Cubs Top 35 Prospects: 21-25

We roll on with our prospects list and today we have a group of hitters with starting potential and an undersized pitcher who may be very underrated.

To catch-up with the rest of the series, see our 2014 Cubs Top Prospects Page.

Also be sure to check out MiCubs and Boys of Spring who have done great work providing an extra dimension to this years prospect list.  Brian Bedo’s podcast and Tim Sheridan’s video are at the bottom of this article.

25. Gioskar Amaya, 2B, R/R

  • Age: 21
  • 5’11’, 175 lbs.
  • Expected 2014 level: Daytona (high A)
  • Key 2013 stats: .252/.329/.369, 8.1% walk rate

I’m probably a little too low here on Amaya, who I believe projects as an everyday 2B.  If there is an issue here, it’s that his floor is a little lower because he doesn’t play SS, so if he doesn’t make it as a starter then he’ll have a hard time securing a 25 man roster spot as a 2B with average speed, below average power, and limited defensive versatility.

I asked a rival scout about some of his favorite Kane County players last year and the first player he mentioned was Gioskar Amaya.  Forget the stats, one has to watch Amaya closely to appreciate him.  He’s a true 2B with good range, quick hands, and a SS level arm.  He makes the pivot on the double play easily.  I’ve talked about his partner at SS, Marco Hernandez earlier in the list but Amaya plays the field with more consistency.  He makes all the plays he is supposed to make and it seemed like every game he made at least one play that potentially saved a hit, erased a baserunner, or prevented a player from taking an extra base.  I think he’s going to be a well above average 2B in the majors.

At the plate, Amaya shows improving discipline and excellent bat to ball skills.  He struggled to start the season but showed a few stretches where he was simply the best hitter on the team.  His ceiling is as a plus defender who hits for average and gets on base.  He isn’t going to steal bases but he shows enough speed and skill to be an asset on the base paths.

Amaya is a sleeper candidate to break out in 2014 under the tutelage of the Daytona coaching staff.  It wouldn’t surprise me if my end of season list has him back in the top 15.

24. Yasiel Balaguert, OF, R/R

  • Age 21
  • 6’2″, 215 lbs.
  • Expected 2014 Level: Kane County
  • Key 2013 Stats: .172 ISO, 9.7% walk rate, .361 wOBA, 26% strikeout rate

Before Javier Baez got promoted to Peoria two years ago, there were 2 guys that were fun to watch in batting practice.  One of them was Balaguert, who showed a nice clean stroke with good bat speed.  He is a strong kid and has the explosive hands/wrists to generate power down the road.  Unfortunately that year, Balaguert started the season out of shape and the Cubs may have been a bit too ambitious starting a 19 year old defector from Cuba in the MWL.  Balaguert got a fresh start at Boise in the NWL last year.  He looked like he was in better shape and showed tremendous improvement with his plate discipline.  In 63 games he hit for 15 doubles, a triple, and 8 HRs but that could just be scratching the surface.  For Balaguert to take his game to the next level, he’s going to have to make better contact.  His 26% K rate at the short season level is a concern but that was due in part to needing work on recognizing breaking pitches better.  He is a good athlete for his size but also has a thick body and though he made progress last season, he did seem to wear down as the season went on.  He’s going to have to be mindful about keeping himself in shape.

If he can control the strikeouts, Balaguert could hit well enough to comfortably carry a corner OF position at the MLB level.  If he keeps the weight under control, he has enough athleticism and arm strength to be a solid defender as well.

23. Shawon Dunston, Jr., CF, L/R

  •  Age: 21
  • 6’2″, 170 lbs.
  • Expected 2014 Level: Kane County (A)
  • Key 2013 Stats: .290/.378/.358, 12.6% walk rate, 11.2% K rate

Dunston gets some mixed opinion because he was a lot more raw than some expected after he was drafted and because there is some question as to whether he can develop power.  He does continue to make progress, however, and last year accomplished a relatively rare feat, posting a higher walk rate than a strikeout rate.  His swing mechanics and plate discipline has improved significantly since he was drafted, but Dunston isn’t just a guy with an intelligent approach.  Like his father he has quick hands and the hand/eye coordination to make consistent contact (people forget that dad had a very solid 15.9% K rate as a major leaguer) — and he’s a fast (6.55 in the 60), athletic player with a strong arm who has the chance to be a plus center fielder in time.

The one thing he lacks right now is consistent extra base power, but he has a wiry build and those quick hands, so there is some thought he can hit for average or better power down the road.  That will likely determine whether Dunston can be a quality everyday CF’er in the majors or become a 4th outfielder type.

