The John Arguello Awards – Short Season Player and Pitcher of the Year

With the minor league season winding down, the Cubs Den staff got together in order to recognize some of the players that made an impact for the Cubs’ system this year. We could not think of a more fitting memorial than to name them after our site’s founder John Arguello. While John was a passionate Cubs fan, his passion within that passion was player development in the minor leagues.

This will be the first in a series of articles naming minor league players and pitchers of the year. A short season player is defined as someone who has played in one of the short season leagues (Northwest League, Rookie League, or Dominican Summer League) or who was selected in this year’s MLB Draft. Our panel includes minor league writers Michael Ernst, Stephanie Lynn, and Tom U along with Cubs Den writers Myles Phelps and Jared Wyllys.

Short Season Player of the Year – Fernando Kelli, OF

“Another switch-hitting, speedy center fielder the Cubs signed in this 2015 IFA class. He shows good range in the outfield, and his slight build (6-feet tall and 180 pounds) indicates his game will built around getting on base and taking advantage of his plus speed. He needs to add some strength, and his bat isn’t as far along as his base running and defense at present”.

Those were the words of John himself for 2017’s Short Season Player of the Year, Fernando Kelli. The 18 year old was part of big 2015 international signing class John was profiling for 2080 Baseball in June. That class included fellow outfielders Jose Gutierrez, Kwang-Min Kwon, Eddy Julio Martinez, Jonathan Sierra; infielders Aramis Ademan, Christopher Morel, Orian Nunez, Yonathan Perlaza; catcher Miguel Amaya; and pitchers Jose Albertos, Javier Assad, Faustino Carrera, Brailyn Marquez, and Carlos Ocampo.

It’s easy to see how Kelli could get lost among all that talent, and his first year as a professional had some mixed results. Only 17 years old at the time, the switch-hitter batted only .240 with eight RBI in 44 games with DSL Cubs-2 last season, but did have 23 stolen bases.

But a year can do wonders for someone so young, as Kelli’s name is all over the Dominican Summer League’s offensive leader board this year, starting with his league leading 54 stolen bases. Kelli is also third in on-base percentage (.437), eleventh in OPS (.886), eleventh in RBI (36), and twelfth in batting average (.323).The native of Venezuela’s stolen base total is twenty more than his next challenger, almost assuredly giving Kelli the DSL stolen base crown with six games still left to play.

Like all young players, Kelli has some things he needs to work on, such as getting stronger. Kelli also needs to polish up his defense, where he has committed five errors in the outfield. If Kelli is invited to the instructional league this fall and shows improvement, he is positioned to make a similar jump as fellow classmates Ademan and Amaya did this year and possibly begin his 2018 with Short Season Eugene.

Kelli was prominently mentioned by our panel, but was not the only player considered for the honor. Infielders Ademan, Luis Hidalgo and Austin Upshaw; Amaya, and outfielder Brandon Hughes were all brought up as candidates.

Short Season Pitcher of the Year – Jesus Camargo, RHP

Jesus Camargo

Jesus Camargo

Part of an ever-growing list of talented pitchers signed by the Cubs out Mexico, Jesus Camargo has survived some ups and downs to prove that he belongs among the Cubs’ pitching prospects.

Signed by Diablos Rojos of the Mexican League, the Cubs purchased the contract of Camargo after he pitched only 2.1 innings in 2014. The native of Los Mochis was assigned to the AZL Cubs in 2015 and quickly emerged as the team’s ace, leading the squad with 46.1 innings pitched and 57 strikeouts as he went 3-1 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.036 WHIP.

The 2016 season was basically a wash for Camargo, as he sat out what has been reported various minor injuries. Coming into this season, there was little fanfare for Camargo, although John had this to say in February:

“Camargo has an advanced change-up and a fastball that sits high 80s and maxes out in the low 90s.  He has advanced command and the makings of an average breaking ball, but if Camargo had an issue early on, it was falling in love with his change.  At the AZL level it’s a plus pitch and it gets hitters out routinely, but the Cubs are in the development business.  Throwing five change-ups in a row won’t fly against advanced hitters, so Camargo must learn to trust his fastball more.”

It seems as if those words were taken to heart by Camargo as he became the most reliable starter for Short Season Eugene. Second on the Emeralds with 49.1 innings, the 21 year old is 2-1 with a 2.55 ERA, 1.014 WHIP, and is also second on the team with 54 strikeouts. Camargo began the year in the starting rotation, but has become a valuable piggyback starter, allowing 2017 draftees Brendon Little, Alex Lange, and Cory Abbott to take turns starting.

Camargo’s teammates Javier Assad, third in the Northwest League in strikeouts, and Luis Aquino, second in the league saves, were also considered by the panel, as was DSL standout Didier Vargas.


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  • fb_avatar

    Tom--thanks to you and all the rest of the writers. These are perfect choices for John's award. Just reading here, without knowing him, it seemed like his passion was prospects and he loved finding out about them at the earliest stages of their career (even scouting them out before they were signed) and following them through the years.
    I love the choices too--I started reading about Kelli (here of course) last year and have been reading about him ever since.
    John would be proud--thank you again.
    I still get a feeling of a void when I come to Cubs Den, but reminders like this will hopefully help. I miss him. I hope Stacey finds some solace in knowing these awards will live on with his name.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Thank you. When I floated the idea to the staff, they were all as positive as you are.

  • fb_avatar

    Admin just ate my comment for breakfast.

  • Love this idea what a great way to honor John!

  • Great idea about the award,... and a couple of players that John and all of us would love to see reach their potential.

