Cubs Prospect Statistical Update - The Hitters

If I had taken a poll before opening day and asked fans to pick three prospects that would have the most impact over the first month of the season I'm sure Jeimer Candelario would have been a popular choice. However, I don't believe that Charcer Burks or Jason Vosler would have been included in many lists. But that is where we stand at this point in the season.

Charcer Burks followed his strong second half (.275/.369/.439) last season with an equally strong spring training showing and has now begun the 2017 regular season on an even more impressive note (.300/.414/.455). Already a good defensive outfielder, he is turning himself into a more consistent offensive threat thanks to a more discerning eye and improved strength which has led to him hitting the ball with more authority. Fans that miss the contributions from Matt Szczur could find similar or even greater value from Burks down the road, although Burks may face the same obstacles for playing time.

The left hand hitting Vosler must traverse an even tougher path to the majors. Not only because of the insane infield depth the Cubs possess ahead of him at the MLB and AAA levels, but because Vosler is also a tougher fit defensively. He does not possess the range or versatility to become a utility man like Chesny Young, instead he is stuck on the corners like Jeimer Candelario. So not only must he contend with two young MLB All-Stars, but a top prospect in Candelario as well.

Very few of the Cubs hitting prospects have struggled to begin the season and correspondingly very few troublesome indicators have popped up in the early going. Most of the red in the chart below will not come as a surprise. Chesny Young, Carlos Sepulveda and P.J. Higgins still lack power. D.J. Wilson, Robert Garcia and John Andreoli still strike out more than you would like, but also still find ways to contribute despite that deficiency. Although they will need to eventually fix that issue if they hope to forge MLB careers, but at least in the case of Wilson there is still plenty of time to improve.

The positive trends in the early going include the improved strike zone judgement of Eddy Martinez, who has significantly cut his K rate from nearly 22% last year down to 12% so far this season. It hasn't translated into an impressive slash line yet, but as we preach around here: process before results. Martinez improved throughout last season. He is undoubtedly still transitioning to life stateside and it should also be noted that the Carolina League is known to be a tough hitting environment so it wouldn't be surprising for his numbers to not blow you away while he is down there.

I have included each player's BABIP as an indicator for which players we would expect to see regression from, both positive and negative, as the season progresses. On top of his strong plate discipline, Martinez (.244) has also been the victim of the BABIP dragon, which also bodes well for improved production from him moving forward. On the flip side it won't come as a shock that Jeimer Candelario is unlikely to maintain his ridiculous pace throughout the season. One particular note to remember in regards to Ian Happ and his seemingly low BABIP is that HRs are not balls in play, meaning his early homer binge is suppressing his BABIP a bit, so while his power output will likely decrease and his BABIP increase, it won't necessarily lead to the type of batting average increase you would expect.

Reference Ranges

Rating wOBA ISO BB% K%
Great > .370 > .200 > 12.5 < 12.5
Average ~ .320 ~ .140 ~ 8.0 ~ 20.0
Poor < .300 < .100 < 5.5 > 25.0

NOTE: A brief explanation for each of the statistics used can be found in the Cubs Den Stats Glossary. Further details are available in the FanGraphs Glossary.

Top Prospects

Name AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA ISO BB% K% BABIP
Jimenez NA
Happ .264/.340/.604 .397 .341 10.7% 22.3% .250
Candelario .340/.443/.649 .467 .309 13.9% 22.6% .433
Wilson .217/.287/.391 .309 .174 8.9% 39.6% .347
Martinez .235/.299/.337 .295 .102 8.4% 12.1% .244
Ademan NA
Zagunis .198/.375/.395 .358 .198 19.2% 27.9% .234
Caratini .337/.375/.510 .385 .173 6.3% 11.6% .360
Name AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA ISO BB% K% BABIP
Young .282/.320/.316 .291 .034 5.4% 14.7% .327
Hannemann .269/.387/.442 .379 .173 11.3% 25.8% .371
Sepulveda .200/.280/.219 .244 .019 9.3% 15.3% .239
Galindo .324/.367/.432 .365 .108 6.3% 22.8% .418
Paredes .208/.273/.307 .271 .099 6.4% 14.5% .238
Amaya NA
Sierra NA

