If you've been following along, you are familiar with the disclaimers. I get my info from blogs, not via watching or listening, so I'm not up on the inner workings for the most part, just uncovering info on the web and sharing my observations on one hitter and one pitcher per level. Based on some suggestions, I'm going to try to clean up my writing a little and be more concise and conversational. We'll see how it goes. I continue to welcome feedback as I get more comfortable writing.
Arismendy Alcantara, 22 year old second baseman, was signed as an IFA by the Cubs in November of 2008. He first appeared in the system the following year in the DSL and then first appeared in the states in 2010. Arismendy has moved through the system at one year per level. He hit the national radar in July of last year when he hit a home run in the futures game. Rated by most among the top Cubs prospects coming into 2014, Alcantara got his first shot at AAA. He came out of the box very hot and has cooled off since. One of the things that was noted during his early hot stretch was that he wasn't drawing any walks. One of the nice things about his recent performance is that he's drawn 5 walks in his last 10 games (8 K). At 272/306/490, the OBP is still a bit low, but over the last 10 days, he sits at 257/350/514. Arismendy has also stolen 9 bases (1 CS) and has 5 3B, so he brings a fair amount of speed with not terrible power numbers. To this point in the season he's made 5 errors at SS and his fielding percentage is the best it's been at any level. He's also appeared in 2 games at SS, so he could possibly man that position at the big league level. Alcantara looks to be a player that could see Wrigley this season and if not surely will get a chance to be the opening day second baseman next year.
Tsuyoshi Wada, 33 year old left handed starting pitcher, was signed as a minor league free agent in December of last year. He had previously pitched in the Orioles system after they signed him as an IFA. Tsuyoshi had previously been working his way back from TJS and this year appears to be back to full strength. Wada at 33 isn't a prospect in the purest sense of the word, but he does figure to see a chance at Wrigley field in the second half of the season following any trades or injuries involving the rotation. So far this year, he boasts a K/9 of almost exactly 9 with a K/BB ratio over 4. With only 38 hits allowed over 51 1/3 IP, he's been very difficult to hit. The only issue he's had so far is with the long ball. He's allowed 5 of them now in his last 3 starts and 7 overall. Interestingly, Wada has put up better numbers this year against right handed hitters than left.
Stephen Bruno, 23 year old second baseman out of Virginia. He was a seventh round pick of the Cubs in '12. He had an OPS of 938 in 67 games at Boise that summer and a 914 in 19 games in Daytona last season before being hurt. Stephen got off to a very slow start this season at Tennessee, but since the start of May, he has an OPS of 1.169. With the robust May numbers, he is now one of the leading hitters in the Southern league with a line of 301/399/493. An odd prospect without any real pop (3 HR in 136 AB) and without a lot of speed (4 SB/ 2 CS/ 2 3B), Stephen is only going to see the majors as a guy with a very high end hit tool. This year Bruno has only played 2B (and DH), but he did see some time at a number of positions in Boise in '12 (CF, RF, LF, SS and 3B). He has a .960 fielding percentage this year, so he's not a butcher in the field by any means. Bruno is moving quickly through the system and if Alcantara and/or Watkins is promoted to Wrigley Field, Bruno may get the call to Iowa later this season. I'm starting to think he will definitely see MLB, but the jury is still out as to if he'll hit enough to stick at that level.
Matt Loosen, a right handed pitcher, turned 25 last month. He was a 23rd round pick by the Cubs out of Jacksonville University in '10. Matt did see some time last year at TN (16 G/13 GS) and is now in his first full season at the level. At an eyeball, his numbers don't look very good, sporting a 5.75 ERA this year. But, the underlying numbers aren't too bad. He's allowed 36 H in 40 2/3 IP. His walk rate is high at over 6 per 9 innings and that's holding him back at this point. His K rate is good with 39 so far. 4 HR allowed is a reasonable rate. Matt really needs to work out his control issues to continue his progress. He's now appeared in TN in parts of 3 seasons and all 3 times through, he's had a walk rate over 6 per 9. That wasn't a problem at the lower levels, but now that he's facing more advanced hitters, they are disciplined enough to lay off his pitches outside of the zone. At 25, Matt needed to take a big step forward and doesn't appear to have done so. As more pitchers move through the system he could be pushed out of a starting spot and may fail to advance to Iowa if he doesn't work out his control problems.
