Cubs in the Off-Season Leagues – Week 18

AUTHOR'S NOTE: For the first time in ten years of covering winter baseball, it appears a Cubs prospect will not be involved in either the playoffs or the Caribbean World Series. Further, it appears that any representation that the Cubs had in the Australian Baseball League is now over. It has been the decision of the Cubs Den staff to end coverage of the Off-Season Leagues at this time. However, should the situation change, Cubs Den will provide you, the reader, with all the information as it has exclusively. For now, please enjoy our end of the winter wrap-up. 

Cubs Den Player of the Winter

Jerrick Suiter, 1B/OF

Jerrick Suiter by Marty Morrow

Jerrick Suiter by Marty Morrow

Acquired by the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jerrick Suiter had far and away the best winter of any Cubs prospect. Batting 25 points higher than his nearest rival, the big right-hander led all Cubs prospects across the board in average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS while tying for the lead in home runs. Playing for the Canberra Cavalry in the Australian Baseball League, Suiter batted .326/.382/.511/.893 with 3 doubles, a triple, 4 home runs, and 16 RBI in 26 games. The only Cubs prospect doing as well this winter was OF Donnie Dewees, who slashed .301/.376/.379/.755 with a homer and 8 stolen bases in 26 games for Cibao in the DWL.

Selected in 35th round of the 2011 drafter out of Valparaiso High School (IN) by the Toronto Blue Jays. Instead of signing, Suiter chose to attend Texas Christian University. In 2014, Suiter was chosen by the Pirates in the 26th round and debuted at Bristol in the rookie league after signing. Over the past two seasons, Suiter has moved between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. Hitting a combined .258/.322/.367/.689 with 14 home runs and 97 RBI for the Altoona Curve, Suiter did not fare as well in Triple-A, batting only .204.

Moving forward from this winter, there is wide speculation as to where and in what role the 26-year old lands in the Cubs organization. Suiter's best defensive position is first base, and Triple-A Iowa has a large hole at that position. However, Suiter may also open at Double-A Tennessee and vie for playing time with the recently acquired Alfonso Rivas and prospects Jared Young and Grant Fennell at first, corner outfield, and DH. With a mid-90's fastball in high school, the Cubs may also try to convert the 6'2", 253 pound Suiter back to pitcher.

Cubs Den Pitcher of the Winter

Erich Uelmen, RHP

Erich Uelmen (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Erich Uelmen (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Finding a pitcher of the winter proved to be a difficult task, as no Cubs prospect exceeded 11 appearances or 26 innings. But the performance of Erich Uelmen in the Arizona Fall League is worth noting. After being a starter in all of his appearances since signing with the Cubs in 2017, Uelmen was used in relief and in 12 innings was virtually untouchable. Appearing in 7 games, the 23-year old gave up 5 hits and 3 walks while yielding only one earned run. Uelmen ended the fall league at 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA, 0.667 WHIP and 9 strikeouts.

A fourth round selection in 2017 from Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo, Uelmen has moved steadily through the Cubs' system. In his second full season in 2019, Uelmen spent most of his time at Advanced-A Myrtle Beach before getting a late season bump up to Double-A Tennessee. for the year, Uelmen was 5-6 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.385 WHIP, and 76 strikeouts in 91 innings. A ground ball pitcher, Uelmen uses his low-90's sinking fastball and slider to have opponents pound the ball into the ground. His low walk rate (37 in 91 innings) may make Uelmen a good candidate for a middle relief/set-up role.

Uelmen wasn't the only Cubs pitcher  that opened some eyes in Arizona, as the efforts from Scott Effross and lefty Jordan Minch were also encouraging. Sporting a new sidearm delivery, Effross rang up 9 strikeouts in 10 innings to go along with a 1.80 and 1.300 WHIP. With a couple extra ticks on his fastball, Minch had opponents swing and miss 14 times while posting a 1.80 ERA and 0.900 WHIP in 10 innings.

Cubs Den Comeback Player of the Winter

Keegan Thompson, RHP

Keegan Thompson (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Keegan Thompson (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Five innings. That's all the Cubs got from 24-year old Keegan Thompson last year for Double-A Tennessee before going down with an arm injury. But they were memorable as Thompson no-hit the other side and walked only one while fanning 8 batters.

