Arizona Fall League Preview – Position Players

Good morning! Tomorrow starts another Arizona Fall League, which will kick off Cubs Den’s exclusive coverage of the off-season leagues. Today, we preview the position players assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox.

Trent Giambrone, INF/OF

Trent Giambrone (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Trent Giambrone (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

For those who enjoyed the seemingly out-of-nowhere rise of David Bote, they will no doubt try to draw comparisons of him to Trent Giambrone. But once you get past the idea that both are primarily second basemen that have played other positions, the comparisons end.

Unlike Bote, the 24-year old Giambrone has enjoyed a rapid ascension through the Cubs system following his selection in the 25th round of the 2016 draft. After signing, Giambrone posted an .837 OPS in 51 games as he assisted Short Season-A Eugene in securing the Northwest League championship. Giambrone was then jumped to Advanced-A Myrtle Beach in 2017, where he was pressed into service as a shortstop for the first half of the year while posting a .242/.297/.348/.644 line with 12 home runs, 44 RBI, and 7 stolen bases.

Promoted to Double-A Tennessee this past season, Giambrone saw a bump in both his power and speed numbers by swatting 17 homers and stealing 26 bases. While showing even production throughout the season, Giambrone only had a slight increase in his offensive line to .251/.333/.440/.772 as he lined up a five defensive positions.

Therein lies the other difference with Bote. At only 5’8”, 175-pounds, Giambrone is limited in how effective he can be at third base, first base and outfield on any regular basis. As a middle infielder, Giambrone has only posted average numbers at second base while lacking the range to play shortstop regularly. But by getting the most out of what he has, Giambrone has demonstrated the determination that plays well on major league rosters.

PJ Higgins, C/INF

P.J. Higgins (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

P.J. Higgins (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

From the very beginning, PJ Higgins was a project for the Cubs’ front office. Selected in the 12th round of the 2015 draft as a middle infielder, the product of Old Dominion University was placed into the organization’s catcher conversion program in the ensuing Fall Instructional League.

Higgins took to the position change well, and along with playing first base, went .283/.389/.355/.744 with 40 RBI in 121 games for Low-A South Bend in 2015.  The next stop was Myrtle Beach for Higgins. However, things did not go as smoothly.

For the 2016 season, Higgins battled injuries and a lack of offensive production, as he hit only .237/.327/.298/.625 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI in 98 games. The good news was that Higgins actually improved defensively as he fielded .991 with a 31% caught stealing rate as he played exclusively behind the plate.

The 2018 season saw Higgins role expanding, as he returned for another stint with the Pelicans. Higgins moved back to the infield on occasion, lining up at both third and first base while remaining top notch as a backstop. There was also an offensive upturn for the 25-year old, as a .289 average with 3 home runs and 37 RBI in 69 games bought him a promotion to Tennessee in early July. Higgins regressed some offensively with the jump, but remained rock solid on defense to end up at .271/.353/.366/.719 with 22 doubles, 4 homers, and 52 RBI in 110 games.

As a catcher, Higgins has great athleticism and good pop times, along with a true arm. With his ability to back up other positions, Higgins can become a plus reserve with starter potential if he is able to straighten out his offense.

Nico Hoerner, INF

Nico Hoerner (photo by Jared Ravich at

Nico Hoerner (photo by Jared Ravich at

The Cubs will not be looking to find out exactly what they have in Nico Hoerner like they are in other prospects assigned to the AFL. What they will be looking at is how far will Hoerner be able to advance in the coming year.

Selected with the 24th choice in the 2018 draft, the 21-year old Hoerner demonstrated the same type of ability that allowed other Cub first round selections Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ to breeze through the lower minor leagues.

Hoerner pushed through three levels in just 14 games, batting .327/.450/.571/1.021 with 2 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs, 6 RBI, and 6 stolen bases. Hoerner also showed outstanding range and athleticism at shortstop.

A wrist injury in his non-throwing arm put Hoerner on the shelf for the rest of the regular season. His performance in the AFL will most likely determine where in the minors Hoerner begins the 2019 season.

Jhonny Pereda, C/1B

Jhonny Pereda

Jhonny Pereda

One of the more unassuming prospects in the Cubs’ minor leagues, Jhonny Pereda burst onto the scene this past season.

Part of the 2012 international signing class, Pereda spent two years in the now defunct Venezuelan Summer League, posting a .221 batting average but demonstrating strong catching skills. Pereda came stateside in 2015 and once again, spent two years in the Arizona Rookie League. After playing only 11 games in 2015, Pereda showed the first glimpses of his potential in 2016 as he hit .289/.376/.406/.782 with 2 homers and 23 RBI in 41 games.

The Cubs then jumped Pereda a level in 2017 and assigned him to South Bend. The result was mixed, as Pereda batted .249/.335/.290/.625 with 13 doubles and 29 RBI in 92 games. Pereda also played more first base, taking to the position well.

The expectations were not very high as he was assigned to Myrtle Beach this past season, but Pereda was able to tap into his natural power. With 8 home runs, Pereda hit three more that he had in his entire career. Pereda also had 12 doubles, 2 triples, 57 RBI, and a .272/.347/.363/.710 line. Pereda returned to strictly catching and had another strong defensive showing.

