Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 03/07/11

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.

Arismendy Alcantara – IF
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.

Arismendy Alcantara’s Page on Baseball-Reference

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.

Wes Darvill’s Page on Baseball-Reference

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.

Eduardo Figueroa’s Page on Baseball-Reference

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.

Cody Hams’ Page on Baseball-Reference

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.

Pierre LePage’s Page on Baseball-Reference

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.

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Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax
  • GrantJones7

    Gibbs? Golden? Simpson? Szczur?
    All 4 of them will be at Peoria, not sure why they arent there

    • Neil

      Grant, Tom is stepping outside of the box to talk about players that did not make prospect lists … but show promise

      • Tom U

        Single A Peoria and high A Daytona players will be featured next week.

        • GrantJones7

          Well thismorning it just said Single A players, and doesnt say not very well known players to most
          Decent list, Lapage is good and i might have put E Soto on there, maybe

          • Tom U

            Grant, I did think about Elliot Soto, it would be nice to see the Carpentersville native do well. Here’s a short thumbnail for you:

            The 5’9″, 160 lbs., 20 year old Soto spent most of 2010 at low A Boise. He primarily played shortstop, and had a good .955 fielding percentage. While having a decent batting average of .271, his 31 to 9 strikeout to walk ratio is cause for concern. Soto also hasn’t displayed much speed, posting only 10 doubles, a triple, and 5 stolen bases. He does seem to perform in the clutch, driving in 21 runs on only 49 hits. Soto did get a late season call-up to A Peoria, where he appeared in 3 games.

          • Neil

            Grant, this morning it said Low-A, I added the short-season after your comment.

          • GrantJones7

            Ah i gotcha

            and Tom, i was at Sotos debut game, he was NERVOUS before lol, he preformed alright for first game

          • Tom U

            Glad to hear that Grant. These minor leaguers have it tough. They’re so young, and they have all this pressure to perform. Like I said, he seems like someone worth pulling for to succeed.

          • GrantJones7

            Thats part of teh job
            and yes, hes a very cool guy, most of all teh 2010 Cheifs were all very down to Earth

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Good Job, Tom thank you!

  • cubtex

    Nice to read about some young guys that we don’t ever hear about! Also nice to see that they have been drafting some athletes to develop for middle infiield! Team speed has something that has been lacking since the days of Bobby Dernier and Ryne Sandberg at the top of the lineup!!!

  • Aaron

    The only players on this list that have a decent chance of making it are Alcantara (like you said, if he gets his plate discipline under control), Darvil (because he’s still so young, and has time), and LePage.

    Hams and Figueroa likely won’t amount to anything. The Cubs haven’t had much luck with their Australian players. Ryan Searle was supposed to be the best one, and he flamed out, and will likely be released next year if he isn’t already. As for Figueroa, he’s already been in the Cubs system for 4 years, and at 22 years old, you could say he’s still young, but he’s only advanced as high as Boise, and his stats there are very unimpressive.

    But crazier things have happened. Geovanny Soto never stuck out in the minors for anything he did, until his 7th minor league season, which happened to be his 3rd straight year in AAA.

    Tom, I think you’re absolutely right about all these guys except for Darvil. I think it’s a make or break season for all of them, except for him. Darvil was just 18 years old last year (turned 19 in Sep).

    Normally, you wouldn’t think it’s “make or break” for LePage, having only been with the Cubs 1 season, but he was 21 last year playing at Boise. If he goes to Peoria or Daytona and lays an egg, at 5’8″, he likely won’t be given much of a chance to continue in the organization.

    I’m a little heartened to see all the up-the-middle depth we have in our system. Even with trading Tony Thomas and Hak-Ju Lee (still hate that trade), we still have:
    M. Gonzalez
    E. Soto

    Yes, a majority of them are questionable, but with LeMahieu, Flaherty, and Lake topping the charts in terms of ceilings, I think most teams would take that kind of depth in a heartbeat.

    This year, the key will be to focus on power hitting, and guys with plate discipline in the amateur draft and international signings. Those are obvious deficiencies in the system, and it will be interesting to see if the Cubs recognize this, and make the right moves.