Others

Name AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA ISO BB% K% BABIP
Rademacher .239/.372/.380 .344 .141 16.3% 19.8% .302
Andreoli .237/.348/.424 .342 .186 14.5% 31.9% .343
Vosler .322/.431/.633 .473 .311 13.8% 14.7% .324
Rice .313/.470/.531 .457 .219 22.9% 20.5% .386
Burks .300/.414/.455 .401 .155 15.0% 17.3% .353
Bote .284/.352/.477 .378 .193 7.4% 19.7% .329
Higgins .299/.347/.358 .327 .060 5.4% 10.8% .339
Garcia .270/.316/.351 .308 .081 3.8% 30.0% .388
Short .278/.441/.505 .426 .227 20.5% 16.5% .315
Pieters .250/.388/.413 .369 .163 14.3% 28.6% .360
Pereda .333/.404/.393 .367 .060 9.6% 18.1% .418
Peguero .287/.325/.400 .329 .113 5.6% 20.2% .356

 

Comments

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  • Excellent work, Michael, I always enjoy having the most relevant info on the hitters throughout the different levels condensed into a singular forum. Timely, as well, as Theo was on the radio this morning speaking candidly about trading some of these players for pitching. We all know it's coming, but it holds weight hearing it straight from the source. He talked about how hard it is going to be for any of these young hitters to crack the big league lineup in the near future and the lack of starting pitching depth and quality. He did specify that the coming deal(s) would most likely involve prospects rather than big-league talent, and the focus would be on pitching for the near-term and long-term, which certainly leaves the door open on specific deals. Candelario has risen his stock dramatically, and would be a great fit in Tampa. I've heard they have some pitching.

    There is a typo in your paragraph describing Burkes. Not being critical, it just made me laugh as I instantly read the sentence in Cartman's voice from South Park about Burkes hitting the ball with "authoruty". :)

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    To clarify my comment, Theo stated the coming trades would most likely involve the Cubs trading away prospects rather than players from the ML roster, and the pitchers acquired would be to help at the big-league level.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I am curious who will get traded. I know it is coming. But I dread reading that we have traded guys like Burks, Young. I am horrified I will read that we traded Happ or Candelario not to mention Jiminez. I lost my mind when they traded Torres last year and that was to get one of the most dominant closers of all time. And, to be honest, even with the WS win I still think I will rue that trade in 5-7 years. And with the Cubs I am just so used to looking long term.

    I just hope if we do make a trade like this it isn't for a "rental."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I did an article last year prior to the deadline and pretty much nailed where the groups of surplus the Cubs would deal from (http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2016/07/thoughts-on-surplus-trade-assets-and-future-roster-allocation-heading-into-the-deadline/). I plan to do something similar this year as well.

    At first glance the right handed COF surplus of Zagunis, Burks, Jimenez, Martinez is one of the prime areas the team will deal from. I think the team will try to hold onto Jimenez (and Happ) unless a true ace (like a Sale caliber pitcher) is available. But one (or even two) of Zagunis/Burks/Martinez seems likely to be included in a deal. With Bryant, Zo and eventually Happ capable of moving to the COF spots whenever necessary means that any of these players will run into the same issues Szczur faced. The only guy with enough upside to breakthrough any competition would be Jimenez.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I would have no problem trading anybody especially guys like Zagunis, Burks, C. Young, Martinez, Vosler, etc. as secondary or tertiary pieces in a larger deal. There's plenty coming up through the pipeline to replace players like that. I don't know how much value they'll add but if a team's interested, cool.

    I think Candelario is nearing a place in his development where he can bring back something decent as a headliner in a larger package. Not a TOR type pitcher, but maybe something a little better than Montgomery.

