The end of the month two of the minor league season saw more comings and goings in the Cubs’ Top 20 Prospect list.
Here then, is a list on how the current prospects rate. All stats and rankings are of Wednesday, June 1.
1) Willson Contreras, C
Although there has been some slowing down by Willson Contreras this past month, his numbers are still of an elite prospect. A member of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, the 23-year old is currently hitting .337/.427/.574/1.001 with 12 doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 35 RBI. Defensively, Contreras remains steady by fielding .997 behind the plate with a 33% caught stealing rate. If the parent club goes through any more hitting and/or scoring slumps, you may see Contreras on the Chicago Cubs roster sooner than expected.
2) Dylan Cease, RHP
With Dylan Cease remaining in extended Spring Training, the expectation level goes from possibly being with Low-A South Bend this season to a part of the Short Season-A Eugene Emeralds rotation. The 20-year old is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery. It has been reported that Cease has been consistently in the 97-99 mph range with his fastball with improved command over his curve and change-up.
3) Gleyber Torres, SS
Things have gotten better for Gleyber Torres, as he has shown signs of moving up the prospect rankings. The 19-year old has batted .306 in the month of May with six doubles, a triple, five home runs, 12 RBI and six stolen bases for High-A Myrtle Beach. That has raised his season average to .253/.324/.426/.750 with 11 doubles, two triples, six home runs, 20 RBI and seven stolen bases in 49 games. Torres is usually steady defensively, but he has committed nine errors and has a .954 fielding average.
4) Eloy Jimenez, OF
Rocketing up the charts is 19-year old Eloy Jimenez, who has been improving by leaps and bounds. After starting off slowly for Low-A South Bend, Jimenez has hit one hundred points higher than his April average in May, batting .364 for the month with seven home runs and 23 RBI. Jimenez’s season average is now .328/.370/.538/.908 with 15 doubles, a triple, eight home runs and 35 RBI. Jimenez still does not have an assist and needs to improve his reads in the outfield, as he has a .988 fielding average.
5) Chesny Young, INF
The April prospect of the month, Chesny Young continues to produce and add to his versatility. The 23-year old is fifth in hitting and fourth in on-base percentage in the Southern League, with a .316/.401/.378/.779 line. A recent shake up in the batting order now has Young in the leadoff spot, where his hitting, on-base percentage, and 13 stolen bases have improved the team’s fortunes. Recent promotions have also freed up Young to move around the field more, seeing time at shortstop and the outfield as well as second base. Wherever he lines up, Young provides excellent defense, fielding .990 at second base and 1.000 everywhere else.
6) Albert Almora Jr., OF
While his batting average has fallen nearly 100 points since last month, Albert Almora Jr. remains steady in the season’s second month. The 22-year has batted in six different slots with Iowa, but has done most of his damage out of the five-hole. Almora Jr. will have to demonstrate he can handle hitting further up in the order in order to advance. Thus far, Almora Jr. has batted .315/.332/.452/.783 with 12 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 30 RBI and five stolen bases in 49 games.
7) Donnie Dewees, OF
Although his batting average has been on the slide, Donnie Dewees may still not be long for the Midwest League. The 22-year old has maintained an .801 OPS, and leads the Midwest League with nine triples. The lefty batted .283/.346/.455 with nine doubles, 33 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 48 games. Dewees has hit both leadoff and third in the order, and may benefit in finding a steady home. Dewees has some work to do defensively, but has generally held his own in center field.
8) Ryan Williams, RHP
Currently on the 7-day disabled list with what is said to be a minor injury, Ryan Williams remains the Cubs’ best pitching prospect presently in-season. The 24-year old has steadily improved his ERA to 3.30 and WHIP to 1.260 in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. Never a strikeout pitcher, Williams has 30 in 43.2 innings and has to cut down on his free passes, of which he has given up only 12. Except for the injury concern, Williams seems to have things going in the right direction.
9) Paul Blackburn, RHP
Like many of the players named on the Top 20 list, Paul Blackburn has experienced a slight downturn in his numbers the past month. After a sparkling April, the 22-year old’s effectiveness has taken a hit. To this point, Blackburn remains one of the best pitchers in the Southern League. Blackburn leads the league in WHIP at 0.967 and is third with a 1.62 ERA to go along with a 3-1 record and 32 strikeouts in 61 innings. Blackburn was the organizational Pitcher of the Month for April.
10) Ian Happ, 2B/OF
It seems as if 2016 first round draft pick Ian Happ will hover around this ranking for most of the season as his numbers have taken a dip in May. The switch-hitter is batting .273/.392/.426/.818, with nine doubles, two triples, five home runs, 28 RBI and seven stolen bases in 51 games. Defensively, the 21-year old is still a work in progress, but he has improved to a .963 fielding percentage at second base. Happ has also had five starts in the outfield.
