Cubs Notes from Down on the Farm – 05/10/14

After six weeks, the concept of “position redundancy” is taking a hit with several top prospects not performing well. The idea of having several prospects at every position is sound as long as everyone’s development is going as planned. But with top prospects such as Javier Baez, Christian Villanueva, Brett Jackson, Albert Almora, Jeimer Candelario, and Dan Vogelbach all off to poor starts, is the organization willing to go the more traditional route and demote these players to get their development back on track? Several players, such as John Andreoli, Kris Bryant, Charles Cutler, Rafael Lopez, Bijan Rademacher, and Will Remillard have performed well enough to get a look-see at the next level. With regular starters nearing 150 at bats, using the excuse “it’s still early” may be wearing a bit thin.

If Javier Baez didn’t have enough trouble with teammates Arismendy Alcantara and Logan Watkins out-performing him to this point, Stephen Bruno is also getting back on track. The 2012 Northwest League batting champion suffered from injuries last season that held him back. After struggling early at Tennessee, Bruno seems to be regaining his form. Bruno has hit .417 with eight RBI over his last ten games to raise his season average to .291with a home run and 13 RBI. Primarily a second baseman, Bruno does have experience at short, third, and the outfield while fooling around with catching in the Fall Instructional League a couple of seasons ago.

The gap between Tennessee and Daytona appears to be widening, as several prospects mentioned above are not living up to standards while players like Gioskar Amaya, Pin-Chieh Chen, Marco Hernandez, and Tim Saunders are cooling off. Only OF Bijan Rademacher and RHP Felix Pena have remained consistent for the D-Cubs this season.

It looks as though the career of Zeke DeVoss is in real jeopardy. The 23-year old switch-hitter had to be sent down to the Short-Season A Boise’s roster in a procedural move to complete a demotion to Daytona. DeVoss hit only .120 for Tennessee but did steal five bases, and has yet to get a hit in six plate appearances at Daytona. After batting .311 in 38 games for Boise as a rookie in 2011, DeVoss has had a really downward turn as he hit only .249 for Peoria in 2012 and .244 with Daytona last year. Some point out the 2012 season when DeVoss lined up at second base and committed 28 errors as the turning point in his development. With a multitude of infield and outfield prospects behind him, DeVoss needs to get his act together in a hurry or it could be all over.

A prospect that has flown under the radar thus far has been third baseman Jordan Hankins. The 2013 eleventh round pick has raised his season average to .300 after going 12-for-36 over his last ten games for Kane County. Hankins bashed his first home run on Friday night and he has 14 RBI so far. Hankins will have to get his defense together at third, but the organization has flirted with the idea of moving him to catcher several times.

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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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  • Swish23

    it’s time to let logan watkins play in the majors; see if he can be a good back-up or is forever a AAAA player. either trade barney or release him; same goes for bonaficio; neither project long term as value. if they don’t do it soon; alcantara and the baez-castro-bryant logjam will never get him to the majors.
    for bryant; another month of his current pace; it will be time to move him up to AAA so he can get at-bats there so he is ready come april 2015 to start. soon the FO will need to decide if he is a RF or a 3b. can’t have no-hit villaneuva standing in his way; villaneua should be trade-bait for pitching or catching; he does not project over baez-bryant or olt and canderlario is right behind him, but struggling. cubs have way too may 2b-ss-3b prospects and its starting to show where they are all going to pile up like a highway 10 car crash. i hope the FO takes the Smardz trade(a mistake; another story) and adds one of these guys to bring back a haul of soon to be ready pitchers and some other depth like catching.

  • Rational Logic

    Tom,

    At what point does analysis become useless in 10 game? segments If you look at 38 games for ZD (a ~10 game stretch), assuming 4 AB’s per game, 38 games is 152 ABs, and a .311 average is a result of 47 hits, and just 3 less hits results in a BA of .282.

    I believe the organization does a good job of taking a holistic approach to evaluating talent, but I see a lot of player characterization based on small sample sizes that are generalized into a trend – it happens here, on ESPN, everywhere – to nobody specific’s fault.

    Just curious as to what your thoughts are on your analysis and how much weight you put into a 10 game stretches when doing talent analysis as it seems to be a consistent sample size across media outlets.

    • Tom U

      Rational, you asked a compound question so I will give you a compound answer.

      As far as Zeke DeVoss goes, you may remember that DeVoss was part of a class in 2011 that seemed to have protracted and difficult negotiations. Some of those players include Baez, Vogelbach, Zych, and Easterling along with DeVoss. DeVoss played outfield in college after his coaches did not think he was good enough for middle infield. Yet after he signed he was back at second base. Whether he hit .282 or .311 for Boise in 2011 was not that important, as both figures would demonstrate some promise. The important questions are why was DeVoss placed at a position he was not good at for a season and a half and did that have any effect on his offensive development?

      In speaking of statistics, this requires a more complex answer. I have followed the minor leagues for a long time before I started writing for the CCO, and I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to looking at the the numbers. The most advanced stats I pay attention to are OPS and WHIP, leaving the others to the stat guys.

      Even before I came to the CCO, I would routinely look at the transactions for the leagues the Cubs have their minor league teams in. These leagues include some of the organizations that have traditionally done a very good job in handling and developing their minor league players. Some of those include St. Louis, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, and the Dodgers. What I have discovered is that those teams are generally more aggressive in moving their players up and down in their system. This doesn’t just include “roster fillers”, who are needed to cover for injuries, but also with top prospects. The idea is that when a player is “hot”, he is probably doing something right and not just lucky. Moving a player up a level at that point can possibly accelerate his time of development. This only works if the player has the clear understanding that movement is part of their developmental plan, and not to get too high or too low when moving in either direction. In my time writing for the CCO, I have been consistent in endorsing this style of development.

      To that end, keeping an eye on the statistics in small chunks is important. If you have followed sports for any time, you may have heard stories about players in slumps and coaches saying that everything looks good in practice, but the results just aren’t there when it matters. This is the opposite side of the looking glass. If a minor league player is demonstrating that they are playing up to their ability and that is trending to success on the field, why not move them up a level and see how they do?