Sunday, February 16, 2020

2020 Myrtle Beach Pelicans Prospect Preview

After trading the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres and Dylan Cease while in win now mode, the Cubs farm system was bare.  The Cubs are very budget conscious these days and have focused on rebuilding the farm system the last few years through the draft and international signings.  The Cubs farm system is improving and the 2018 draft in particular looks like it will be a major success.

Best Guess on Assignments

Position  Prospect  Assignment
SS Andy Weber Myrtle Beach
SS Aramis Ademan Myrtle Beach or Tennessee
LHP Brailyn Marquez Myrtle Beach or Tennessee.  Should be in Tennessee sooner rather than later.
LHP Brendon Little Myrtle Beach
OF Brennen Davis Myrtle Beach
2B Chase Strumpf Myrtle Beach most likely
RHP Chris Clarke South Bend most likely to start.  Should be in Myrtle Beach by the second half.
3B Christopher Morel South Bend or Myrtle Beach to start.  Should be on the Pelicans by the 2nd half.
CF Cole Roederer Most likely Myrtle Beach
RHP Hunter Bigge South Bend or Myrtle Beach 
RHP Kohl Franklin South Bend to start.  Could be promoted to Myrtle Beach in the second half based on performance.
RHP Michael McAvene South Bend most likely to start.  Should be in Myrtle Beach by the second half.
CF Migual Amaya Tennessee likely
LF Nelson Velazquez South Bend or Myrtle Beach to start.  Should be on the Pelicans by the 2nd half.
RHP Richard Gallardo Eugene or South Bend.
RHP Riley Thompson Myrtle Beach
RHP Ryan Jensen Myrtle Beach most likely

New 2020 Pelicans Prospects

Brennen Davis (6'4" 175 lbs DOB 11-2-99 OF RR 2nd round pick in 2018) was a highly regarded basketball player in high school so he did not play baseball full time until getting draft.  Davis transformed his body last winter and he is around two hundred pounds. Davis is an exceptional athlete and has made impressive progress since getting drafted.

The Cubs coaching staff has helped Davis improve his swing.  Due to hand and finger issues, Davis was limited to fifty regular season game and seven playoff games in 2019 for South Bend in the Midwest League.  However, it was enough to put Davis on the map as a prospect with a ton of upside.  He looks like a future power hitting outfielder for the Cubs.

Cole Roederer (6'0" 175 lbs DOB 9-24-99 CF LL 2nd round pick in 2018) was taken fifteen picks after Brennen Davis.  Roderer is a better player than he showed in 2019 for South Bend (.223 / .319 / .684 with nine homers and fifteen steals in 108 games). Roederer added quite a bit of muscle the last couple years and may still be learning to play at his new size.  He is likely over two hundred pounds now.  

Roederer has the talent to do a little bit of everything.  This year will be important year for him to show improvement.

Nelson Velazquez (6'0" 190 lbs DOB 12-26-98 LF RR 2017 5th round pick) was an overslot draft pick out of Puerto Rico.  Velazquez is very strong with outstanding bat speed but is still very raw.  He started 2018 in South Bend, but was not ready and was sent back to Eugene when the short season Northwest League started.

Valazquez had better success with South Bend in 2019 despite missing a couple of months with a strained oblique. Velazquez cut down his strikeout percentage at South Bend from 35.8% in 2018 to 27% in 2019.  The Carolina League will be a challenge for Valazquez as he works on improving his patience and turning his raw strength into more power.

Christopher Morel (6'0" 140 lbs DOB 6-24-99 3B RR 2015 IFA signing) the Cubs signed Morel for $800,000 in 2015 and also signed his brother, Rafael for $850,000 in 2018.  Morel did not do much until 2019 when an impressive spring got him assigned to South Bend.  Morel started slowly but really got going in June.  Morel got injured and did not play after July 11th.  In his last 33 games, Morel hit .342 / .364 / .939.

Morel is a very good defensive third baseman with outstanding bat speed.  He is a excellent athlete that is thin but weighs a lot more than the 140 pound listed weight.  Morel is very young but needs to improve his patience.  His walk percentage was only 4%.

Riley Thompson (6'3" 205 lbs DOB 7-9-96 RHP 2018 11th draft pick) had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and an undistinguished college career at Louisville.  However, the Cubs saw enough in Thompson to draft and sign him to an overslot $200,000 bonus.

Thompson had a good season for South Bend in 2019 displaying improved command and consistency. In 94 innings in 2019, Thompson allowed 85 hits and 31 walks while striking out 87.  Thompson has a mid nineties fastball, and a potential plus curveball and has added a change up as a pro.  He has the potential to be a nice find for the Cubs.   

