(Photo by Roger C. Hoover)
The crop of Cubs prospects representing the organization at the 2015 Arizona Fall League might have lacked the hype that accompanied Kris Bryant, Javier Baez or Addison Russell in recent years. However, a few prospects did raise their profile in the showcase league and could be part of the next wave of budding stars.
On Tuesday, MLB.com’s Jim Callis unveiled his top 20 prospects from the AFL, and a pair of Cubs made the list.
5. Willson Contreras, C, Mesa (Cubs No. 10 prospect): After leading the Double-A Southern League in batting (.333) and extra-base hits (46), he continued his breakout 2015 by hitting .283/.361/.547 before straining a hamstring. Like [Gary] Sanchez, Contreras is an offensive-minded catcher with enough defensive skills to be a big league regular.
MLB ETA: 2017
11. Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Mesa (Cubs No. 20 prospect): The Cubs keep churning out impressive offensive prospects, and here’s yet another. Candelario is a switch-hitter with legitimate power (he ranked second behind Sanchez with five homers, 13 extra-base hits and 50 total bases) and arm strength, though he may not have the agility for third base.
MLB ETA: 2017
The 23-year-old Contreras, a converted third baseman, slugged .891 during the Double-A season and was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year. He debuted in the Cubs system in 2009 as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League and could be knocking on the major league door sooner than later.
Candelario, who turned 22 on Tuesday, hit .291/.379/.462 between High-A and Double-A in 2015. It was a nice jump from a subpar 2014, though he’s always been one of the younger players at each of his respective stops. He signed with the Cubs in September 2010.
Mesa struggled as a team during the 2015 Arizona Fall League season, limping to a 9-21 record and a last place finish in the East division. Despite a poor showing in the standings, there were some promising players who raised their stock heading into the 2016 season. Here are the final stats from the Cubs prospects in the AFL:
The headliner in this group is certainly Jeimer Candelario, who made the midseason Fall Stars team. He finished second in the league in total bases and tied for second in home runs. The infielder was also top three in doubles and hits and top 10 in batting average and runs batted in. Willson Contreras had a solid season before a hamstring issue shortened his fall. One of the more interesting stats was Mark Zagunis’ 19 bases on balls, which was tops in the league and gave the catcher-turned-outfielder an on-base percentage more than 200 points higher than his average—and second best OBP in the AFL. Cael Brockmeyer, who got into games only twice a week as a taxi squad player, didn’t have a great line, but he also demonstrated his on-base abilities.
Though the offensive numbers have dropped in recent years, the AFL is still seen as a hitters league, and the Cubs’ pitching prospects might have fallen victim to their power-hitting opponents. Rob Zastryzny flexed his strikeout muscles, finishing third in the league in punchouts. He put up a solid WHIP as well, taking fourth among pitchers with five starts or more. Pierce Johnson, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, didn’t have the greatest fall season, but his last few starts better represented the player many believe he can be. Overall, his strikeouts were sixth in the league. David Garner surprised some with a steady effort out of the bullpen. Though his walk total was a tad high, his 9.0 K/9 rate was good.
The Cubs today acquired right-handed pitcher Spencer Patton from the Texas Rangers for minor league infielder Frandy Delarosa. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 33 players.
Patton, 27, broke into the big leagues with Texas in 2014 and went 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA (1 ER/9.1 IP) in nine big league relief appearances before splitting the 2015 campaign between the Rangers and Triple-A Round Rock. Patton went 2-0 with 11 saves and a 1.67 ERA in 26 Triple-A relief outings and went 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in 27 big league relief outings. Overall, Patton is 2-1 with a 6.75 ERA in 36 major league relief outings over the last two years, averaging more than one strikeout per inning with 36 strikeouts in 33.1 frames.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Patton has gone 15-14 with 33 saves and a 3.49 ERA in 147 career minor league appearances, all but 12 in relief, covering five minor league campaigns. He has struck out 364 batters in 268.1 innings pitched, an average of 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Patton was named to the 2014 Pacific Coast League All-Star team.
Patton is a native of Urbana, Illinois, and was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 24th round of the 2011 draft out of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He was acquired by Texas for right-hander Jason Frasor on July 16, 2014.
Delarosa, 19, batted .273 (70-for-256) with 20 doubles, two triples, no home runs and 30 RBI in 62 games for Short-Season A Eugene last season. He originally signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in 2012.
Mesa concluded its AFL slate with a 5-1 loss to Glendale. A few Cubs got into the season finale. Here’s how they fared:
- 1B Cael Brockmeyer (.194) walked to lead off the second inning. He scored the Solar Sox’s only run three batters later and finish 0-for-3.
- DH Jeimer Candelario was 0-for-4 on the day, but hit .329 on the season.
The team finished with a 9-21 record. Scottsdale will take on Surprise for the AFL title game Saturday.
