Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 02/24/14

Five Players to Watch: Low-A Kane County and High-A Daytona

Last week, the CCO began our series of looking beyond the top 20 lists and exploring the other players in the Cubs organization that may have an impact on the Major League club.

Over the years, the CCO has profiled players such as Arismendy Alcantara and Kyle Hendricks, among others, before they were recognized as top prospects. This is the second in a series of three articles highlighting some of those players. The players are listed in alphabetical order, and as they are presently listed on rosters. Inclusion in this list does not necessarily reflect where each player will begin the season.

Cael Brockmeyer, C

One of the biggest weaknesses of the Cubs’ minor league system may prove to be an avenue for rapid advancement. To put it simply, the Cubs need for catchers could end up being a source of opportunity for Cael Brockmeyer. Selected by the Cubs in the 16th round of the 2013 draft, Brockmeyer will have to shake off the effect of a concussion before embarking on his quest for the majors.

PrintThe 22-year old ended his prep career in 2010 batting .395 with four home runs, while also playing hockey, for Avon Old Farms High School in Connecticut. He accepted a scholarship to Cal-State Bakersfield and saw action on the varsity team as a freshman. Brockmeyer appeared in 42 games and hit .244 with two homers and 13 RBI. Brockmeyer became a regular in his sophomore season and appeared in 55 games while hitting .285 with a team-high six home runs and 32 RBI. Brockmeyer then spent his summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League and hit .278 with five homers and 13 RBI. And he showed improvement as a junior. Brockmeyer raised his batting average to .330 to go along with four home runs and 51 RBI and a surprising six stolen bases.

Signing with the Cubs after the draft, Brockmeyer was assigned to Short-Season Class-A Boise where he took over as the starting catcher and batted .271 with 14 RBI in 33 games. Brockmeyer also appeared in two games for Triple-A Iowa when they needed a back-up catcher and had one hit in eight plate appearances. However, Brockmeyer missed some time during the season after suffering a concussion. The good news was that Brockmeyer was able to return to game action with Boise before the season ended.

A big man at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Brockmeyer not only has power potential at the plate, but should be a strong presence behind the dish as well. It remains to be seen whether Brockmeyer begins his 2014 season at Low-A Kane County or High-A Daytona. But if he is physically sound and capable of producing, he won’t remain at either place for long.

Corbin Hoffner, RHP

It appears that the sky is the limit for 20-year old Corbin Hoffner, the trouble is, what direction do you take in his development?

After finishing high school in Sebring, FL, Hoffner moved on to St. Petersburg College in Clearwater, Fla. In his first, and only, college season, Hoffner posted a 5-5 record with a 2.50 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 72 innings.

Hoffner came to the Cubs organization via the 14th round of the 2012 draft. While pitching only 12 innings in the rookie league in 2012, he showed promise by striking out 13 batters and posting a 0.71 ERA. Moving to Boise last season, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Hoffner proved to be a workhorse. Hoffner pitched 46.2 innings in 16 relief appearances. The right-hander allowed only nine earned runs in that span, while striking out 42 and walking only 13 for a 0.90 WHIP.

Which brings us to the question of what exactly is happening with Hoffner for 2014? Scouting reports have him as a three-pitch pitcher, with a low-90s fastball, slider, and change-up. His size and college experience could have Hoffner projected as a starting pitcher. However, Hoffner has not pitched more than four innings in an appearance as a professional and averaged around 2.2 innings per appearance in 2013. And while his successes cannot be ignored, Hoffner doesn’t have the overpowering ‘stuff’ that you look for in a closer. Factor in his age, and you have a real puzzle. The best that can be figured is that if the organization wants to move Hoffner into a starting role, he most likely will begin the season with Low-A Kane County. But if he is to remain as a reliever, Hoffner could possibly skip Low-A and move directly to High-A Daytona.

Giuseppe Papaccio, IF

Sometimes, it’s just a name that piques people’s interest.  Giuseppe Papaccio is out to prove that he has more than just a name.

As a high school player in Nutley, New Jersey, Papaccio was his school’s All-Time leader in hits and slugging percentage while being an All-Conference, All-County, and All-State player. Papaccio then spent the next four years at Seton Hall University, where he raised his batting average each season. In his senior season, Papaccio saw nearly a one hundred point boost as he hit .365 with four home runs, 53 RBI, and nine stolen bases in 56 games.

After signing with the Cubs following his selection in the 18th round of the 2013 draft, Papaccio went to Arizona for a nine game shakedown with the AZL Cubs. Papaccio hit .313/.395/.406 with six RBI and was moved up to Low-A Kane County, where the shortstop had exposure to both second and third base. The position changes didn’t affect his offense as Papaccio hit .279/.331/.364 with four doubles, two home runs and 13 RBI in 37 games.

