegated to a corner, probably 1B -- so he is going to have to hit.  He's the type of player you file away at the back of your mind and check in later if and when that bat develops.

Isaac Paredes, SS, 16

Signed out of Mexico, Paredes is SS with a thick build which immediately makes you wonder if he can stick at the position long term.  There is still a lot of time for him to grow -- he doesn't turn 17 until February.  Despite his atypical frame, Paredes played well at SS, showing good instincts and perhaps making the best defensive play of the instructional league season.  There are solid tools across the board and it remains to be seen whether Paredes can retain enough quickness to become a Jhonny Peralta type defender at SS or has to move to 3B, where there will be greater demands on the bat.  Right now he shows solid line drive contact and some gap power, but there is potential for more.

Yeiler Peguero, SS, 18

Peguero is similar to Ademan in terms of build and has that same quick release on this throws -- in fact, I thought he had the quickest release of all the middle infielders. At the plate he is a contact hitter who will work counts, but doesn't show anything in the way of power potential.  More of a utility infielder type at this point.

Luis Diaz, SS, 16

Diaz is one of the faster players in camp while showing good defensive skills and instincts, so it is going to depend on the bat, especially because his average arm may make him a better fit at 2B.  The athleticism, speed, and defensive  ability, however, make utility infielder a realistic fall back for him if he doesn't develop the bat to start.

Austyn Willis, RHP, 19

Willis is a polished pitcher for his age and works with his fastball in the 89-90 mph range with the potential to fill out and add a couple of ticks to that.   He throws with a clean, effortless delivery that features some good plane and a slider with a short but quick break.  Willis gets into some trouble when he doesn't finish off well and leaves the ball up, but his size and stuff give him the potential to be a sinker/slider type that will try to draw weak contact rather than put up  big K numbers.

Erling Moreno, RHP, 19

Moreno has had some trouble staying on the mound but when right, bears down on hitters with good leverage and a high arm slot that accentuates his natural plane.  He was as high as 92-93 in extended spring training but was mostly in the high 80s over the summer before getting shut down.  The curve is his best secondary and his arm slot is conducive to a classic 12 to 6 or 11 to 7  type vertical break.  There is a big development curve left ahead and Moreno is going to need better luck with his health.

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  • fb_avatar

    Thanks John. It's always good to read about the very young prospects so we can follow and know who they are when we start reading their names in other stories. Do you see any one quality that the Cubs are drafting for? It doesn't seem to necessarily be foot speed, maybe bat speed.
    For the pitchers I like how you describe the the pitches other than the fast ball. That, to me, is the most overrated pitch in baseball. Many clubs have pitchers with a mid to upper 90's fastball and they get hit, a lot. Teddy Kolek threw 100mph and he's having trouble in the low minors right now.
    I can't wait for the top 25.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Well, mental makeup is huge. Lot of good kids out here. But Cubs generally look for athletic types that can move around unless they have an outstanding tool, such as Eloy's power or are advanced the way Torres was. The most advanced of this current group of IFAs is probably Ademan.

  • Love the stockpile of shortstops in the lower levels. Thanks John. great report.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Thank you.

  • Looks like what could be a future wave there. Obviously Torres seems to be way ahead of those guys & in a different wave, but the flow of young & coming talent looks good.

  • John, where do you see DJ Wilson being this year? Wave after wave....

  • In reply to edubbs:

    Probably Eugene.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I love that DJ is transitioning well for his age. So many people were down on the pick, at the time, on this board. I compared the pick to Mookie Betts under the Theo regime in Boston. I think Sierra will also be a fun one to watch develop if/when he fills out.

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    I was one of those that really disliked the pick originally. I also hated the Schwarber pick. So it looks like the more I dislike the pick the better they turn out to be.

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    I told my brother a year before the draft that Schwarber was one to watch and hope he went to the Cubs. He is most definetly my favorite player now. Rizzo is a close 2nd. Both seem destined to be eternal Cubs. They can play for other teams but you know the Cubs were their favorite.

  • Its great after many bad years to read about all this great young
    talent. Lets hope that most make it

  • Thanks for the sneak peek at these guys John. Can't wait to see where these guys slot into the system come springtime. I'm still hoping the Cubs have the financial wherewithal to pick up a few Cuban prospects to salt throughout the system.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    The recent MLB goodwill tour to Cuba bodes well for future Cuban signings. And it helps that the Cuban coordinator of the tour is none other than Fidel's youngest son, Antonio.

