We’ve done the Cubs Top 25 Prospects and yesterday we gave you and additional 15 prospects who just missed. Today we finish up the pre-season prospect series with a look at some sleepers to keep an eye on. In some ways, this list is my favorite. We all know who the top prospects are but these are guys who may be a little raw but with intriguing physical skills — or haven’t reached their potential but have put up interesting peripherals that may translate to better results in the near future.
- John Andreoli, 22, OF: Andreoli is an on-base machine, supplementing his .289 average with 75 walks and 4 HBPs to give him an OBP of .402 for the season. Andreoli has a solid build at 6’1″, 215 lbs. but hit just 1 HR and put up an ISO of .087. The Cubs think there is enough bat speed to give him some extra base power and double digit HRs, however. He stole 55 bases last year and while he has above average speed, he’s not a burner. Andreoli will start the year in AA and if he shows increased power this year, he’ll get interesting
- Jose Arias, 22, RHP: Arias looks the part. He stands 6’5″ and weighs a solid 220 lbs. He’s an intimidating presence and has the mid 90s fastball to match. He commands the pitch pretty well and has gotten by in the past with velocity and location. This fall, Arias made progress with his curveball and was generating swings and misses. He’s going to need it as he moves up against more advanced hitters. He could be this year’s Starlin Peralta.
- Wilson Contreras, 20, C, R/R: The Cubs don’t have a lot of catching prospects in their organization. The best are Chadd Krist and Rafael Lopez but both project as backups. Contreras is nowhere near advanced as those two but has a higher ceiling. He’s an athletic catcher who should have ideal size for the position when he fills out. A former infielder, he moves well behind the plate and possesses a strong arm with a quick release. At the plate he is an aggressive hitter (.273/.326/.357) and shows the potential for some extra base pop, but he’ll have to refine his approach (4.1% walk rate) and gain strength (.084 ISO). He’s a project but there is something to work with here.
- Josh Conway, 21, RHP: Conway was considered one of the top 50 players in the 2012 draft until injuring his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery. When healthy, Conway can dial his fastball up to 96 mph an couples it with a nasty slider that was one of the better breaking pitches among Cubs draftees. He’s not especially big at 6’1″, 175 lbs. and given his injury history, he may profile best in the bullpen and that’s certainly where he’ll pitch when he returns this year. He will likely debut at Boise.
- Zeke DeVoss, 22, 2B, S/R: DeVoss is an intelligent player with a patient, disciplined approach at the plate. He has walked in 15% of his plate appearances so far in his career and put up an outstanding .382 OBP last year despite just hitting .249. DeVoss has a wiry build at 5’10, 175 lbs. and the natural strength to shoot line drives through the gaps. He struggled at the plate and the field last season and has fallen down the Cubs 2B prospect-heavy depth chart. As DeVoss moves up he’s going to get more strikes so he’ll have to prove he can hit if he wants to keep pitchers honest. He saw a ton of pitches last year and sometimes that’s reflected more in the ensuing year’s statistics. He’ll play at Daytona next year.
- Shawon Dunston, Jr., 20, CF, L/R: The Cubs challenged Dunston by starting him at Boise but he was overmatched. He regained his stroke in AZ, hitting .286/.357/.410. He’ll always be compared to his father, a Cub favorite, and there are some similarities. Both are high energy, quick-twitch athletes with plus hand speed. Both are also plus runners and yes, Junior has a good arm — though not as good as his dad’s (whose is?). There are also differences. Dunston, Jr. is a LH hitter who will use his speed to play CF, where he projects as above average defensively. He’s also a more disciplined hitter than his father, walking in nearly 10% of his PAs at Arizona. Trey Martin has gotten more attention lately and has passed up Dunston for now, but it’s easy to forget that Dunston was the more highly regarded player as an amateur. It should be fun watching them both patrol CF this year. Dunston will probably get another shot at Boise while Martin will likely be at Kane County.
- Michael Jensen, 22, RHP: Jensen continues to fly under the radar despite solid stuff and very good results (11-5, 3.47 ERA). His peripherals support those results (7.39/2.57 K to BB ratio, 3.29 FIP). Stuff-wise Jensen sits in the low 90s with his fastball and can reach 94. He complements that with a big 12-6 curve that has a chance to be a plus pitch at the MLB level. If there is something holding Jensen back, it’s that he is 6’1, 185 lbs with not much room for projection. He is what he is physically and improvement will have to come with better command and refining his change-up. He’ll start at Daytona and has #4 starter potential.
- Carlos Penalver, 18, SS, R/R: In 2010 the Cubs signed two top international players. One, Jeimer Candelario, is already appearing on Cubs top 10 lists and even in a couple top 100 in all of baseball. The other, Carlos Penalver, is still more in the sleeper category. Interestingly, Penalver actually got the slightly higher signing bonus. The two are very different players. Candelario will go as far as his bat will take him but Penalver also offers athleticism, defense, and speed in the middle infield. He has a chance to be a plus defender at either SS or 2B with some OBP skills and extra base pop at the plate. He has walked in over 10% of his PAs as a professional with the ability to make consistent contact. The extra-base pop hasn’t shown up yet but that will come when Penalver fills out his slight frame. Right now it’s encouraging that Penalver has advanced pitch recognition skills and the hand-eye coordination to square up the ball frequently. Penalver will be one of the youngest position players at Boise this year.
- Austin Reed, 21, RHP: Reed surprised me when I saw him visit Kane County. I had heard he had a good change and a solid breaking pitch, but he was throwing 95, 96 mph. It’s one of those ideal projection cases where a kid grows up, gains strength, and adds velocity. Because Reed already had a pretty advanced change and has an ideal pitchers frame, I’d be interested to see if the Cubs try him out as a starter this season. He started 13 times in 2011 but had more success as a reliever last season (3.68 ERA/3.91 FIP)
- Tayler Scott, 20, RHP: Scott is different than the usual player you’ll find on these lists. He had great results (5-1, 2.52 ERA) but so-so peripherals (5.43/3.66 K to BB ratio and a 3.38 FIP), but Scott is all about projection. He is a native South African and spent much of his youth playing soccer, but took quickly to baseball and wound up moving to Arizona where the Cubs plucked him in the 5th round out of high school. He has a lean, athletic frame at 6’3″, 185 and projects to add to his fastball, which sits in the low 90s. Kevin said he saw an improved curveball from Scott this spring. Scott also shows a surprise feel for pitching for someone so inexperienced. He’ll be at Kane County to start the year.
That’s a total of 50 names between the three pieces but we’ve still left off quite a few interesting players. Make sure to follow us on our daily minor league recaps during the season where you can get the jump on emerging talents, surprises, and breakthrough players
Filed under: prospects