Results tagged ‘ Billy McKinney ’
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty)
The Cubs today acquired left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees for infielder Gleyber Torres, right-handed pitcher Adam Warren, and outfielders Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. Chapman is expected to join the Cubs for tomorrow night’s game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Chapman, 28, is 3-0 with 20 saves and a 2.01 ERA (7 ER/31.1 IP) in 31 relief appearances with the Yankees this season. He has struck out 44 batters and walked only eight in 31.1 innings while pitching to a 0.89 WHIP. Chapman has limited foes to a .179 batting average, a .233 on-base percentage and a .286 slugging percentage, good for a .519 opponent OPS. Chapman joins the Cubs having not allowed a run in his last nine appearances, covering 11.1 innings, starting June 30, limiting opponents to a .367 OPS in that span.
The Holguin, Cuba, native originally signed a six-year major-league contract with the Cincinnati Reds in January of 2010 and was traded to the Yankees last December as the headliner of a five-player trade. He signed a one-year deal with the Yankees to avoid arbitration in his final season of eligibility in February. Chapman made his New York debut on May 9 after beginning the season serving a 30-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.
“Obviously, we are aware of the circumstances surrounding Aroldis Chapman’s suspension earlier this season,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts in a statement. “We are also aware that he cooperated fully with the league investigation and takes responsibility for his actions.”
Chapman has gone 22-20 with 166 saves and a 2.16 ERA (84 ER/350.1 IP) in 355 career appearances covering seven seasons with Cincinnati (2010-15) and New York (2016). The four-time NL All-Star (2012-15) has exceeded 30 saves in each of the last four seasons, while his career 89.7 save percentage ranks second among all active pitchers with at least 175 opportunities.
Overall in his career, Chapman has pitched to a 1.00 WHIP, limiting opponents to a .157 batting average, a .265 on-base percentage and a .232 slugging percentage, good for a .497 opponent OPS, the second lowest career opponent OPS of any active relief pitcher. He has limited left-handed hitters to a .123 batting average and right-handers to a .168 mark. He has struck out 590 batters in 350.1 innings pitched for an average of 15.2 strikeouts per nine innings, the best ratio of any active relief pitcher.
Torres, 19, is batting .275 (98 for 356) with 23 doubles, nine home runs and 47 RBI in 94 games with Single-A Myrtle Beach this season. He originally signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in 2013.
Warren, 28, went 3-2 with a 5.91 ERA (23 ER/35 IP) in 29 appearances, all but one in relief, with the Cubs this season. He was acquired by the Cubs from the Yankees for infielder Starlin Castro last Dec. 8.
McKinney, 21, is batting .252 (75 for 298) with 12 doubles, one home run and 31 RBI in 88 games with Double-A Tennessee this season. He was acquired by the Cubs with infielder Addison Russell, right-hander Dan Straily and cash from Oakland for right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 5, 2014.
Crawford, 22, is batting .255 (84 for 329) with 18 doubles, three home runs and 30 RBI in 83 games with Myrtle Beach this season. He was originally selected by the Cubs in the 11th round of the 2012 Draft.
(Photo by Roger Hoover)
Spring baseball is just one week away, with pitchers and catchers slated to report next week. This also kicks off one of the best times of the year for prospect watching. On Thursday, ESPN senior writer Keith Law unveiled his Top 100 prospects list, which includes six Cubs. Though the team graduated one of the greatest crops of young talent in organizational history to the majors last year, the quantity of players still on Law’s list demonstrates the waves of talent in the system.
Here is a small portion of what Law had to say on each Cubs prospect:
15. Gleyber Torres, SS
Torres looked much older than 18 in terms of his plate skills during the 2015 season; he stayed behind the ball really well, with great hand-eye coordination and the ability to shoot a ball to the outfield the way Derek Jeter would do with two strikes. It’s a very easy swing, and Torres keeps his head steady throughout in a way many major league hitters couldn’t emulate. He’s very smooth at shortstop already, with plus hands and a plus arm, showing me in Myrtle Beach’s playoff series against Wilmington that he could come across the bag well on a difficult double play. He needs to continue to get stronger, as well as work on some of his reads in the field and on the bases, where his physical tools have exceeded his acumen. He has a good chance to jump into the top 5 by next year.
