MiLB.com’s Prospect Projections series shifted to the NL Central Division. Sam Dykstra took a look at the players that could have an impact in the Cubs’ division during the upcoming season and Major League projections for the teams’ top prospects.
Dykstra is basing his series on Steamer600 projections from FanGraphs. Dykstra explained, “Steamer600 takes previous performance, age, level and other factors into account and projects stats for any given player over a full Major League season” which is 600 plate appearances for position players, 450 plate appearances for catchers, 200 innings for starting pitchers and 65 innings for relievers.
Of the eight players in the Cubs system that could see time in the big leagues during the season there are four position players (Willson Contreras, Christian Villanueva, Albert Almora Jr., Billy McKinney) and four pitchers (Carl Edwards Jr., Pierce Johnson, Corey Black, Ryan Williams). Based on a full season, here are their Steamer600 projections:
- C Willson Contreras – .257/.311/.378 with eight home runs, 1.8 WAR
- INF Christian Villanueva – .239/.286/.395 with 18 home runs, -0.2 WAR
- OF Albert Almora Jr. – .256/.289/.372 with 10 home runs, 0.6 WAR
- OF Billy McKinney – .259/.316/.372 with nine home runs, 1.4 WAR
- RHP Carl Edwards Jr. – 12-12 with a 4.23 ERA, 1.43 WHIP in 32 starts, 1.7 WAR
- RHP Pierce Johnson – 3-3 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.31 WHIP in 65 games, 0.3 WAR
- RHP Corey Black – 4-3 with a 3.81 ERA, 1.34 WHIP in 65 games, 0.3 WAR
- RHP Ryan Williams – 4-4 with a 3.97 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in 65 games, 0.0 WAR
Steamer600 projects Carl Edwards Jr. as a starting pitcher, not a reliever. The Cubs plan to stretch out Edwards Jr. in Spring Training but he is expected to be used out of the bullpen moving forward. The projections for Johnson and Williams are as relievers. Both right-handers could make their Major League debuts this season out of a bullpen. The Cubs view Johnson and Williams as starters, and they should be rotation mates for the Iowa Cubs on Opening Day.
Cubs and Top 100 Prospects Talk
MLB Pipeline released its ranking of the Top 100 Prospects on Friday. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo spent time Monday afternoon answering questions about the Top 100 list and other prospects on Twitter. Here are a couple of Cubs’ notes from the prospect gurus:
• Jonathan Mayo thinks there is a 10-15 percent chance Ian Happ is able to stick at second base. The Cubs first round pick in last June’s draft is making the conversion to a full-time second baseman. Happ was recently ranked as the third best second base prospect by MLB Pipeline.
• Jim Callis also thinks there is a slim chance (10 percent) that Ian Happ will be able to make the conversion to second base. Callis pointed out that Happ is “athletic, but not an infielder.” Callis feels Happ is like Kyle Schwarber and should hit enough to be an outfielder.
• Jim Callis thinks the Cubs’ pitching prospects are “underrated.” Callis expects Oscar De La Cruz and Dylan Cease to “make leaps” this season and appear on the Top 100 Prospect list next year. Callis also likes the pitching depth in the Cubs’ system.
• Duane Underwood Jr. and Dylan Cease have the upside to be top of the rotation starters in the big leagues. Jim Callis is very high on Cease and thinks if he progresses as expected he could crack MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 by midseason this year.
• The Cubs had six players on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospect list for the upcoming season: SS Gleyber Torres (28), C Willson Contreras (50), 2B/OF Ian Happ (76), RHP Duane Underwood Jr. (77), OF Albert Almora Jr. (86) and OF Billy McKinney (88)
Myrtle Beach Pelicans
• The 2015 Carolina League Champions, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans will open the 2016 and 2017 seasons against the Charleston RiverDogs (New York Yankees) in The Highway 17 Showdown, a two-year exhibition series that will allow the distinct cities to play for Palmetto State supremacy. Myrtle Beach will travel to Charleston this year for a game on April 6, and the RiverDogs will make the trip to play the Pelicans in 2017.
Best Tools of Top 100 Prospects
MLB Pipeline posted a report on the prospects with the best tools …
Best Hitter: Corey Seager (Dodgers); Best Power: Joey Gallo (Rangers); Fastest Runner: Jorge Mateo (Yankees); Strongest Arm: Jorge Alfaro (Phillies); Best Defender: Byron Buxton (Twins); Best Fastball: Lucas Giolito (Nationals); Best Curveball: Lucas Giolito (Nationals); Best Changeup: Julio Urias (Dodgers); Best Control: Jose Berrios (Twins)
News and Transactions
• Double-A Tennessee’s website ranked 25th in MiLB, third in Double-A baseball and the Smokies have the most visited website in the Southern League.
• MiLB.com posted a final look at advanced stats from the 2015 season. And the BABIP numbers for Albert Almora Jr., Carl Edwards Jr. and Duane Underwood Jr. are very interesting.
• The Detroit Tigers signed C Yaniel Cabezas to a minor league contract. Cabezas did not play last season (2015) after spending three years in the Cubs’ system and one in Independent ball. Cabezas hit .260/.317/.313 in 43 games for Low-A Kane County and High-A Daytona in 2013 with five doubles and a triple.
• RHP Rafael Dolis was released by the Tigers after re-signing with Detroit on a minor league deal in December. The Tigers let Dolis out of his contract so he could sign with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. The Cubs signed Dolis as an amateur free agent in 2004 and in three seasons with the Cubs, Dolis was 2-4 with four saves in 40 games with a 5.48 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and 5.39 FIP.
• The Cubs released RHP Yoanner Negrin, according to Baseball America. Negrin made 13 appearances with two starts for the Iowa Cubs last season. Negrin was 1-0 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Negrin turns 32 in April.