Another member of the 2017 draft class, third round selection Thompson had an uneven fall in his attempt to come back from a long layoff.  A 4.62 ERA and 3 home runs allowed in Arizona are indications of the rust Thompson showed. Striking out 26 in 25.1 innings and 1.026 WHIP are the flashes that Thompson displayed that bide well for the future.

Like many of his 2017 draft class brethren, Thompson will have to rely on pinpoint command and control of his slider and change to play up his low-90's fastball.

Comments

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  • I do wonder if the Cubs having switch from doing Instructs in the fall in Mesa to doing it in the winter plays a role with a couple of guys cutting short their time with teams that are not in line for the playoffs. The Cubs Instructs kick off next week if they stay on the same timetable as last year.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Sorry, I mean this week.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    January 27th according to AZ Phil.

  • Of these guys that played winter leagues how many of them will have a impact in Chicago?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    The answer is, you simply do not know. Prior to his performance in the DWL, Marwin Gonzalez was viewed as a minor league utility infielder. And before his breakout in Venezuela, Willson Contreras was seen as a multi-position back-up.

    Winter baseball is unlike anything a prospect will experience until they make it to the big leagues. Will players such as Nelson Velazquez, Reivaj Garcia, Ezequeil Pagan, Jose Albertos, and others benefit in their development by playing along side not only top prospects, but seasoned veterans? That is the focus.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    None....unless there is a plethora of injuries to the mid inning pitching staff.

  • I just saw a report that the Cubs are moving Suiter back to pitcher. Apparently he threw 2 innings in AA last year & the Cubs were intrigued by what they saw (spin rate, etc.)
    And thanks Michael & Tom for all your work on the minor leagues & winter ball.

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    You're welcome!

  • In reply to Tom U:

    Ditto

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    So there are two folks covering the minor leagues for this site... While I am familiar with the reporting that Tom had from his days with The CCO, I also enjoyed the format that Michael used in the articles below. Do you guys have a structured format on what each of you cover? Since finding this place recently, no other place seems to have the minor league details that Cubs Den provides. Keep em coming fellers. I has missed being able to knowledgably talk lower levels with friends.

  • In reply to Varmit County:

    I do try to cover both the Majors and Minors for the site, but I only have so much time, and I prefer covering prospects than I do covering rumors/minor transactions/etc so my coverage ends up favoring that. At this point there are a lot of sites that do more coverage at the MLB level than Cubs Den, and they manage to do it well, so I don't feel a ton of motivation to compete in that arena.

    All of the writers here volunteer our time while holding down full time jobs. It is difficult for me to keep up with timely posts on "breaking news" at the MLB level, and still cover the Minors thoroughly. There have been times in the past when we had enough writers to cover everything all the time but that is not the case right now.

    One thing that has always separated Cubs Den has been its coverage at the Minor League level and so that is what I try to maintain the focus on, with anything we can bring covering the big club as an added bonus when resources allow it.

    As for what to expect moving forward I will continue my series of Prospect Overviews, with hopefully 30+ done before the season begins. I will also do a prospect ranking and other various articles pertaining to the Minors. Then after Opening Day I do a Daily Cubs Minors Recap covering all of the Stateside games with stats, breakdowns of the action and prospect performances. I tend to miss a few days during the year because of illness/vacation but I do my best to limit it.

    Tom has done an excellent job with the weekly winter league coverage for the past couple of years. He usually contributes some prospect interviews throughout the season. Stephanie Lynn has done the same with the player interviews the last couple of years.

    Once the season starts we tend to get more involvement from additional writers and will have series previews, game threads and recaps for nearly every game.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Michael, I'm sure that we all appreciate what you and the others do, and doing all of it while have full time jobs, family, etc. I hope you never feel unappreciated because you're not.
    I actually prefer to read about our prospects and other too so we can follow them through the minors and hopefully the big leagues. I think that's what drew me to Cubs Den originally--John certainly loved to find that gem player in a small town or city in the DR or Mexico and then tell us about them.
    This is going to be a really interesting ST. 2 of the players I am most interested in are Albert Alzolay and Brailyn Marquez just to see what they can do.
    Thanks again.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Count me in also Michael. I am very appreciative for all that you and Tom and the others have done and continue doing.