Torres burst onto the scene in the Low-A Midwest League in 2015, hitting .293/.353/.386 with 24 doubles for South Bend. Despite his age, he was named the league’s prospect of the year for both his offense and his smooth defense at shortstop.
27. Willson Contreras, C
Contreras is a strong, coordinated, athletic kid with great body control, but none of that had manifested in his performances prior to 2015, except in his generally good contact rates. His bat speed seemed to pick up in ’15, and with a clean, direct path to the ball, he’s going to make a lot of hard contact, though mostly singles and doubles. There isn’t big loft in the swing, although he’s physically strong enough to hit for power, especially if he had a little more rotation in his path. Behind the plate, he has an easy 70 arm and good energy and actions but needs work on the mechanics of receiving and framing, as well as the finer points, like calling a game.
Contreras’ eye-opening 2015 season, during which he won the batting title in the Double-A Southern League, earned him organizational player of the year honors. He finished with eight home runs, 46 extra-base hits and a .413 on-base percentage in 521 plate appearances.
47. Ian Happ, 2B
Happ is a switch-hitter, smoother and shorter from the left side, less consistent and longer right-handed, although the latter could improve with coaching help and more reps. He has 15-20 homer potential, driven more by his contact rate than any need to get stronger or change a swing.
A 2015 first-round pick, Happ spent all of his debut season in the outfield, where he played a large portion of his college career. Offensively, the 21-year-old demonstrated both his power and on-base abilities, hitting nine homers and reaching base via walk in 13.5 percent of his 295 plate appearances between Short-Season Eugene and South Bend.
69. Billy McKinney, OF
McKinney has a beautiful, fluid, left-handed swing, very easy to repeat, geared toward line-drive contact but without a ton of leverage in it, so he projects as a high-OBP, high-doubles guy, but his ultimate power ceiling might be south of 20 homers as a result. McKinney played center in the lower minors, but that was a pipe dream, especially since he’s a below-average runner. He should settle in as an average defender in left, which will be fine given his offensive profile but limits his potential to be a star unless he starts hitting .320, which isn’t out of the question given his swing and eye.
In 2015, McKinney continued to do what he does best: hit. Between High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee, the Athletics’ 2013 first-round pick hit .300/.371/.454 with 31 doubles. This season could be a big one for the outfielder, who is one of the toughest outs in the Cubs’ system.
88. Albert Almora, OF
Almora is a 70 defender in center with outstanding reads on balls off the bat, which makes up for his below-average running speed, and the defense will get him to the big leagues even if he doesn’t hit. He boosted his stat line with a huge August at Double-A, but the real difference was that he started making better quality contact as the season went on, squaring up the ball more frequently and thus improving his BABIP and hitting for more power, mostly doubles power.
Though he may be known for his defensive prowess, Almora’s offense in 2015 was strong as well. As mentioned above, the 2012 first-round pick started making better contact and improved his plate discipline, drawing 32 walks—that’s more than his previous two campaigns combined. He spent the entire season in Double-A, hitting .272/.327/.400 with six homers and 26 doubles.
91. Dylan Cease, RHP
Cease was a potential top-10 pick in 2014 after his fastball hit 99 mph and he showed a plus curveball that spring, but he suffered a partial tear of his elbow ligament that didn’t respond to treatment, requiring Tommy John surgery after he signed an overslot deal as a sixth-round pick of the Cubs that June. Cease returned this summer and was back up to 99, easier than ever with a cleaner delivery.
The sample size is limited (24 innings pitched), but the Cubs front office raves about Cease’s potential whenever there’s an opportunity. During Theo Eptstein’s postseason recap, he mentioned the right-hander as a player who could really break out in 2016.
Jorge Soler should be featured in the middle of the Cubs’ order in 2015. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Scouting publication Baseball America unveiled its 25th preseason top 100 prospects list on Friday. Of course, there were plenty of Cubs farmhands scattered throughout the rankings, including Kris Bryant as the top prospect and Addison Russell coming in at No. 3. Also included on the link are the player grades on a 20-80 scouting scale and the estimated time before each player makes his major league debut.
