Five Players to Watch: Low Class-A Peoria and High Class-A Daytona
This is the second 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 they are presently listed on, and does not necessarily reflect where each player will begin the season.
If the name Matt Cerda rings a bell with some sports fans it could be because he was part of an Outside the Lines story by ESPN.
As an 11-year old, Cerda struck out to end the 2001 Little League World Series by the since disgraced pitcher Danny Almonte. Now 20 years old, Cerda was drafted in the 4th round in 2008. The Cubs drafted Cerda as a catcher and he was moved to second base in rookie league. Injured for the 2009 season, Cerda was promoted to Class-A Peoria in 2010. With prospects Logan Watkins and Hak-Ju Lee in the middle infield, Cerda was moved to third base. While he is a work in progress there, he did field .991 in 49 games at second base.
The 5’9″ 165-pound, left-handed hitting Cerda will remind some of former Cub Mike Fontenot. While he doesn’t have Fontenot’s power, he does demonstrate good patience at the plate. Cerda hit .271 and walked 68 times for a .365 on-base percentage with 80 RBI.
Observers have raved about Matt Cerda’s intensity, focus, and professionalism. It will be interesting to see where in the Cubs’ deep pool of minor league infielders Matt Cerda ends up.
Evan Crawford – OF
Acquired from the San Francisco Giants for infielder Mike Fontenot, Crawford brings blazing speed to the table. The 22-year old University of Indiana product was selected in the 9th round of the 2009 draft after leading the Big Ten in stolen bases. In his first year of professional ball, he hit .300 with 14 stolen bases.
Last season, Crawford played 109 games for Class-A Augusta before the trade, batting .255 with four home runs and 29 RBI. After being assigned to the Daytona Cubs, Crawford hit .278.
For the entire 2010 season, Crawford had 27 stolen bases, 13 doubles, and an amazing 14 triples, making him one of the best base runners in the system. Crawford also contributed seven outfield assists.
Crawford’s downside is that he strikes out about 25% of the time. If he can improve on his plate discipline and pitch recognition, his outstanding speed could become a huge asset.
Austin Kirk – LHP
Solidly built at 6″1″, 200 lbs., Austin Kirk was rated the 11th best prospect in 2009, his senior year in Owasso, Oklahoma. He signed letter of intent to play baseball for the University of Oklahoma, but signed with the Cubs after he was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft.
After posting a 3.12 ERA with 10 strikeouts in rookie ball, he was quickly promoted to Short-Season Low Class-A Boise. The 20-year old started the 2010 season at Boise, posting a 4-5 record with a 3.31 ERA in 12 appearances (10 starts). Kirk had an electrifying 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio, but needs to improve his WHIP of 1.22. He was promoted to Class-A Peoria, where he was 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in three relief appearances.
At Boise, Kirk had an average strikeout to walk ratio of 2:1, but a WHIP of 1.34. Kirk will have to work on his command … while the organization will have to decide whether he is better suited to start or relieve.
Brandon May – 1B
A native of Roswell, Georgia, Brandon May attended the University of Alabama, where he played all four infield positions, as well as the corner outfield positions. Batting cleanup, he was named the SEC player of the week in May of 2009, and hit .347 with 12 home runs and 69 RBI for the season.
The Cubs selected May in the 36th round of the 2009 draft. He appeared in seven games in rookie ball, batting .296.
May began the 2010 season in rookie ball, but quickly progressed to Low Class-A Boise, and later, Class-A Peoria. Although many Internet reports stated that the Cubs were moving May to catcher, he primarily played third base in 2010. In anticipation of a promotion to Peoria, May was moved to first base.
Overall, May hit .252 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 2010 while battling a knee injury. The Cubs organization is excited by May’s power potential, and feels he may be the long-term answer at first base.
At 22 years old, Brandon May will have to pick up the pace in order to keep advancing.
Nick Struck – RHP
At 5’11”, 185 lbs., Nick Struck isn’t your prototypical imposing right-hander. This 21-year old was the Cubs 39th round draft pick in 2009 from Mount Hood Community College in Oregon.
As a member of the Peoria Chiefs, Struck was 8-8 with a 3.22 ERA in 25 games, 18 starts. While those numbers don’t seem impressive, some of his other numbers were.
Struck had a better than 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio and a WHIP of 1.16. Opposing batters hit only .221 against him.
Nick Struck threw a five-inning no-hitter against the Clinton Lumberkings. The game was called due to rain but Struck faced the minimum over the five innings.
Struck’s success with the Chiefs earned him a promotion to the Daytona Cubs toward the end of last season.
In three games (two starts) with Daytona, Struck maintained his 2:1 strikeout ratio and a relatively low batting average of .263. He ended up with a 1-2 record with a 5.14 ERA for Daytona.
While demonstrating pretty good command of his pitches, Struck does have to concentrate on keeping the ball down, serving up 10 gopher balls.
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 this season. I will track the progress of ten players throughout the entire year. 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.