Once again, it is the time of the year in which Cubs Den names the minor league players of the year in honor of our founder, John Arguello. John always had a fondness for the youngest prospects and their potential as they began their professional baseball career. To that end, the panel of minor league reporters at Cubs Den begin this series with the Short Season Player and Pitcher of the Year.
Short Season Player of the Year: Cole Roederer, OF
Coming into the 2018 MLB Draft, 18-year-old Cole Roederer was considered to have a strong commitment to attend UCLA on a baseball scholarship. Using the 77th pick obtained as compensation for closer Wade Davis, the Cubs offer of a 1.2 million-dollar overslot contract was all that was needed to change the California native’s mind.
With that, the Cubs obtained what was considered an unreachable 5-tool player in the second round. In his senior year at Hart High School in Santa Clarita, CA, the left-handed hitting outfielder batted .392 with a .537 on-base percentage and a 1.439 OPS, along with 7 home runs and 19 RBI.
Roederer hit the ground running after signing, debuting with the Cubs-2 team in the Arizona Rookie League on the first Friday in July. By his seventh professional game, Roederer was batting .346/.469/.538/1.007 with 5 RBI, 3 stolen bases, and smacked his first professional home run.
“Cole Roederer is an impact player!”, stated Cubs-2 manager Jonathan Mota. “From the very first day, he made his presence known on the field, and he will continue to do so.”
While he had a .410 on-base percentage batting lead-off, Roederer has also hit third in the line-up on his way to a .275/.354/.465/.819 slash line with 4 doubles, 4 triples, 5 home runs, 24 RBI, and 13 stolen bases in 17 attempts for the season.
“It was an amazing season, definitely one I will never forget”, said Roederer upon his selection. “Playing baseball for a living is an absolute dream come true. Thank you so much for naming me Short Season Player of the Year!!!”
Despite the sterling statistics put up by Roederer, it was an amazingly close contest for Short Season Player of the Year. The Dominican Summer League gave us infielders Rochest Cruz and Fabian Pertuz. The 19-year old, left-handed hitting Cruz led the DSL with 56 stolen bases while slashing .302/.420/.404/.824. Turning just 18-years old following the season, Pertuz was tied for 6th in the league with 36 stolen bases while batting .298/.419/.427/.846.
Stateside, the rookie league also had some outstanding performers. Switch-hitting infielder Yonathan Perlaza bounced back from an injury-marred 2017 to hit .317/.365/.404/.769 with a home run and 26 RBI. Twenty-year old first baseman Rafael Mejia led all of the Cubs’ short season ballplayers with 8 home runs as he batted .315/.351/.575/.926 with 29 RBI. Roederer’s teammate, 19-year old switch-hitting corner infielder Fidel Mejia was also productive; hitting .324/.389/.410/.798 with a home run and 24 RBI.
In the Northwest League, 10th round selection Luke Reynolds and undrafted free agent Grant Fennell were two of the most consistent players for the Eugene Emeralds. A left-handed hitting third baseman, Reynolds had a .283/.379/.425/.804 slash line with a home run and 15 RBI in 34 games. Fennell played corner infield along with outfield while putting up a .307/.363/.480/.843 line with 4 home runs and 39 RBI in 58 games between the rookie league and Eugene.
Short Season Pitcher of the Year: Yovanny Cruz, RHP
Signed in 2016, the rapid progression of 18-year old pitcher Yovanny Cruz has been astounding.
Assigned to the Dominican Summer League in 2017, Cruz had a somewhat unremarkable performance. Starting 12 games and pitching in 13, the Dominican went 3-2 with a 3.51 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. The one glimpse of future success for Cruz was that his 14 walks helped lead him to a 1.136 WHIP at 17-years old.
That was encouraging enough for the Cubs to bring Cruz to the Fall Instructional League that off-season. Cruz stayed on at the Cubs’ training complex in Arizona and took part in both spring training and extended spring training.
When the time came to begin the rookie league season, Cubs-2 manager Jonathan Mota made Cruz his opening night starter. “Yovanny was our number one starter, and pitched to expectations” said Mota.
The 18-year old was up to the challenge, going 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA, a 50:13 strikeout to walk ratio in 44 innings, and a 1.114 WHIP. With the Eugene Emeralds making a playoff push in the final week of the season, Cruz was brought up to start and tossed 5 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out five batters.
As for his repertoire, Cruz has a mid-90’s fastball with life to go with a slider and a change-up. A look at his numbers indicate that Cruz has fairly good command of his pitches and sequences them well.
Like the Short Season Player of the Year race, there were an abundance of candidates for Short Season Pitcher of the Year. The Dominican Summer League saw the domination of left-handed Mexican national Luis Rodriguez. The 18-year old went 5-0 with a sparkling 0.73 ERA to go along with a 0.734 WHIP and 61 strikeouts in 61.1 innings.
The Cubs-1 team in the Arizona rookie league was led to playoffs with the help of 21-year old Peyton Remy. A 17th round selection in 2017, Remy had a 6-1 record and a 59:13 strikeout to walk ration in 52.1 innings while posting a 1.013 WHIP.
Short Season-A Eugene had a notable trio of left-handers Faustino Carrera and Brailyn Marquez to go along with righty Paul Richan. At 5’10”, Carrera was able to convert a 2.54 ERA, 0.995 WHIP, and 58 strikeouts in 67.1 innings into a 5-2 record. The upper 90’s fastball of Marquez assisted him in racking up 55 strikeouts in 52.2 innings as he went 1-4 with 3.25 ERA and 1.253 WHIP between the Emeralds and Low-A South Bend. A 2nd round selection in 2018, Richan used his pinpoint control to fan 31 against only 5 walks in 29.2 innings while posting a 2.12 ERA and 0.809 WHIP in 10 appearances (9 starts).
Note: The author would like to thank Cubs Manager Jonathan Mota, Cubs Hitting Coordinator Jacob Cruz, and Cole Roederer along with Michael Ernst and Stephanie Lynn for contributing to this article.
Tags: Brailyn Marquez, Cole Roederer, Fabian Pertuz, Faustino Carrera, Fidel Mejia, Grant Fennell, Jacob Cruz, Jonathan Mota, Luis Rodriguez, Luke Reynolds, Michael Ernst, Paul Richan, Peyton Remy, Rafael Mejia, Rochest Cruz, Stephanie Lynn, Tom U, Yonathan Perlaza, Yovanny Cruz