Cubs Prospects 2017 Statistical Overview - The Hitters

I'm sure some fans will look at these lists and despair, or at least lament the loss of impact hitters during the past two trade deadlines. Not all hope is lost however. There is still plenty of depth throughout the Cubs system. The lower levels contain a strong group of raw athletes with high upside. The upper levels include an array of potentially useful depth pieces.

The Cubs have young stars firmly established in their lineup that should form the back bone of the offense for the near future. What they will require from the farm system the next couple of seasons are injury replacements and complimentary pieces that fill specific bench roles. One of the strengths the Cubs have relied on the past three years has been their depth. They have had starting capable players ready on their bench and Major League ready prospects ready for recall from Iowa at a moments notice. 2018 will be no different. Iowa will deploy four infielders (Ian Rice, David Bote, Chesny Young, Jason Vosler) and three outfielders (Charcer Burks, Jacob Hannemann, Mark Zagunis) with the potential to contribute in various ways in Chicago should the need arise.

In the long term, the Cubs will look to develop those raw athletes in the lower levels into polished baseball players that can hopefully slide into starting roles just as members of the current roster becomes expensive. Unearthing a diamond from the current crop will give the organization greater flexibility as the core enters their final arbitration years and nears free agency. If a prospect is ready to take over at a certain position it could affect which members of the core the team is willing to commit long term.

I have included quality of contact, batted ball, directional hitting statistics this time to help give a more accurate picture of the type of hitter each player was last season and highlighted some of the more interesting numbers in orange.

One of the figures that sticks out the most is the FB% for Jason Vosler, a player that has taken the launch angle phenomena to heart. His extreme fly ball ways in 2017 led to a huge jump in power production. In 2016 his FB% was around 40 and he managed just 3 HR on the season, while a 55.7 FB% helped him to a system leading total of 21 HR in 2017.

David Bote

David Bote

Meanwhile, his Smokies teammate David Bote hit the ball on the ground over 50% of the time in 2017. He still managed a career high 14 HRs despite those numbers. He has spoken during his breakout AFL stint of working with Tennessee Hitting Coach Jacob Cruz about lifting the ball more frequently throughout the second half of the season. If he can accomplish that mission on a consistent basis Bote would be a good pick to join the 20+ homer club next year.

As with the pitchers in the previous post I have divided the hitters into tiers based on what I believe to be realistic upsides for the player. Unlike with the pitchers, you will notice the top tier, colored in purple, is empty. The Cubs no longer have an impact positional player in their system after the deadline deal that sent Eloy Jimenez to the Southside. The second tier, which represents players with above average everyday potential is divided into two sections, a dark blue for polished prospects (again, empty) and then a lighter blue for raw players with that upside. The third tier, colored in gold and yellow for polished and raw, is reserved for players with low end starter or platoon potential.

Because the position player list is significantly shorter than the pitcher list I went ahead and added a bottom section including the stats of some of the Rookie Level and DSL players that I am often asked about. These are players I have yet to see in person, or even on video in some cases, so I can't contribute first hand judgement of their potential.

Reference Ranges





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





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  • Not quite as interesting a set of guys as we have become accustomed to seeing in the Cubs MiLB system - but some decent at least role players in AAA, and some young guys we'll just have to wait & see on.

    I still like what I have heard about Eddy Martinez's potential,... is he got a chance to make it as a CF guy? Or is he destined to be a corner OF IF he can get himself on track.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Corner guy.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That's what I thought I remembered about earlier discussions of him - so his bat will make or break his developing into an MLB OF.

  • The Cubs and Astros have shown that tanking and accumulating lots of young, talented players works. You can win a World Series that way. Obviously, you need to make a lot of smart decisions, but it works. I feel like this year could be the most challenging in the Epstein tenure. Take Wade Davis and Arrieta and even Lackey off the team, and they are likely no better than St. Louis and the Brewers. The Cubs have important holes to fill.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    On the flip side, though, the Cubs will have a lot of money this off-season. Even with large raises likely destined for Bryant and Russell (as well as Baez et al.) they should have enough money to sign a #3/4 pitcher or two as well as a closer.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I don't care how much money the cubs have, it will not help them this off season. This off season has a weak class. Lynn, Jake and Darvish are the best arms available and Martinez is best hitter available. In order to upgrade our roster or starting rotation it is gonna cost us people instead of money.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    The improved coaching will make roster upgrades unnecessary ; )

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    very true!!! Maybe they will use that money to fill the bench coach spot.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Hickey is hired, so the bullpen is fixed! Davis will contain Hurricane Javy! We all have our own ideas as to what makes baseball tick, and it's a pleasure to be able to rib one another over our differences in a respectful manner on this forum. Thank you to everyone who makes that possible.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    The conversation would go better over a few beers, but distance and all...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Beers are never a problem, in fact I would have liked to have had a breathalyzer to mediate some of the comments coming off my keyboard. But there is nowhere I'd rather be than discussing this "silly season" with you fine folks. I may get lost on the endless options of the interwebs, but there is nothing to compare to the community of Cubs Den:

    "Well I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time.
    And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home."

