We’ll finish up with the middle of the field prospects today.
The Cubs appear to be set here for quite awhile. Albert Almora is the starter and still rookie eligible, though we did not include him on our prospects list. He certainly would have been in the top 5, likely 3rd. There was no objective reason for doing it. It just feels like he’s already a major leaguer. In fact, he’s sort of seemed that way since the first day he stepped out on the backfields here. We’ll discuss him here instead.
- Age: 22
- B/T: R/R
- 6’2″, 190 lbs.
- Last level reached: MLB Chicago Cubs
Almora is a different CF’er than Dexter Fowler. He may not create as many runs early in his career, but he will save more on defense. HeAlmora may have the best instincts of any CFer in recent Cubs history. He gets tremendous reads and takes great routes, his speed is a tick above average, his arm is plus when when we take into account his accuracy, his ability to get into position, get rid of the ball quickly, and his above average arm strength. Almora has an aggressive style of play. If there is a chance, he is going to try to make the play — that will lead to some spectacular catches as well as occasions where we may be holding our breath that he doesn’t crash through the outfield wall. He’s a fun player to watch. That defense becomes especially important as the Cubs are set to go with Kyle Schwarber in LF. Schwarber’s defense isn’t as bad as the narrative brought on by his 2015 NLCS mishaps, but he is coming back from a severe knee injury and we have to think that while he’ll be working to regain as much range as possible, he may be limited, especially early on. Perhaps Almora can make up some ground there that Fowler may not have.
At the plate, we can expect Almora to make a lot of contact, especially as he learns the league and continues to improve his pitch recognition, which is good despite the extremely low walk rates. Almora approach at the plate mirrors his aggressive play in the field. He’ll chase. He wants to make things happen — but he also is an intelligent ballplayer who understands what the Cubs philosophy. Apart from that, he just needs experience. Injuries and quick promotions have meant that Almora hasn’t had time to settle in and learn the league. He has put up his highest walk rates (6.3% and 7.1%) in years 2013 and 2015, the two years where he has spent the most time at one level (Kane County and Tennessee, respectively). He’ll get a chance to do that at the MLB level and I expect those walk rates to rise as he gets more and more repetition and becomes familiar with MLB pitching. When Almora does put the ball in play, we should expect hard, line drive contact. It always amused me when I heard comparisons to Darwin Barney (good field, no bat) or descriptions of Almora as a contact guy who just slaps the ball in play. Almora has a quick, short swing and makes loud contact. There probably aren’t going to be a lot of HRs, but it would surprise me to see him be a 12-15 HR guy when he settles in.
Apart from everything else, Almora is a natural leader and plays with the kind of passion fans will love. He knows he belongs and that has been his mindset since day one as a professional. The high level of competition isn’t going to faze him. He communicates well with teammates in both English and Spanish. When I think of guys who are going to take the mantle and lead this team into the next decade, it’s Almora and Schwarber as well as current young leader Anthony Rizzo.
- Age: 2o
- B/T: L/L
- 5’8″, 177 lbs.
- Last Level Reached: Short Season A: Eugene
- Age: 23
- B/T: L/L
- 5’11”, 208 lbs.
- Last Level Reached: Short Season A: Myrtle Beach
- Age: 25
- B/T: L/R
- 6’1″, 195 lbs.
- Last Level Reached: AA Tennessee
Hannemann is the best athlete in the system. He has great, effortless speed. It reminds me of watching Ryne Sandberg as a kid. He’s such an efficient runner that he just seems to gracefully glide from first to 3rd. There are other good athletes all over the system, yet Hannemann still stands out in that regard. One more than one occasion I’ve been asked or have heard asked rival scouts ask, “Who’s that guy”. He doesn’t go unnoticed and I think that is a big reason the Cubs felt they had to protect him. He’s the kind of athlete organizations don’t mind taking a chance on.
The Cubs development staff has had a great test trying to turn him from athlete to ballplayer. Hannemann can be found on the backfields often with coaches to make that transition. He has had a lot to learn and, because of a two year mission, not as much time as most prospects to learn it. That he has made as much progress as he has is a testament to his athleticism, work ethic, and coachability.
Right now, Hannemann’s biggest strength as a ballplayer is as a defender in CF, where he grades as plus. Those same graceful strides eat up a ton of ground in CF. When he gets a good jump/read and takes good routes, his range can rival that of Almora and DJ Wilson as the best in the system. His arm is average, but plenty good enough for CF — and certainly an improvement since he was drafted.
At the plate, he is inconsistent. He has good bat speed when he turns on pitches and he’ll surprise you with his raw power, but Hannemann has been working on improving his all-around skills at the plate, from pitch recognition and plate discipline to take the ball the other way.
Hannemann may see time in the majors should a need for an extra outfielder arise. Extra outfielder appears to be his most likely outcome as a major leaguer. I never like to give up or even set limits on athletes with Hannemann’s mental makeup. Much will depend on how his bat comes around because he can already be useful as a defender and baserunner.
Others to Watch
John Andreoli is a favorite of some fans for his ability to get on base and his very good baserunning ability once he’s on. There is something of an every man quality to him. He has something of a stocky build, isn’t the graceful athlete that Hannemann is or the explosive one that DJ Wilson is, and unlike Almora, nothing he does looks pretty. He just grinds away and produces — and maybe we just identify with that. When we talk about the great defensive CF’ers in this system, it’d be a great oversight to leave Trey Martin out of the equation. He covers a lot of ground with those long strides and has the athleticism to make acrobatic plays in the field. Where Martin has struggled with is hitting. Those long limbs that serve him well in the outfield can tie him up at the plate. When he gets his arms extended, he shows decent pop. Connor Myers is a human highlight machine in CF. He has good speed and athleticism, great instincts, a good arm, and a daredevil’s mentality in the field. At the plate, he needs a bit more balance to get some drive into the ball rather than settling for putting it in play. He appeared to be making strides in that area this past fall. Zach Davis and Tolly Filotei are smaller, athletic, defensive oriented CFers with some speed, but both will need to improve hitting skills. There were a couple of DSL CFers in camp. Fernando Kelli is a slight-framed switch-hitter with good speed but needs to add a lot of strength right now. Jose Gutierrez was an interesting young player. He has a lean, athletic frame to go with good speed. He made some nice catches in instructs. He showed some potential as a hitter as well, showing a little extra base power. It will be interesting to see how he develops as he fills out physically. I like his potential to add strength and add a bit of pop. If were to go with a couple of sleepers in this group, I’d pick Gutierrez and Myers.
Filed under: Prospect Series 2017