    It was a good list, Tom…..I’d probably add Larry Suarez to your make or break list. Both he and Antigua were signed about the same time, and were highly thought of at the time. Suarez was compared to Zambrano both in stature and with his moving fastball and high velocity (mid 90’s heat). But while Suarez struggled with command, Antigua moved up the charts, and is now, at least in my mind, one of the best lefty prospects in the whole system.

    Here’s what I want to know…

    What the hell happened to Kyler Burke? This was his line from 2009:
    465 ABs, .303/.405/.505 with 93 runs, 141 hits, 43 doubles, 3 triple, 15 hr, 89 RBI, and 78 walks vs 99 K’s. It was his first full season at Peoria, having played just 35 games the previous season and repeating Boise 2 years in a row.

    Then, he gets promoted to Daytona last year, and has the following line:
    515 ABs, .212/.279/.328, 61 runs, 109 hits, 29 doubles, 5 triples, 7 hr, 60 RBI, 43 walks, 131 K’s…

    A glance at his stats and ages at each level make you think about Wes Darvil and his struggles….to me, he’s like a more powerful version of Darvil. I just don’t get what happened to him last year, and I don’t know what the Cubs are going to do with him this year. I don’t know what his work ethic is like either, as I am pretty damn sure he could’ve benefited from “Camp Colvin” this year.

    Can anyone share some insight on what happened, or what they’re hearing about Burke. Neil, or Tom…what have you guys heard?

    I know he throws low-to-mid 90’s, so maybe the Cubs are going to try him as a pitcher. He will be 23 in April, and has played 5 pro seasons. I was really excited when the Cubs landed him in a trade with the Padres for Michael Barrett. At 6’3″, 205lbs, he’s got good size, and I’ve heard he’s got great athleticism…obviously with the ability to throw in the 90’s, he could have a future there, but I’d much rather see him stick with the OF, as we could really use the depth.

    • Tom U

      Aaron, you have great knowledge, but I respectfully disagree concerning Wes Darvill. Maybe I’m all wrong on this one, but I think that his plate disciple for a young player is something to consider.

      If you look at his stats from Boise, he batted .143 in 91 at bats. He had 13 hits, and struck out 18 times. That means he put the ball into play 60 other times for outs. Maybe all he needs is maturity, experience and coaching.

      Like Kevin Costner said in Bull Durham, “if you get just one more hit per week…”. If Darvill got one hit at week more at Boise, he would have hit .230, 2 hits a week and it would be over .300.

      I feel that at Darvill’s age, with his size, speed, plate discipline, and base running ability, he has enough tools for the organization to keep working with him for a while. If he has grown to 6’4″, perhaps at move to the outfield could be in the cards.

    • The Maven

      Hey Aaron, I looked up some info on Larry Suarez. He’s a big guy, 6’4″, 250 pounds. I like some of his numbers for last year. 65 innings pitched, 73 hits, 8 Home Runs allowed, 31 walks, 71 strikeouts, 8 wild pitches. Boy! Talk about your Ebbie Calvin LaLoosh! Has he ever hit the mascot?

    • Prince

      Was wondering if you have actually seen Searle this year at all, reports say he worked well in his off season.

  • slamdog sadowski

    Actually I’ve seen Darvill and he’s at least 6’4, he’s grown since he signed with the Cubs 2 years ago.

  • Tom U

    Thank you to everyone for your comments. Please remember to post the names of any minor league players you would like to see foolowed this season.

    • DaCubs64

      Marwin Gonzalez

    • chris13

      I would like to see Alvaro Ramirez followed. He played the start of his career in the Yankees organization, then last year played for Boise, Just wondering what your thoughts are about him, also Jose Guevara?

  • willy

    I’ve been a reader of this site for a while but have never posted…. seems like the place to go to find info on minor leaguers in the Cubs system… I’m looking to find info on a young dominican athlete whose name is Miguel Alex (I believe) — I met him down in the DR in January of ’10 …. and he told me he had signed with the Cubs… as a shortstop (what else?) His body type and physique reminded me a lot of a young Miguel Tejada….

    I’m wondering if anyone has any info on this kid? Thanks in advance….