Cubbies Cupboard Getting Bare

Now that the Cubs are winning they have lost an opportunity to select the best player in the draft. They have also felt the need to trade some of their top prospects for veterans to get them through the playoff race, losing players like Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres and Jeimer Candelario. Also, many of their superstars who they drafted early have graduated to the big leagues, most recently Ian Happ, Albert Almora and Wilson Contreras but Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber two now veterans who were once high first round picks. Now the minor leagues is filled with players who have lesser talents, but with time could become contributors to the Cubs major league roster, or be used as trade fodder. It needs to be restocked soon.

Surprisingly, it is the pitching in the minor leagues that is now the Cubs strength. Their top ten prospect list is littered with pitchers who the year before were listed in the middle of the pack. Duane Underwood was once one of their top pitchers but a poor year has dropped him back in the prospect list. He went 13-7, but poor command and a low strikeout rate led to a 4.43 ERA. His fastball can hit the mid-90s but his secondary pitches are a bit inconsistent. His best bet for the major leagues may be to work out of the bullpen next year.

A trio of foreign pitchers have percolated up the system. Adbert Alzolay is small at 6′0″ but can hit the mid-90s. He reached AA and limited the opposition to a .220 average. Oscar de la Cruz has a pitcher’s frame at 6′4″ who also hits the mid-90s with his fastball. He was signed by the Cubs in 2012 and at 22 years of age has finally reached High A. Jose Albertos is another smaller pitcher at 6′1″ who has a good change to complement his mid-90s fastball. The Cubs can hope one of these three makes an impact in the rotation in the still somewhat distant future.

Now that they are selecting lower in the draft they have been using their picks to focus on pitchers. Alex Lange and Brendon Little are two first round picks from the 2017 draft. Lange throws from the right side and Little the left. Both rely on curveballs to retire hitters with fastballs that sit in the low 90s but can reach mid-90s. At 6′3″ 190 Lange can add some more meat to his frame which could add a tick or two to his velocity. Both pitchers started in Low A but as college drafted pitchers could rise quickly. If the Cubs can get one of these two to have success in the rotation they have accomplished something in the draft.

Jen-Ho Tseng put himself back on the prospect map after falling off last year. The Taiwanese native had a 2.54 ERA combined between AA and AAA with 24 starts. There is not a lot of velocity in his fastball so command of his pitchers and keeping them low in the strike zone will allow him to retire hitters. He could get an opportunity to fit in the back end of the Cubs rotation next year.

Myworld is not enamored with their position prospects. Victor Caratini is a tweener prospect who does not have the defensive chops to usurp Wilson Contreras from the catcher position and lacks the power to play first base. Last year he had a career year in AAA, hitting .342. His best role could be as a DH or get traded to a team lacking a firstbaseman. He could also be used as a backup catcher.

Eddy Martinez is an outfielder signed out of Cuba. He has the arm for right field and the speed to be serviceable in center but his bat will limit him to be a fourth outfielder. At 22 he is still young. Last year he slugged 14 homeruns so the power could still emerge but at this point the Cubs have to wonder why they threw in that extra $500,000 to get to a $3 million bonus to outbid the Giants.

David Bote is a player to watch. At 24 his line drive bat could be ready to make an impact. He showed good power in the AFL, hitting four homeruns and hitting .333. If he can stay in the .300 neighborhood with moderate power he could become useful as a role player. Unfortunately his defensive tools limit him to second base and his legs do not have the speed to make him an impact player with the stolen base. He should start the season in AAA but don’t be surprised not to see him with the Cubs by mid-season.

Michael Cruz is being groomed as the possible catcher of the future after Contreras has filled his purpose. Cruz has some pop in the bat but still needs to work on his defense. Last year he committed 9 errors and five passed balls in just 27 games. Those numbers will have to improve if he wants to see the major leagues.

A final prospect to watch is Chad Hockin. His numbers were not overwhelming but he throws a mid-90s fastball and he is the grandson of Harmon Killebrew. Myworld would be a little higher on him if he was a hitter instead of a pitcher.

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