2014 Chicago Cubs

 
C – Kyle Schwarber – Short Season Boise/LoA Kane County/HiA Daytona –  21 yo;  –  (2014 – 1st round) –
  • .344 – 18HR – 53RBi – 55R –  .428/.634/1.061 slash   –  csPAG: 4.42
  • BA/#4(2015)   –  MLB Pipeline/#6(2015)   –  BP/#5(2015)
  • I’m not sure there was a Cubs farmhand who had as auspicious a debut than the Indiana University 1st rounder.  After seeing three levels in 2014, it’ll be interesting to see where the 6’0 – 235 lb. brute will begin 2015.  But what might be even more intriguing is where Schwarber will play.  Will he catch or will he be slotted as an Opening Day left fielder?  Schwarber exited Indiana University as an average-at-best backstop, but the Cubs don’t seem so worried. As long as the Middleton, OH lefty keeps swinging an advanced bat, his defensive positioning is irrelevant. He’s a bat-first profile and led all Cubs minor leaguers, HiA and below, in home runs, batting, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS.  Point blank, he’s an absolute stud.  Now, to stay true to UTR, I can’t get away without listing a nice behind-the-plate sleeper.  Seventeen year-old Dominican Yohan Matos posted a nice debut with a 3.77 PAG in 52 DSL games. Power isn’t part of his profile, but the 6’0 – 175 lb. righty batted .288 with 6 homers, 4 triples and 9 doubles. He flashed solid defense this season (46% CS rate) and the Cubs seem confident Matos can stick at the position. He’s very far away, however for deep league and [mostly] Cub enthusiasts, Matos is a solid bookmark based on his professional debut. 
1B – Dan Vogelbach – HiA Daytona – 21 yo;  – (2011 – 2nd round)
  • .268 – 16HR –  76RBi – 71R –  .357/.429/.787 slash   –  PAG: 3.21
  • BA/#9(2014)   –   MLB Pipeline/#9(2015)   –   BP/#9(2015) 
  • Vogelbach is that perfect prospect type that falls into the UTR perception that “numbers don’t lie.” No one in the prospect industry will argue that the 6’0 – 250 lb. lefty can flat-out rake at the plate. He led the entire organization in hits (129), ranked 2nd in RBi’s (to Javier Baez’ 80) and ranked first in walks with 66. What I don’t understand is the severe knock on his defense. Is he a big body around the bag and limited to the position? Yes, but how can one look at Vogelbach’s 2014 fielding percentage of .995 (5 errors/957 chances) and career Fld% of .991 as struggling? Ok. I’ll claim ignorance, but numbers don’t lie; and in a self indulgent way, I hope the Fort Myers, FL native gets the trade (most feel he needs) to an N.L. club and proves he isn’t what most feel he is: A bat-only player. 
2B – Frandy Delarosa  – DSL Cubs – 18 yo;  – (2012 – International FA-DO)
  • .278 – 1HR – 50RBi – 36R – 11SB –  .333/.400/.733  slash     PAG: 3.57
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR   –  BP-NR 
  • When organizations like the Cubs have an embarrassment of infield riches, it takes the pressure off Jim and me to search for the next wave of prospects. As of now, uber-talented Javier Baez looks to be manning 2B for the foreseeable future in Chicago which allows me to feel comfortable honing in on the 6’1 – 180 lb. Delarosa.  The switch-hitter came to the Cubs in 2012 flashing a compact swing, good infield actions and most notably, supreme makeup. Could he be a better base runner and work on his arm strength and accuracy, of course, but he’s another deep up-and-comer for Cubs fans to place a deep bookmark upon. 
3B – Jeimer Candelario – HiA Daytona/LoA Kane County  – 20 yo;  –  (2010 – FA signee. NY, NY)
  • .223  – 29 2B  – 11HR  –  63RBi  – 56R   –  .288/./.870 slash   –  csPAG: 2.68
  • BA/#8(2014)  –   MLB Pipeline/#11(2015)  –  BP-NR
  • I hate to admit that in fantasy baseball, I’ve always been a sucker for those players either coming off injury or an atrocious season.  My hope is that I can get them cheaper, allowing said player help build my depth while watching them perform up to par (making me look like a genius. Yeah right!) If Jim and I were to hold a deep minors draft, the 6’1 – 180 lb. New Yorker would be on my late round flier list as a possible rebound. He’s too good to let a 2014 PAG slip (from his 2013 score of 3.04) hold him down. The switch-hitting Candelario led all Cubs minor leaguers in doubles (29) and even though he struggled this season, I just really like him. He’s added plenty of maturity and brings a lot of good skills to the field (power, nice swing, good hands at 3B) but nothing spectacular. With budding superstar Kris Bryant ahead of him, The Cubs will be patient. Candelario should begin 2015 for HiA Daytona once again.  
SS – Gleyber Torres  – AZL Cubs/Short Season Boise –  17 yo;  –  (2013 – International FA signee-VE)

