With the minor league season winding down, the Cubs Den staff got together in order to recognize some of the players that made an impact for the Cubs’ system this year. We could not think of a more fitting memorial than to name them after our site’s founder John Arguello. While John was a passionate Cubs fan, his passion within that passion was player development in the minor leagues.
This will be the first in a series of articles naming minor league players and pitchers of the year. A short season player is defined as someone who has played in one of the short season leagues (Northwest League, Rookie League, or Dominican Summer League) or who was selected in this year’s MLB Draft. Our panel includes minor league writers Michael Ernst, Stephanie Lynn, and Tom U along with Cubs Den writers Myles Phelps and Jared Wyllys.
Short Season Player of the Year – Fernando Kelli, OF
“Another switch-hitting, speedy center fielder the Cubs signed in this 2015 IFA class. He shows good range in the outfield, and his slight build (6-feet tall and 180 pounds) indicates his game will built around getting on base and taking advantage of his plus speed. He needs to add some strength, and his bat isn’t as far along as his base running and defense at present”.
Those were the words of John himself for 2017’s Short Season Player of the Year, Fernando Kelli. The 18 year old was part of big 2015 international signing class John was profiling for 2080 Baseball in June. That class included fellow outfielders Jose Gutierrez, Kwang-Min Kwon, Eddy Julio Martinez, Jonathan Sierra; infielders Aramis Ademan, Christopher Morel, Orian Nunez, Yonathan Perlaza; catcher Miguel Amaya; and pitchers Jose Albertos, Javier Assad, Faustino Carrera, Brailyn Marquez, and Carlos Ocampo.
It’s easy to see how Kelli could get lost among all that talent, and his first year as a professional had some mixed results. Only 17 years old at the time, the switch-hitter batted only .240 with eight RBI in 44 games with DSL Cubs-2 last season, but did have 23 stolen bases.
But a year can do wonders for someone so young, as Kelli’s name is all over the Dominican Summer League’s offensive leader board this year, starting with his league leading 54 stolen bases. Kelli is also third in on-base percentage (.437), eleventh in OPS (.886), eleventh in RBI (36), and twelfth in batting average (.323).The native of Venezuela’s stolen base total is twenty more than his next challenger, almost assuredly giving Kelli the DSL stolen base crown with six games still left to play.
Like all young players, Kelli has some things he needs to work on, such as getting stronger. Kelli also needs to polish up his defense, where he has committed five errors in the outfield. If Kelli is invited to the instructional league this fall and shows improvement, he is positioned to make a similar jump as fellow classmates Ademan and Amaya did this year and possibly begin his 2018 with Short Season Eugene.
Kelli was prominently mentioned by our panel, but was not the only player considered for the honor. Infielders Ademan, Luis Hidalgo and Austin Upshaw; Amaya, and outfielder Brandon Hughes were all brought up as candidates.
Short Season Pitcher of the Year – Jesus Camargo, RHP
Part of an ever-growing list of talented pitchers signed by the Cubs out Mexico, Jesus Camargo has survived some ups and downs to prove that he belongs among the Cubs’ pitching prospects.
Signed by Diablos Rojos of the Mexican League, the Cubs purchased the contract of Camargo after he pitched only 2.1 innings in 2014. The native of Los Mochis was assigned to the AZL Cubs in 2015 and quickly emerged as the team’s ace, leading the squad with 46.1 innings pitched and 57 strikeouts as he went 3-1 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.036 WHIP.
The 2016 season was basically a wash for Camargo, as he sat out what has been reported various minor injuries. Coming into this season, there was little fanfare for Camargo, although John had this to say in February:
“Camargo has an advanced change-up and a fastball that sits high 80s and maxes out in the low 90s. He has advanced command and the makings of an average breaking ball, but if Camargo had an issue early on, it was falling in love with his change. At the AZL level it's a plus pitch and it gets hitters out routinely, but the Cubs are in the development business. Throwing five change-ups in a row won't fly against advanced hitters, so Camargo must learn to trust his fastball more.”
It seems as if those words were taken to heart by Camargo as he became the most reliable starter for Short Season Eugene. Second on the Emeralds with 49.1 innings, the 21 year old is 2-1 with a 2.55 ERA, 1.014 WHIP, and is also second on the team with 54 strikeouts. Camargo began the year in the starting rotation, but has become a valuable piggyback starter, allowing 2017 draftees Brendon Little, Alex Lange, and Cory Abbott to take turns starting.
Camargo’s teammates Javier Assad, third in the Northwest League in strikeouts, and Luis Aquino, second in the league saves, were also considered by the panel, as was DSL standout Didier Vargas.
Tags: Alex Lange, Aramis Ademan, Austin Upshaw, Brailyn Marquez, Brandon Hughes, Brendon Little, Carlos Ocampo, Christopher Morel, Cory Abbott, Didier Vargas, Eddy Julio Martinez, Faustino Carrera, Fernando Kelli, Jared Wyllys, Javier Assad, Jesus Camargo, John Arguello, Jonathan Sierra, Jose Albertos, Jose Gutierrez, Kwang-Min Kwon, Luis Aquino, Luis Hidalgo, Michael Ernst, Miguel Amaya, Myles Phelps, Orian Nunez, Stephanie Lynn, Tom U, Yonathan Perlaza