Albert Almora. Much of what will be said here you probably know if you are following the Cubs system at any level. 20 years old last month, the Daytona Center Fielder was a 1st round pick of the Cubs in '12 out of HS. Most of the major publications had him ranked as one of top prospects in all of baseball with MLB.com having him at #15. Albert got off to a very hot start to this season and then went into a deep funk, possibly due to his father's battle with cancer. Over the last 10 days though he's got a 333/364/476 line with 2 BB and 4 K. He's never been one to take many walks, but he has been able to hide that a little bit with an average that has consistently been over 320 until this year. Be it the step up in competition or the family issues or a little bit of both, so far he's only got a 275/300/387 line. In either event, Almora figures to spend most of this season in Daytona where he is close to home. Albert has yet to make an error this year and boasts a 994 fielding percentage across his 3 seasons in the minors (127 games total). Health was a problem last year, but he's been able to stay healthy this year. The future is still bright, but there is still a lot of development yet for him to do.
Ben Wells is a 21 year old (22 in September) right handed pitcher drafted by the Cubs in the 7th round of the '10 draft. Now in his second season in Daytona, Wells has made 4 starts along with 3 relief outings. Wells last year had a decent line with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.211 WHIP, although he only had a 5.5 K/9 ratio, which is too low to sustain a lot of success. It appears that they may have worked with him on that as he has a K rate over 7 this season. Unfortunately, it looks like he's been a little too fine to do so. He now has a walk rate over 8 per 9 leading to a WHIP of 2.109 and a 5.06 ERA. Ben may well be forced out of the rotation for good with his struggles this year. Perhaps a move to the pen will get him on track. Otherwise, Daytona may be the end of the line for Wells.
Jacob Rogers is a 24 year old (25 in August) first baseman who was drafted by the Cubs in the 40th round of the '12 draft out of Mt Olive College. He actually got a chance to appear in the Midwestern league that summer and put up a 913 OPS in 16 games. In '13, he played a full season in Boise and is now in his first season at KC. Rogers had a very slow start to the season but over his last 10, he's put up 351/385/595 though he does have 9 K and only 1 BB during that time. Interestingly, Jacob is a left handed hitter who has an 859 OPS against leftys (32 AB) and only a 717 against rightys. Overall, he has 34 Ks and 23 BBs so far this year, so the walk rate isn't terrible and has propped up his OPS so far this year. Jacob does have a 992 fielding percentage this year and his defense does appear to be pretty good (983 across 3 seasons). It's not looking like Rogers has enough bat to move too far in the system. He's only played 5 games away from 1B (3B/RF/LF), so he's likely to end up roster filler and will eventually fall off the radar entirely.
Tyler Skullina is a 22 year old (23 in September) right handed pitcher out of Kent State University taken in the 4th round of the '13 draft. Tyler moved quickly through the system last year getting 8 appearances in Boise before moving on to KC for a taste of the Midwest league before they shut him down for the season. He made 4 starts though only 9 2/3 IP. This year, he's made 8 starts including his start on Saturday in which he started a no hitter with 7 1/3 IP that featured 5 K and 2 BB. This was his second time facing Quad Cities and he's dominated them both times. Overall, he's got a 3.19 ERA and a 1.087 WHIP. His K/9 is ok at 6.8 but not exceptional. He's only allowed 1 HR across 42 1/3 IP. Skullina should continue to move fast through the system and I would expect him to see time in Daytona later this year if his numbers sustain at their current level. At this point, he appears to be a fringy prospect, but right now the arrow looks like it's pointed upwards and he's one guy I'll be keeping an eye on this summer.
VSL is on my radar, but after only a handful of games, I'm going to hold off for now on covering them.