    Cubs have not had a serious base stealing threat who also had a solid OBP for years. Is the consensus that he's got a chance to stick at CF defensively as Kelli continues to develop?

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Sometimes observers get spoiled when they see very young players such as Gleyber Torres and Aramis Ademan who are defensively advanced. The truth is, most very young players need a lot of work on defense.

    That said, Kelli at least for now still projects defensively in center field. While his fielding percentage is somewhat low for an outfielder, his assist totals are fairly high. Hopefully someone can get a better read on Kelli if he gets invited to the fall instructional league this year.

  • In reply to Tom U:

    Thanks for your input Tom.

  • I love this. It's perfect.

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    I feel the Den Brothers and Sisters will steer the Den safely into the future. Much like John did. RIP John we will always miss you.

  • I sure as hell do.

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    Great Awards. Great name, great choices.

    Whose ready for the eclipse? I am about to go outside. They say it about 1:06pm Chicago time

    I am going to take the dogs out and see if I can convince them its nighttime.

    "It's the total eclipse of the heart"

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    All that you touch
    And all that you see
    All that you taste
    All you feel

    And all that you love
    And all that you hate
    All you distrust
    All you save

    And all that you give
    And all that you deal
    And all that you buy,
    Beg, borrow or steal

    And all you create
    And all you destroy
    And all that you do
    And all that you say

    And all that you eat
    And everyone you meet
    And all that you slight
    And everyone you fight

    And all that is now
    And all that is gone
    And all that's to come
    And everything under the sun is in tune
    But the sun is eclipsed by the moon

  • In reply to Tom U:

    I pegged you as a Floyd fan when welcoming you here to Cubs Den when you published your first article, remember?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yes, thanks!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Tom U:

    Awesome, ty.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I was watching it on TV and most of the time the idiot camera guys were showing the crowd instead of pointing their cameras toward the sky.

    All of the network coverage uniformly bad. We can see a goof with a rubber alien head anytime. Show the freakin' eclipse!!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to hoffpauir6:

    I AGREE. The coverage was weak and at my house, it didn't ever get pitch black

  • Nice work Tom and All!

  • Ademan so far today – 3 for 5 2B, HR and SB. South Bend tied at 6 going into the 10th.

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    In reply to CubFanStuckInStl:

    He's only 18 too. Also, Fernando Kelli went 4-4 with 3 SB (47 now). He's showing why he's such an exciting prospect, as is Ademan.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I would normally say, They are only 18, we won't see them for about 4 years regardless but Rafael Devers in only 20 and so far he looks like a MLB player.

    Maybe Kelli and Ademan make it to triple A at 19-20 in a year or two.

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Starlin Castro came up at 20 and had a great year. If Adelman is ready to come up in 2 years Addy will only be 25! It will be a good problem to have.
    Off topic, but we're not far from O'hare and the eclipse was very cool. The TV coverage was good, but I saw so many people take off their glasses and then keep looking up or looking up at it and then put their glasses on. What's with that?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Honestly I wasn't that impressed. When I was watching on TV like when it was in Oregon, the whole sky turned dark and was pitch black for a few mins. By me ( northside) it got darker, but not even close to pitch black. Was it cool when the eclipse moved from in to out, Yea but nothing like I expected.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    What is going on with Addy? Could there be more to this story? Just askin.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    It's a bit of a mystery. I know that he is with the team every day, but beyond that, it's really unknown.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    article said he has 54 SB so I would guess he is up to 57

  • Looking at the box scores at every level, it is hard to find a standout position player anywhere. Is it clear that we have a position player in the entire system that is a likely to become an everyday player at the MLB level for any team?

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    In reply to Iowaboy:

    I look at those too and I do think we have future position players in the minors but I don't see any elite players. Maybe someone with more knowledge can inform us.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Be cautious in your assessments, because it only took one season for Willson Contreras to go from a nobody to elite. I like the future for Victor Caratini, Charcer Burks, Adbert Alzolay, Tyler Alamo, and Zack Short. I believe that Mark Zagunis, Chesny Young, Jason Vosler, Ian Rice, and Andruw Monasterio will all be serviceable major league players.

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    In reply to Tom U:

    Absolutely. My point was that if we looked at Willson when he was left unprotected we wouldn't have said he was elite then.
    If we look at the players now not many are having elite seasons, but hopefully by working over the winter and next spring we'll have a completely different view of them.
    I happen to think that some of our pitchers might have a great leap, Kelli might do well here next year, and maybe one of the ones you mentioned will take that big step.

  • In reply to Iowaboy:

    We have graduated players at nearly every position, and the ML roster is overflowing. Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, Russell, and Schwarber are under cheap control through 2021. Contreras and Almora are good through 2022, and Happ hasn't begun to sniff arbitration. There is nowhere for young position players to play in Wrigleyville for the foreseeable_future.

    There is, or was, a huge hole in the starting staff going forward. Some fans judge a trade on a five-game sample, but I don't. We gave up surplus posistional prospects to plug holes in a Championship team to continue our window. That is exactly what winning franchises do.

    We have all been spoiled here at Cubs Den with the amazing coverage of the minors and player development. We had gotten used to having the best farm system in baseball. But through the successful run of a good plan, that farm system is not designed to last. It will graduate, produce, and be used to achieve the ultimate goal: a World Series Championship. And it did just that, exactly according to plan.

    With all the young players under control for so many years, we have ttime to build the system back up. Don't believe me? Look at what this FO has done in the last five years. Bet against them at your own risk.

  • They are already in the MLB. Take another look at the 25 man roster.

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