Results tagged ‘ C.J. Edwards ’

Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I weren’t a ballplayer …

It’s not easy to make it to the big leagues, and some of the guys who do make it can have short careers. That’s why it’s important to have a fallback plan. We asked some of your favorite Cubs players what they would be doing if they weren’t involved in professional baseball.

You may think you know your Cubs, but do you know which man dreams of running a resort hotel? Or who wants to join the FBI? Check out the above video to learn the answers. Some of them might surprise you (we’re looking at you, Pierce Johnson).

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Sloan Park all spring, so make sure you’re watching the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa: Spring sit-down with manager Joe Maddon

From the Pages of Vine Line: Minor League Prospectus, Part 4 – Ready to Rebound

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The 2015 season will be an important one for outfielder Jacob Hannemann. (Photo by Kane County Cougars)

As evidenced by the additions of players like Jon Lester and Miguel Montero, the Cubs front office is transitioning from a period in which it focused primarily on bringing in assets to help improve the future of the franchise to an extended period in which they expect to compete every year at the big league level. However, if you were to suggest to baseball president Theo Epstein or general manager Jed Hoyer that this transition means they are now less inclined to build through their farm system, they would be quick to correct you.

Just because Cubs fans may finally start seeing wins accumulate at Wrigley Field doesn’t mean the minor league pipeline is suddenly going to go overlooked. In fact, for the second year in a row, the North Siders will have arguably the best system in all of baseball. Boasting the top prospect in the game, an overabundance of high-profile shortstops and a suddenly large group of interesting arms at the lower levels, the Cubs have built the scouting and player development monster they promised to deliver more than three years ago.

In our annual minor league prospectus, Baseball Prospectus’ Sahadev Sharma helps us break down the names to know at all levels of the system. As the month progresses, we’ll unveil player bios on a section-by-section basis. Here is Part 4 of the Cubs minor league prospectus:

Part 1 – The Elite
Part 2 – The Up-And-Comers
Part 3 – A Phone Call Away

Ready to Rebound

While it may seem like everything went right for the Cubs at the minor league level last season, that obviously was not the case. Whether it was due to injury or just flat-out poor performance, there were several talented prospects who struggled in 2014. However, these players still have great potential and certainly could provide value as they look to regain their form in 2015.

Jeimer Candelario – 3B
Candelario has never put up eye-popping numbers, but he’s always been young for his level and has shown an advanced approach at the plate. When challenged with a High-A assignment at just 20 years old, he failed to make the necessary adjustments and was sent back to Low-A, where the struggles continued. Hope still remains he can return to the form that generated such high expectations.

Candelario has one of the best swings from both sides of the plate in the organization, which is why many believe he’s eventually going to hit and develop power. The key will be understanding what pitchers are trying to do to him. He has the tools to be an impact bat, but because he has a stocky body and slow feet, Candelario’s defense may always be in question.

Dylan Cease – RHP
Though he comes with a first-round pedigree, Cease was drafted in the sixth round in 2014 after struggling early in his senior season of high school and eventually being shut down with an elbow issue. The Cubs took a chance on the righty, giving him a bonus well above slot even though they knew he’d require Tommy John surgery. By all accounts, his rehab has gone well, and he’s currently undergoing a modified throwing program.

Assuming no setbacks, Cease should be ready to take the mound competitively in late April. When healthy, he flashes a plus fastball that sits 93-95, a plus curve and mid-rotation-or-better potential.

C.J. Edwards – RHP
After a breakout 2013 campaign that put Edwards on the prospect radar, many were looking for him to take the next step in 2014. But barely a month into the season, he suffered a shoulder injury. Therefore, the biggest question—whether his extremely lean frame can handle the 200-plus innings required of a major league starter—remains unanswered.

The Cubs were very conservative with Edwards after the shoulder issues, allowing him to fully recover so he would be ready to go without any restrictions upon his return. He tossed 15 innings in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 1.80 ERA and striking out 13. He has swing-and-miss stuff and displays three legit pitches, with the fastball and curve both as plus offerings.

Jacob Hannemann – OF
The Cubs surprised many when they took the BYU product in the third round of the 2013 draft, but the organization fell in love with his athleticism. Hannemann’s baseball development has been stunted due to two years away from the game on a Mormon mission as well as his time playing cornerback on the BYU football team.

The lefty struggled for much of 2014, but the Cubs still pushed him with a promotion to High-A, where his struggles continued. This offseason, the front office presented him with another challenge, the Arizona Fall League, where he was solid, but still failed to wow scouts. Currently, Hannemann gets by on his natural ability, but he has a lot to learn about the nuances of baseball.

