Baseball America’s series of ranking the top prospects in each minor league continued Monday with the Carolina League. And three contributors on the 2015 Carolina League Champions cracked the top 20 prospects list.
Baseball America ranked RHP Duane Underwood Jr. as the seventh best prospect in the Carolina League. 3B Jeimer Candelario checked in at No. 13 and OF Mark Zagunis made the list at No. 15.
Duane Underwood Jr. is widely considered the top pitching prospect in the Cubs system while Jeimer Candelario and Mark Zagunis had excellent seasons. Candelario and Zagunis are both participating in the Arizona Fall League and will be teammates again with the Mesa Solar Sox.
RHP Duane Underwood Jr.
RHP Duane Underwood Jr. dealt with an elbow injury this season that cost him time, but while he was on the field he put up good numbers and took steps forward in his development. Underwood Jr. concentrated on pitching this year and not just throwing the baseball from the mound.
In 14 regular season starts with High-A Myrtle Beach, Underwood Jr. was 6-3 with a 2.58 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. The 21-year old right hander allowed 26 runs, 21 earned, on 52 hits with 24 walks and 48 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings.
Underwood Jr. continued to light up the radar gun this season, even when he returned from the DL. Underwood Jr.’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and has touched triple digits. He also features “a hard, downer curveball in the high-80s that can garner swings and misses.” Underwood Jr. throws his changeup in the mid-80s.
3B Jeimer Candelario
Switch-hitting Jeimer Candelario rebounded nicely from a rough 2014 season. Candelario began the year with High-A Myrtle Beach and ended it at third base for Double-A Tennessee. While with the Pelicans, Candelario batted .270/.318/.415 in 82 games with 25 doubles, three triples and five home runs for a .733 OPS.
Candelario excelled with Double-A Tennessee after his promotion.
Jeimer Candelario is only 21 years old and has shown he has the tools that will get him to the big leagues.
OF Mark Zagunis
Mark Zagunis made the successful switch to a full-time outfield in his first full year of pro ball. Zagunis was a Carolina League All-Star, earned player of the week honors and was the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Month for June.
In 115 games with High-A Myrtle Beach, Zagunis batted .271/.406/.412 with 24 doubles, five triples and eight home runs for a .818 OPS. And Zagunis had almost as many walks (80) as strikeouts (86) in 413 at bats.
According to Carolina League managers that Baseball America talked to about Zagunis, he had “the best strike-zone discipline in the circuit.” Zagunis projects as a top of the order bat “which could lead to profile problems as a corner outfielder.” According to Baseball America, “Zagunis has enough strength and discipline in his game to suggest a power boost as he matures and moves up the ladder.”
Baseball America League Prospect Rankings
Twelve different players from the Cubs system have been ranked among the top prospects of their respective leagues.
Arizona Rookie League
- RHP Dylan Cease (2)
- OF/2B Ian Happ (2)
- OF Eloy Jimenez (3)
- OF Donnie Dewees (11)
- LHP Justin Steele (12)
- LHP Carson Sands (13)
- RHP Oscar De La Cruz (16)
- RHP Pedro Araujo (19)
- SS Gleyber Torres (1)
- OF/2B Ian Happ (6)
- RHP Duane Underwood Jr. (7)
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (13)
- OF Mark Zagunis (15)
Baseball America has not released the rankings for the Southern League (Tennessee Smokies) or Pacific Coast League (Iowa Cubs).