The publication also released a coinciding story titled “What Could Go Wrong?” for each of baseball’s top 10 prospects. Here’s where each member of the Cubs organization fell on Baseball America’s list, as well as the pros and cons of the elite-level Cubs minor leaguers:
1. Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs
What Could Go Wrong: Like many sluggers, Bryant’s power has always come with some swings and misses. Bryant’s strikeout rate in the minors isn’t all that much better than Javier Baez’s was at similar levels, although Bryant’s understanding of the strike zone has been better. If Bryant’s strikeout rate climbs even further in the majors like Baez’s did, it could quickly end up higher than 30 percent, which puts a massive amount of pressure on the rest of his plate appearances.
Why You Shouldn’t Worry: Bryant has shown an advanced understanding of hitting and has made steady adjustments throughout his career. His production got better and better in his three years at San Diego and he’s shown little trouble adjusting to tougher pitching as a pro. His work ethic and understanding of his swing makes him more likely to replicate Giancarlo Stanton’s steady strikeout rate improvement than an Adam Dunn feast-or-famine approach.
3. Addison Russell, ss, Cubs
What Could Go Wrong: There are no clear red flags in Russell’s game that should clearly derail his big league dreams. He’s an outstanding athlete with a sweet swing and a track record of hitting. If you’re looking to nitpick, the crowded Cubs infield may force Russell to move off of shortstop, and he became a little more aggressive upon joining the Cubs’ Double-A club. His bat should handle a move to pretty much any other spot, but he’s most valuable as a shortstop with a corner outfielder’s bat.
Why You Shouldn’t Worry: The worst-case scenario for Russell is still a pretty solid player, whose solid but not spectacular arm strength could move him off short. His athleticism should make him as least a useful defender if he moves, and his power would make him playable even is his batting average were to dip.
12. Jorge Soler, of
19. Kyle Schwarber, c/of
38. C.J. Edwards, rhp
83. Billy McKinney, of
C.J. Edwards is one of the Cubs’ top pitching prospects. (Photo by Roger C. Hooever)
The fact that Cubs farmhands continue to pop up all over prospect rankings is an ongoing testament to the job Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been doing since they took over the baseball operations department in late 2011. On Tuesday, baseball website FanGraphs released its top 200 prospects, which included 11 members of the Cubs’ organization.
Seeing Kris Bryant and Addison Russell as high as they are is no longer much of a surprise, but 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber’s inclusion in the top 25 puts him in elite territory. It’s also worth mentioning that three of the Cubs’ first four picks in the 2012 draft are included.
Each capsule below includes a brief segment from the individual’s FanGraphs scouting report. Check out the link above for a more comprehensive report on each player.
1. Kris Bryant, 3B
Scouting Report: Bryant is the top prospect in the game for me and for a majority of sources I talked to, but it isn’t by a landslide. Bryant still has some questions, and the guy right behind him could be terrifyingly good. Bryant has either 75 or 80 raw power for scouts, but the two questions about him are 1) how much contact he’ll make/how much of his power will he get to in games, and 2) if he will play third base or right field.
3. Addison Russell, SS
Scouting Report: [Russell] went 11th overall to Oakland and surprised from day one with how advanced he was offensively, while continuing to improve defensively. He was dealt to the Cubs last year in the Jeff Samardzija deal and joins a glut of talented young hitters for the Cubs. The biggest remaining question for Russell is if he can still stick at shortstop due to a hitch in his release that limits how quickly he can unload the ball deep in the hole.
13. Jorge Soler, RF
Scouting Report: He’s an explosive quick-twitch power hitter with easy plus bat speed and raw power, along with just enough huge cuts and erratic stuff to his game that you never know what you might see. The erratic aspects of his game slowly melted away this year as he matured mentally and had his first full year of reps in the system with a clean bill of health.
21. Kyle Schwarber, LF
Scouting Report: The Cubs took him #4 overall out of Indiana. … They’ll develop him as a catcher this year, but most assume his bat will be ready before his glove, meaning he’ll be a part-time catcher at best. There’s legit 30 homer power and surprising feel to hit with a realistic chance for a big league look in late 2016.
64. C.J. Edwards, RHP
Scouting Report: Edwards was a near unknown pitcher as an amateur; you don’t see many pitchers this high on prospect lists that signed for $50,000 out of high school in the 48th round. The Cubs smartly grabbed him from Texas in the Matt Garza trade late in his breakout season in 2013. He’s still a rail-thin righty that some think will never add the necessary bulk to throw 200 innings in the big leagues, but the stuff and command projects for the middle of the rotation.