Rob Zastryzny – LHP
Zastryzny has two keys to focus on to turn things around in 2015: commanding his fastball and working down in the zone. He also lacked consistency last year. Some scouts reported him hitting 95 with his fastball, while others saw him sitting 88-90. If he can repeat his delivery on a consistent basis, he should be able to level that out.

This past summer, the Missouri product was often caught between commanding his pitches and really letting them fly. He’s in the process of finding that middle range, which could create more consistency and allow his stuff to play up. He is very competitive and has a tremendous work ethic. That’s why many in the organization are confident he’ll work through his issues.

Baseball America unveils its top 100 prospects with Kris Bryant at No. 1

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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

Cubs fill FanGraphs’ top 200 prospects list

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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.

2015 Cubs Convention: Down on the Farm

The Cubs’ minor league system is viewed as a powerhouse, with many calling it the best in baseball. Several of the top prospects—including Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Kyle Hendricks—made their Wrigley Field debuts last season, but who is going to get the call this year? Accompanied by top prospects C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber, Director of Player Development Jaron Madison, and Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod close out the convention by giving some insight into the Cubs farm system. This is always one of the better panels, and this year did not disappoint.

Mick Gillespie, broadcaster of the Double-A Tennessee Smokies, is helming the panel and gives a quick intro. He also does Spring Training games with Len Kasper. Gillespie touts how this entire panel will soon be in the big leagues. These are the guys you’re paying to see in the minor leagues.

McLeod talks about his early days with the Cubs. He’s only three drafts in, but still feels really good about the type of players they’ve brought in. But it did take some last place finishes and difficult trades to make the Cubs top-ranked system happen. Russell wouldn’t be here if not for the Jeff Samardzija trade. The goal is to keep the talent flow going. There are great players at the top levels now, but they have to keep that talent coming.

Madison talks about how the process Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have has already  been successful in Boston and San Diego. Now it’s successful here. They’re not just looking for good players. They’re looking for good people, and they all feel great about the caliber of young players the Cubs have.

Edwards talks about being a 48th-round pick. He was not phased by that because he knew what he could do on the mound. His dad instilled in him how to play the game. He says his love of the game is what got him to where he is now. That plus dedication and hard work.

Johnson grew up around the game. His dad worked for the Padres. His mom wanted him to do homework when he was younger, but he joked that he didn’t need to do it because he was going to be a pro ballplayer.

Schwarber talks about the choice between playing football and baseball. He only had three baseball offers for college. He had more than that for football. Though he had a chance to play both sports at Indiana, he decided to commit to baseball because he loved it and didn’t want his academics to suffer by playing two sports.

Russell talks about the differences between the A’s and Cubs fan bases. The fans here actually pull for you, and there are a lot more of them.

Next comes the question-and-answer session with fans:

