Five Players to Watch: Rookie and Short Season-A Ball
This is the first in a series of three articles highlighting some of the players not noted on off-season prospect lists. The Five Players series has identified many players who have gone on to be considered top prospects and Major League players, including Arismendy Alcantara, Jeffrey Baez, Trevor Clifton, Oscar De La Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Kyle Hendricks, Armando Rivero, Chesny Young, and Mark Zagunis. The players are listed in alphabetical order, and as they are presently listed on rosters. Inclusion in this list does not necessarily reflect where each player will start the season.
Jesus Camargo, RHP
As part of a continuing search by the front office to locate talent, there has been extra effort in scouting the Mexican League. That effort has uncovered several players, including 20-year old Jesus Camargo. Camargo pitched in one game for the Diablos Rojos before signing with the Cubs. The Cubs’ player development department sent him straight to the Arizona Rookie League, where Camargo put up some impressive numbers. While he had only a 3.30 ERA in 11 appearances, Camargo went 3-1 with a 1.036 WHIP and had 57 strikeouts in 46.1 innings. That’s at least something to build on, as the 5-foor-11, 170-pound Camargo will need a little filling out. Whether he can accomplish that or not will determine how he is used going forward. Observers have seen a high-80s/low-90s fastball along with an advanced change up and decent curve. It was also noticed that Camargo locates his pitches well and knows how to change speeds.
Kwang-Min Kwon, OF/1B
Most off-seasons the signing of a high profile international free agent to a $1.2 million contract would be big news. But some of the free agent signings by the parent club and the inking of outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez to a deal has pushed the acquisition of Kwang-Min Kwon to the back pages. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, the 18-year old South Korean already appears to be fully grown. During the Fall Instructional League, the left-hander easily won the home run derby. While observers say that he has enough athleticism to play in the outfield for now, Kwon will probably settle in at first base eventually. Kwon has previous experience as an infielder, so the transition will most likely be smooth. What is a concern is how a young man like Kwon will adjust to a very different lifestyle. Players from the Far East are generally well schooled in the fundamentals, so the possibility of Kwon playing as high as Low-A South Bend is not out of the question. However, beginning his professional career at Short Season-A Eugene seems more realistic.
Junior Marte, RHP
The 20-year old Junior Marte is someone there does not seem to be a lot of information about. However, what we do know merits some watching, at least for now. Signed as a 19-year old in 2014, Marte had a rather ordinary first professional season, going 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.598 WHIP, and 27 strikeouts in 30.2 innings. However, in his second time around in the Dominican Summer League, Marte was more impressive. Marte roared through the DSL with a 4-1 record and striking out 68 in 55.2 innings, appearing in 13 games (11 starts). Falling just short of qualifying to be among the league leaders, Marte would have finished second with a 1.29 ERA and tied for third with a 0.880 WHIP. The Cubs wanted to bring Marte over to the Arizona Rookie League, but visa problems got in the way. When they were finally cleared up, Marte was able to make two appearances with the AZL Cubs, striking out six in three innings and posting a 3.00 ERA. At 6-foot, 170 pounds, Marte is a bit slight to stay in the rotation for long, so a move to the bullpen may be in order.
Chris Pieters, OF/1B
While players change positions frequently during their development in the minor leagues, what is highly unheard of is a pitcher trying to salvage a career by becoming a position player. Chris Pieters signed in 2011 and began his professional career as a 17-year old pitcher in the Dominican Summer League in 2012, going 2-5 in 14 appearances (six starts) with a 6.00 ERA, 2.24 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts in 33 innings. The native of Curacao seasons in 2013 and 2014 actually were worse, posting ERA’s of 12.21 and 11.25 respectively. The lefty showed up in Spring Training for the 2015 season working out in the outfield and at first base. To say that Pieters took the change well would be a massive understatement. The athletic Pieters took the Dominican Summer League by storm, batting .311 with a .457 on-base percentage, which was good enough for third in the league. Pieters also swiped 25 bases, ninth best in the league. After 53 games, Pieters was promoted to the AZL Cubs of the Rookie League, a moved delayed by visa problems. In nine games for the A-Cubs, Pieters batted .257 to give him a combined season slash line of .302/.432/.423 with 13 doubles, two triples, three home runs, .855 OPS, 39 RBI, and 25 stolen bases in 62 games. Pieters he has picked up his defense rather quickly, with the tools to stick in centerfield.
Carlos Sepulveda, INF
Another player that was part of the increased scouting efforts in Mexico was infielder Carlos Sepulveda. The 19-year old had a very good first professional season. Assigned to the AZL Cubs, Sepulveda had a dynamic showing both offensively and defensively. In 44 games at second base, Sepulveda fielded an astounding .991 and was a respectable .941 in four games at shortstop. At the plate, Sepulveda was not overwhelmed as he hit .281/.351/.308/.659 with five doubles, 25 RBI, and six stolen bases in 47 games. Listed at 5-foot-10, onlookers have said that Sepulveda is actually a couple of inches shorter than that. In the Fall Instructional League, the left-hander impressed onlookers with his glove. Scouts have also liked his swing path and fundamentals as well as his attitude which gives him an “underdog” type of appeal.
Attention CCO Readers
The Chicago Cubs Online preliminary reader’s poll is underway. This season, the CCO will be posting the Top Prospect Watch in a separate article on Tuesdays. Please post the names of the minor league players you would like the CCO to follow next season with weekly updates focused on the numbers the players are putting up in the minors.
The CCO will then take the top 20 names to run in a special poll for the final month of Spring Training. The CCO will track the progress of the top 10 players throughout the entire season. Currently, infielder/outfielder Ian Happ, outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez, and shortstop Gleyber Torres are tied for the lead.
A representative sample of positions and levels of play is optimal. You can name as many players as you like in the comment section, on Twitter or on The CCO’s Facebook page, but remember only 10 will eventually be chosen. So from Aramis Ademan to Rob Zastryzny, all nominations will be accepted and given equal weight.