  • You're welcome.

  • If the Cubs are in need of a good lead off hitter, then why not pencil in the most gifted athlete on the team, Javy Baez, and give him a chance to progress. After all, he has all the tools.

    Why not start him out and groom him as a lead off batter in Spring Training? He is an elite ballplayer and his offensive skills are getting better each season. Once he finally realizes that he does not need to swing so hard but instead needs to swing under control, he can become one of the best hitters in MLB. He already has the power along with the ability to hit to all fields and only needs to make solid contact to hit a homerun. When he learns to control his extra hard swings, he will be better able to layoff the bad pitches resulting in less strikeouts and even more BBs.

    Now, lets consider all the attributes he already has to become a great leadoff hitter. He has a very high baseball IQ and the athletic abilities to cause HAVOC on the base paths and keep the opposition on their heels. He is a fast runner and can steal bases and his slide control is unbelievable. He is a good bunter. We all know that he can already carry the team on his back so just imagine if he can become the great leadoff hitter I know he can be. Besides, we have enough players that can bat cleanup.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Joe used to say that he never wanted to mess with Javy and just let him play. Hard to argue with that.

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    My argument is: you do what is best for the team, not what is best for the individual. Joe probably should have "messed" with everyone on the team a little more. Besides, I believe Javy can handle anything you can throw at him when it comes to baseball.

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    I guess Boss Ross could just let him play at leadoff. His OBP doesn't play their, but everything else does.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    OPS doesn't play there. If it allows others to stay in their comfort zone, it could be a good option. Javy s comfort zone is wherever he is in on the action.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Maybe lots of leadoff HRs too.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Plus, he wouldn't have stress out waiting for his at bat.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Can you imagine once Javy gets comfortable at leadoff, how he would kick-start the offense? There is more to being a good lead off batter than just getting on base. It is also about what you can do after getting on base. Javy can definitely "shake up" the opposing team's confidence just by being Javy.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Javy's approach does not lend itself to bat leadoff. He doesn't take enough pitches or walk near enough to be a leadoff hitter. He does not get on base near enough to be an effective leadoff hitter. Keep him batting in a place where his power can drive in runs

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Javy can easily change his "approach". Give him a try and see. He has the abilities needed to lead off and can be good at it especially when he knows he is not there to just drive in runs.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    .....too selfish of a hitter...all he wants to do is mash...who could get through to him to change his approach? It’s been 6 years....

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    That is your opinion. My opinion is that you don't get to the MLB if you are not willing to learn and modify your "approach". Don't under estimate Javy!

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Why do you want javy to change his approach now????

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Your "alter-ego" is the one that brought up Javy changing his "approach". I think Javy would be a good leadoff batter as is. However, I also think Javy is a natural athlete with great Baseball IQ and instincts no matter where you put him. And the Cubs need a leadoff batter.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    I thought you were the one that mentioned Javy changing his approach. I have no issue letting javy try lead off as he is. I have a issue if you are wanting him to change his approach.
    Alter-ego comment is unnecessary.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Sorry, no offense. I just have a hard time recognizing which one of you I am addressing sometimes.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    No problem. I don’t know who similar name poster is.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    There lies the problem with Javy leading off. MLB has us pretty stymied sitting on Bryant,s grievance and needing to get below the penalties. Idk? It's a pretty odd off season when twenty nine other teams get to 'warm stove' except one.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I am disappointed in our ownership for not pressing this issue towards a resolution. It is simply roadblocked our FO from making a move when clearly the only player they intend to move on from is Bryant. The Cubs played by the rules the players association collectively bargained for. This is a non-issue, IMO.

    The players want their cake and eat it too. You can't complain about the arbitration process when players are awarded millions instead of being re-upped at league minimum like previous CBA's. And then complain and file grievances when certain dates and rules are in place regarding service time and the club follows them. I don't think Bryant would be for having played the last 3 years at $550K versus the nearly $40 million he pocketed because of the negotiated CBA. He made life changing and family generational money by following the process. Millionaires arguing with Billionaires. Frustrating.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Quotes I saw from Theo on Friday make it sound like he's very understanding of how long it's taking. It's torturing me.