Andy Weber (6'1" 190 lbs DOB 7-24-97 SS LR 5th round 2018) as an experienced college player for a big time program (UVA), it was surprising that Weber was not called up to Myrtle Beach in 2019.   Weber is a well rounded solid player, without any standout skills.  He profiles as a utility player.  Batting lefthanded should help Weber advance.  

Weber was mostly a second basemen in college and played shortstop exclusively at South Bend in 2019. It would make sense for the Cubs to try Weber in the outfield to improve his versatility.

Kohl Franklin (6'4" 190 lbs DOB 9-9-99 RHP 6th round 2018) was signed for $540,000 out of high school in Oklahoma.  Franklin looked good in ten short starts for Eugene in the hitter friendly Northwest League.  Franklin was promoted to South Bend for a start at the end of the season.  At Eugene, Franklin pitched 39 innings allowing 31 hits and 14 walks while striking out 49.

Franklin has a fastball that he can throw in the mid nineties and a potential plus change up.  Franklin's third pitch is a work in progress.  The nephew of long time major leaguer pitcher, Ryan Franklin, Franklin is someone to keep an eye on.

Returning Pelicans Prospects

Brendon Little ( 6'1" 195 lbs DOB 8-11-96 LHP 2017 1st round) is here because he was the 27th overall pick in the draft.  Little only pitched four innings as a freshman for North Carolina and then transferred to JUCO for a year before being drafted by the Cubs.  Little missed the first couple of months of 2019 with a lat strain.  

His stuff seems to have declined since turning pro.  In 173 innings as a pro, Little has allowed 170 hits and 78 walks while striking out 159.  Little made four starts for the Pelicans at the end of the year but struggled with inconsistency.  His future may be as a loogy.    

Myrtle Beach or Tennessee

Brailyn Marquez (6'4" 185 lbs DOB 1-30-99 LHP 2015 IFA) I don't understand why the prospect industry does not rank Marquez higher. In my opinion, he is top ten pitching prospect and top fifty overall prospect.  Barring injury, I expect Marquez to be an effective major league starting pitcher in 2021.

Marquez is one of the hardest throwers in baseball and just turned twenty one. He made significant progress in 2019.  Marquez came into the year with  only seven innings of full season ball experience.  Marquez made huge strides with his control during the season.  In the first three months of the season, Marquez walked 35 batters in 50 innings.  After June, he walked 15 in 53.2 innings and that was while moving up to the Carolina League on August 6th.

Marquez also made progress with his secondary pitches in 2019.  He sometimes struggles with consistency with his slider, but it has the potential to be a plus pitch.  The change up is a work in progress that is a show me pitch at this point. Improving the change up should be a priority in 2020.

Since Marquez only threw 26.1 innings in High A, it would seem likely that Marquez begins the year at Myrtle Beach at least for a month.  However, Bryan Smith of bleachernation.con projects Marquez to be assigned to AA Tennessee.    

Aramis Ademan (5'11" 160 lbs DOB 9-13-98 SS LR 2015 IFA) when a prospect that is very young for a level struggles, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt.  However, when that prospect struggles when repeating the level that is an issue.  Ademan who was the 78th ranked prospect on ESPN's (Keith Law) top hundred prospects going into 2018, has now played 226 games in the Carolina League with a .606 OPS.  

Ademan got off to a decent start in 2019 with a .755 OPS in the first half, but tailed off in the second half with a .546 OPS. Ademan has the skills to be a excellent shortstop but needs to hit some for it to make a difference.      

Likely to Be Promoted From Myrtle Beach to Tennessee

Miguel Amaya (C) - will turn 21 in March, Amaya had a  solid season in 2019, his second in full season ball. In 2018 he wore down in the second half (.865 OPS in the first half and .634 in the second half), but in 2019 he was stronger in the second (.790 in the second half versus .714 in the first half).  Amaya has the makings a good defensive catcher but still has work to do.  He threw out 35% of base stealers and only had thirteen passed balls in 91 games. 

Young catchers typically spend more time working on defense then other position players and that sometimes puts them at a disadvantage as a hitter.  Amaya stats do not pop off the page but the 54 walks to 69 strikeouts is impressive. Based on scouting reports, at both the 2019 Futures Game and the 2019 Arizona Fall League All Star game, Amaya's batting practice sessions were among the most impressive.

Amaya has the the makings of an average to above average starting major league catcher.

