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
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
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
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.
Filed under: AA Tennessee Smokies, AAA Iowa, Arizona Fall League, Awards, Fall/Winter Baseball, Infielders, Minor Leagues, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Offseason, Outfielders, Pitching, prospects, Rule 5 Draft, South Bend Cubs