    I wonder if Theo knew back in 2015 that he'd have to sacrifice his 19-20 offseason for that extra year of KB control... if he'd still do it.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Career .310 OBP and 67% stolen base success rate.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    The last 2 years*

  • Tom, thank you for the work on the winter leagues. I really enjoyed reading about the various Cub prospects and will be looking for those names during spring training.

  • In reply to 1945AD:

    You're welcome!

  • fb_avatar

    The Cubs traded for BoSox reliever Travis Lakins. He's 25, apparently has some location problems but strikes out over 9/9 inns.
    He throws in the mid to upper 90's as a reliever. We gave up a PTBNL or cash considerations. Another arm that throws above 95, although it seems that every team has a number of those, but according to the Sox Scouting Report he does have a plus slider.
    You never know. What seems like just another move in Jan can have great effect during the season.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Bullpens. Throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    We've got an awful lot to throw so far this winter.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yep and when it doesn’t stick you end up spending $27 million on 2 injured closers.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to rbrucato:

    Again, this is why it's so important to develop our own pitchers.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I still would prefer the Cubs to focus on college hitters early, and go for upside later in draft. Geez, the Cubs won the World Series with a bunch of cheap hitters! The Cubs should of been able to develop backend starters, and bullpen arms. They didn't, because it is hard. Many MLB team spend tons of early draft capital on pitching, and don't end up with much.

    Hopefully the Cubs can find more players who play better after joining the Cubs like Hamels, and Castellanos.

    After the Ozuna signing-Atlanta 1 year $18 million. I wonder if there is much of a market for Castellanos? It doesn't look like it.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Completely agree, Jonathan. This is a must going forward.

  • Is Kimbrel injured?

  • In reply to DaveP:

    No. I assume you're asking this because of the influx of new relief arms? That's just a theory of quantity in the bullpen. Sign a bunch and hope for lightning in a bottle.

    Kimbrel was very ineffective last season, but most observers (and all Cubs fans) attribute that to signing so late in the season. With a full and normal spring training, we hope he will revert to his usual, dominant self.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Just because (?):

    "Hi! My name is (what?)
    My name is (who?)
    My name is...
    Slim Shady."

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    What?

    Who?

  • Robo-Umps are getting closer. Per MLB.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred said Major League Baseball plans to use a computerized camera system to call balls and strikes during spring training games this year, expanding the sport's implementation of "robot umpires."

    Manfred announced MLB's plans Wednesday during an interview with Fox Business Network, saying that the "camera-based system" will be "more accurate than a human being standing there."

    "We believe over the long haul it's going to be more accurate," Manfred said. "It will reduce controversy in the game and be good for the game."

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Can’t happen too soon, Rob. Now get busy on that KB grievance decision.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    This is taking a long time.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    It is taking a long time.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Makes sense it is taking so long considering it took 4 years to hold the hearing.

  • Won't go down without a fight.

  • Think I'll resort to blacking out until the decision has been made. Cheers!

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    Cheers!

  • Strike up the band. The Cubs signed Souza!!!!

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Good low risk, high potential signing. Any chance he’ll see time in CF?

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Is this official?

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    As of about 130p, it was a near deal. Cubs opened up a 40 man spot earlier in the day. I guess it could crater.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I just checked, and nothing official. You mentioned cratering, and I don't want to jinx it, but there are some issues with Souza. Hopefully all goes well. As you also said, we did open a 40-man spot, so it looks legit.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    By the way:

    RIP BarleyPop.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    That doesn't look good, sorry. I meant the name, not the person.

    "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

  • This Souza signing almost guarantees a trade of a significant veteran like a Bryant or Quintana or even a Heyward. Since the Cubs were a million or two over the 208 mill and now will be adding even more to the overage, and considering they are so close why widen the gap? The only reason I can see is another little bit added on, for Souza, doesn’t really matter if you know you’ll definitely be under by getting rid of a significant contract.