11) Jeimer Candelario, 3B
The bounce back is occurring, as Jeimer Candelario has fought through a let-down as he found himself back in Double-A to start 2016. The 22-year old switch-hitter has recently shown signs of shrugging it off, as he has batted .293 with a home run and eight RBI in his last 10 games. That has led to a .238/.343/.378/.721 line with 17 doubles, three home runs and 22 RBI. Candelario remains a Gold Glove caliber defender with a .970 fielding average.
12) Carl Edwards Jr., RHP
Carl Edwards Jr. has made the progress that was always expected, but has yet to take the bull by the horns. The 24-year old is coming close to some of the gaudy numbers he posted early in his career, with a 2.66 ERA and 1.181 WHIP. Edwards Jr. still strikes out batters, fanning 30 in 20.1 innings. Seizing more opportunity will be the next challenge for Edwards.
13) Billy McKinney, OF
Much like teammate Jeimer Candelario, Billy McKinney has rebounded from a slow start with a relatively hot May. The 21-year old hit .287 in May with a home run and nine RBI. McKinney has now raised his season totals to .255/.353/.318/.672 with five doubles, a triple, a home run, and 15 RBI in 46 games. Defense will never be McKinney’s strong suit, as he has already committed four errors. The good news is that McKinney now seems pointed in the right direction.
14) Trevor Clifton, RHP
Overlooked during the preseason, Trevor Clifton has emerged as the prime candidate for Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The 21-year old is now tied for fourth in the Carolina League both in ERA and strikeouts. At only 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Clifton is a power pitcher that has a fastball that can range into the upper-90s, along with a curve, slider and change-up. Pitching for Myrtle Beach, Clifton is 3-3 with a 2.35 ERA, 1.239 WHIP and has 51 strikeouts in 46 innings.
15) Duane Underwood Jr., RHP
Duane Underwood Jr. missed time this spring due to allergies and elbow stiffness, but has not been impressive since his return. Rated No. 5 on the CCO’s preseason prospect list, the 21-year old has pitched 31 innings at Double-A Tennessee and has a 5.52 ERA, a 1.710 WHIP, and 25 strikeouts in 31 innings. Underwood Jr. has also served up five home runs in this short span. While still relatively young for his level, a lot more was expected from Underwood Jr. this season.
16) Bryan Hudson, LHP
The time is coming soon for Bryan Hudson to show whether he belongs among the elite prospects. The 2015 third round pick has tantalized with his fastball to the low-to-mid 90s range and commanding curveball. The 18-year old is projected to be a part of the rotation for Short Season-A Eugene, and he seems to remain on target. However, there have been some control issues that have cropped up in extended Spring Training. Stay tuned.
17) Mark Zagunis, OF
Another one of the Tennessee Smokies that experienced a slow start, Mark Zagunis has come back to be a force. The 23-year old has followed up a .239 April with a .333 May. That leads Zagunis to a .306/.416/.450/.866 line with 11 doubles, four home runs, 21 RBI, and a stolen base in 46 games. A former catcher who is adapting to the outfield well, Zagunis is a perfect 1.000 in both left and right fields.
18) Bijan Rademacher, OF
There seems to be no slowing down for Bijan Rademacher, who remains hot while increasing his value. The 24-year old has hit .294/.447/.490/.937 with five doubles, five home runs, and 20 RBI in 40 games. Rademacher has already been named Southern League Player of the Week. With a rifle arm that is one of the best in the system, Rademacher is considered to be a crackerjack outfielder. Now, Rademacher has taken up first base in order to increase his versatility.
19) Jason Vosler, INF
With other teams zeroing in on him, Jason Vosler has found the second month a little tougher without the support of his teammates. The 22-year old carried the team offensively for most of the season, but is now having opponents game plan against him as the rest of the Pelicans continue to struggle at the plate. Vosler still leads the team in hitting at .276/.356/.385/.741 with 12 doubles, a triple, a home run, and 20 RBI. The left-handed hitter hasn’t been pressing as his 22:20 strikeout to walk ratio demonstrates. However, the former middle infielder has plenty of work to do at third base, considering his .931 fielding average.
20) Brad Markey, RHP
As some of the top pitching prospects have struggled, Brad Markey has continued to put up good numbers. The 24-year old is ninth in the Southern League in ERA and tied for fifth in victories. Markey is 5-1 with a 2.52 ERA, 1.323 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. Markey has been one of the mainstays in the Tennessee Smokies’ rotation. The only concern at this time is Markey’s eight home runs allowed.
- The CCO’s Top 20 Cubs Prospects – April Update
- The CCO’s 2016 Pre-Season Cubs Prospects: The Top 10
- The CCO’s 2016 Pre-Season Cubs Prospects: Nos. 11-21
- The CCO’s 2016 Pre-Season Cubs Prospects: Best Tools, Outside the Top 21