92. Albert Almora, CF
Scouting Report: He’ll need to make some adjustments to his approach since Double-A was the first level where he couldn’t hit with that approach. If he makes some progress there, he has 15+ homer power and near Gold Glove defense, so there’s some real ceiling despite just solid raw tools.
124. Duane Underwood, RHP
Scouting Report: Underwood was an inconsistent prep arm from Atlanta in the 2012 draft that, early in his pro career, look to be more bust than boom. He turned things around and had a breakout 2014 campaign in Low-A, flashing three plus pitches at times.
125. Pierce Johnson, RHP
Scouting Report: Johnson popped up in his draft year at Missouri State flashing above average stuff, slipping on draft day due to some concerns about his delivery, command and future health prospects. Johnson has avoided major injuries and performed well, with his above average to plus fastball-curveball combo giving him #3 starter upside, but the command and consistency have been bugaboos and he may ultimate fit best in the bullpen.
First baseman Dan Vogelbach, outfielder Billy McKinney and shortstop Gleyber Torres were also listed among the unranked players to round out FanGraphs’ top 200 prospects.
Outfielder Billy McKinney makes his Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects debut. (Photo by Aldrin Capulong/Daytona Cubs)
At this point, the baseball community is well aware of the Cubs’ system depth. Almost universally rated the best farm system in baseball, the Cubs continue to flaunt their strengths on every preseason prospect list. So it should come as no surprise that Baseball Prospectus included seven farmhands in its annual 101 Prospects list.
Given the subjectivity of these lists, every top prospect ranking is going to display some opinions that don’t necessarily run parallel with other publications’ rankings. And Baseball Prospectus is no different, even after we remember Baseball Propsectus named Addison Russell as the organization’s top prospect in November. Regardless, the Cubs still see two farmhands in the top five, three in the top 20 and a pair of players making their Baseball Prospectus Top 101 debuts. At 7 p.m. Monday, members of the Baseball Prospectus staff will be hosting a live chat to talk about the list. Here are the Cubs represented on the rankings:
2. Addison Russell, SS
2014 Ranking: 7
5. Kris Bryant, 3B
2014 Ranking: 17
19. Jorge Soler, OF
2014 Ranking: 45
38. Albert Almora, CF
2014 Ranking: 25
77. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF
2014 Ranking: N/A
81. Billy McKinney, OF
2014 Ranking: N/A
83. Pierce Johnson, RHP
2014 Ranking: 91
Jorge Soler is one of the Cubs top prospects by any measure. (Photo by Stephen Green)
When it comes to prospect rankings, there are several offensive weapons in the Cubs system that find themselves atop almost every list. Baseball America unveiled its 2015 Cubs Top 10 Prospects Monday, and sure enough, the familiar bats make up the top half.
Here are Baseball America‘s best Cubs prospects and some of the more interesting comments:
1. Kris Bryant, 3B
The Cubs have a surplus of athletic infielders who can hit, and it’s conceivable either big league shortstops Baez and Starlin Castro or Double-A shortstop Addison Russell could wind up at third base, with Bryant shifting to the outfield. Bryant also could stay at third, where Luis Valbuena is keeping the hot corner warm in Chicago. Barring a poor start back Triple-A Iowa, Bryant should arrive on the North Side as soon as the Cubs deem it financially feasible. Bryant has the talent, confidence and makeup to be one of the game’s biggest stars. All he’s waiting for is the playing time.
2. Addison Russell, SS
Russell combines above-average athleticism with extremely quick hands and impressive strength to produce both plus hitting ability and power. He’s nearly impossible to beat with a fastball when he’s looking for it and stays back on offspeed stuff, trusting his fast hands and making plenty of high-impact contact. Defensively, Russell has the range and improved footwork to stay at shortstop.
3. Jorge Soler, OF
Kris Bryant hits more homers, but Soler’s create more buzz. His vicious bat speed, top-of-the-scale raw power and impressive feel for hitting make him a terror to pitchers. When locked in, he generates scorching line drives to all fields; some just don’t stop going until they’re over the fence. He’s coachable, takes quality at-bats and isn’t fazed by hitting with two strikes.
4. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF
Schwarber has thick, strong legs and swings from the ground up, incorporating his powerful lower half to deliver plus power with a short, furious stroke. He keeps his hands back and has the strength to hit the ball out to any part of the park. He has a .300-hitting, 30-homer ceiling. A college catcher, Schwarber has leadership skills and solid-average arm strength, but his receiving was rudimentary as an amateur, frequently dropping to one knee to handle breaking balls. He has the tools to be a capable left fielder, having shown instincts for the position.
5. C.J. Edwards, RHP
At his best, Edwards delivers three above-average to plus pitches, with excellent body control leading to an easy, rhythmic delivery and strike-throwing ability. He’s very tough for hitters to square up due to late cutting action on his fastball, which generally sat 90-93 mph in August and in his Arizona Fall League stint. The late life on the pitch has allowed him to allow just two home runs in 237 career pro innings.
6. Billy McKinney, OF
The Cubs were stunned they were able to pry both Addison Russell and McKinney, the Athletics’ top two prospects, away in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade. Signed in 2013 for $1.8 million, McKinney jumped to high Class A for his first full season and hit better in the high Class A Florida State League after the trade than in the offense-first California League.
7. Albert Almora, OF
Almora has first-round tools, starting with a line-drive bat with present strength, fine hand-eye coordination, bat speed to catch up to good fastballs and average raw power. He was pitched backwards much of the season and struggled to adjust. He still employs a big leg kick and can get streaky, as evidenced by a .377/.395/.649 finishing kick with high Class A Daytona before his promotion. A bit more patience would go a long way to making him a big league regular considering Almora’s defense, which remains advanced.
8. Gleyber Torres, SS
A $1.7 million signee, Torres finished his U.S. pro debut by earning a promotion to short-season Boise before his 18th birthday. His maturity showed as he maintained his focus despite turmoil in his native Venezuela that prompted his family to come to the U.S.
9. Pierce Johnson, RHP
If Johnson puts it all together, he profiles as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter with two plus pitches and potentially above-average control. Chicago’s 2014 ace, Jake Arrieta, had a similar (albeit more durable) career path, and Johnson’s stuff is worth the wait. He could pitch his way to Triple-A Iowa with a strong, healthy spring training.
10. Duane Underwood, RHP
No one took as big of a step forward for the organization in 2014 as Underwood, who has the system’s most electric stuff. If he combines better control with more consistent displays of the best of his repertoire, he could move quickly. He’ll start 2015 with Chicago’s new high Class A Myrtle Beach affiliate.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Scouting publication Baseball Prospectus unveiled its list of the top 10 Cubs prospects on Friday. For Cubs fans and prospect junkies, it’s like Christmas day.
Over the last few seasons, the organization has stockpiled a deep farm system many view as the best in baseball. Unlike some other major league clubs, the list of high-upside Cubs farmhands extends well beyond a top 10—even with Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks graduating to the big leagues. Here is how Baseball Prospectus viewed the top players in the organization:
1. SS Addison Russell
2. 3B Kris Bryant
3. OF Jorge Soler
4. OF Albert Almora
5. C Kyle Schwarber
6. OF Billy McKinney
7. RHP Pierce Johnson
8. SS Gleyber Torres
9. 1B Dan Vogelbach
10. LHP Carson Sands
Strengths: Impact potential with the stick; strong hands and barrel control; good bat speed; improved approach; should grow into high-contact MLB bat that will hit for average and power; solid actions at short; good hands with left-side arm; solid run paired with baserunning acumen; clocks plus times out of the box and should settle in as average run at maturity.
Weaknesses: Still working to slow down game in the field; set-up and footwork can get loose, particularly at the margins, leading to drift in throws; can slip into overly aggressive approach at plate.
The Year Ahead: Russell is close to major-league ready and possesses the skill set, makeup, and natural ability to make an immediate impact as soon as he is called upon. The profile is an elite blend of offensive upside, defensive stability at a high-worth position, athleticism, and strength; the aggregate of which could produce a perennial all-star capable of impacting the game in all facets. Not only might this be the best collection of tools, upside, and probability from a talented crop of minor-league shortstops, but there’s a case for top prospect in the game. He should debut in Chicago in 2015 and it won’t be long before Russell surpasses the ‘L’ stop as the best known Addison in Wrigleyville.