22. Corey Black, RHP

  • Age: 22
  • 5’11”, 175 lbs.
  • Expected 2014 Level: Tennessee (AA)
  • Key 2013 Stats: 10.08 Ks/9 IP (26.7%); 3.6 BB/9 IP; 4-0, 2.88 ERA (3.96 FIP)

Like many players on this particular portion of this list, there is some significant mixed opinion.  There are some that see the great stuff, the 3 quality pitches (including a fastball that he can throw in the 95-97 range, slider, change) and his aptitude for pitching and they see a potential starter.  Others are concerned by his lack of size and feel his durability will someday relegate him to a relief role, though the big fastball gives him a chance to be a high leverage reliever if he can cut down on the walks.  There is some hope for that as Black is a good athlete and repeats his delivery well.  He’s also shown he can quickly make mechanical adjustments.

The Cubs have every incentive to keep him as a starter until he proves he can’t handle the role.  Most people I’ve talked to think he’ll end up in relief, where he can be a 7th or 8th inning guy — but Black has the stuff to be a starter and still has time to prove he can sustain velocity late into the game and over the course of a long season.

21. Jacob Hannemann, CF, L/L

  • Age: 22
  • 6’1″, 195 lbs.
  • Expected 2014 Level: Kane County
  • Key 2013 Stats: .290/.313/.468, 17 total games between rookie level AZ and short season Boise

The Cubs are a little higher on Hanneman than most other teams, drafting him as an overslot in the 3rd round.  The Cubs have a plethora of CF’ers but Hanneman may have the best speed and athleticism in the bunch.  He combines that with excellent natural instincts.  The Cubs were impressed with his ability to adapt so quickly after a 2 year hiatus due to a Mormon mission.  Thus what he has in athleticism and instincts, he lacks in experience.  It didn’t help that he couldn’t stay on the field last year.  He’ll have to be healthy because Hanneman will be 23 by the end of April and will likely be at the class A level to start the season.  He’s going to have to hit the ground running and you have to hope he adapts to pro ball as quickly as he did to the college game.  The ideal is for him to reach Daytona midseason and be knocking on the door to Tennessee by the beginning of next year.

If he reaches his ceiling, he has the skills to be an everyday CF’er in the big leagues, providing speed, OBP skills and extra base power at the top of a lineup while being a potential plus defender in CF.  Right now, however, it’s almost entirely about projection with Hanneman.  He’ll have to show performance on the field in 2014.

Link to Podcast with Brian Bedo of MiCubs


Video from Tim Sheridan of Boys of Spring

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  • excellent stuff John! After our friendly banter on Shawon, Jr. last year, I expected you to rank him higher this year. I'm curious, where he ranks on your CF-Prospect rankings...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I was ambivalent about putting him this high, actually. I'm not sure I wouldn't put Balaguert and Amaya over him if I had to do this again. That said, Dunston is a good player with great OBP skills, good defense, a good arm, and excellent speed. That's a nice combo for a CF prospect. If he develops average power, he can be a starter.

    Almora and Hanneman are ahead of him, but I like Dunston's chance to make an impact more than Martin, Szczur, Andreoli, Silva, Jackson, etc.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Interesting, how does grade out to Jeffrey Baez?

    I'm hoping Yasiel rakes at KC and finds his way to Daytona by summer...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Dunston is a better ballplayer than Jeffery Baez at this point

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Wasn't Amaya toying with the notion of being moved to Catcher this past winter? What happened with that?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He apparently didn't take to it the way Carhart and Hankins did. Malave is also moving back to catcher.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    They scrapped the idea. He's a good defender at 2B and his bat plays there. Probably wise to keep him there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, I can at least say Shawon Jr learned one thing his dad never did. How not to swing at everything.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Very true. Very different approach.

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    I can't help but think that, in the pre-Theo era, Gioskar would have been one of the shining stars of the minor league system following 2012 and his rough year last year would have left everyone assuming another bust prospect -- even though he would still have been Top 10ish. Now he's just another guy with good upside that's worth mentioning behind the big boys coming up.

    Hannemann -- Kane County strikes me as a very aggressive placement for him but, given that Boise doesn't start until June, there really isn't much choice. As you say, he has to perform this year or he's just another 3rd round pick that no one remembers in a decade.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Amaya is a good prospect and I know of a couple of scouts from other teams that would take him in a heartbeat. He's got a better shot of making it than a lot of guys who will be ranked ahead of him. If I were rating more on floor, he'd probably be in the teens.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


    Amaya is my favorite of the low profile guys to make it in the majors. He got pull happy last year, but that is fixable. He's got a great line drive stroke with the ability to drive the ball from gap to gap and posseses just enough power to make a pitcher pay if they get behind and groove one. He won't unseat Baez or Alcantara at 2B, but he could be a starter for some team. He's going to make a career for himself as a Miguel Cairo/Omar Infante/Placido Polanco type 2B/3B that just keeps getting work because he can hit just enough.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I'd say those are pretty realistic comps for him. He's a ballplayer and I think he'll make it. Solid D and that line drive stroke will play at 2B nicely.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Assuming that starts to come together, when do you consider trading him? This summer? AA season?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Never! Keep him for the bench. Don't ruin my dream for a future bench of Alcantara, Amaya, Villanueva, Hanneman.