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    That assumes little internal improvement. I expect a couple of the young hitters to take a step forward and I think the defense will improve

  • I would like to see Zagunis get a shot to replace John Jay next year. I saw Zag's splits heavily favored LHP this year. Over 1.000 OPS and more BB's than SO's. Assuming Heyward and Schwarber both return, I think Joe could find enough AB's to make him useful. Cubs bench was a little LH heavy this year, and if JHey is gonna keep hitting .700 OPS, maybe Zagunis could platoon in both left and right field next year.

    Heyward once again graded out as one of the best defensive OF's, while Schwarber was one of the worst. Where do you think Zagunis would fit in there? Love these charts, Michael, keep up the good work.

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    Yeah - its would improve Zagunis' chances if he were able to cover CF though as a replacement for Jay. Otherwise, he's got some potential as a 4th OF guy next season. A better than decent OBP and some power,...

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    I feel that as long as JHey is going to carry on with a .700 OPS, Theo needs to be concerned about LH balance in the lineup. Rizzo and whoever plays LF must give strong LH production. Either that or one of the middle IF needs to be a LH hitter if Almora is the CFer.

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    I haven't dug into the legitimacy of the Giants rumored desire to deal Samardzija and the 3 years and $59M left on his contract, but if they are I think Zagunis could be the centerpiece of a deal. Shark would fit nicely into the back of our rotation, and he's much better than his traditional numbers indicate. Specifically, he hardly walks anyone, which is a trait in high demand on the North Side this off-season. The Giants need a big bat in the OF, and Zagunis isn't that, but I think he would be attractive to them as depth, and perhaps the desired dollars to chase that big bat is their motivation for wanting to move Shark. I think there's a fit here, and maybe someone with more insight into the Giants organization can fill me in. Bottom line, we arr going to take a long look at bringing back Shark, and I'm all for it.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I'm fine with Shark. As a starter he's never posted less that 2.5 WAR and that walk rate is impressive. He's a 4 who often pitches like a 3 or better so there is upside even if there isn't a ton of surplus value in the deal.. My issue with the silly trade proposal out there trading Heyward for Melancon and Shark is that if you're taking on Samrdzija's salary the most you would give is maybe an A ball player with some upside but a lot of risk because chances are he earns his $20 mil per but probably doesn't exceed it by much so the trade then becomes Heyward for Melancon and that's absurd on its face.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Agreed. Shark has proven fairly durable, as you have pointed out - he doesn't walk many, and if the Cubs are willing to take on his salary - the can probably make a deal that makes sense involving somebody like Zagunis.

    My guess is that the Giants would prefer something else included as part of the deal, or one of the young big bats already playing on the MLB roster - but they may not be able to get that and get somebody to eat salary.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    That's where I'm at on Samardzija. If we take on the contract, it wouldn't take much more than Zagunis and a lower-level guy. It's almost akin to a FA signing at 3 years/$59M, which I think is pretty fair and fits nicely with our needs, and saves the Schwarbers, Happs, Russells, etc. for a bigger deal for a young starter with more surplus value.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I'd rather sign Alex Cobb and trade one of Schwarber, Baez, Russell, or Happ for a front line starter. Samardzija does eat innings, but he also gives up a lot of homeruns. And almost every game he has one bad inning, with a big home run and a crooked number.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I think we do trade one of the young sluggers off the ML roster for a controllable starter towards the TOR. That leaves another hole at the 4-5 spot, and Shark makes sense. Cobb is often mentioned, and would require somewhere near that 3 yr/$60 M commitment. We have some money, but it doesn't necessarily have to be spent on a FA. I would keep an eye on Chatwood out of COL as well. Basically we're saying the same thing, with different preferences.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I bet they don't trade the position players on the roster w/the exceptions of Caratini & LaStella. Caratini only if they sign Rivera or other.

    This team is still close w/out dealing from it. They just need to get a few of their own FAs back (Davis, Duensing, Arrieta) in the fold or replaced, another 4th/5th type starter if inhouse guys aren't ready in their mind (Butler, Tseng or ?) & tweak part of the bullpen. Lose Rondon & go w/Maples, Underwood , ? &/or sign/trade for another guy to go with. That's where you have your 2nd tier type prospects to trade from.