    I'd be interested to see what the Cubs could get if they put together a package of Candelario, Caratini, Clifton and Burks. I bet there'd be a lot of teams interested in that kind of talent.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    I think Candelario would bring back something better than Montgomery. Remember, he came almost man-for-man for Vogelbach. Vogelbach wasn't a switch-hitter and could only play 1B passably--though not from lack of effort or desire.

    I am not crazy about trading a switch-hitting catcher with a polished approach. I would substitute Zagunis, but that might be too many guys with similar skill-sets to be in 1 trade. But if they are split up it might be interesting.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yeah, I think you would be looking to bring back a younger version of Montgomery in a straight up deal for Candelario. Remember, Montgomery, despite his lack of MLB time, wasn't really a prospect or even a young player when the Cubs acquired him. If they could get a guy with the same skill level, but with more years ahead of him, then I would consider it a win. Still think Candelario will go in a package though.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yeah, well there is a typo in your sentence telling me there is a typo in my paragraph :)

    Thanks. I fixed it.

    I do think it is just a matter of time until Candelario is dealt. Unless a COF on the team suffers a long term injury similar to Schwarber last year (allowing Bryant to move out there), he just doesn't have a spot on this team. The team will still have Happ, who is also a switch hitter, can cover the same positions (and more), and is also nearly as MLB ready.

    Candelario and Zagunis just seem hopelessly blocked and would form a solid base of a deal for a team looking for near MLB ready players. Not many teams have as many solid offensive prospects in AAA as the Cubs.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Mine wasn't a typo, just bad spelling. I've made a mental note. Candelario is about as blocked as a player can be, behind two literal and figurative cornerstones of the organization. Reading about his impressive progress over the past year or so has made the smile on my face grow larger, as it just meant the return on the inevitable deal continued to increase.

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    Still loving what Caratini is doing at AAA. While I would like his BB% to improve I am OK with it in the mid-single digits if he can keep his K% down. And he has some history of higher BB% so there is hope for even better to come from him.

    I am guessing it is a typo but the Cubs are not in the Florida State League. It is the Carolina league. Again, I am sure it is just a typo and force of habit. The part about a tough hitters league still holds true as far as I am aware.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Thanks. I fixed that oversight. Switching their affiliation to a team in the Carolina League is still something I haven't gotten used to, especially since Myrtle Beach reminds me too strongly of Daytona Beach and therefore still associates with the FSL.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    A switch hitting backup catcher that puts the bat on the ball and still has a little untapped power is indeed intriguing. Also nice that his timeline meshes well with Montero's contract expiration.

    Caratini is probably the least likely player down in Iowa to be included in a deadline deal.

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    I am starting to get really intrigued by Charcer Burks. I know, kind of late to the party. But is he REALLY this good. His slash line is eye-popping especially since he is young for his league (BR lists him as 2+ years below league average age). However, I have learned that sometimes guys can do well at the lower levels only to wilt under the performance of pitchers with better stuff and more polished approach. At the same time, usually AA those things start showing up. And it doesn't seem to have so far.

    As for Szczur I wonder how much of his problem was unfortunate timing. He was put on the 40-man roster probably before he was ready. And then his "Options" ran out. If he had an option left we would likely be goggling at his AAA numbers today.

    The Cubs OF situation could be VERY different in 3-4 years. I am not saying there will certainly be a place for him. But that he will possibly find a niche for himself.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Burks is improving and he is pretty good. I was slow to come around on him too. He reminded me too much of Dave Sappelt early on, but he has proven to be a better athlete with a better idea of the strikezone, and won't be as dependent on his hit tool as Sappelt was.

    I think he is moving into potential starting caliber player down the road, especially if he can play an above average CF. But obviously there is no job available in any of those spots with the Cubs and the team also does not require a backup at those positions that hits righthanded because of the presence of Bryant and Zobrist.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I don't consider Zobrist to be "blocking" anyone. We still owe him money but he is getting long in the tooth. I doubt he will be around when his contract expires unless it is an on extremely team-friendly terms.