While Papaccio has played three positions in his short time in the Cubs organization, his best position is clearly shortstop, where he fielded .969 with the Cougars. Papaccio also went to the Fall Instructional League where he was exposed to catching. The 22-year old appears to be a part of a muddled infield picture for High-A Daytona. It isn’t clear at this time whether the organization will hold injured infielders Stephen Bruno and Tim Saunders back, or whether they will promote young and slightly under-achieving infielders Gioskar Amaya, Jeimer Candelario, and Marco Hernandez. Whoever his teammates are and whatever position he plays, it looks like Central Florida is where Papaccio will start his 2014 season.

James Pugliese, RHP

When speaking of the Cubs’ top pitching prospects, the name of James Pugliese is rarely brought up. But the 21-year old pitcher is on track to become an Opening Day starter for the second consecutive season.

Pugliese had an unusual transition from high school pitcher to college as he was the closer for Steinert High School in New Jersey where he went 3-0 with seven saves. As a starter for Mercer Community College, Pugliese was 6-2 with a 1.27 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 65.2 innings.

The Cubs then drafted Pugliese in the 18th round of the 2011 draft. He went 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in 38 innings in rookie ball with close to a solid 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio (32 strikeouts, 12 walks). However, Short-Season A proved to be more of a challenge in 2012. Pugliese was 1-5 with an ERA of 5.37 and a 1.66 WHIP in 60.1 innings, but once again Pugliese was impressive by fanning 51 batters while walking only 22.

A mechanical adjustment was made the following off-season. Pugliese was changed from a ‘drop-and-drive’ pitcher, to coming over the top and pounding the lower half of the strike zone. That meant Pugliese was repeating a trip to Boise, one which he took in stride. The adjustments produced results as Pugliese lowered his ERA to 2.32 while improving his strikeout to walk ratio to more than 4:1 (59 strikeouts, 14 walks). Pugliese went 4-3 in 12 appearances, 11 starts (76 innings). Pugliese had the expected learning curve after he was promoted to Low-A Kane County in late August as he allowed 12 earned runs in 14 innings while striking out 12 and walking only two batters.

Sporting a low-90s fastball, Pugliese also has a slider and a change-up, and has fooled around with a knuckleball in the past. The exposure to Low-A ball last year should have Pugliese primed for a big season as the leader of the 2014 Cougars’ starting staff.

Sam Wilson, LHP

Despite some limited experience, it seems as if left-hander Sam Wilson has the stuff that can make him a fast-riser in the Cubs’ system.

A two-time All-State selection in New Mexico as a high school player, Wilson was selected in the 20th round of the 2010 draft by the Rangers. However, Wilson chose to attend the University of New Mexico where he appeared in 52 games as both a pitcher and an outfielder and tied for the team lead with five stolen bases. Wilson then transferred to Lamar Community College in Colorado due to academic reasons and continued as a two-way player. As an outfielder, Wilson hit .435 with seven home runs, 41 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. On the mound, Wilson was 11-2 with a 1.34 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 16 appearances (14 starts).

The Cubs selected Wilson in the eighth round of the 2013 draft and sent him for a one game warm-up with the AZL Cubs. After tossing an inning in Arizona, Wilson was then promoted to Short-Season Class-A Boise. The 22-year old appeared in 12 games and was 3-1 with a 3.33 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP that included 25 strikeouts in 24.1 innings. Caught short-handed in the Northwest League Championships, Boise manager Gary Van Tol also had Wilson play in centerfield for a few innings.

With broad shoulders and a sturdy 6-foot-2, 200 pound frame, Wilson can be looked at as either a starter or reliever. Wilson has a mid-90s fastball, slider and change-up. With limited exposure last season, Wilson will probably begin the year with Low-A Kane County.

Attention CCO Readers

The Down on the Farm preliminary reader’s poll is underway. Please post the names of the minor league players you would like the Down on the Farm Report to follow next season. Players can be nominated in the comment section, on Facebook or Twitter. The CCO will take the top 20 names and run a special poll for the final month of Spring Training. The CCO will then track the progress of top ten players throughout the entire season. A representative sample of positions and levels of play is optimal. You can name as many players as you like, but remember, only ten will eventually be chosen. The number of players nominated rose to 68 last week. This past week also saw outfielder Jacob Hannemann tie pitchers C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson for the lead in the fan vote. So from Luis Acosta to Tony Zych, all nominations will be accepted and given equal weight.

Race to Wrigley

For the second straight year, I will be competing in the Race to Wrigley 5K run on April 12, 2014. If anyone is interested in making a donation, please visit ChicagoCubsOnline – Race to Wrigley to register. All proceeds go to Chicago Cubs Charities and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital).

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"Baseball, just a game as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes." - Ernie Harwell
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  • Tony_Hall

    I love these up close look at players that names may have passed by us, but we really don’t know much about them. Every player has a story and has had a pretty good baseball career to get to this point. Thanks for sharing.