Pereda has strong defensive skills, posting a .986 career fielding average with a 39% caught stealing rate as a catcher, while fielding .995 at first base. At 22 -years old, it’s too soon to call Pereda a late blooming prospect. But in his sixth professional season, Pereda may be finally coming into his own.

DJ Wilson, OF


For a young player, Daryl “DJ” Wilson has a lot to prove going into the Arizona Fall League.

A fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft, Wilson was considered to be a five-tool player coming out of Canton (OH) South High School. After inking a deal with the Cubs, Wilson went on to bat .266/.322/.354/.676 with 5 stolen bases in 22 games of the Arizona Rookie League.

Still a teenager at the time, Wilson got off to a slow start batting lead-off for Short Season-A Eugene in 2016. A drop in the batting order led to a .313 average in the second half of the season for Wilson to finish with a .257/.320/.371/.691 line with 3 home runs, 29 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 64 games.

In 2017 with Low-A South Bend, Wilson once again began slowly when he suffered a freak ankle injury that sidelined him for about a third of the season. Wilson came back for 49 games in the second half to hit .229/.309/.419/.729 with 16 doubles, 8 triples, 9 home runs, 45 RBI, and 15 stolen bases for the year.

Injuries again took their toll on the 5’8”, 177-pounder in 2018 as he only played 64 games and posted a .219 average with a single home run and 13 RBI.

Considered a solid defender with an elite throwing arm, the 21-year old sometimes takes too many chances in the outfield. For the most part, Wilson is an explosive athlete with a rare power/speed combination who can be special if he able to tap into his potential.

Note: Reports from John Arguello and Michael Ernst contributed to this article.


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  • There is none on the farm from the classes of 2016 and 2017 that I would call potential impact players. Nico Hoerner, class of 2018, is probably a major league starter and a good player in a year or so. A lot of players in the Cubs top 30 will be gone a year from now, replaced by class of 2017 and 2018 draft picks.

  • In reply to shalin:

    should be "replaced by 2018 and 2019 draft picks"

  • John Lackey and Jason Heyward are the reasons why we did not have much money for the draft nor our 1st and 2nd round picks for the June, 2016 draft. But we won the World Series with them. We need to build up our farm system again because core players don't last long what with injuries, burn out, and young players not continuing to get better. Jason Heyward, as still a young player, was a shocker to me when his hitting regressed hist first 2 years with the Cubs

  • Why would the Cubs make the big trade for Chapman if he was a short term solution to a long term problem? Why would they not resign him unless Theo felt that he did not help the Cubs win the 2016 World Series? Why would you let the Yankees sign Chapman after the World Series and also keep all the players the Cubs traded for him: The Yankees, who traded Adam Warren to the Cubs earlier for Starlin Castro, got him back in the Chapman trade along with Gleyber Torees, then traded Warren along with other decent, but non-impact players to get some international free agent money to sign 4 of the top 13 IFA's this year and also traded Starlin Castro to the Marlins for Stanton.

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    In reply to shalin:

    Now you know why I been on my soap box all this time. I have no problem w making the trade for a closer as we needed one, and you know you have to give up something of value to get something of good.

    I just can't fathom how Gleyber Torres is not enough to Chapman. Yea maybe throw in some lottery tickets like Crawford, ect, but to throw in Warren ( which we got for Castro ) who struggled here but was cost controlled and was valuable. Then to throw in McKinney too? Thats way more then what the Indians gave up for Andrew Miller who came w extra control.

    I know Cashman played a little on Theo's heartstrings by kept asking for his fav prospect future big papi/ Babe Ruth/Johnny Bench combo in the Schwarbenator. Theo and Co didn't want to give him up vs calling Cashman's bluff. They kept saying they wanted the Schwarbenator, Theo and Co should have said fine " we want Andew Miller then". Cash would have went " whoa whoa whoa, alright we will take Torres and some small pieces "

    They still would have ended up fine anyway. Torres is going to be an very good cost controlled middle infielder for the next 5+ years. Plus they got Chapman back as well.