  • Great list. Looking forward to seeing Hanneman and Dunston in Kane County. Would Hanneman move to a corner of spot?

  • In reply to Joel641:

    I think Hanneman has the raw ability to stay at CF, especially if Almora loses a step. If not, he'll make a heck of a defender at one of the corners -- I think he can hit for enough power to make him playable considering his other skills.

  • fb_avatar

    Gotta keep my eye on Jacob Hannemann. Another LH bat (check your listing John) with speed at the top of our lineup just has a nice ring to it. I'll be looking for him when he hits Daytona.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Egads! Thanks Bobby. I corrected the error. He looks like an exciting player. Thank to Tim for getting the video. Not many of us have seen him play.

  • and Iowa doesnt come to SLC this year.. FML!

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Sounds like someone needs to make a road trip :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:


  • I'm a fan of all 5 of these guys. Balaguert is one my predictions to breakout this year

  • In reply to NathanE:

    Love that swing. He can punish the baseball.

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    John, I love Cubs Den you guys do a great job. A couple of corrections you might like to make is on Jacob Hannemann is that he is a left handed hitter.and has 4 n's in his name.

  • In reply to Leon Feolo:

    Thank Leon. I caught that early on. It should be fixed. Being lefty is a big deal in this organization!

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    What really stands out in your predictions/projections is how thin we are in pitching. I don't think we can win unless we take some of these pos. player prospects and flip them for some pitching. I'm thinking of all those Ranger teams with all that hitting and no pitching.

  • In reply to Dave Cookfair:

    Next group will have a few pitchers, though at least a couple may be destined for the bullpen.

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    Good stuff John. A bit off topic, Callis and Mayo arguing who will hit the most HR's in the minors this year, Bryant or Baez:

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Thanks ...and thank for the link!

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I'm guessing that the answer as to which one of these two hits the most HRs in the minors this year is going to be highly dependent on when / if either gets a call-up to Wrigley.

    But that just puts a fun wrinkle in that arguement.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    A Baez vs Bryant HR race at Iowa would be a fun way to end the 2014 baseball season. Especially if we are sellers at the deadline. DSM may start outdrawing Wrigley.

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    I really appreciate the write-ups on the lower level prospects, thank you for doing that. Frankly there is alot of material and information out there on Baez and Bryant and the like, but alot less on Beleguert, Amaya, etc. Everyone does a top-10, but nobody does beyond 15 or so.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thank Zonk. Hoping to get a lot more info again this year at the games.

    And I think this is the year we need to do a Kane County gathering.

  • I've been casually following Hannemann since late last year. Love his skills and would love to see him continue to improve this year. Wouldn't it be something if our LH-hitting outfielder of the future is already within the organization now?

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    That would be a nice development. He can add some speed and hopefully OBP skills as he improves his plate discipline.

  • Great stuff John. The video is a nice touch. Seeing these prospect reports is like Christmas morning for me. Keep up the good work!

    I'm really excited to see more of Balaguert, I just hope he stays focused and keeps the weight under control. I imagine he is going to have to work pretty hard to stay at a corner OF spot. Let's hope he can.

  • In reply to Mike:

    Thanks. It's nice to put some faces and video to the names. This one was one of my favorite videos because of the very skilled players in this segment.

  • Make me feel old watching Dunston Jr since I followed his father
    career beginning with the day he was drafted. Dunston had
    something, I can't put into words, that I have never seen in
    another player. I will follow Jr too

  • John, any opinions on Reggie Golden?

  • I'm a bit sad. I was hoping you liked Bruno a little more. Did he come close to your top 30? I love this topic so thanks. Our system is so deep right now my optimism is threatening to take over.

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    It seems like opinions are divided on Corey Black. Keith Law had him close to Cubs Top 10, he hates alot of our prospects, but seems to really like Corey Black. I suppose, like Edwards, it's all about whether they stay as a starter or not.

  • Thanks for all you do, John. These kinds of info articles on prospects make my day - even though I only have time to read your work the next morning. All these prospects to keep track of!

  • Great work to John and the guys for putting this together, 3 things that stuck out the most for me on the video is 1) how big Balaguert's frame is. He is a big man that could fill out and look a lot like Frank Thomas. 2) Corey Black's Mustache. Enough said. 3) Hannemann looks like he has a LOT of speed. I mean you always hear guys are faster than other but being able to see him run the basses and some routes was pretty impressive. Lots of quickness in those steps. What grade would you say his speed is?

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