Baseball America posted its Minor League All-Star Team for 2015 last Wednesday and Cubs catching prospect, Willson Contreras was named to the squad.
Willson Contreras joined 1B A.J. Reed (Astros), 2B Brandon Drury (Diamondbacks), 3B Ryan McMahon (Rockies), SS Corey Seager (Dodgers), CF Lewis Brinson (Rangers), OF Max Kepler (Twins), OF Jordan Patterson (Rockies), DH Bobby Bradley (Indians), RHP Jose Berrios (Twins), LHP Matt Boyd (Tigers), RHP Michael Fulmer (Tigers), RHP Jorge Lopez (Brewers), LHP Blake Snell (Rays) and RHP Mychal Givens (Orioles) on the first-team of the prestigious post-season list.
Willson Contreras had a very good season, one that will likely make him the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year. Contreras was a midseason and post-season All-Star and won the Southern League Batting Crown. Contreras improved his stock in the organization this past season and will spend his fall in Arizona catching for the Mesa Solar Sox.
Contreras hit .333/.413/.478 with 34 doubles, four triples and eight home runs for a .891 OPS in 126 games. And he walked (57) five less times than he struck out (62) in 521 plate appearances.
Willson Contreras finished first in the Southern League in batting average (.333), second in on-base percentage (.413), third in slugging percentage (.478) and second in OPS (.891). Contreras had the third most hits (151) in the league, was second in doubles (34), second in RBI (75) and fifth in total bases (217).
Jed Hoyer told ESPN Chicago that he was impressed Contreras went 4-for-4 to nail down the Southern League Batting Crown. And Anthony Iapoce, the Cubs minor league hitting coordinator, said that Contreras and Kyle Schwarber hit the ball harder with the “loudest sound” of anyone in the organization.
RHP Neil Ramirez had a chance to work with Contreras this season and on his most recent rehab assignment. Ramirez talked to the Tribune about Contreras. “He’s awesome. I threw to him almost every time. He calls a game well. He’s got a cannon and can hit. It was fun being down there with those guys, especially him. I like the way he calls a game.”
Willson Contreras is Rule 5 Draft eligible in December. He will be added to the 40-man roster in November.
One glimpse of Trevor Clifton’s season and his numbers do not pop off the page. The very talented 20-year old right-hander was 8-10 with a 3.98 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 23 games, 22 starts, for Low-A South Bend.
After struggling in June and July, Trevor Clifton had a strong finish to his season.
Over his last six starts, Clifton allowed eight runs on 22 hits with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings (1.96 ERA, 0.98 WHIP).
Trevor Clifton is one of the young arms in the lower levels of the Cubs system that had a good year from a development standpoint.
INF Christian Villanueva turned in a good season for Triple-A Iowa. After a slow start to his season, Villanueva heated up in May and did not cool off until late August. Villanueva batted .291/.333/.515 with a .848 OPS in July, his best month of the season.
In 123 games for the I-Cubs, Christian Villanueva hit .259/.313/.437 with 23 doubles, two triples and 18 home runs for a .751 OPS. Villanueva finished his season a combined .257/.314/.438 in 129 games with Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. Villanueva hit 23 doubles, two triples and 20 home runs for a .752 OPS. Villanueva’s 20 home runs and 95 RBI were tops in the Cubs minor league system.
RHP Carlos Pimentel was named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year and he finished just short of becoming the first Iowa Cubs’ hurler to lead the league in ERA.
Pimentel finished the season 12-6 in 27 games, 26 starts, with a 2.95 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. The 25-year old right hander allowed 59 runs, 47 earned, on 121 hits with 68 walks and 118 strikeouts in 143 1/3 innings.
Pimentel finished behind Sacramento’s Clayton Blackburn (2.85) for the ERA title and eighth in the league in WHIP (1.32). Pimentel’s 118 strikeouts were good enough for third, six behind league leader RHP Dan Straily (124).
Minor League News and Notes
• The Cubs system finished the minor league season with the fifth best record in baseball. The Cubs’ affiliates were 371-316 for a .540 winning percentage. The Astros, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Phillies are the four organizations that ended up with a better minor league win-loss record than the Cubs according to Baseball America.
• Double-A Tennessee’s GM Brian Cox was named the 2015 Jimmy Bragan Executive of the Year. This is the third executive of the year award for the Smokies’ general manager. Brian Cox won the award in 2004 and 2010.
• The South Bend Cubs set an All-Time attendance record this season. A total of 347,678 fans passed through the gates at Four Winds Field this season, up 34 percent from last season’s previous high of 258,836. The South Bend Cubs are going to address their seating problem. With an average attendance of 5,039 and only 5,000 seats, the club is discussing adding a small amount of seats according to a report from WNDU.