Two of the top prospects in the Cubs’ system had very good years. After a short break, Willson Contreras and Jeimer Candelario continued their breakout performances in the Arizona Fall League.
Willson Contreras went from a relative unknown in the system to the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year. Among his accomplishments during the season was winning the Southern League batting title after hitting .333/.413/.478 with 34 doubles, four triples and eight home runs for a .891 OPS. Contreras was a Mid-Season All-Star and ended up on several post-season All-Star teams. Many think Contreras is the top catching prospect in the game. And Baseball America recently ranked Contreras as the second best prospect in the Cubs system.
Jeimer Candelario put his struggles in 2014 behind him and the 22-year old played extremely well throughout a regular season that started in High-A ball with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Candelario finished the minor league season with the Smokies. In 128 games, Candelario batted a combined .277/.339/.431 with 35 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs for a .770 OPS. Baseball America ranked Candelario as the 10th best prospect in the system earlier this month.
With less focus on the Arizona Fall League, the performances turned in by Willson Contreras and Jeimer Candelario went relatively unnoticed. Both players turned heads in the AFL and were added to the Cubs 40-man roster last week.
The Arizona Fall League ended last Saturday but the reviews and rankings are still being released. And Contreras and Candelario played their way onto top AFL prospects list by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, ESPN and Baseball America.
Willson Contreras was performing well at the plate and in the field in the AFL. And he earned a spot on the Fall Stars Game roster. Contreras strained his hamstring the week prior to the game and was unable to play. The Cubs shut him down and ended early what was an excellent year.
Contreras hit .283/.361/.547 in 14 games with five doubles, three home runs and a .908 OPS. Contreras walked seven times with nine strikeouts and eight of his 15 hits were for extra base knocks.
Willson Contreras would have likely been the starting catcher on MLB Pipeline’s All-AFL Team. But due to the injury and shortened season, Contreras was runner-up to the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez.
Jim Callis ranked Contreras as the fifth best prospect that played in the AFL. Contreras has “enough defensive skills to be a big league regular,” according to Callis.
Baseball America’s Bill Mitchell has Contreras at No. 5 on his ranking of the top 10 prospects from the AFL. Contreras’ defense received good reviews in Arizona. Mitchell said, “Contreras was solid behind the plate with good receiving skills and a strong, quick arm, flashing sub-2.0 pop times.”
Jeimer Candelario played in 21 games, plus the Fall Stars Game. Candelario batted .329/.371/.610 with eight doubles and five home runs for a .981 OPS. Candelario had 27 hits in 21 games, 13 went for extra bases.
MLB Pipeline said that Candelario “was arguably the top breakout prospect” in the Fall League while pointing out how impressive he was from the left side of the plate. The switch-hitter showed “plus bat speed and in-game power to all fields.”
According to ESPN, Candelario “can really hit” and Eric Longenhagen placed a “future 60 on the bat.” Longenhagen’s questions, when it comes to Candelario, are in the field. “He’s bad at third base and is too slow for an outfield corner,” according to Longenhagen.
Jim Callis thought enough of what he saw from Candelario to rank him as the 11th best prospect in the Arizona Fall League. Candelario has “legitimate power” from both sides of the plate. Candelario “may not have the agility for third base.” And like Contreras, Callis does not think Candelario will make his big league debut until 2017.
Jeimer Candelario did not make Baseball America’s list of the 10 top prospects in the AFL, but did receive an honorable mention. Bill Mitchell pointed out that Candelario “opened plenty of eyes with a strong AFL performance.” Mitchell also questioned his defense, labeling it “inconsistent” while stating because he can hit “he’ll work his way into the lineup somewhere.”