  • Thanks for doing this John!

    Good to hear about Amaya's arm strength. Most of what I read about him, that was the obstacle to him being a MLB caliber catcher, even if his bat never develops.

    Looks like the FO found a gem in DJ Wilson. Might explain why they gave him early 2nd round signing bonus. Especially after taking guys like Happ & Dewees ahead of him.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think it's solid average, but it looked better than I expected...and it can still improve. I don't think he'll have a Johnny Bench arm, but i think it has a chance to creep above average and with his athleticism, it isn't hard to see him compensating by getting rid of the ball quickly.

  • Thanks for the reports , Why do I think You might get a crack at scouting in the future?

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Ha! Thanks. I don't know about that...unless I can just stay mostly in AZ :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Speaking of scouting in AZ... Have you seen Jefferson Meija since we shipped him to the D-Backs for Montero? I love his potential.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I saw him once and he looked out of sorts. Was landing stiffly on his front leg, which may have robbed him of some velocity and put strain on his arm. There is a lot of physical ability there, but he is a project.

  • Love that you are looking at some of the less heralded/young guys as I'm not familiar with most of them. Regarding Ademan, do think he'll hit with enough pop so that he isn't a Darwin Barney type and will keep pitchers honest?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I don't think he is going to hit for much HR power, but maybe enough gap power to keep them honest. He also isn't a burner, so pitchers won't worry about him stealing if they put him on. He can square up pretty well, so that gives me hope that if he adds strength, some of those line drive singles will turn into line drive doubles and triples.

  • fb_avatar

    I've always thought taking a Vandy commit is a smart move. Nice that Wilson looked good because Dewees isn't quite what they were hoping to this point.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeah, not since Theo & Jed's first draft in 2012 when they selected Duane Underwood, the Cubs haven't experienced much success with their 2nd round selections. There's still time for them, obviously, but Zastryzny and Stinnett have underwhelmed thus far. Let's hope Dewees can turn that trend around.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I would give Dewees a pass. He'll come back strong and he really started to hit toward the end of the fall.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I am a little surprised to hear that. I have heard some good reports about Dewees, even though his stats were not eyepopping. Rather like Happ.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to DaveP:

    When they picked him, someone told me they viewed him as a Schwarber type mover who could be leading off in 2016. That clearly hasn't come to fruition but I didn't mean to bury him. He's a real talented player and is certainly not finished by any stretch.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I had no idea anyone projected him to move that fast. It WOULD be nice, though.

  • Well done, John. I must say that you really piqued my curiosity in DJ Wilson. As the Emperor says, "We will watch your career with great interest."

  • In reply to lblegacy:

    Haha! Now I have put the spotlight on him :) He is fun to watch. If that hit tool develops, he'll be an exciting player.

  • Thanks for putting this together. Its an excellent idea to focus on the under 20 players. Really enjoyed it.
    One quick question, would Eloy be one of your top picks for a breakout in 2016?

  • In reply to couch:

    Thank you. I think Eloy is a prime candidate. He really seems like he has matured.

  • Thanks for this, John. As a prospect-o-phile, I love this kind of stuff.

    You probably haven't seen them yet, but there are a couple of recent signees that I'm particularly interested in if/when you have an opportunity to watch them.

    6'3", 16-year-old, LHP Brailyn Marquez out of Miches, Dominican Republic has signed for an undisclosed amount that was earlier rumored to be $600,000. Facebook posts show him signing his contract in Cubs gear.

    6'1", 17-year-old, RHP Jose Albertos signed out of the Mexican League and some articles (in Spanish) have spoken highly of him saying some scouts rated the 3rd best pitching prospect in this year's IFA class, not just those out of Mexico. You mentioned him in a Cubs Den article back on Sept. 14th. Certainly interested to see what you think and hear about him.

    3B Christopher Morel was signed for $800,000. That's not a small amount. Same range as Galindo and Moreno. He wasn't listed on the Cubs Instructs roster.

    Love having you down in Mesa. What a resource for us Denizens!

    Thanks again.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Thanks. Haven't seen any of those guys...well, technically I've seen Albertos. He was in AZ this fall but he did not pitch.

