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.
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.
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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