  • .297 – 2HR – 33RBi – 54R – 10SB –  .386/.440/.826 slash   –  csPAG: 3.78
  • BA/#8(2015)   –   MLB Pipeline/#14(2015)  –  BP/#8(2015) 
  • I’ll get this out of the way: I really love Torres. He’s a 5-tool talent and extremely young to boot. The combination most scouts and experts drool over. Yet I was really hoping to find another shortstop in the system who posted much better production along with the other collection of criteria Jim and I analyze for our O.A.S. lists. I targeted 20 year-old Dominican Carlos Jimenez. He debuted in the DSL posting a 3.71 PAG in 56 games, a 49% extra base percentage and 21 stolen bases, but struggled defensively with a .922 fielding percentage. Jimenez just doesn’t have the sparkle that Gleyber Torres has and the caveat about Jimenez is he debuted playing against kids 2 years his younger. Place Gleyber Torres on your back burner and slowly watch him become another home grown organizational stud. 
LF – Bijan Rademcher – HiA Daytona  –  23 yo;  –  (2012 – 13th round)  –
  •  .281  –  22 2B  –  10HR  –  56RBi   – 58R  –  .363/.448/.811 slash   – PAG: 2.99
  • BA-NR   –  MLB Pipeline/#20(2015)   –   BP-NR
  • The Orange Coast JC (CA) draftee came to the Cubs as a two-way player that could throw 90+ mph from the left side and also swing a lofty bat. However, the organization seemed more impressed with the hitter side of his game and deemed him an outfielder immediately upon being drafted.  I wouldn’t call the 6’0 – 200 pounder a ‘tweener”; someone who isn’t quite good enough to be a starter yet a poor enough performer to become organizational filler. Rademacher has plenty of game folks. Obviously with his pitching background, his arm is his top tool. He has a fluid swing with gap power, brings a discerning eye to the plate and behind his superior arm is average defense. I think he needs traded with the surplus of OF depth in the system. 
CF – Jacob Hannemann – LoA Kane County/HiA Daytona –  23 yo;  –  (2013 – 3rd round)

  • .251 – 8HR – 51RBi – 74R – 37 SB –  .315/.368/.682   – csPAG: 3.09
  • BA/#17(2014)  –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –   BP-NR
  • Jim and I have made it no secret that we rely on production to lead the UTRMinors way. However, sometimes a prospect profile tends to make you say, “Boy, what could have been!” Enter Jacob Hannemann. He’s the type of player that when you look at his two year body of work, then what it took for him to achieve what might seem as mediocre, it tends to make you wonder. What if he hadn’t taken two years off to fulfill a Mormon mission in 2010?  Then return and honor his commitment to play cornerback for Brigham Young University football. Only to then drop football after a short, but decorated career and sign with the Cubs for $1 million dollars after being drafted in 2013. Could he have been on the fast track to Wrigley? Who knows really.   He began his career posting a csPAG of 3.12 for the AZL Cubs and for Short Season Boise. The lefties debut season was cut short after only 17 games after tearing a ligament in his right elbow. I firmly believe if the 6’1 – 190 pounder can cut down his strikeouts, gain more acumen on the base paths, improve his outfield routes and polish his pitch recognition, the Cubs could have quite the late-blooming, super-athletic star (possibly the best in the system) on their hands.   
RF – Jeffrey Baez – Short Season Boise/LoA Kane County –  20 yo;  –  (2010 – International FA/VE)
  • .255 – 13HR – 45RBi – 45R – 17SB –  .324/.472/.796  –  – csPAG: 3.72
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • I’m fully aware, and in the majority, that feels Billy McKinney is the top (full-time) outfielder in the system. I say full-time because major leaguer Jorge Soler is still on several Cubs prospect lists and Kyle Schwarber split time between catcher and left. My choice of Venezuelan Jeffrey Baez is simply a product of the Cubs being so prospect rich and the fact that he truly has game. After seeing Baez post PAG scores as follows: (2011: 3.76 for DSL Cubs1 & Cubs2) – (2012:  3.69 for DSL Cubs1 & AZL Cubs) – (2013: 3.27 for AZL Cubs & Short Season Boise) I decided to make him my 2014 Cubs Breakout Prospect of the Year for MLBDepthcharts,com (now known as Roster Resource) and Baez didn’t let us down. For Short Season Boise and LoA Kane County, Baez posted a csPAG of 3.72 and not only helped the Cougars win the Northwest League championship, but the 6’0 – 180 pounder was tabbed as a 2014 Baseball America Northwest League Top 20 prospect. Baez is a victim of his organization, being overshadowed by a system overflowing with talent. Baez has a well above average arm, speed, power and is an above average defender. He’s slowly improving each season and will most definitely see his first [full] taste of full season ball in 2015’and I’m extremely anxious to see the results. 