  • As a box score scout that follows these guys every day, it's nice to see Monasterio and Peguero get mentioned. Tracking back several years, K/BB ratio and OBP (as well as AVG & HRs to a certain extent) seem to be the most reliable of the somewhat meaningless stats coming out of the DSL/VSL. (Interesting note, the Cubs' VSL team has folded and they will instead have 2 DSL teams once again.)

    Guys like Candelario and Castro had good numbers in these areas at very young ages. So I began tracking others that did fit a similar profile (17 or younger, high OBP, good BB/K).

    Monasterio and Peguero were both unheralded signings that displayed those abilities and popped up in the box scores. It's nice to be able to calibrate myself to what might be meaningful info at those levels for a box score scout.

  • John,

    What do the Cubs do to help these kids with their education and development into the society? They seem awful young to be away from home with a new language and culture. With you being in Arizona and a former educator, what's happening with that? Thanks for the continued work - it's awesome.

    Thanks

  • In reply to BobMiller146:

    They take English classes and there are opportunities to get their GEDs at the Dominican facility, not sure about AZ because that is Cubs personnel only. I will ask. FWIW, met one of the teachers and she raved about how dedicated Contreras and Candelario are about learning English -- that should not surprise anyone given their work ethic and drive to succeed.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Those two are guys I think I will follow no matter if they are with the Cubs or another team. They had a great 2015 and I hope it continues. Based on your reports, it should. That is in depth analysis at its finest. Great work John.

  • I thought Galindo was much more highly rated from the dialogue this summer. From the write up, it seems as if you have soured on him. Is the injury? Or maybe just not as high after instrucs?

    Great recap John!

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Thanks.

    I have not soured on him, but he didn't get a chance to build on his good start. And he needs a lot of development so he needs to stay healthy and keep growing as a player. The only other concern is the defense, but he works at it, so there is hope. I think even had he stayed healthy, he would not have made my top 25, however. It's rare for me to put a complex league player in the top 25 without a premium pedigree (1st rd pick, top signing bonus)

  • I hope all the Spanish speaking prospects have Spanish
    instructors to help them

  • Baez in Centerfield tonight! WOW! I really like that these guys(the FO) rarely give away a player. Outside of the C Castillo they don't give up anyone until they absolutely have to. I'm curious as to how they are going to handle OF Szczsur and 3B Villaneuva. Does Villanueva make your Top 25? He is Bossing it in Winter League right now.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    Yeah, I saw his tweet earlier today. Interested to see how he handles CF.

    Don't know about John, but I wouldn't have Villanueva in my top 25 (or anywhere near it), his Mexican Winter League performance notwithstanding. I put a lot more stock on his performance in AAA the last two seasons which has been underwhelming to say the least. The fact that he's out of options means that he may not last long in this Cubs organization.

    To my understanding, Szczur has options left and will likely provide AAA depth for them this year. His future, at least with this team, is somewhat defined. I like him as a 5th OFer but he also would not make a top 25 for me simply because of the long list of upside prospects in the Cubs system right now.

    For my money (and in no particular order),

    Gleyber Torres
    Albert Almora
    C.J. Edwards
    Billy McKinney
    Duane Underwood
    Dylan Cease
    Willson Contreras
    Oscar De La Cruz
    Pierce Johnson
    Mark Zagunis
    Ian Happ
    Eloy Jimenez
    Justin Steele
    Dan Vogelbach
    Carson Sands
    D.J. Wilson
    Trevor Clifton
    Bryan Hudson
    Donnie Dewees
    Jeimer Candelario
    Eddy Julio Martinez
    Chesny Young
    Jen-HoTseng
    Brad Markey
    Ryan Williams

    ...would all rank above Szczur on a prospect list, but then I tend to lean heavy on upside in such discussions. That's 25 guys right there. All of those guys have question marks to varying degrees. There are no Bryants, Schwarbers or Russells in that group. But we already have a good idea what Szczur's ceiling is and I would say each of those players have a higher one.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I believe Szczur is out of options plus his Prospect status has expired, for lack of a better word. That's an impressive list of talent for sure, though.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    Impressive and growing. I like John's analysis of King KWON the best. He seems like he might be a quiet assassin. Dropping bombs at Wrigley in the dead of night when everyone least expects.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    Neither Szczur or Villanueva will make the top 25 list. Neither have the bats to carry their position as a starter in the majors, and while both are above average defenders, they are not as good as the potential elite defenders they were once projected to become. Since both are out of options neither is likely to be a part of the organization next year unless they clear waivers (though I think at least one probably will). Some teams do still carry a 5th OF, so Szczur may eventually find a job filling that role, but I doubt it will be with the Cubs as they seem to be phasing out that particular role in favor of an extra reliever. Very few teams carry a backup corner IF, and the ones that do tend to favor offense in the role, so Villanueva will have even more trouble breaking in.

