Time to finish my four part series on the top 20 Cubs prospects with numbers 16 to 20. A reminder: a player has to have fewer than 130 at bats or fewer than 50 innings pitched to be eligible. Also, the stats are accurate as of last Saturday when I wrote this. If you want the updated stats, click on the player's name and it will link to their page on milb.com.
I never realized how silly the roman numerals look until I got to part four. Oh well.
I said I'd reveal who the 21st player on my list was, because that player will enter the list at number 20 when Junior Lake gets another 35 or so at bats. The answer is that it's Brett Jackson. Jackson was in the mix at numbers 19 and 20 and if you said he should be on this list, I won't argue with you. But ultimately, I didn't see any reason why Jackson had to be on this list rather than the other players and I figured that I couldn't tell you much about Brett Jackson that you didn't already know. Why write up Jackson when I could tell you about someone you aren't so familiar with? The athleticism and tools are still there. The problems making contact are still there. He's also had injury issues this season.
Before you ask, whatever prospect you want to ask about is among prospects 21-30. But seriously, while I didn't work out the list to 30, and I think there are about 20 players I think could reasonably be in that group, I'm willing to say that Corey Black, the pitcher the Cubs got in the Alfonso Soriano deal, could reasonably be in the 24-27 range.
16. Paul Blackburn RHP. Boise Hawks. 19 years old.
The Good: For someone so young, Blackburn shows some real maturity on and off the mound. He goes right after hitters and is fearless on the mound. On top of that, while his stuff is currently good, he's still young enough and he's got enough projection in him that he could still add a few miles on to his 91-93mph fastball. His curve and change also project to be above average major league pitches. In eight starts for Boise, he's thrown 29 innings and posted a 3.41 ERA. He's struck out 28 and walked 13.
The Bad: I really have nothing bad to say about Blackburn other than Boise is a long way away from Wrigley. His profile grades out to more of a #3 starter than a top of the rotation guy, but that's not an insult. He's had a few games where his control has abandoned him which has hurt his total walk numbers, but that's to be expected from someone so young. Mainly his downside is that he's in Boise and there is a lot that can go wrong between there and Chicago.
The Future: I'm assuming he'll finish the season in Boise and start next year in Kane County. He's too far away to really project him much beyond that.
17. Gioskar Amaya. 2B Kane County Cougars R:R. 20 years old.
The Good: Amaya got off to a poor start this season, but has come on lately and has raised his batting average up to a respectable .271 with an OBP of .343. He can spray the ball to all fields, but if a pitcher makes a mistake, he does have some surprising power and can drive the ball, as evidenced by his 22 doubles, 6 triples and 5 home runs this season. Last year, he led the Northwest League in triples with 12. Defensively, his arm was stretched at shortstop, but his transition to second base has been smooth and he seems like a natural there. He's also got good speed and when he learns to read pitchers better, he could be a real force on the basepaths. His makeup has also been praised by team officials, which helped when he struggled early.
The Bad: Amaya really doesn't have any one tool that wows you. His hit tool might be his best, but he probably strikes out too much for that really to be more than just above-average. His game doesn't have many weaknesses, but his overall ceiling is limited by his lack of any one outstanding tool. If he can't hit enough to start at second base, the weakness of his arm would likely limit his value as a utility player.
The Future: Like Candelario, Amaya is almost certainly headed to Daytona next season where he'll likely stay for most or all of next year. It's unlikely he'll see Chicago before 2016, even if everything works out for him.
18. Juan Paniagua. RHP. Boise Hawks. 23 (or so) years old.
The Good: You want to know who in the Cubs organization has top of the rotation stuff? It's Paniagua. The Hawks announcer, Mike Safford, told me that Paniagua threw harder than Andrew Cashner. In shorter outings, Paniagua has been known to hit 100mph on the radar gun. He's also got a solid changeup, made all the better from working off that fastball. His slider isn't great, but at 82-84 mph it almost works as a second change.
The Bad: Where to start. I guess we can start with the fact that we really don't know if that's his real name and age. He played two years for the Diamondbacks Dominican Summer League team under a different name and age. He was suspended and when he came back with his "new" name and age, the documentation on that was shaky. He was kept out of the country until early July as the U.S. State Department wasn't happy with the documentation he provided to obtain a visa. When he reported to Kane County, he had terrible control problems, walking 12 and striking out only six in 7.1 innings before he was demoted to Boise. (His first appearance for the Hawks was excellent: 2.1 scoreless innings.) While he has the potential to be a top of the line starter, some scouts think his pitching motion isn't suitable for heavy use and he will need to move to the pen. It's not hard to imagine him as an elite closer, so that wouldn't be terrible.
But the big issue is that he's already (at least) 23 years old and he's in Boise. We don't know that his troubles with the State Department are over. He's got a long way to go to the majors and he's already missed so much development time.
The Future: Your guess is as good as mine. Considering his age, you'd think the Cubs would want to fast track him, but that didn't work in Kane County this season. He could end up as a Cy Young winner or he could never get out of Boise.
19. Logan Watkins. 2B Chicago Cubs. L:R. 23 years old.
The Good: Watkins is a very good defensive second baseman who can play pretty much any position on the field other than pitcher and catcher. He hits left-handed, which is always a plus for someone in a bench role. At the plate, he combines strong OBP skills with plus speed and a little pop. Before this season, he never had a year with an OBP under .350. He's considered to have plus makeup and is a natural team leader.
The Bad: I can't pretend that Watkins has had a good season this year in his first season in Triple-A. He's shown flashes of promise, but a miserable July has his OBP down to .333, which is easily the worst of his career. While he could steal bases with ease in the lower minors, the pitchers and catchers of the Pacific Coast League have mostly kept him in check. He's never been able to hit left-handers with any consistency, which might mean that even if he establishes himself as a major league second baseman, he'll need to be platooned.
The Future: On Saturday. I originally wrote that Watkins was knocking at the door of the majors and could be up at any time and on September 1 at the latest. He was promoted to Chicago the next day. His ultimate role in the majors will be as a utility player, but he may spend a few years as a starter at second base before settling in to such a role. Whether that will be with the Cubs or not is something the brain trust will have to decide this off-season.
20. Ivan Pineyro. RHP. Daytona Cubs. 21 years old.
The Good: It's pretty amazing that the Cubs were able to steal Pineyro from the Nationals for nothing more than Scott Hairston. Baseball America ranked him as the Nats #27 prospect coming into the season and said he was a potential sleeper in the system. And he was having a good season with Washington before the trade.
Pineyro has a live arm that can hit 92-93mph with good control. His second best pitch is his changeup and he has a curve that needs refinement. The Nationals praised Pineyro for his toughness and dedication, as he had his jaw broken by a line drive last season but bounced back quickly, even throwing bullpen sessions with his jaw wired shut. Since he got to Daytona, he's been nothing short of amazing. In four starts there, he's struck out 21 and walked only one batter over 23 innings. That's given him a 1.96 ERA. (No unearned runs, either, which is kind of a bugaboo of mine.) Those control numbers may be a little bit of a small sample size freak of nature, but he had good control with the Nationals as well.
The Bad: Certainly there's some small sample size going on in his Daytona, so expectations need to be kept in check. The curve definitely needs work and if he can't turn it into a major league average pitch, he's destined for the bullpen.
The Future: This year is looking like a breakout season for Pineyro, but next year is going to be the real test. The jump from High-A to Double-A is the toughest in the minors, and Pineyro will have to prove himself with the Smokies. It's tough to imagine him in the majors in 2014, but you never know.