 

Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
 1. RHP Tyler Skulina – (12) SP/TPS .113
  • 22 years old – (LoA Kane County / HiA Daytona)
  • 4th round – 2013
  • Ranked #19th by Baseball America
  • Skulina had first round potential coming out of Kent State, but his inconsistencies  spooked some scouts and he fell into the 4th round to the Cubs. Skulina tired toward the end of his debut in 2013 but posted a .119 TPS in 12 appearances (6 starts). In performance terms, thats within range I like to see in a future starter. The 6’5″ 255 lb righy throws a mid-90’s talking fastball, a tight but powerful slider, solid curveball, and work-in-progress changeup. It would have been nice to see Skulina gather innings at HiA Daytona, but he was limited to 3 HiA starts due to tendonitis in his knee.
     
2. RHP Paul Blackburn – (12) SP/TPS .131
  • 20 years old – (LoA Kane County)
  • 1st round – 2012
  • Ranked #12 by Baseball America / #15 MLBPipeline / “On the Rise” by Baseball Prospectus
  • Its no wonder that Kane County put-up a minor league best 91 wins in 2014. Four of their starters are listed in my top 5. Blackburn was a first round pick out of high school in 2012 and Cubs can’t wait for him to reach Wrigley, but in due time. Marc mentions about his toolsy position players and the same could be used to describe the right-hander. His stats over the past 3 seasons aren’t glaring by any means, but Blackburn is so polished at a young age, there’s no need to unwrap that potential so soon. He has a clean delivery of a 94 mph fastball with command and control, along with secondary pitches that could grade as plus offerings. It’s the mental aspect of being on the mound that truly sets Blackburn apart.
3. RHP Duane Underwood – (11) cSR/TPS .097 
  • 20 years old – (LoA Kane County)
  • 2nd round – 2012
  • Ranked #19 by MLBPipeline
  • Things are starting to happen in Chicago, but if the casual Cubs fan only knew what’s in store for the organization from the minor league level, its no wonder Wrigley is under expansion. Theo Epstein will look like a genius with these “under the rader” top picks in the recent drafts. With Blackburn, Underwood, Skulina, and Pierce Johnson, the system doesn’t have room for the true under the radar kids, as this list will attest. Underwood, at 20 years old, is already one of the best power arms in the system. He throws a mid-90’s heater along with a plus curveball.
4. RHP Daury Torrez – (11) SP/TPS .138 
  • 21 years old – (LoA Kane County)
  • Undrafted – 2010
  • UTR Mention (June 26th)
  • Ive mentioned 3 pitchers within the very successful Kane County rotation, but it was Torres who was named by Baseball America as  the best pitcher in the Cubs system for 2014. Our first true Cubs UTR selection went 11-7 with a 2.74 ERA over 131.1 innings and 21 walks/81 strikeouts. Reports state that he could be exposed in 2015 when he makes the jump to HiA Daytona. His repertoire consists of a 2-pitch selection of either a low 90’s fastball and a mid 80’s slider, that advance hitters could feast. 
5. LHP Rob Zastryzny – (10) SP/TPS .094 
  • 22 years old – (HiA Daytona)
  • 2nd round – 2013
  • Zastryzny sneaks into the #5 spot with a strong second half the season. He posted ERA’s north of 6.00 in April and May, but had an outstanding June (1.90) that began the turnaround. Despite all that, he was the only pitcher in the top 10 of my Cubs tracking sheet that struck out a batter per inning (110 over 110 IP).
* Two pitchers that qualified for the top spots were traded to the Marlins in the Jacob Turner deal in August. Coming in at #1 was Jose Arias (9) and at #2 was Tyler Bremer (9). Both had outstanding seasons, but are behind the development curve. Bremer though, could take off with the Marlins and make a nice middle reliever.
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
 1. RHP James Pugliese – (8) RP/TPS .074
  •  21 years old – (LoA Kane County / AZL Cubs / LoA Kane County)
  • 18th round – 2011
  • 3-UTR Mentions (May 10thMay 30thJune 9th)
  • Not much is said about Pugliese, but he has the potential to be big time set-up guy for the Cubs in the future. This after his first successful year working exclusively from the bullpen. Not sure whether the organization will keep him as a reliever or just place him there to work out his re-tooled delivery. Since being drafted in 2011, Pugliese was a starter and put-up strong peripherals. 2014 could have been a breakout year had the right-hander not suffered undisclosed injuries on two separate occasions; after the start and toward the end of the season. He finished with a 1.57 ERA over 33 appearances.
 
