It's time to vote for the BCB Cubs Minor League Player of the Year. You might ask: "Didn't we just vote?" and the answer is yes, but that was for the player of the month for August. Now we're voting on the whole season.
The rules are the same in that this is an award for performance rather than prospect status. But when you have a pretty great full season, it gets harder to separate the "prospect" from the "performance." Great prospects usually have great seasons in the minors.
As always, you can vote for whoever you want using whatever criteria you want.
I tried to pick one player to represent each minor league team. Of course, since some of these players moved from team to team, there was a lot of leeway on which team the player represents.
With that, the candidates are:
Iowa Cubs/Tennessee Smokies third baseman Kris Bryant: This one is pretty obvious. Bryant led all of the minor leagues in home runs this season with 43, 22 in Tennessee and 21 for Iowa. His triple-slash line between the two teams was .325/.438/.661 in 138 games. Even moving up a level to Iowa, he hit .295/.418/.619 in 70 Pacific Coast League games. Bryant even stole 15 bases in 19 attempts. His defense at third base is now considered good enough to stay at third, although he may still have to move to the outfield to make room for other players being moved off of shortstop.
If you want to look at the more standard statistics, Bryant had 110 RBI and scored 118 runs in 138 games.
About the only negative thing you can say about Bryant is the 162 strike outs. But that seems to be a price we're willing to pay in today's game in exchange for power and walks.
Iowa Cubs/Tennessee Smokies/AZL Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler: Soler's season got off to a terrible start as he injured his hamstring again on opening day and missed over a month. After a week back with the Smokies, he was injured again and missed another month. The Cubs worked on him to strengthen his hamstring and alter the way he runs to try to avoid injury.
So Soler's season didn't really begin until after the Fourth of July. But once he got back, he didn't stop going until he made it to the majors. His final triple-slash line for Tennessee was a pretty eye-popping .415/.494/.862 in 22 games. But that includes the games he played before he got injured. In the 15 games he played after returning to Tennessee in July, Soler hit .463/.538/1.000 with six home runs and 15 RBI.
Soler continued to hit for Iowa. He hit eight more home runs in 32 games in the PCL before his promotion to Chicago. Add in the one HR he had in rookie ball as he rehabbed his leg, Soler had 15 home runs in 62 games. He had 57 RBI and scored 42 times. His overall triple slash stats were .340/.432/.700 albeit in only 62 games.
Daytona Cubs outfielder Bijan Rademacher: When you list the names of the big prospects in the Cubs system. Rademacher's name doesn't come up. And while I still wouldn't list him as a top prospect, Rademacher very quietly had a big season and was a major reason for the Daytona Cubs success this season.
Rademacher was a 13th-round pick out of a junior college in 2012 and up until this year he looked like the solid minor league ballplayer you hope to get in the 13th round. But Rademacher added some power this season in a league where power is tough to come by. Rademacher had 38 extra-base hits this season (22 doubles, six triples and ten home runs) after hitting only 22 (and four home runs) the year before. Rademacher has always demonstrated solid on-base skills. The one skill he has that the scouts have always thought was major-league quality was his arm. In fact, a lot of teams wanted to draft him as a pitcher. From either left or right field, Rademacher can force the other team to play station-to-station baseball on the base paths on any ball hit in his direction.
Rademacher played 111 games for Daytona this year and hit .281/.363/.448 with ten home runs (not counting his playoff home run last night) and 56 RBI. He scored 58 times.
Boise Hawks/Kane County Cougars/Daytona Cubs catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber: It's telling that after being drafted with the fourth pick of the draft this summer, Kyle Schwarber was signed and in Boise ready to play on opening day. Of course, he destroyed the Northwest League, hitting five home runs in six days and joined Kane County when their all-star break ended. In 23 games in Kane County, Schwarber got pitched around a bit, which meant he "only" hit four home runs but he hit .361 with a .448 on-base percentage. Promoted to Daytona for their stretch run, he smashed ten home runs in only 44 games, and that doesn't count the grand slam he hit in the playoffs.
Schwarber's final triple-slash stats between the three teams was .344/.428/.634 over 72 games. He hit 18 home runs and had 53 RBI and scored 55 times. Defensively he played more outfield than behind the plate, but scouts are more optimistic that he'll stay as a catcher than they used to be. I still think he ends up as a LF/1B, but I admit the odds are now better that he stays a catcher than they used to be.
Boise Hawks/Kane County Cougars outfielder/third baseman Mark Zagunis: The Cubs took a C/LF in the first round this past June in Schwarber, and they did it again in the third round when they selected Mark Zagunis out of Virginia Tech. Like Schwarber, Zagunis is also a work-in-progress behind the plate and is more likely to end up in left field than as a catcher.
Zagunis reported to Boise after signing and was the Hawks best hitter for most of that time, hitting .299 with a .429 OBP and two home runs in 41 games. He then reported to Kane County for the final final two weeks and didn't lose much at all, hitting .280 with a .419 OBP in 14 games. He only had those two home runs this year, but he stole 16 bases and was only caught twice. Zagunis has plus speed and is expected to develop some more power as he gains experience.
Zagunis' final line for the two teams was .288/.420/.420 and he walked 42 times and struck out 42 times in 57 games. Zagunis scored 44 runs and 32 RBI.