With the minor league season reaching its midpoint last Monday, the Cubs Den minor league crew decided to get together and come up with the prospects that are having the best 2017 at this point. The panel included minor league update reporter Michael Ernst, along with feature writers Stephanie Lynn and me, Tom U. All statistics are first half totals.
Catcher – The first position discussed had our first consensus, as Iowa’s Victor Caratini was the unanimous choice. The native of Coamo, Puerto Rico, in his first taste of Triple-A, has hit .338 with eight home runs and 52 RBI in 65 games. The 23 year old has also nailed 26% of all would be base stealers, and has fielded .990 behind the dish. While not officially starting his season until June 15 with the Eugene Emeralds, Michael felt that Miguel Amaya deserved an honorable mention. The 18 year old batted .375/447/.613 in extended spring training and led the team in home runs, RBI, average, on-base percentage, slugging, and only struck out twice in 94 plate appearances. “Watch out for Amaya next season, South Bend”, said Ernst.
First Base – At a position that the Cubs’ front office doesn’t stock, a selection was hard to come by. However, it was agreed that South Bend has gotten the most production out of the position with Wladimir Galindo and Alberto Mineo. Normally a third baseman, the 20 year old Galindo had shown a lot of consistency in hitting .290 with four home runs and 19 RBI in 44 games before ending his season with an ankle injury. The S-Cubs primary catcher, the 22 year old Mineo has had to endure a lot on the job training after being signed as a 17 year old from Italy five years ago. Mineo has really put things together this season in South Bend, batting .295 with 27 RBI in the first half.
Second Base – Being it was second base, two choices were made here. After playing several different positions and even pitching a few innings early in his career, David Bote has now found a home at second base. The 24 year old has been a settling influence for Double-A Tennessee, batting .277 with 6 home runs and 34 RBI. Considered a slow-developing prospect by some, 24 year old Bryant Flete has piggybacked successful stint of winter baseball in Venezuela to an eye-opening performance for Myrtle Beach. Flete is batting .294 with 6 home runs and 32 RBI while taking over the lead-off position for the Pelicans.
Shortstop – Once again, a difficult position to pin down, but South Bend seems to come up big. Michael likes the performance of 18 year old Isaac Parades. The native of Mexico hit .262 with four home runs and 29 RBI while fielding .979 in the first half for the S-Cubs. Tom felt that multi-position star Zack Short deserved recognition. The 22 year old hit only .242 but led the Midwest League in the first half with a .401 on base percentage and has 15 stolen bases. An honorable mention also has to go to Tennessee’s Andrew Ely, who has quietly batted .273 with a home run and 19 RBI while playing short, second and third base.
Third Base – Not only did everyone agree here, but all felt that Tennessee’s Jason Vosler deserved Player of the First Half recognition. Named a Southern League All-Star, the league also made Vosler their Player of the Week prior to the All-Star break. The 24 year old leads the Southern League with 49 RBI and is second with 13 home runs and a .521 slugging average. The left-handed hitter has also batted .274 and showed improvement at third base.
Left Field – Earning a promotion to the big league club, Mark Zagunis turned things around after a slow start to the year with Iowa. Overcoming a .212 April, the 24 year old went .286 in May to post a .249/.399/.474 line with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in the first half of the season.
Center Field - A member of the Tennessee Smokies, Charcer Burks has made one of the most significant improvements of any Cubs’ prospect this season. The 22 year old is sixth in the Southern League with a .313 batting average. Burks also has a .406 on-base percentage with 5 home runs, 20 RBI, and 10 stolen bases out of the lead-off spot while playing Gold Glove defense.
Right Field – Another player that has flown under the radar among Cubs prospects, Daniel Spingola has turned in a fine performance. The 24 year old returned to the Myrtle Beach this year and has elevated his game. The left-handed hitting Spingola has batted .285 with two home runs and 27 RBI in 64 games for the Pelicans, earning him both a Carolina League All-Star selection and a promotion to Tennessee to start the second half.
Designated Hitter – If ever a player had an appropriate job title, it would be Eloy Jimenez. While starting off the season with a sore shoulder, the 20 year old has made his impact on the Carolina League, becoming an All-Star in only 28 games this season. The 2016 Organizational Player of the Year hit .278 with 7 home runs and 22 RBI for Myrtle Beach.
Starting Pitching - A native of Venezuela, RHP Adbert Alzolay has been one of the breakout prospects in the Cubs’ system. Alzolay is 6-1 with a 2.83 ERA for Myrtle Beach and was named the starting pitcher for the Southern Division team in the Carolina League All-Star Game. Laid up for a month with a sprained ankle, RHP Dylan Cease nevertheless was named a Midwest League All-Star. The 21year old is only 1-2 with a 3.05 ERA, but has 60 strikeouts in 38.1 innings. Twenty-two year old RHP Trevor Clifton has already been named organizational Pitcher of the Year for 2016, and now can add All-Star to his resume. Clifton is 5-3 with a 2. 84 ERA and has 56 strikeouts for the Tennessee Smokies. After his 2016 season, an All-Star appearance seemed unlikely for 21 year old LHP Justin Steele. This season, Steele has already matched his win total for last season by going 5-3 for Myrtle Beach. Steele has also cut his ERA in more than half to 2.32 with 55 strikeouts in 66 innings. Another former Organizational Pitcher of the Year (2014), Jen-Ho Tseng has put things all together for Tennessee this season. Only 22years old, Tseng sports a 6-2 record with a 2.65 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 75.2 innings.
Bullpen ––Pedro Araujo, a RHP for Myrtle Beach, has made 20 appearances and helped the Pelicans achieve a first half championship and a playoff berth. The 23 year old Dominican has posted a 4-0 record and 1.99 ERA while converting 3 of 6 save opportunities. Part of the 2016 draft class, RHP Dakota Mekkes has made a rapid rise through the system. The 22 year old was no match for the Midwest League, as Mekkes went 3-0 with four saves, a 0.58 ERA, and 47 strikeouts in 31 innings with South Bend. Another 2106 draftee, Duncan Robinson has started and piggybacked in his first full season. A Midwest League All-Star, the 23 year old went 5-4 with a 2.08 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 65 innings for the S-Cubs. Making the transition to starter for the pen, Michael Rucker has split his time between South Bend and Myrtle Beach. All combined, the 23 year old is 1-1 with two saves, a 1.63 ERA, and 55 strikeouts in 38.2 innings. Twenty-four year old RHP Daury Torrez has demonstrated he has now adjusted to life in the pen for Tennessee. Torres was 4-1 with a save, a 1.24 ERA, and 29 strikeouts in 36.1 innings.
Closer – It seems like it has been a long time since there was something nice to say about Dillon Maples, as his career up until 2017 had been a disappointment. But the 25 year old finally seems on the right track, as he was 4-0 with four saves, a 2.01 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 33.1 innings for Myrtle Beach. Maples has parlayed his success into his first promotion to Double-A, and has started the second half with recording a save for Tennessee.
Tags: Adbert Alzolay, Alberto Mineo, Andrew Ely, Bryant Flete, Charcer Burks, Dakota Mekkes, Daniel Spingola, Daury Torrez, David Bote, Dillon Maples, Duncan Robinson, Dylan Cease, Eloy Jimenez, Isaac Paredes, Jason Vosler, Jen-Ho Tseng, Justin Steele, Mark Zagunis, Michael Ernst, Michael Rucker, Miguel Amaya, Pedro Araujo, Stephanie Lynn, Tom U, Trevor Clifton, Victor Caratini, Wladimir Galindo, Zack Short