  • Eagerly awaiting news on Cuban prospects still out there. Lots of good ones. Reports have the Cubs in the lead on LHP Adrian Morejon, though he hasn't yet been declared a FA. Ona and Machado are high on my list as well.

    Yasiel Sierra has been declared a FA and could provide the Cubs with some AAA pitching depth this season as well as upside for the future. I wonder what the Cubs think of him.

    Hopefully, John will have some more names to write about before this signing period is over...

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I think they need to be in on every SP in this market. Boom or bust, it's peanuts to the alternative. I would take Norge Ruiz in a heartbeat. He's a competitor. Doesn't have the glaring numbers but seems like the type that wants to have the ball every fifth day.

  • fb_avatar

    I said before the Cubs ought to have an office in Cuba and concentrate on all those FA and those who will be declared FA. There's a lot of talent in Cuba and we seem to be well thought of there too.

  • With title of Teen Beat
    I thought article would include prospect named
    Sandy Nelson.

  • Pitching still seems to be the one glaring prospect hole the Cubs have. It seems like there are a lot of guys whose ceiling would be a MOR to BOR if they managed to reach their full potential. Do you think this is an accurate assessment, or do you see any prospects that could become TOR arms. Also, it seems like the Cubs FO underestimated the return value for ML arms while they were stockpiling bats. I'm not saying it was an incorrect strategy, but I've been hearing not to worry about arms bc they can trade away bats to acquire pitchers. That option doesn't seem realistic now w/o taking a big hit to your farm. Do you think they will shift towards developing pitching instead of thinking they can trade for it when needed or do they think value will shift back towards bats. Sorry for the long post. Thanks

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    That is an accurate assessment. I haven't seen Cease yet, but he does possess a TOR arm if everything comes together and he stays healthy. Oscar De La Cruz is another to keep an eye on. He doesn't throw with the consistent velocity that most TOR guys possess yet, but I think there is more room to grow with him. If everything goes right for Underwood Jr. he could become a TOR guy too, but more likely settles in as a MOR.

    I'm not sure that the FO underestimated the value of ML arms, but I do think it is possible they overestimated the value of young bats. I know I have so far. The league is desperate for offense, but most teams appear to taking the strategy that outpitching each other is the best way to win. Maybe it is because building a good lineup is more difficult and time consuming than building a good rotation and bullpen. And because the bats are more scarce, the smaller market teams in particular know they will struggle to field good offenses so they are concentrating the resources on arms instead to try an win games 2-1.

    Do remember though that we are merely at a moment in time. Pitching has been a driving force in recent winning teams, but if the Cubs or another team with a good offense wins in the near future than opinions and trends can shift rapidly.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Here's to shifting opinions.

  • fb_avatar

    I think I remember reading in the minor recaps that Jimenez looked good in SS ball and then missed quite a while w/ injury. Then he took a while to get going again.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to johnsmithcubfan:

    I wonder how he (Jimenez) compares to Soler at similar ages? He sounds so much like him I wonder if we have 2 outstanding power hitters with the arm to play RF and just learning how to read the ball
    off the bat and get into the correct position.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Jimenez is not as big and explosive as Soler. He is also not as tightly wound (physically). While still a big guy, he possess more of a "loose" athleticism.

    Soler is a freak. There just are not many people on the planet with his combo of strength, bat speed, arm strength, eye at the plate and straight line speed. His ceiling is ridiculous.