Strengths: Elite raw power; big leverage and big-boy present strength; ability to produce regular hard contact; good plate coverage allowing for wide kill zone on mistake pitches; borderline double-plus arm; solid athleticism and coordination for a big man; strong grades for makeup.
Weaknesses: Long levers produce holes in swing that could be attacked by major-league arms; limited swing plane/pitch plane overlap narrows contact margin; some issues with velocity on inner half; capable at third base but may lack lower-half agility to excel; run could settle a tick below average at maturity.
The Year Ahead: Through his minor-league career, which totals just a shade over a full major-league season’s worth of plate appearances, Bryant has posted pornographic numbers at the plate, including a slash line of .327/.428/.666 while averaging nearly a home run every three games. He’s ready to bring his act to The Show, where he should eventually settle in as a fixture in the middle of the Cubs lineup. This season could be choppy at times due to the potential for major-league arms to exploit shortcomings in a swing. But the approach, work ethic, and IQ should aid Bryant in making his adjustments, and the raw power will be a legit threat from day one. Depending on the organization’s needs, Bryant could remain at third or transition out to right field where his arm and athleticism could make him a solid defender. Either way, he will join Russell as the foundation of a talented, young Cubs lineup for years to come, with 2015 likely to serve as the coming out party.
Strengths: Advanced bat; plus-to-better raw power that plays in game thanks to plate coverage and strike-zone awareness; solid bat speed and good bat-to-ball skills should help hit tool play average or better; strong leader and big makeup; lauded for work ethic; positive reviews from instructs on progress behind the plate.
Strengths: Loud stuff led by lively, low-90s fastball and sharp, low-80s hammer; can dial up to mid-90s with regularity; capable of cutting fastball for different look, counterbalance to two-seamer; some deception; traditional starter’s build; good present strength; will flash above-average change piece with fade mirroring fastball action; showed improvement in consistency of pitch execution and command over final two months.
Strengths: Balanced repertoire featuring three above-average offerings and above-average command; reports of improved consistency in mechanics and arm action through instructs; comfortable pitching to all four quadrants; some room to bump velo band to firm plus in comfort zone; already showing feel for sequencing; sturdy build; solid presence and even demeanor.
A notable absence from the list was right-hander C.J. Edwards, ranked No. 5 a year ago. Despite missing three months to a shoulder strain, Edwards enjoyed a solid second half that included a nice run in the Arizona Fall League. The publication seems to be skeptical of his long-term health, but still had positive things to say about the hard thrower.
Upon returning to action in late July, Edwards showcased impressive swing-and-miss stuff over six starts, with his fastball and curve each grading out as plus offerings and his change showing promise to boot. Were there more certainty that Edwards could maintain the quality of his stuff over the course of a full season at the upper levels, he would fit comfortably as one of the top-ten prospects in the system.
Soler reached the majors in 2014, and the publication believes Russell and Bryant could both join him at Wrigley Field in the upcoming season. They expect Almora, Schwarber, Johnson and Vogelbach to see action in the majors sometime in 2016.
Cubs acquire INF Addison Russell, OF Billy McKinney, RHP Dan Straily and a PTBNL from the A’s for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty)
The Chicago Cubs today acquired infielder Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, right-handed pitcher Dan Straily and a player to be named from the Oakland Athletics for right-handed pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Russell and McKinney were ranked as the top two players in Oakland’s farm system by Baseball America entering the 2014 season, while Russell was ranked the third-best prospect in baseball by ESPN.com, No. 11 by MLB.com and No. 14 overall by Baseball America.
“It’s not a secret that we now have an extremely talented, extremely deep group of potential impact position players age 20-22, who are moving very quickly through our system” said Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. “And these are real prospects. Not all of them work out, but we like these players quite a bit, and they have a chance to play together for long time at Wrigley Field. When you put that together with a couple of 24-year-old All-Star-caliber performers like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, we can’t help but be excited about the future.”
Russell was Oakland’s first-round pick in the 2012 Draft (11th overall out of high school), and McKinney was the club’s first-round pick in the 2013 Draft (24th overall out of high school). Straily began the 2013 campaign ranked second by MLB.com and sixth by Baseball America in the Athletics system (with the organization’s best slider and change-up) before going 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA (67 ER/152.1 IP) in 27 starts in the major leagues last season.