    At this point with the exception of Candelario none of these guys is even on the 40-man roster so there is no clock ticking on them. They can destroy AAA until Zobrist's contract expires.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The only player that Zo "blocks" is Happ. They are basically the same player and fill the same role: switch hitting middle of the order hitter with 2B/COF versatility and other positions capable if needed. Now the team can just keep Happ in AAA this year as protection and as essentially the 26th man without adversely affecting his development, but something will likely need to happen by next trade deadline (and more likely the offseason). One of Zo or Happ will go by then.

    But the effect of having what is essentially a versatile 9th starting position player like Zobrist/Happ is that it limits opportunities for anyone else on your bench. That is fine if the other players are La Stella/Szczur/Jay types but if you are trying to develop someone as a potential starter down the road it makes it difficult to get that player enough playing time because Zo/Happ can start for any player that needs a rest rather than a lesser player. It happened to Soler and Szczur. It is happening with Almora and Candelario now (although eventually Almora will take over in CF). It will continue to happen in the future with Zagunis/Burks/Martinez or any other young player that is a fringe starting or platoon candidate. The only player that changes the equation is Jimenez.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I believe Zo has three years of no trade and then can be dealt in the final year.
    On one hand, it's unfortunate that Zo will be blocking Happ for 2018. On the other, I sure do appreciate that he was the World Series MVP.

  • In reply to ericccs:

    You are correct, eric. Zobrist's no trade clause ends after the 2018 season. That doesn't mean he can't traded however. He just needs to approve the deal first.

    Heyward's no trade clause also ends after 2018. For the next two seasons he can block a trade to 12 teams only. In 2021, his 5 and 10 rights kick in and it's back to a full no trade clause as a result. Who knows how he'll be hitting by the end of the 2018 season. That will say a lot about the kind of interest there will be in him.

    Jimenez should be ready sometime in that timeframe (2019-2020) so it will be interesting to see what the Cubs do.

    We all know of the Cubs need for good, young-ish pitching. Who goes and who stays is certainly a big storyline for this team.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Yeah, IMO, Heywards's decision after 2018 is the wildcard going forward.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Oh, and Michael , I love your input here be it on blogs or in the comment sections

  • In reply to ericccs:

    I second this!

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    In reply to Quedub:

    I third it. I always enjoy going back and forth with you and also reading your discussions with others as well.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Thanks everyone.

    I haven't done much writing, in posts or comments, so far this season but I plan to ramp up my participation going forward. Been kind of a weird first month and I have been sick a couple of times and then out of town off and on and just haven't managed to watch a ton of baseball yet. But I've been missing it and look forward to getting back into it.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    4th it.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I think I look at roster construction differently than you do. I don't mind a 3-4 man bench provided that those guys are STILL able to help the team cover all the defensive positions.

    I also like an 8-man 'pen. It allows the team to have a greater likelihood that their good pitchers will be rested when needed because they won't be needed for "mop-up" work as much (winning or losing). It would also mean that the bullpen guys will not be as likely to be over-used because Maddon will have another guy who might be rested.

    To accomplish this, though, it requires that there be a great deal of flexibility on the roster. Which, by most accounts, is a strength for the Cubs.

    What I would do is have Candelario go to Iowa and work on his defense in the corner OF and 1B positions (as well as having him get innings in at 3B. I would have Happ try out CF. NOT as a "starter" necessarily but to find out if he can fill in there if needed.