2. RHP Zach Cates – (7) RP/TPS .116
  • 24 years old – HiA Daytona / Double-A Tennessee)
  • 3rd round – 2010
  • Zack Godley would have been in this slot, had he not been sent to the Diamondback as part of the Miguel Montero trade. This opens the door for Zach Cates, who came over  to the Cubs from San Diego in the Anthony Rizzo trade before the 2012 season. The time is beginning to run out for Cates as he turned 25 in December. He’s a power arm that consistently throws in the upper 90’s, but has had control issues in the past which reared its head during his stint at Double-A (22 K / 22 BB in 27 IP). Cates can show flashes in his outings, but the TPS rate as a relief pitcher, with advance age may mean he’s hit the wall. This year will tell.
3 .  RHP Starlin Peralta – (6) cSR/TPS .080
  • 23 years old – (HiA Daytona)
  • Undrafted – 2008
  • UTR Mention (April 15th)
  • Peralta is no stranger to our UTR tracking where he made several mentions as a starter during our seasons with MLBDepthCharts (rosterresource.com). In reporting on Peralta, I mentioned that the hard-throwing righty would probably be best suited in the relief role and that light may have come on this past season. The Cubs lost Peralta to the Diamondbacks in the 2012 Rule 5 draft and though the D-Backs liked what they saw from the then 21 year-old, he was returned to the Cubs prior to the 2013 season. Peralta throws his fastball up to 97 mph along with a hard slider which will profile nicely in the pen.
Top 5 TPS – Starting Pitchers
 
 1. LHP Rob Zastryzny – SP/TPS .094 

  • 22 years old – (HiA Daytona)
  • 2nd round – 2013
  • Zastryzny’s steady K9 (9.0) and KBB (2.7) rates along with with a strong second half vaulted him to the top. He had a horrible start for 2014 by posting ERA’s north of 6.00 in April and May, but had an outstanding June (1.90) that began the turnaround. He was the only pitcher in the top 10 of my Cubs tracking sheet that struck out a batter per inning (110 over 110 IP).
2. RHP Oscar De La Cruz –  SP/TPS .095
  • 19 years old – (DSL Cubs)
  • Undrafted – 2013
  • UTR Mention – (June 7th)
  • De La Cruz is a converted infielder and has only been pitching for two years. You couldn’t tell based on his performance in 2014 where he went 8-1 with 1.80 ERA in 14 starts He already throws in the low 90’s and reports state he has a clean, repeatable delivery.
 3. RHP Alexander Santana –  cSR/TPS .095
  • 20 years old – (AZL Cubs)
  • Undrafted – 2011
  • With already 4 seasons under his belt, Santana could be “one to watch” in 2015. He’s been a model of consistency, including his time state-side with the AZL Cubs the last two years. He’s still a raw talent and needs to fill out his 6’1″ 170 lb frame. We should get to see his wares at Short-Season Boise.
4. RHP Duane Underwood – cSR/TPS .097 