With the acquisition of Russell, a shortstop, the Cubs now have in their organization three of the top 14, six of the top 41, and eight players overall listed on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list entering the 2014 campaign.
The 20-year-old Russell entered 2014 as Oakland’s top prospect as ranked by Baseball America for the second year in a row. He was a 2012 Arizona League postseason All-Star, a 2013 Futures Game selection, the 2013 Single-A California League Rookie of the Year, a 2013 California League postseason All-Star and was named to the 2013 Arizona Fall League’s All Prospects Team, where he played for the Mesa Solar Sox and was a starter in the AFL All-Star Game.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Russell began his pro career by hitting .369 (80-for-217) with a 1.027 OPS in 55 games covering three levels in Oakland’s farm system before spending nearly all of 2013 at advanced Single-A Stockton. He was just one of 12 minor league players to reach double digits in doubles (29), triples (10) and home runs (17) last year en route to an .885 OPS with Stockton before a three-game promotion to Triple-A Sacramento at the end of the season.
Russell was with Oakland’s Double-A Midland affiliate at the time of the trade, where he hit .333 (16-for-48) with a .439 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage and a .939 OPS in just 13 games this year due to a hamstring injury. He joined the Midland line-up in mid-June and finished his time there riding an eight-game hitting streak.
“We put a lot of work into understanding the [trade] landscape, and I’ll just say it was a no-brainer process,” Epstein said. “If we had a chance to get Addison Russell, that was the deal we had to make. We didn’t think twice about it. Certainly we made attempts to craft packages that gave us enough pitching to feel like it was worthwhile to part with a Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel or both in the same deal, and we felt this was by far the best deal for the Chicago Cubs.”
The 19-year-old McKinney last year played across two levels in Oakland’s system in his first pro campaign and combined to bat .326 (70-for-215) with nine doubles, three triples, three home runs, 26 RBI and a .387 on-base percentage in 55 games between the Rookie League Athletics and Single-A Vermont.
At the time of the trade, the left-handed hitting McKinney was batting .241 (70-for-290) with 12 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 33 RBI in 75 games for Single-A Stockton this season. He has appeared at all three outfield positions, predominantly in center field (67 games). He batted .292 (28-for-96) with 12 runs, five doubles, one triple, three home runs and 15 RBI in 24 games in June. All told, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has batted .277 (140-for-505) with 21 doubles, five triples, 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 130 career minor league games.
Straily, 25, has pitched parts of the last three years with Oakland, going 13-11 with a 4.11 ERA (105 ER/230.0 IP) in 41 starts. He made his big league debut on August 3, 2012, and made seven starts with Oakland that season, going 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA (17 ER/39.1 IP) before spending nearly the entire campaign in the majors in 2013. Straily has split the 2014 season between the big leagues (1-2, 4.93 ERA in seven starts) and Triple-A Sacramento (4-3, 4.71 ERA in 10 starts).
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Straily was originally selected by Oakland in the 24th round of the 2009 Draft and was named the organization’s 2012 co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year after combining to go 9-7 with a 2.78 ERA (47 ER/152.0 IP) and an organization-best 190 strikeouts in 25 starts between Sacramento and Midland, where he was named to the Texas League All-Star team.
Samardzija, 29, went 31-42 with one save and a 3.97 ERA (294 ER/666.0 IP) in 206 games, including 83 starts, with the Cubs over the last seven seasons. He went 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA (34 ER/108.0 IP) in 17 starts with the club this season. He was originally selected by the Cubs in the fifth round of the 2006 Draft.
Hammel, 31, went 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA (36 ER/108.2 IP) in 17 starts with the Cubs this season. He is 57-64 with four saves and a 4.62 ERA (564 ER/1,098.0 IP) in 232 big league outings (175 starts).
“We certainly hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the trade deadline,” Epstein said. “Nothing would make us happier than being in the position Oakland is in, which is to aggressively add to the big league team and enhance the team’s chances of making the postseason and winning the World Series. As we discussed it, we repeated to ourselves that this type of move, being sellers, is not what we want to do, so if we’re going to do it, we need to make it count. And we need to get a player back who significantly impacts the organization, helps change the landscape, helps make our future a heck of a lot better.”