Every season, Cubs Den has selected players as minor league players and pitchers of the year. Since his passing in 2017, the site has has named these awards in honor of its founder, John Arguello. John’s passion was not just for the Cubs, but also for player development. It is both fitting and proper that these awards continue his legacy. Today, we look at the Short Season Player and Pitcher of the Year.
Short Season Pitcher of the Year: Kohl Franklin, RHP
The Cubs thought enough about the ability of Kohl Franklin to select him in the sixth round in 2018 out of Broken Arrow (OK) High School. After signing, the 6’4″ Franklin used the rest of the season to get acclimated to pro ball. Pitching for the AZL Cubs of the rookie league, Franklin had a 6.23 ERA but a 1.269 WHIP in 8.2 innings. Franklin then put in some good off-season conditioning.
Adding more muscle on his 190 lbs. frame aided Franklin in putting a few extra ticks on his fastball. The 19-year old now sits in the low-to-mid 90’s to go along with his slider and change-up. Accordingly, that translated in the box score, as Franklin began the year with Short Season-A Eugene. Franklin had 36 strikeouts in 29.2 before a blister issue briefly sidelined him.
Returning to action in August, Franklin was roughed up a little early on, but still pitched well enough to merit a promotion to the play-off bound South Bend Cubs. The totals for the year saw Franklin go 1-3 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.190 WHIP, and 52 strikeouts in 42 innings.
While Franklin was a clear choice, the Cubs also had some promising performances from some young pitchers in Arizona. Carlos Ocampo, a 20-year old out of Columbia, was 3-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 12 appearances. Ocampo posted a 1.179 WHIP and had 48 strikeouts in 46.2 innings.
Two high profile 19-year old’s, Benjamin Rodriguez and Luis Rodriguez, also put up some good numbers. Right-hander Benjamin was 2-3 with a 3.58 ERA, 1.212 WHIP, and 38 strikeouts in 50.1 innings. The left-handed Luis had a 3.61 ERA and 1.437 WHIP in 11 appearances, going 2-4 with 44 strikeouts in 47.1 innings.
Short Season Player of the Year: Pedro Martinez, SS/2B
The 2017 international free agent class is already showing a lot of promise, but no one has demonstrated as much upside as infielder Pedro Martinez.
As a 17-year old in the Dominican Summer League in 2018, Martinez showed enough ability to earn a trip stateside this season. In 54 DSL games, the switch-hitter slashed .310/.398/.406/.804 with 3 doubles, 5 triples, 2 home runs, 25 RBI, and 31 stolen bases. Martinez was also adept in the field, posting a .952 fielding average at shortstop while also playing second and third base.
At the ripe old age of 18, Martinez took the AZL by storm in 2018. The Venezuelan put up a .352/.417/.519/.935 line in 27 games to earn a promotion to Eugene. Knee-deep in shortstop prospects, the Emeralds had Martinez play more second base as he found the Northwest League more challenging. In a league where he was nearly three years younger than league average, Martinez batted .265/.357/.347/.704. For the year, Martinez was a combined .311/.388/.437/.825 with 8 doubles, 6 triples, 2 home runs, 24 RBI, and 19 stolen bases in 54 games.
Unlike his fellow honoree Franklin, Martinez had some stiff competition for the award. In the DSL, the 17-year old OF Yohendrick Pinango was far ahead of the pack. The lefty bat hit .358/.427/.442/.869 with 20 doubles, 36 RBI, and 27 stolen bases for Cubs 1.
The Cubs also got some impact from their 2019 draft, with the most impactful being Nelson Maldonado. Selecting Maldonado in the 21st round, the Cubs got a high character player who was captain of the University of Florida team. After signing, the 22-year old played well in 8 rookie league games. When Maldonado batted .278/.333/.500/.833 with a homer and 9 RBI, he was promoted to Short Season Eugene.
Then Maldonado exploded in the Northwest League. In particular, Maldonado feasted on young pitching, hitting .414/.470/.534/1.004 with 4 doubles, a home run, and 11 RBI in 15 games. Capping off his 2019, Maldonado would hit .302/.336/.395/.731 with South Bend after being promoted. All totaled, Maldonado hit .327/.372/.448/.820 with 12 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs, and 37 RBI in 55 games.
Minor League Player of the Year – Friday
Minor League Pitcher of the Year – Monday