  • An Indiana alum asks Schwarber about the challenges about playing on the IU field. The entire field is artificial turf, including the mound. Schwarber says everyone seemed to like it, but it was tough for opposing teams coming in. But with the cold weather in Indiana, they could practice in almost any conditions.
  • Schwarber talks about helping build the IU program. The team was .500 when he got there, but they knew they were better than that. Eventually they got to Omaha and the national championship series. He says he loved the challenge there.
  • The next question is about Russell’s reaction to his trade to the Cubs. Russell was in Arkansas. He says he missed a lot of time with a hamstring injury, and was just settling in with his teammates. Next thing he knew, he was traded. He didn’t know what to think. Did the A’s not want him? But he talked to a few people, and they assured him this was a good thing. Now he’s very happy to be a part of what the Cubs are building.
  • A question about the upcoming draft. The Cubs are picking ninth. McLeod says they are evaluating the talent pool. It’s a strong college pitching draft and a strong high school draft. College position players haven’t really separated themselves yet. You have to let the season play out, but he feels confident the Cubs will get an impactful player.
  • How do you know when to bring a guy up, especially a newer draft pick? Top college hitters like Schwarber tend to succeed pretty quickly at the lower levels, Madison says. But they look at each guy individually. They all have strengths and weaknesses. They talk to each player about these things. The Cubs lay out what they expect each player to work on. The players know themselves better than anyone. “When they show you they’re ready, that’s when you have to reassess the player plans,” Madison says.
  • A high school player asks what each guy did to get noticed. “I grew out my hair,” Johnson says. It’s really about working hard and getting better, they all agree. Johnson and Russell went to showcases. Schwarber didn’t do many, but he thinks that’s why he didn’t have many college offers. Madison says they start to really look at players around their senior year of high school. Occasionally you can notice younger players when scouting older guys.
  • There’s a question about Gleyber Torres and Armando Rivero. How do they assess these guys? McLeod likes them a lot. Rivero has a good mid-90s fastball, strong slider and has had nothing but success so far. He’ll be in big league camp this year and will challenge for a spot in the Cubs ‘pen. But he’s not on the roster yet, so that might factor in. Torres just turned 18. He was a high-profile guy when they signed him. He’s a long way away, but he’s good. He’ll probably start in South Bend.
  • Which position would Schwarber rather play: catcher or outfield? Schwarber wants to catch. He’s played there all his life. He’s self taught and was doing a lot of things wrong. He got a crash course at Kane County, and it really clicked in. He loves catching, but you have to really like the position to be there.
  • Who are some under-the-radar players to watch? Madison says they have a lot of good guys who don’t get noticed because of the talent they have in the system. Victor Caratini is due for a breakout year. Jeimer Candelario has all the tools to be an impact third baseman, and they expect a big year out of him. McLeod says he expects one or two people from the Kane County staff this year to become major leaguers. He also really likes Bijan Rademacher and what he can do.
  • McLeod talks about the wonderful problem of having too many talented shortstops. You can never have too many good middle infielders. They just let these guys go out and compete, and it will sort itself out. Players will force them to make decisions, and that’s a good thing. McLeod talks about meeting Schwarber in college and asking him if he thought he could really make it as a catcher. Schwarber looked at him stone-faced and said, “It really *** pisses me of when people think I can’t catch.” They loved his confidence and knew he was their guy. He was not intimidated in the least by talking to Epstein and McLeod.
  • What’s the difference between college and pro ball? Schwarber talks about the difference in the schedules. You get a lot more days off in college. If you’re struggling, you have days off to work on your swing and go figure it out. In pro ball, you have to fix things on the fly because there are really no days off.
  • Who is your mentor/hero? Russell says his favorite player was Barry Larkin, but his idol is his dad. Or Bruce Lee. Schwarber most looks up to his mom and dad. He was outside every day hitting, and they helped him every day. His dad coached him and came to almost every game in college. Whenever things are going bad, they are always there for him. Johnson also credits his parents. They supported him and brought him to practices and games. He still talks to his parents after every game. Edwards also talks about his parents and his dad. He says he started throwing a baseball at 3 years old. When he was growing up, he admired Pedro Martinez the most.
  • What was your favorite team when you were younger? Russell didn’t watch a lot of TV growing up. He played outside. But he’d have to say the Red Sox, even though he’s from Florida. He was actually more of a football fan. He wears 27 partly because of Edie George. He loved the Tennessee Titans. Schwarber grew up near Cincinnati so he rooted for the Reds. Johnson’s dad worked for the Padres, so he grew up rooting for them. Edwards was a Red Sox guy because of Pedro and Manny. Madison lived in New York so he started with the Mets, but he transitioned to the Yankees. McLeod grew up in San Diego, so he followed the Padres and Chargers.
  • A question about Kevonte Mitchell. McLeod says he’s very interesting. He was drafted last year out of southern Missouri. He was a basketball player and is a tremendous athlete. He had a great first season in rookie ball, but he’s still a long way away. Still, he has a great body and a lot of talent. They were surprised by how well he controlled the plate this year.
  • How is the pitch clock in the minor leagues going to change how the game works and your approach? Edwards was in the Arizona Fall League, where they used it. It wasn’t a big factor for him. He moves quick already, but he thought it was more of a factor for relievers. If you’re in a rhythm, you should be fine. When things go wrong, it could be trouble. Schwarber says it will only affect someone if they are really, really slow, so it’s probably a good thing to speed them up.
  • Any failures you’ve had to overcome? Russell says failure is good, especially early on. He really struggled coming out of high school. You dig deep and learn from failure, and it ends up being a good thing. Schwarber struggled to get better as a catcher in college. The things that frustrate you are the things that drive you to get better and better. How you rebound from struggles defines you as a player, he says. You just can’t let failure get the best of you. Johnson talks about the injuries he had to struggle through last year. Edwards struggled in extended Spring Training too. He started questioning whether he really wanted to play baseball. But he knew he didn’t come from the west coast to the east coast to fail, he’s still riding that wave.

That’s it for our 2015 Cubs Convention coverage. We’ll be posting a video recap early next week. Thanks for following. Next stop: Mesa.

Baseball America releases Cubs top 10 prospect rankings

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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.

Cubs add top pitching prospect Edwards to 40-man roster

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The Cubs Thursday selected the contract of right-handed pitcher C.J. Edwards from Double-A Tennessee.  Chicago’s 40-man roster now stands at 39 players.

Edwards, 23, is 14-7 with a 1.86 ERA (49 ER/237.0 IP) in 50 minor league outings (49 starts) covering the last three seasons. The right-hander has struck out 294 batters in 237.0 innings pitched, an average of 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and has allowed only two home runs, an average of roughly one per 119.0 innings pitched.  Edwards has also turned in a 0.975 WHIP.