  • In reply to PhillyCubFan:

    LOL

  • Now we are dumpster diving for hitters??? Really??? What is the infatuation with signing awful .230 hitters? (Cough, Cough DeScalso). Because they are good in the clubhouse? I don’t give a sh*t about the clubhouse. I care about the product on the field.

    These last 2 off seasons are head scratchers for sure. Theo comes out hot and then whimpers as spring training approaches. I thought we would compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers given the vast resources. And we operate like the Rays playing worse than them. I’ll hold out hope that more changes are coming. But I did that last year and was disappointed.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Maybe the front office has given up on getting under the penalty cutoff and are going to trade for Betts, sign Castellanos, and pitching?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    LOL. That would be something. I’m not holding my breath on that.

    I think adding Nate Schierholtz is more likely.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Or Joltin’ Joe Mather & Luis Vizcaino. Not excited about this signing. Unless Almora is traded & other moves made, I won’t really understand this signing.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Is it a signing yet. I have not seen anything that says it is a done deal.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I believe that I read “pending physical”. So it’s unofficially official. Ha ha

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Oh ok, I did not see the pending physical part. Thanks.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Yeah, Mark Feinsand of MLB com is the one who said pending physical. Rosenthal reports that it will be a big league contract when finalized.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Just what the Cubs need a high strike out low batting average guy.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    But isn’t he a low risk, high reward guy that you like? I do recall you liked cubs signing Brandon morrow. Souza hit like 30 bombs the year before he got hurt.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I did say I liked the Morrow signing. I guess I should hold off judgement till I see what Souza signs for. Maybe something like $1M guarantee plus incentives? I guess we shall see.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I'd like to add Morrow was signed to a minor league deal where Souza is going to be signed to a major league deal.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Both are terrible signings. Souza is still pending. It is sign that things have gone horribly wrong in every aspect of the organization. These signings show cubs didn’t develop any homegrown talent and whiffed in their free agent signings(Jason heyward). I doubt either of these guys ever see the field in a cubs uniform. Applauding these signings is accepting of a terrible product. I loved that Tom rickets got booed at cubs con last week. He presents a mediocre product and wants cub fans to subscribe to Sinclair tv(which still hasn’t been brought on by Comcast ) and sit behind a net while paying $200 for a ticket!

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Souza was released by AZ so I’m pretty sure they pay his whole salary minus the league minimum. He was also part of the 3-way trade that sent Trea Turner to WAS and Wil Myers to SD. Things haven’t gone as well as they could have for the guy but I think this was a savvy move considering the budget constraints.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Good4you, that is not accurate. Souza is a FA because he was released. The DBacks are not on the hook for any money in ‘20.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    My understanding, ownership is saying you cannot buy a team through free agency. I still don't understand that comment when you already have some really good players to build around. Isn't that adding to a team instead of buying? Cubs could probably add Castellanos to the roster on a value deal. Maybe Souza will be solid player in 2020.

    Sounds like Cubs want to be sellers, and I assume have received C. Kluber type trade offers for the core...garbage for a two time Cy Young winner. Cubs need to bit the bullet, and just start the multi-year selloff for mostly prospects in return.

    Do the Cubs have the highest average MLB ticket price in the game? Treading water two years in a row, doesn't seem like much of a plan for winning, or even improvement. I guess anything can happen if Cubs get a lot of lucky breaks. I see a non-playoff 2nd to 4th place team in an average division. Hope I am wrong.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    They do not need to do a multi year sell off.
    They still have more talent than the other teams in the division.

  • Like any fan I'm susceptible to the emotions of the current winning or losing streak. Time and distance generally bring a clearer perspective.

    The Cubs are not a "bad" team. They're not a "mediocre" team. They had an peculiar season. .407 September baseball brought us the end of the Maddon Era. A lot of well chronicled factors played into it. But when .519 baseball is bottoming out I'll take that as good point moving forward.

    Changes are coming. It's just time. We all knew the '21 contacts were going to bring a new beginning. Pajama parties and petting zoo's are in the past. It was fun to watch but I'm just going to enjoy watching the next chapter unfold.

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