Five Players to Watch: Rookie and Short-Season Low-A Ball
This is the first in a series of articles highlighting some of the players not noted on off-season prospect lists. The level of each player represents which roster presently listed on, and does not necessarily reflect where each player will start the season.
This 19-year old switch hitter was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. At 5’10”, 160 lbs., he seems like he has more growing to do.
After playing shortstop almost exclusively in the Dominican League in 2009, he logged fairly even times at second, third and short last season for the Boise Hawks. While his best fielding percentage is at second, he has improved at shortstop. His defense needs a lot of work, and where he plays will depend on how he develops.
Offensively, Alcantara hit .283 with three home runs and 24 RBI last season. Like most young hitters, he needs to improve his plate discipline, posting 53 strikeouts to 10 walks. However, it is his speed that will raise some eyebrows. In less than 500 professional at bats, Alcantara has 16 doubles, 14 triples, and 27 stolen bases. He has some tools to work with, and time to develop them.
Wes Darvill – IF
Three words to describe Wes Darvill are raw, raw, and raw. A fifth round selection in the 2009 draft, this 19-year old left-handed hitter from Langley, British Columbia has potential. He has interesting size for an infielder at 6’2″, 175 lbs. His greatest asset is his plate discipline. While being overmatched at Low-A Boise last season, he drew 13 walks opposed to 18 strikeouts in 91 at bats. His on-base percentage tacks on nearly 100 points to his batting average. While on base, Darvill has shown good base running instincts. He has 22 career stolen bases and has only been caught four times in 91 games. Darvill been on base 113 times in his career, and has scored 46 runs.
Defensively, Darvill has been most of his playing time at shortstop. Over the past two seasons, he has a .916 fielding percentage, averaging 10 errors in 120 chances at short. He fields a little better at second base, with a .979 fielding percentage. He is considered to have below average arm strength.
However, the greatest factors for both Darvill and Alcantara are their ages and the organizational depth at middle infield. The Cubs can take four to five years developing both Darvill and Alcantara, and have proverbial aces-in-the-hole when some of their other prospects are becoming arbitration eligible.
Eduardo Figueroa – RHP
This 22-year old was originally signed in 2007 as an 18-year old, playing in the Venezuelan Summer League for a team co-operated by the Cubs and the Twins. In the following seasons, he moved from the Dominican Summer League, to the Arizona Rookie League, to the Boise Hawks, where he spent the 2010 season.
At Boise, he was an unimpressive 2-3 with a 4.17 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. However, it was in this year’s Venezuelan Winter League that Figueroa started putting things together. Pitching for Caribes, Figueroa faced more advanced prospects and posted a 2-0 record with a 2.67 ERA in 30.1 innings. Figueroa’s strikeout to walk ratio was slightly more than 1:1, putting him in the category of being “crafty” rather than overpowering pitcher.
Cody Hams – LHP
Signed by the Cubs as an international free agent out of Foster, Australia, in March 2008, the 21- year old Hams is imposing at 6’5″, 200 lbs. This past season in the Arizona Rookie League, Hams was 1-1with a 3.24 ERA and two saves in 14 games. Hams also made a brief appearance for Melbourne in the Australian Baseball League this past winter.
As green as Hams is (pun not intended), he has an impressive 21 to 9 strikeout to walk ratio and 7.3 strikeout per 9 innings ratio.
Pierre LePage – IF
After being selected in 13th round of the 2010 draft, no one gave the 5’8″, 156-pound LePage much of a chance. However, the 21-year old University of Connecticut product went on to lead all Cubs minor leaguers with a .331 batting average in his first year of professional play.
Jody Davis (Boise Hawks manager in 2010) felt so good about LePage’s offense that LePage served as the team’s designated hitter 12 times. LePage also demonstrated decent speed, with 20 doubles, four triples and nine stolen bases. However, he has to do a better job picking his spots on the bases … LePage was caught stealing six times.
Defensively, LePage had a .971 fielding average at second base, so more work has to be done in that area. His play is reminiscent of former Atlanta Braves’ second basemen Glenn Hubbard and Mark Lemke. While not outstanding in any area, his overall solid play can fit in on a team with some outstanding players, but won’t raise the level of a below average team.
Attention CCO Readers
Please continue to post the names of the minor league players you would like the Down on the Farm Report to follow next season. I will track the progress of ten players throughout the entire season. I would like a representative sample of positions and levels of play, and I’d prefer to track at least one player acquired by the Cubs in the off-season. You can name as many players as you like, but remember, only ten will be chosen.