The Newbury, South Carolina, native was originally selected by Texas in the 48th Round of the 2011 Draft. He was acquired by the Cubs as part of the trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas in 2013 and went 2-0 with a 1.36 ERA (5 ER/33.0 IP) in eight starts with Daytona to help the club to the Florida State League Championship. Edwards was slowed by injury last season but returned to go 1-2 with a 2.44 ERA (13 ER/48.0 IP) in 10 starts with Tennessee and pitched in the Arizona Fall League, earning All-Star honors with a 1-0 record and a 1.80 ERA (3 ER/15.0 IP) in six starts.

The Cubs’ prospects performed well in the Arizona Fall League

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Bijan Rademacher hit .350 in the Arizona Fall League this season. (Photo by Aldrin Capulong)

The 2014 Arizona Fall League officially wrapped up on Friday with Salt River claiming the league title over Peoria. Though the list of Cubs playing for the Solar Sox this offseason lacked the firepower and name recognition of the 2013 participants, a few lesser-known commodities earned some positive press with solid performances.

Not much is typically expected out of an AFL taxi squad player, as they generally get into games only twice a week. But Bijan Rademacher delivered the highlight stat line for any Cubs prospect in Arizona.

The outfielder hit .350/.404/.525 (AVG/OBP/SLG) and totaled a .929 OPS. Though he didn’t record enough plate appearances to win the batting title, his average was second best among players with at least 40 at-bats. He added a home run, two doubles and a triple while stealing four bases and playing solid defense.

Rademacher, the No. 20 prospect in the Cubs organization according to MLB.com, was a 13th-round pick in 2012 out of Orange Coast College in California. The outfielder spent the entire 2014 season at High-A Daytona, where he hit .281/.363/.448 with 10 homers and 22 doubles. He could be expected to start at Double-A next season.

Jacob Hannemann, who played his first full professional season in 2014, also fared well in Arizona. The athletic center fielder got into 17 games and hit .279/.328/.410. Though he didn’t add a ton of pop, the 2013 third-round pick got better acclimated to the level of talent he’ll eventually be competing against on a regular basis.

Slugger Dan Vogelbach failed to go yard in any of his 21 AFL games, but he managed to show some patience at the plate. His 17 bases on balls tied for second in the league. The 2011 second-round pick received a free pass in more than 19 percent of his plate appearances, significantly better than his 2014 regular season total of 11.8 percent.

Getting C.J. Edwards a few more trips to the mound against elite competition was important for the Cubs after the right-hander missed the first half of the regular season with shoulder issues. In six starts, the club’s top pitching prospect looked like his old self, posting a 1.80 ERA and allowing three runs in 15 innings. He also struck out 13 batters. If there’s one concern over Edwards’ body of work, it’s likely his eight walks in that span. But his 1.07 WHIP also shows that even with the free passes, opposing hitters have a tough time reaching base against him.

The other impressive pitching effort came from Ivan Pineyro. The 23-year-old missed the early portion of the regular season with forearm issues and struggled upon his return to Double-A. But those struggles went away in the AFL, as Pineyro concluded the showcase with a 1.98 ERA in 13.2 innings. In seven appearances, the right-hander surrendered only three runs, all in one game on Oct. 22. Even more impressive were his 16 strikeouts versus only four walks. The pitcher, acquired for Scott Hairston in 2013, could open the 2015 season at Double- or Triple-A.

It’s a good sign for the Cubs organization when some of their lesser-known farmhands excel against such tough competition. This group might have lacked the name recognition of last year’s class, but plenty of prospects ended the AFL slate on a high note.

Baseball Prospectus unveils Cubs top 10 prospects

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(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

On Russell:

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.

On Bryant:

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.

On Schwarber:

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.

On Johnson:

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.

On Sands:

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 AFL Recap: 11/12/14

A trio of Cubs pitching prospects saw action, and a position player continued his stellar fall Wednesday in Mesa’s 6-5, 11-inning loss to Peoria. Here are some notes from yesterday’s Arizona Fall League game:

  • RHP C.J. Edwards got the start and went three scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk while striking out two batters. He finished the AFL season with a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings.
  • RF Bijan Rademacher connected on a two-run homer in the fifth. He also recorded an RBI groundout in the first, a third-inning walk and a game-tying RBI single in the ninth. He went 2-for-4 in the game and improved his line to .359/.400/.538 (AVG/OBP/SLG).
  • RHP Zach Cates recorded his third hold of the fall league, giving up no runs on two hits over an inning.
  • LHP Gerardo Concepcion surrendered two earned runs on three hits and two walks after taking over for Edwards in the fourth inning.

Mesa will play its final game of the season Thursday, when the Solar Sox host Glendale. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 local time.

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