    This a little oversimplified but what if our 2019 depth chart looked like this (1st name would be starter, the rest would be guys who could fill in to give him a rest or cover the end of a long game but in no particular order):
    C: Contreras, Caratini, Schwarber
    1B: Rizzo, Baez, Bryant, Candelario, Contreras
    2B: Baez, Zobrist, Happ, Russell
    SS: Russell, Baez
    3B: Bryant, Candelario, Zobrist, Caratini(?)
    LF: Schwarber, Bryant, Zobrist, Candelario, Happ, Almora, Heyward (if he's still here)
    CF: Almora, Heyward (if he's still here), Happ (?)
    RF: Heyward (if he's still here), Bryant, Zobrist, Almora, Happ

    That is 12 position players (Contreras, Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant, Schwarber, Almora, Heyward, Caratini, Zobrist, Happ, Candelario). That leaves 13 spots on the roster for pitchers. If Maddon wants to go with a 7 man 'pen he could then add another player. My guess is a Jon Jay type (veteran, capable of covering CF). But those 12 position players are already under team control (at least "sort of" with Heyward).

    To me I would rather have a "shorter bench" than a "shorter 'pen." Generally "bench guys" tend to do better the more they are used while bullpen guys tend to do worse when used more frequently. That's why I like having a shorter bench. It isn't that common that we need to use more than 4 pinch-hitters in a given game. I think it is more common to have a couple bullpen guys that are tired and best not used in a game. And if we are in a stretch where the bullpen is used a lot--like we just had--suddenly saying there are 8 guys down there isn't quite accurate. There are 8 "bodies" down there, but 3-4 of them might be well below peak performance do to arm fatigue.

    Besides, I think some manager's heads would explode if the Cubs had 3 switch hitters on their bench when trying to make pitching changes to take advantage of "platoon splits."

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    On Zagunis, I wonder if the increased K-rate and ISO are a result of a conscious effort on his part to elevate the ball more.

    The criticism of him last year was just that he didn't quite have the power to start in an OF corner, maybe he's trying to pull/loft more to correct that

  • In reply to Zonk:

    To some degree that may be true. To be honest I have not focused much time on Zagunis yet this season. I tend to not worry too much about slow starts though.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Jeffrey Baez......is this now 3 years in a row that he has gotten off to a really slow start?

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Four years actually. And before that he wasn't playing full season ball so he wasn't playing early in the season before that.

  • The Cubs have so many good, tradeable, assets that are fairly advanced, that you have to think a big trade for an established (dare I say it? TOR even) SP will happen this summer. Candelario, Zagunis, Young, Burks, even guys like Grimm, Strop, Pena, Rosscup, EJM, La Stella are all available for the right player.

    The only position players the FO would hesitate on trading are Happ, Jimenez, and Caratini, but I think Eloy is the only untradeable one. They probably aren't trading any prospect pitchers who are projected to be starters, either.

    But there is a really good group of players available for some team who is looking to beef up their system.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    If you're shooting for a TOR or young-ish MOR with some upside I don't think guys like Zagunis, Young, Grimm Pena, Rosscup, EJM or La Stella are going to help you very much. No team is looking at them as an upgrade. Those would all be 3rd or 4th players depending on the quality of the 2-3 players that would be traded along with them.

    I don't think you can headline that sort of deal with Candelario either. If a team is going to give up an established high-quality MLB starter they're going to want Happ or Eloy and at least one of the Cubs pitching prospects (Cease, Clifton or De La Cruz).

    If the Cubs are willing to take on more risk in the deal and go for a less established AAA or AA pitcher with upside like Sean Newcomb (or any number of other Braves pitching prospects - Allard, Soroka, Anderson, Gohara...), I could see a deal maybe getting done for a package of guys not including Happ or Jimenez. Maybe.

    I wonder if the Cubs could build a lesser package around Candelario to the Rays for Ps Jacob Faria and Austin Franklin if Longoria keeps struggling.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I was hoping a Candelario, Zagunis, and 2 or 3 of the lesser prospects/fringe MLBers could net a MORish guy, but this is probably a pipe dream. I'd even include Clifton or someone like Hatch or Hudson to get the deal done. But guys like Happ, Eloy, Cease, De La Cruz are ideal for the Cubs needs. Don't bring up Zo either. Heck I love the guy, but Happ has the chance to provide 10+ years of younger Zo, instead of maybe 2ish for the current Zo.

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