    I know Justus Sheffield and Frazier are solid prospects, but they still haven't contributed to the MLB team, so gun to my head, I think they made it out way better on the Chapman deal then the Andrew Miller deal. If not for some minor injuries this year and this fellow named Ohtani in Anaheim, Gleyber prob wins the ROY.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    And, as you have said in the past, I think we gave up more in the trade for Jose Quintana than Boston gave up to get Chris Sale.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Torres was somewhere between the 41st and 49th best prospect (based on the various publications/sites) when he was traded for Chapman. Frazier fell between 37th and 52nd and Sheffield was around 60th to 65th. Two prospects in the top 2/3 of the top 100 was a far greater cost, at the time, and netted Miller who had more value with 2 1/2 years of control. That's even considering Warren in the deal. In hindsight you might have played that differently but that's in hindsight. The cubs would not have won the World Series without Chapman. I'm convinced of that. Sometime the final piece hurts when you have to trade for it. As far as the revisionist history of Quintana fetching better value that Sale, well that's the real hindsight isn't it? When Chris Sale was traded to Boston Yoan Moncada was the #1 prospect in baseball and it wasn't close. Lusas Giolito was #3. At the time of the Quintana trade Eloy Jimenez was #8 and Dylan Cease had yet to crack the top 50 and it was an in season trade which come at a premium anyway. You look at it now and see that the haul from Quintana look to contribute to the White Sox more than the two from Sale but that was not the case at the time. Plus the Cubs thought Dylan Cease was a late inning reliever and the White Sox still think he's a starter despite a lot of other scouts agreeing with the Cubs previous assessment, considering him more of a right handed Josh Hader than a top TOR. At the time of the Sale trade both Moncada and Gioltito were considered "can't miss guys". The Red Sox had wanted to trade Andrew Benintendi in the deal but Chicago held out for Moncada. At the time it made sense. I was stunned that the Red Sox caved and included Moncada as was most of the red Sox fan base. It looks a lot different today.

    I guess my point is that it doesn't do a lot of good to look at these things in hindsight. Regardless of who the actual players are deadline deals are almost always overpays at the time they are made, and trades for pitchers at anytime are often overpays. The hope on both sides is their scouting is better than yours.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Sorry, mixed up my pitchers in that Sale deal. Of course it was Kopech not Giolito who came late in the trade from Washington for Eaton. The point remains though as Kopech was #6 at the time.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I think the Yankees Miguel Andujar wins the ROY award.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:


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    Every time I see the name of DJ Wilson I think of John. He loved him and saw a dynamic player that is a difference maker. He could be, possibly, if he can stay healthy.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I don't know if he's injury prone or just had some bad luck, but he seems to be exactly the kind of player the Cubs need. Theo has his work cut out for him improving the MLB team for 2019 without breaking the bank OR giving up the farm. Hoerner, I'm a little conflicted on. He could move through the system quickly and help the Cubs as early as late next year, but I don't want him to miss critical development steps in the rush to get him to the majors.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I think it is more Joe and the coaching staff that have their work cut out for them in improving the team. There's an abundance of controlled starting pitching and the bulk of a bullpen set. Smyly and healthy Morrow/Darvish could make a material difference in run prevention, regardless of rotation structure. Last year everyone was complaining that Baez swung a pickoff throws and he had a breakout season. If Almora, Schwarber, or Happ take the next step to perform like early first rounders, it is a major improvement; two or three out of three break out and run creation becomes scary good. As for bank breaking, my preference is for Machado over Harper, adding what Russell would have seen in arbitration to a Heyward-type deal (multiple opt outs, front loaded). New media rights will free up sufficient funds. No reason to touch the farm system for a short term rental and no spots on the 25-man for rushed players. There is a stable core for 2019 and 2020 before Theo and Joe can ride off into the sunset (in Cousin Eddie).

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    Agreed, but there's Theo's comment about the focus of player evaluation changing from talent to production. Any or all of Almora, Schwarber or Happ could be wearing different unis next year. Some may say I'm being too judgmental, but I'd be looking for another hitting coach.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    If Chili is so good, why was he available ?

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    I think you misread something. I'm for getting rid of Chili. Never said he is "good."

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    If he could learn to hit, he would be that difference maker.

  • Believe it or not, 35 year old Jesse Chavez had a career year with the Cubs this season. His 11 year, lifetime ERA is 4.45. 35 year old Brian Duensing had one of his best seasons by far in 2017 and was rewarded with a nice 2 year contract. His lifetime ERA is 4.19. I would not count on these RP's for next year.
    And emotional Hector Rondon, after an off year in 2017, was released by the Cubs, ie, nothing in return, and had a great season with the Astros with an ERA of 2.09 until September when he flamed out, crashed, and burned. And who would have thought that the 24 year old Astros player, Carlos Correa, in a little over 400 at bats would hit .239 with only 15 homers in 2018. He was battling back and muscle injuries the whole year. Unfortunately, things happen.

  • In reply to shalin:

    "And who would have thought that the 24 year old Astros player, Carlos Correa, in a little over 400 at bats would hit .239 with only 15 homers in 2018. He was battling back and muscle injuries the whole year."

    Have you seen his wife?
    I'd be tired and possibly injured, too.

    Verlander had issues when he first got with Kate Upton, too.
    I tell ya, it's no coincidence!

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    Actually, it looks like Carlos hasn't married her yet, but the effect on his performance would be the same.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    Maybe not, I've heard Wedding cake can have adverse effects !

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    Would you call it a repetitive motion injury? A "laid back" issue?

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    In reply to shalin:

    Are we still talking about baseball injuries? It shows though, and I like Correa a lot, that there isn't a can't miss prospect. Moncada was the #1 rated prospect. Now he's only 23, but he struck out a major league leading 217 times this year. I don't watch the Sox very much so I can't tell what kind of player he is, but right now he's iffy. Baez was the same though when he was 23. You never know.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    More like "chronic fatigue" which could lead to a baseball injury.

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