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).

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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