    • Tom U

      Thank you Tony, I enjoy bringing them to you all.

  • Zonk

    OK Tom, I have to ask since he still shows up on our ML payroll. Gerardo Concepcion, is he officially gone, or simply around ST camp, but invisible? It seems everyone has given up hope of any return on that investment, but just wondering.

    • Tony_Hall

      The way I understand it he was taken off the 40 man roster (not claimed due to contract) and is now in our minor league system. He will be in minor league camp. There is a mini-minor league camp with about 50 players in it right now, but I have not seen a listing of players to know if he is there.

      • cubtex

        how about…not claimed due to ineptness :)

      • Zonk

        I know we DFA’ed him last year, and he was not claimed, unsurprisingly. IIRC, he had a problem with Mono or some illness that set him back, but when he came back, he was terrible, as the numbers show.

        Just curious if he is dead to us yet or not

        Also thought of it because reports out of Phillies camp on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the Cuban they signed for $12 mil guaranteed, have been really awful…..like they’ve made a mistake bad

        • cubtex

          Concepcion was a head scratcher from the moment the Cubs signed him. You would be hard pressed to find a few scouts who thought he would be a mlb pitcher.

    • Tom U

      Sorry for the late response Zonk. Gerardo Concepcion is currently active on the roster of the AZL Cubs.

      • Richard Hood

        Wow from a major league deal to rookie league in 2 seasons.

        • Tony_Hall

          That is where players go to rehab.

  • Zonk

    Wilson seems to fit the profile of what this FO is trying to find in later rounds; large framed, athletic pitchers with strong velocity (but issues with secondaries or control, otherwise they would be first-rounders). Broadly, Skulina, Masek, Frazier, and Clifton fit that mold, and I’m probably missing some.

    It’s the right call, we need to draft volume and hope one or two really put it all together and emerge as impact talent

    • cubtex

      Masek, large framed? Not even close.

      • Zonk

        True, but he’s athletic, with a big-time FB…a raw-ish arm. I know Callis thought highly of him, and commended Cubs for getting him that low.

        • cubtex

          He is a local kid from Giddings Tx and I have seen him a couple of times. I liked the pick. I saw him shut down Texas here in Austin. He is of slight build and had shoulder tendinitis and that is why he slid to where the Cubs got him. He is not raw. He is pretty polished but it is his frame and shoulder issues that is a concern. I think the Cubs have already moved him to the bullpen if I am not mistaken.

          • Zonk

            Good to know…..4th rounders are never perfect, but sounds like a good get at that point. We’ll see how he does, he pitched very well in his brief debut

  • paulcatanese

    Papaccio, better with the glove than Castro or Baez? Even it that were the case, he will never see shortstop with the Cubs as long as those two are ahead of him.
    For that matter, Baez wont see Shortstop with the Cubs at that level either.
    Only the Shadow knows.

    • paulcatanese

      On second thought, how about those three in the infield at the same time? Who wouldn’t want to be a play by play announcer that covers a pop up that all three could reach for the out?
      Sends chills:)

      • John G

        As good as the “tailor made” batting order of 1958 (I think?). Jack Brickhouse would say “Due up this inning, the tailor made batting order of Sammy Taylor, catcher, Taylor Phillips, pitching and Tony Taylor 2nd base and leadoff hitter.”

        • paulcatanese

          That is a good one John, completely forgot about them.

  • John G

    RIP Harold Ramis. a great Cub Fan and 7th inning stretch regular. He wrote, directed and starred in some of the great comedies of my generation.

    • mutantbeast

      Saturday Nights chief writer for a decade. Ghostbusters, Stripes, wrote Caddyshack and the Blues Bros. A terrific talent who always stayed in the shadows for some reason. I also beleive he had a hands in Animal House also, since he was goods friends with John Belushi.

      • Richard Hood

        Ramis stayed in the shadows because that is where the comedy gold was. I think his greatest work was Ground Hog day. That movie still cracks me up every time I see it.

    • Tom U

      Also played a big part in a somewhat forgotten show, SCTV

  • paulcatanese

    The new rule to protect catchers from violent collisions at home plate is a good one, however it does open up a can of worms. Who decides whether or not the runner kept on a direct line to home plate? It changes for the runner if a wide turn around third base is taken. It also changes when the catcher adjusts for a throw off line.
    That’s just three different takes, and I know there will be a lot more as the season progresses. Managers will have a field day with this one, unless the call is not renewable and is final.
    Still it’s an opinion and only one at that, the umpire’s.
    This will not speed the game up, just make it longer.
    However it is a “catch 22″, don’t protect the catcher or protect him.
    Hate to have to live with that call on the last play of the game.

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  • BillyFinT

    Cael at age 22 but already caught for Iowa, that’s an impressive career. Even if he will end up not catching regularly for the Big, or even do more than a few cups of coffee, I’m happy for him.