    I do worry about his long term health outlook though. Baseball is a game with a lot of starts and stops. Stand around, get cold, then have to leap into action. I believe flexibility and the ability to utilize lower body strength as much as possible are what keeps athletes in the sport healthy and at peak performance levels longest. That is not how Soler is built though. He lacks flexibility and his center of gravity is very high and he struggles to get his upper and lower halves in unison on the bases and in the field.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Mike, it sounds like he needs to go through a series of stretching exercises every day just to keep flexibility. Do you remember how long it took Bill Buckner to prepare for each game? I can't remember all the things he did, but I think it was at least 2 hours before every game for him to get loose. Hopefully Soler has that mental and physical discipline to do this.
    He really looked uncomfortable in the cold weather too, although I believe that this is the first time he's ever played in cold weather. It takes time to acclimate to it, even for players used to it too.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Bill Buckner had terrible chronic painful ankle injuries.
    Trainers took much time to tape them so he could play.
    Many players would opt DL with such bad ankles and decreased flexibility.
    His critics always overlook that.
    He gave it his all.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    John, Thanks for doing this article. Incredibly thorough and exciting! I love watching the young players at Spring Training and following their results in the minors.

    Michael, I really appreciate your comments on the young players. It sounds like you spend hours watching minor league games. I agree with you on Soler. I see him having a big year this year at the plate. I am hoping that Heyward helps him with his RF defense. If he can improve his route to the ball that would be a huge step.

    The interesting piece for 2016 will be the development of Almora, Contreras, and McKinney. This is our next wave and each could be a late season call up. Their development will allow for trades next offseason for SP. Hopefully the market changes because of the success of the 2016 Cubs.

  • In reply to TROS:

    You're welcome. I do spend a lot of time watching minor league baseball. I watch the Cubs and I watch the Cubs minor league teams (at least the ones that are broadcast or that I can drive to). It does mean that I don't really have time to watch other MLB games or amateur games so I really don't have much input on the rest of the majors or the draft process, but John and others here do a great job with that so hopefully all of the bases get covered for everyone here.

    If Soler could improve his first step and tracking the ball in the field it would be huge for his development. He has the speed to cover ground and the arm to make runners pay. But so far that is all pretty much negated by the fact that he doesn't get good reads and has to watch the ball in flight too much and adjust on the fly instead of being able to turn and just run to a spot that he knows the ball will land. That ability is what makes a guy like Almora, despite likely being slower than Soler, able to cover so much ground.

    I honestly do not expect Contreras or McKinney to be traded. Their timelines fit so well with being able to replace Ross and Coghlan when their contracts are up after the season. If Almora can come through that is where the decisions will need to be made. A defense with Almora and Heyward would be very intriguing. It could allow for a trade of Soler, or if Schwarber is able to transition to a semi or full time catching role than no trades would be necessary.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Funny you mention that about Soler and his never ending flexibility issues. Finally realized why I root for him. At 5'10" I could hardly be considered a freak of nature, but your description of his tools is reminiscent. God, I could barely touch my toes, even as a teen. Running a mile, forget it. But in short bursts and quickness it translated well on the fields. So there is a trade off in being coiled like a spring.
    Moving forward, I even took yoga in my 40's after humping water in Chicago for years. Ironically, one poor instructor after watching me huff and puff after like ten minutes, was nice enough to say, well you'll never hurt yourself, your body won't let you. I did loosen up and lost a lot of weight though. Gravity, what a concept.
    Theo was on The Score Saturday and said Soler is working hard at it all this off-season. Said he is down to 225 and the video he has seen is very encouraging.
    So I will continue to "vote for Jorge".

  • You know it's not a Cubs Den minor league ranking if Monasterio isn't included lol.

  • In reply to Caps:

    ?

    First off, it's not a ranking. He didn't even make the top 25. He's just being mentioned as someone to watch.

    At ages 17 & 18 (which was 1-2 years young for his level) he put up OBPs of .368 and .346 respectively with a combined 31/39 BB/K. He's also a SS with shot to stick. No one is touting him, but that profile and performance is worth a mention on a U20 list.

    What's your beef?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    YEP!

    I missed the mark! Sorry about that.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    I didn't know Quasimodo was Caps! ;-)

  • Hey john,

    I was wondering if you could fill us readers in on what's life is like for these kids who come over to the states as 16 and 17 year olds. Do they go to school here, or just train everyday? Do they live in dorms or live with family? How does the organization help them assimilate here? I just think about how immature I was at that age and find it amazing what these kids are doing in a foreign country.

  • YEP!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Seems like a lotvof interest in life in the states off the field for hese kids. As it is brought up regularly.
    Nudge nudge wink wink.

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