    That's easier said than done, but they don't "need" or "have" to trade from their young stable of position players just yet... Maybe if they were blown away, it should have to be a "Wow, can't refuse that" type of deal...

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    theres nothing to that rumor though -

    Dave Kaplan on espn 1000 threw it out there as a plausible trade scenario / idea - it just came from his mind - no where else - then took on a life of its own.

    furthermore he has Full no trade clause.

  • Bote seems likely to be added to the 40 man roster with his play in the AZ fall league.
    But I'm not so sure about Young, Burks and Vosler. Any thoughts on if any of these guys get added to the 40 man?
    Teams like the Padres and Braves have been pretty aggressive in the rule 5 draft the last few years.

  • In reply to couch:

    I think Bote is a lock, along with Alzolay and de la Cruz. With the impending FA's removed, the 40-man now stands at 32. Rule-5 guys need to be added by November 20th, and those 3 bring it to 35. I think there are about 7 others we'd really like to protect, and the others you mentioned are high on that list. Young is MLB-ready MI depth that we certainly need, and Burks probably starts (or soon thereafter) at Iowa as OF depth. We need to save several spots on the 40-man roster for acquisitions, but also must realize that a few players on the 40-man (and even 25-man) will likely be dealt, simultaneously opening and filling those spots.

  • In reply to couch:

    I think one of Young/Vosler get added.
    Burks has Zagunis ahead of him and the club picked Hannemann back up off waivers so I doubt he is added.

    The team does have some room to work with though. Roster stands at 32 currently. There are 3-5 guys on roster right now that could be dropped as well.

    Alzolay and De La Cruz will require 2 spots. They'll add a couple of FA pitchers at least.

  • I am intrigued at what Carlos Sepulveda can do this year. He had a lost year last year with the injuries. What intrigues me is how he uses the whole field when hitting. As he progresses, I would imagine that he will face better defenses so his GB% might need to be altered so that he hits more line drives.

    Mike, any thoughts on if he will repeat A+ or with a good spring training will he have a shot at AA?

  • In reply to Gator:

    I think he repeats A+. Machin will likely go up to TN.

    He does use the whole field and he does have very good bat control. He is just so small and lacks strength. It may be too much to overcome. I do like watching him hit though.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    From all the coaches I have talked with, Sepulveda is also considered an excellent defender.

  • In reply to Tom U:

    Yes. Questionable arm for SS from what I understand though so may be limited to 2B, which hurts chances at utility job.

  • Cubs claim LHP Randy Rosario off waivers from Twins. Pitched in AA last year, with a cup of coffee in Minnesota. Numbers don't jump out at me. Will be 24 next May. Former starter, converted to relief last year. Was good against lefties but righties killed him. maybe a solid LOOGY option to stash in Iowa.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Cubs needed some lefty depth in Iowa. Zastryzny only guy that figures to be there.

    Rosario may end up being in a similar spot to David Rollins who the Cubs (and several other teams) kept trying to pass through waivers to stash in AAA. Cubs eventually got Rollins through.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Tom, another name to add to your winter league reports. Been pitching in VWL

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I have him on my list. Hasn’t pitched in a little while.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    According to MLBTR:

    To Rosario’s credit, he was dominant at the Double-A level through the season’s first half. However, he collapsed in significant fashion from late July through season’s end, yielding 19 earned runs on 31 hits with a 13-to-11 K/BB ratio in his final 17 2/3 frames at the Double-A level.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    According to Eric Longenhagen with Fangraphs in his Twins prospect report from last November:

    A 6-foot lefty whose stuff ticked up after moving the the bullpen late in the year. Fastball sits 92-96 in relief, he has an above-average upper-80s cutter and changeup. He’s already had one Tommy John.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    michael (or tom u) question. i remember the cubs signed a pitcher after the left the military a couple of years ago. kid had a big fastball. he was pitching for MB year before last but i saw nothing on him this year. what was is name and what happened to him. was he released or injured.

  • In reply to DLROBERTSON:

    typo. after "he" left the military.

  • In reply to DLROBERTSON:

    His name is Daniel Lewis.

    He did not pitch in 2017. Could have been injury related. He was never placed on a roster though. I have not seen any news of him being released or any info on why we did not see him last year. Injury reports on MiLB players is usually thin. Many times you do not hear about it unless it happens in-game, or if the player tweets about a surgery, etc.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    that's him. thank you.

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    I'm interested in seeing what Fernando Kelli can do this season. Last year he was in the DSL and dominated, he's still young (18) but he's a good defensive CF with lead off qualities, and we need a high OBP and hopefully some speed too.

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    I didn’t see Chris Singleton on the list. Is he too raw or just didn’t show enough to make your list?

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