Pierce Johnson provided another strong effort in his final AFL start of the season as Mesa toppled Salt River 5-1 on Wednesday. A few Cubs players got into the act offensively as well. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action:
- RHP Pierce Johnson (5.47) pitched four strong innings, giving up one earned run and striking out six to pick up the win. He surrendered four hits and a walk in the outing.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.346) went 1-for-3, recording an RBI single in the sixth. He added a pair of walks and a run scored.
- C Cael Brockmeyer (.214) singled to lead off the third. He also walked and recorded a run scored in the win.
Mesa wraps up its season Thursday with a home matchup against Glendale. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 local time.
The Cubs and right-handed pitcher Andury Acevedo have agreed to terms on a 2016 contract. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 31 players.
Acevedo, 25, spent the last four seasons pitching in the Yankees organization, reaching the Triple-A level for the first time last year, going 1-2 with one save and a 2.31 ERA (3 ER/11.2 IP) in 10 relief outings with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After starting 2015 with Single-A Tampa, Acevedo pitched at three levels in the Yankees, combining to go 3-4 with three saves and a 2.59 ERA (17 ER/59.0 IP) in 41 relief appearances. Acevedo earned Florida State League mid-season All-Star honors, posting a 1.40 ERA (3 ER/19.1 IP) in 13 relief appearances with Tampa.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Acevedo was originally signed by Pittsburgh as an infielder in 2007 before he converted to a relief pitcher upon signing with the Yankees in 2012. Overall, Acevedo is 8-8 with four saves and a 4.00 ERA (55 ER/123.2 IP) in 95 professional relief outings.
Acevedo is a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
After getting rained out on Monday, Mesa returned to action Tuesday, falling 4-2 to Salt River. A few Cubs prospects got into the game with mixed results:
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.347) got Mesa on the board early with an RBI single in the first inning, scoring Chad Hinshaw (Angels). He finished 1-for-4.
- RF Mark Zagunis (.234) was 0-for-3.
- LHP Rob Zastryzny (5.19) got the start, but gave up three earned runs in 3.0 innings for his second loss of the fall. He struck out three and walked one, giving up three hits.
Mesa hosts Salt River Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
Mesa powered its way to a 5-1 win versus Scottsdale Saturday, with a few Cubs getting into the action. Here are some notes from the weekend’s result:
- DH Jeimer Candelario (.352) recorded two hits, including a fifth-inning double, to finish 2-for-4. He added a run scored.
- RHP David Garner (3.48) pitched a scoreless eighth inning, giving up no hits and walking one.
- C Cael Brockmeyer (.200) went 0-for-4.
A year ago at this time, many were debating who should be the higher-ranked prospect in the Cubs system: Kris Bryant or Addison Russell. After stellar 2015 campaigns, a similar argument is being made, but in regards to who should be the NL Rookie of the Year winner.
Now that those two, as well as catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber, have officially graduated from prospect rankings, a new wave of talent officially takes over in the Cubs system. On Friday, Baseball America published its Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects list, with hotshot shortstop Gleyber Torres coming in at No. 1.
Signed in early 2013 from Venezuela, the 18-year-old spent much of 2015 in the Low-A Midwest League, where he hit .290/.350/.383 with 24 doubles and 22 stolen bases. He then wrapped up the season in High-A Myrtle Beach as the Pelicans claimed a league title. Here is a portion of Baseball America‘s scouting report on Torres:
Torres has four above-average to plus tools, with only power lagging behind—but give him time. Torres had good strength when he signed and has improved his body significantly working with the Cubs’ strength and conditioning crew, with a trimmer shape. He combines those tools with a gamer’s mentality and a feel for the game on both sides of the ball. Torres’ bat-to-ball skills are only mitigated by youthful aggressiveness, and as he gains experience, he should learn which pitches to selectively zone in on and drive more consistently, giving him at least average future power potential. Some club officials give Torres plus future power, particularly to his pull side. He has a knack for the barrel, uses the entire field and has a solid approach, showing a good two-strike approach for his age.
The rest of the top 10 prospects are as follows:
2. Willson Contreras, C/3B
3. Ian Happ, OF/2B
4. Duane Underwood, RHP
5. Dylan Cease, RHP
6. Albert Almora, OF
7. Billy McKinney, OF
8. Oscar de la Cruz, RHP
9. Eloy Jimenez, OF
10. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
With only two Cubs farmhands in action, it was a quiet day for prospects Wednesday. Both were able to drive in runs, but Mesa was on the wrong end of a 12-6 loss to Salt River. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action:
- C Cael Brockmeyer was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning and scored on a sacrifice fly three batters later. The taxi squad player added an RBI groundout in the ninth. He was 0-for-3 in his other plate appearances.
- RF Mark Zagunis drove in a run on a bases-loaded walk in the seventh but was also 0-for-3.
Cubs third base prospect Jeimer Candelario was added to Saturday’s Fall Stars Game via the AFL’s Final Two Vote. He received 27.8 percent of the votes to earn the final roster spot on the East Division team.