Eight of Baseball America’s Top 31 Cubs prospects were signed as International free agents
A recent report from Baseball America highlighted the most productive International programs in the game based on the number of prospects in the 2016 Prospect Handbook the team signed.
Ben Badler said “it can be a challenge to evaluate how teams have done recently in the International market. Teams sign players out of Latin America when they are 16, which means the process of getting them to the big leagues is often a long one, with perceptions of a player and his stock often changing quite a bit along that journey.”
There are eight players the Cubs signed included in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook counting SS/2B Marco Hernandez, who was ranked as the 12th best prospect in the Red Sox’s system. Under Ben Badler’s criteria, the Cubs are in the middle of the pack in terms of having a productive International program. The work teams such as the Rangers (18), Twins (15), Red Sox (14), Blue Jays (13), Royals (13) and Yankees (12) have done developing International free agents have produced more of their organization’s top talent than the Cubs entering the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook includes a top 30 prospect list for each organization. And if the Handbook is purchased directly from Baseball America it includes a bonus supplement with a write up on an additional prospect (No. 31).
Of the 31 players in the Cubs’ top prospect list, eight of those players were signed as International free agents. There is more talent in the system that is being developed that could show up on a prospect list in two to three years.
Here’s how players signed by the Cubs as International free agents were ranked by Baseball America:
- SS Gleyber Torres (1)
- C/3B Willson Contreras (2)
- RHP Oscar De La Cruz (8)
- OF Eloy Jimenez (9)
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (10)
- RHP Jen-Ho Tseng (20)
- OF Eddy Julio Martinez (28)
- OF Jeffrey Baez (31)
Gleyber Torres is the consensus top prospect in the Cubs organization. The 19-year old shortstop is expected to start the upcoming season at High-A Myrtle Beach. Baseball America named Torres the best player in the Midwest League last year after he hit .293/.353/.386 in 119 games with a .739 OPS for Low-A South Bend. Torres finished his first full-season with the Carolina League Champions. Torres had a combined .287/.346/.376 line with 24 doubles, five triples and three home runs for a .722 OPS in 126 games in 2015.
Willson Contreras is considered the top catching prospect in baseball. Contreras was the Cubs’ Minor League Position Player of the Year after completing a breakout season with Double-A Tennessee. Contreras won the Southern League batting title after hitting .333/.413/.478/.891 with 34 doubles, four triples and eight home runs. Contreras will be in big league camp this spring for the first time. And while it’s possible he could receive The Call this year, Contreras is ticketed for Triple-A Iowa for the season.
Oscar De La Cruz garnered a lot of attention this off-season following an excellent year with Short-Season Eugene. The 20-year old right-hander (turns 21 on March 4) was 6-3 in 13 starts with a 2.84 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. De La Cruz allowed 27 runs, 23 earned, on 56 hits with 17 walks and 73 strikeouts in 73 innings. De La Cruz will begin the upcoming season with Low-A South Bend and could very well be the mound for the SB Cubs on Opening Day.
One of De La Cruz’s teammates with the Emeralds last year should be with him at South Bend when the season starts. Eloy Jimenez is coming off a good season with Eugene. The 19-year old outfielder is possibly the top power hitter in the Cubs’ system. Jimenez batted .284/.328/.418 with 10 doubles and seven home runs for a .746 OPS in 57 games for Short-Season Eugene in 2015.
Jeimer Candelario appeared to put things together last season. Candelario had a big year that started with High-A Myrtle Beach and ended with the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. Candelario went from a question mark in the eyes of the front office to earning a spot on the 40-man roster. The 22-year old switch hitting third baseman is ticketed for Iowa to start the season. Candelario batted a combined .277/.339/.431 with 35 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs for a .770 OPS a year ago. With Double-A Tennessee, Candelario hit .291/.379/.462 with 10 doubles, a triple and five home runs for a .841 OPS. Candelario had more walks (22) than strikeouts (21) in 46 games with the Smokies.
RHP Jen-Ho Tseng did not have the same success with High-A Myrtle Beach as he did with Low-A Kane County in 2014 that led to him being the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Tseng turned 21 in October and is coming off a 7-7 season in 22 starts with the Pelicans. Tseng allowed 48 runs, 47 earned, on 115 hits with 30 walks and 87 strikeouts in 119 innings. Tseng should be part of a very, very good rotation at Double-A Tennessee at the start of the season.
The Cubs signed Eddy Julio Martinez in October. If all goes well in Spring Training, Martinez should start the season as part of Low-A South Bend’s outfield with Eloy Jimenez and Donnie Dewees. Martinez could be held back in extended Spring Training to give him a little more time before he’s assigned to an affiliate.
Jeffrey Baez rebounded incredibly well after a poor start to the season a year ago. Baez ended up hitting .284/.324/.427 for South Bend before he was bumped up to High-A Myrtle Beach for the end of the season and Pelicans’ post-season run. While the slash line looks average, Baez hit .190/.262/.268 in the first half. Over his final 53 games in Low-A ball, Baez put together a .348/.369/.536 line with a .905 OPS. The 22-year old Baez is expected to start the year with Myrtle Beach.