The prospect season has taken a backseat for the Cubs as the front office continues to focus on improving the big league roster. Baseball Prospectus released its ranking of the Cubs system and Baseball America is not scheduled to post its Cubs top 10 list until early January (Jan. 5). And by the time Baseball America’s ranking is released, the Cubs system may look a little differently than it does with a little over a week before the Winter Meetings begin.
With the Rule 5 Draft just around the corner, there is news and notes from down on the Cubs’ farm system on the last weekend of November.
Rule 5 Draft
Baseball’s Winter Meetings conclude on Dec. 11 with the Rule 5 Draft and the Cubs have several minor league players the front office left unprotected teams could select in a couple of weeks.
J.J. Cooper posted an initial list of the top names to keep an eye on in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.
Andrew McKirahan is coming off a good year pitching out of the Daytona and Tennessee bullpens. The 24-year old lefty (Feb. 8) was a combined 2-4 in 44 games with a 2.08 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. In 65 innings, McKirahan gave up 57 hits with 14 walks and 57 strikeouts. The southpaw seemed to excel after his promotion to Double-A Tennessee and in 21 appearances McKirahan gave up 28 hits with six walks and 24 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings (3.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP).
McKirahan’s fastball was back in the 92-96 mph range after Tommy John surgery in 2012 slowed down his development in the Cubs’ system. McKirahan has actually been better against right handers than against lefties according to Baseball America.
The Cubs have two middle infielders that teams could try to hide on the 25-man roster as well in Gioskar Amaya and Marco Hernandez. And one of the two could end up being the PTBNL in the trade with Boston for LHP Felix Doubront. The Cubs and Sox are expected to complete that July deal after the Rule 5 Draft.
Gioskar Amaya and Marco Hernandez do not appear ready for the big leagues. Hernandez was left unprotected last year and no one took a chance and selected him.
Offensively, Gioskar Amaya bounced back last season from a poor 2013 campaign with Low-A Kane County. In 112 games for High-A Daytona, Amaya batted .276/.379/.369 with 16 doubles, three triples and four home runs for a .747 OPS. Amaya turns 22 two days after the Rule 5 Draft and profiles as a utility infielder at the Major League level according to Baseball America. J.J. Cooper thinks a jump from A-ball to the big leagues would be too much for Amaya and would keep teams from selecting him.
Marco Hernandez is an intriguing player in a system stacked with projectable impact talent at the shortstop position. Hernandez turned 22 in September and batted .270/.315/.351 in 122 games for Daytona last season. Hernandez hit 13 doubles, seven triples and three home runs for a .667 OPS. And like Amaya, Hernandez had a solid season at a higher level than he did with Kane County the prior year.
Cubs Top 5 Freshman for 2015
FanGraphs is ranking the top five players from each team’s farm system that could contribute at the big league level in 2015. And for the Cubs, the list starts with Kris Bryant.
Kris Bryant will likely start the 2015 season with Triple-A Iowa but figures to be in the majors as soon as he passes the point the Cubs will receive an extra year of control. If Luis Valbuena is still with the Cubs, he’s likely at the hot corner on Opening Night against the Cardinals.
Jorge Soler (2), Pierce Johnson (3), Addison Russell (4) and Donn Roach (5) rounded out the Cubs top five.
Jorge Soler should be with the Cubs in right field on Opening Night and Pierce Johnson could make his big league debut at some point during the 2015 season according to the report. And there are very early predictions that Addison Russell could make the jump to the majors in September after beginning the season as Triple-A Iowa’s shortstop.
When the Cubs claimed Donn Roach off waivers from the Padres, Theo Epstein said he would compete for a spot in the bullpen during Spring Training. Roach is in the group of relievers behind the power arms that ended the season in the Cubs’ pen. And his sinker should play well at Wrigley Field and in NL Central ballparks.
News and Notes
The South Bend Cubs are holding a press conference Thursday, Dec. 4 to unveil the team’s new logo and uniforms.
And the Cubs minor league system provided a lot of highlights for the organization last season, click here for a few videos featuring Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach and the Tennessee Smokies.