2019 Notable Cubs Draft Picks

Round  Pick Player Age Position School Bonus
1 27 Ryan Jensen 21 P Fresno State $2,000,000
2 64 Chase Strumpf 21 2B California-Los Angeles $1,050,300
3 103 Michael McAvene 21 P Louisville $500,000
4 132 Chris Clarke 20 P Southern California $426,600
5 162 Josh Burgmann 21 P Washington $225,000
6 192 Ethan Hearn 18 C Mobile $950,000
8 252 Davidjohn Herz 18 P Terry Sanford HS $500,000
9 282 Tyler Schlaffer 18 P Homewood Flossmoor HS $250,000
12 372 Hunter Bigge 20 P Harvard $125,000
14 432 Ryan Reynolds 21 3B Texas $125,000
15 462 Zach Bryant 20 P Jacksonville State $125,000
16 492 Johzan Oquendo 18 P Leadership Christian Academy $125,000
19 582 Adam Laskey 21 P Duke $125,000
23 702 Manny Collier 18 CF Westwood HS $125,000

The Cubs took three college pitchers early that may end up in the bullpen, but all are interesting arms.  

The pick with the most potential may have been in round six, where the Cubs took a chance on one the highest rated high school catcher in the draft, Ethan Hearn, who dropped in the draft due to signability concerns.  The Cubs did sign Hearn, who got 2nd round money.  

Ryan Jensen (6'0" 180 lbs" DOB 11-23-97 RHP) was not expected to be a 1st round pick, but Jensen had a good Junior season and was especially strong at the end of the season.

Despite being undersized, Jensen is a very hard thrower.  It remains to be seen if he will eventually be a starter or reliever.

Chase Strumpf ( 6'1" 191 lbs DOB 3-8-98 RR 2B) he had a huge Sophomore year at UCLA (.363 / .475 / 1.108).  Strumpf was not as good as a Junior but got stronger as the year went on.  His calling card is the bat as he is unexceptional fielder and runner.

Strumpf has a good chance to be the Pelicans starting 2nd basemen from the start of the season.

Michael  McAvene (6'3" 210 lbs DOB 8-24-97 RHP) a very hard throwing closer in college that the Cubs may convert to a starter.  The Cubs had success in the 2018 with a pitcher from Louisville in Riley Thompson and picked another Cardinals hurler here. McAvene's final outing of 2019 on August 31st was an impressive four inning, one hit, one walk and six strikeout performance for Eugene in the Northwest League.

Like Jensen, if the Cubs decide that McAvene belongs in the bullpen, he could be a fast mover in their system.  McAvene could move much slower as a starter since he was a reliever in college and will likely have to work to add a third pitch.

Chris Clarke (6'7" 212 lbs DOB 5-1-98 RHP) despite his size, Clarke's best pitch reportedly is his curveball.  Clarke became a full time reliever in his Junior year and was much improved with a WHIP under 1.  

The Cubs stretched Clarke out as a pro, so it is unknown if his future is as a starter or reliever.

Hunter Bigge (6'0"205 lbs DOB 6-12-98 RHP) the Cubs have had good success with late round pitching prospects like Jeffrey Passantino in 2017 and Jack Patterson in 2018 and Bigge looks like the next Cub sleeper prospect.  Bigge was a college teammate of 2019 Carolina League Pitcher of the Year, Noah Zavolas.

Bigge mostly pitched two innings stints as a pro and had good success with Eugene in the Northwest League.  Yet another 2019 draft pitching prospect that could be a starter or reliever going forward.

One Down the Road to Monitor

In addition to the aforementioned Ethan Hearn, the Cubs have several several other exciting very young players in their lower minors including Luis Verdugo (19 year old SS), Yohendrick Pinango (17 year old OF), Kevin Made (17 year old SS), Ronnier Quintero (17 year old C), Rafael Morel (18 year old SS), Brayan Altuve (17 year old C) and Pedro Martinez (19 year old INF).  However, the top prospect at the lower level is a pitcher from Venezuela.

Richard Gallardo (6'1" 187 lbs DOB 9-6-01 RHP 2018 IFA) Gallardo was generally considered  the top pitching prospect in the 2018 international free agent class.  You can tell a J2 player is advanced if they start their career stateside and not in the Dominican Summer League.  Gallardo made eleven appearance in the AZL and even got in a couple for games for Eugene in 2019 prior to turning eighteen.

Gallardo is physically mature.  He is currently throwing in the low nineties, with good command for his age and a curveball and change up that are potential plus pitches.  It is not out of the question that he makes it to South Bend by the end of 2020 and Myrtle Beach in 2021.   

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