  • 20 years old – (LoA Kane County)
  • 2nd round – 2012
  • Ranked #19 by MLBPipeline
  • Things are starting to happen in Chicago, but if the casual Cubs fan only knew what’s in store for the organization from the minor league level, its no wonder Wrigley is under expansion. Theo Epstein will look like a genius with these “under the rader” top picks in the recent drafts. With Blackburn, Underwood, Skulina, and Pierce Johnson, the system doesn’t have room for the true under the radar kids, was this list will attest. Underwood, at 20 years old, is already one of the best power arms in the system. He throws a mid-90’s heater along with a plus curveball.
5. RHP Santiago Rodriguez –  cSR/TPS .098
  • 20 years old – (DSL Cubs)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (July 16thJuly 29th)
  • Debut year for Rodriguez where he finished 8-1 with a 1.67 ERA. In 81 innings of work, he struck out 71 and only 13 walks. With his age and past performance, it will interesting to see whether the club brings him over the the Arizona League in 2015.
Top 3 TPS – Relief Pitchers
 
1. LHP Michael Heesch – RP/TPS .060
  • 24 years old – (LoA Kane County / Triple-A Iowa / LoA Kane County)
  • 8th round – 2012
  • Whats does the organization think of Heesch? He hasn’t seen any innings above Low-A but made a spot appearance at Triple-A Iowa in early July. He could possibly be a serviceable swing-type guy in the near future. His stuff isn’t flashy nor does he have a pitch that grades above average, except for his change-up. This guy just gets it done. After some research, he reminded me of a high school friend who surprised his circle by making the varsity wrestling team. He didn’t have a signature move or even a pinning combo that he could throw-in during the times in control. He just came at his opponents with “junk” and was successful. It’s these unorthodox types that somehow crave out their niche. Heesch could be that guy for the Cubs and will be pleasurable to follow him in 2015. Look at his stats over the last 3 season and then read the detailed scouting report at www.intheshadowsofwrigley.com to fully comprehend. 
 
2. RHP James Pugliese – (8) RP/TPS .074

  •  21 years old – (LoA Kane County / AZL Cubs / LoA Kane County)
  • 18th round – 2011
  • 3-UTR Mentions (May 10thMay 30thJune 9th)
  • Not much is said about Pugliese but he has the potential to be big time set-up guy for the Cubs in the future. This after his first successful year working exclusively from the bullpen. Not sure whether the organization will keep him as a reliever or just placed him there to work out his re-tooled delivery. Since being drafted in 2011, Pugliese was a starter and put-up strong peripherals. 2014 could have been a breakout year had the right-hander not suffered undisclosed injuries on two separate occasions, after the start and toward the end of the season. He finished with a 1.57 ERA over 33 appearances.
 3. LHP Sam Wilson – RP/TPS .076 
  • 22 years old – (AZL Cubs / Short-Season Boise)
  • 8th round – 2013
  • An athletic type pitcher with a 4-pitch mix of a low 90’s fastball that can peak at 94 mph, slider, change-up and curveball. He could be cutting his teeth in the bullpen preparing for a chance in a rotation. The lefty had an 5-1 record and strikeout 40 hitters over 35.1 innings.
 
2014 Breakout Grades
 
The following pitchers were chosen in early March. Their selection was based solely on their previous season’s TPS rating and using the UTRMinors.com criteria for those under the radar.
 
 SP Erick Leal – Leal got the opportunity to make some consistent starts with short-season Boise. He did fine, but I was disappointed that he didn’t miss enough bats (31 K’s) over 62.2 innings and gave up 7 dingers. Leal is control type pitcher that the Cubs may nurture through the lower levels. Grade C
 
RP Corbin Hoffner – At the end of the 2014 season, Hoffner found himself back at short-season Boise. His predicted breakout year at Lo-A Kane County didn’t go well as it fell apart where he posted a 5.64 ERA in 16 appearances. Grade  D
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