CUBS MINOR LEAGUE SYSTEM UPDATE #1
Touching on some of the highlights of the minor league system so far this year:
Jeimer Candelario-3B-Kane County Cougars–
Jeimer, at only 19 years old, is playing in his first full season for the Cubs. He did play at Boise last year and had a great year offensively, but many were waiting to see how he would do in full season baseball. Beginning the year as the full-time starting third baseman, Jeimer struggled out of the gate. He hit only .229 in April with no home runs. Though he picked it up a little in May, he never really hit as much as the Cubs were hoping for. The one bright spot for Jeimer, is his great eye for the strike zone. He has walked 61 times in a little over 110 games, which is great to see out of 19 year old. With both Kris Bryant and Javier Baez in front of him at third base, his future at the position isn’t for certain. The Cubs are hoping to see some more progress before the end of the year out of Candelario and maybe we will see him in Daytona next year.
Christian Villanueva-3B-Tennessee Smokies-
Another third baseman, Christian Villanueva, who came over to the Cubs from the Ryan Dempster trade last year, is known more for his defense than his bat. He has surprised some people this year in Tennessee. Starting the year batting only .250 through the first three months, Christian went on a little tear. He is hitting over .300 in his last 40 games with 8 home runs and 23rbi, while still playing great defense at third. Like Candelario, a position change may be in store for Christian because of Bryant and Baez being the top guys at his position. Playing good defense at third, along with a great eye at the plate, some believe he could be a fit at second base. Villanueva will most likely wrap up this year in Tennessee and depending on whether the Cubs have him change positions or a spot opens up, we may see him in Iowa next year.
Dan Vogelbach-1B-Kane County Cougars/Daytona Cubs-
Dan Vogelbach is the opposite of Christian Villanueva. He is known for his tremendous power, but not having a position to play outside of below average defense at first. Being only 20, he has show great maturity at the plate. With his size, most would assume he swings for the fence every at bat, but you would be wrong. Not only does Vogelbach walk a great amount(58 times in 120 games), but he picks and chooses when to swing at his pitch. After batting .284 this year with the Cougars the Cubs felt it was the right time to call the big lefty up to Daytona. Hopefully Vogelbach continues his patience at the plate and shows his power in the pitching league that is the Florida State League. He will most likely begin the 2014 season in High A Daytona and it will take progress to see him advance further. The Cubs are hoping that he comes into his own at first base but with the contract just signed by Anthony Rizzo on the major league squad, Vogelbach will most likely be a trade candidate when he gets closer to the Majors.
Arismendy Alcantara-SS/2B-Tennessee Smokies-
The most fun name to say in the Cubs minor league system, Arismendy has had quite the year for himself in 2013. Starting as a shortstop in Tennessee who was more of a fringe prospect, Alcantara showed power, speed, and flashes of great defense. With the arrival of Javier Baes to AA, the Cubs moved Alcantara to second base, and with that came a very dynamic double play combo for the Smokies. Alcantara so far this season is in the top five of the Southern League in hits, doubles, and total bases, while being in the top 10 in RBI’s and stolen bases. The highlight of the season for Alcantara was probably when he was selected to start at second base for the World in the futures game. And not only did he start, but he hit a home run in the third inning off of Boston Red Sox prospect Anthony Ranaudo. This opened eyes across the major leagues and showed that he belonged with the top guys in the Cubs system. According to mlb.com Arismendy was the Cubs 20th best prospect at the beginning of the year, after all star break update…he was number 8. Not only are the Cubs impressed by his progress this year as a hitter, but scouts around baseball say he will continue his growth. He will probably start next year with the AAA Iowa Cubs and continue his development as a second baseman and if he does continue to impress, we may even see him with the big league club by the end of next year.
Pierce Johnson-RHP-Kane County Cougars/Daytona Cubs-
The top pitching prospect not injured for the Cubs is Pierce Johnson who was drafted last year in the supplemental part of the draft for losing Aramis Ramirez. Starting the 2013 season in Kane County as a 21 year old, Johnson needed to show great stuff along with command and he did just that. Striking out more than a batter per inning, Johnson was showing he was in need of a call up when the Cubs did just that. Once called up to Daytona, Johnson dominated even more. Through 40+ innings in Daytona, Johnson has a 2.16 ERA along with striking out about one an inning while only giving up 36 hits. Being the pitching prospect for a team with not very many talented pitchers, the Cubs needed progress out of Johnson, and he did just that. He showed he could strike people out, he showed he has command. Now it’s wait and see if he can continue on these while moving up the organizational ladder. The rate he is going, Johnson will most likely start in Tennessee with a good probability that if he dominates, we could see him in Iowa at the end of the year.
Those are just some of the highlights of the Cubs minor league system this year. While guys like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler are having tremendous seasons, we will give those guys their own segments. So not to over shadow the guys outside of the “top 4”. The Cubs have promise in their minor leagues, but all a few years away. If we see continual progress out of the guys in this article, the Cubs will have a very bright future along with a ton of depth. Here’s to hoping!