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2017 Cubs Top Prospect Countdown: 20 to 16

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Day 2 of the countdown has an international flair to it.

Thomas Hatch pitching in the 2016 College World Series
Photo by John S. Peterson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Today’s stop on the countdown are my prospects number 20 through 16. We’ve got five prospects here today from five different countries, which just shows how the Cubs system under Team President Theo Epstein, Player Development, Amateur Scouting vice-president Jason McLeod and Director of Player Development Jaron Madison are leaving no stone unturned in the search for quality ballplayers.

If you want to read the whole series, you can find the links to it in this StoryStream. I also forgot to give my standard caveats yesterday. These lists are my own. I try to avoid other lists this time of year (although that’s not always possible and I certainly read Baseball America) but if there are mistakes, they are certainly my own.

20. Isaac Paredes, SS. B:R, T:R. 5’11”, 175. DOB: 2/18/1999 (!?!). Int’l Free Agent, 2015, Mexico.

In 2014, a 17-year-old shortstop, Gleyber Torres, hit .279/.372/.377 in rookie ball before getting promoted to Boise for the final week of their season and the playoffs. In 2016, 17-year-old shortstop Isaac Paredes hit .305/.359/.443 in rookie ball before getting promoted to South Bend for the final week of their season and the playoffs.

That was a fun exercise, but let’s not take this comparison too far. Paredes isn’t the prospect that Torres was, at least not yet. What Torres and Paredes have in common is that they were both shortstops from Latin America who succeeded in the low minors at a very young age. But Paredes is not the fluid defensive shortstop that Torres is, although he’s gotten the job done so far. Torres is fast and Paredes is not (at least not for a middle infielder) and Torres likely has the better hit tool. But Paredes can hit too with a line drive stroke that can spray the ball to all fields and could end up hitting for more power than Torres.

The Cubs went heavy into Mexico in 2015 (also signing pitcher Jose Albertos) where the portion of the signing bonus that goes to the player’s Mexican League team doesn’t count against the bonus limits. (You should expect teams to get more aggressive in Mexico with the new “hard cap” on international signing bonuses in the new collective bargaining agreement.) Paredes got $850,000 last summer and reported to spring training, where plans to send him to the Dominican Summer League were scrapped in favor of the rookie league team in Mesa. As you can see from his batting line, it was a wise decision.

The biggest knock on Paredes is that he’s already gotten big at age 17 and the feeling is that he’s going to have to move off of shortstop unless he gets a lot more serious about conditioning. But luckily his bat could carry him at third base or as a corner outfielder if that becomes necessary.

Here’s some video of an AB by Paredes in Arizona.

Here’s some video of Paredes signing with the Cubs, along with some comments by the scout who signed him and his family. It is, however, all in Spanish, but I know some of you understand Spanish. Much of it doesn’t need much translation.

Projected 2017 Team: South Bend Cubs, although he may start in Extended Spring Training. But I think the Cubs will push him.

19. Jose Paulino, LHP. B:L, T:L. 6’2”, 165. DOB: 4/9/1995. Int’l Free Agent, 2011, Dominican Republic.

Paulino has always had terrific raw stuff and can sit 94-95 mph with his fastball when he’s on. He’s also got a slider that has average-plus potential and a changeup that he trusts. His problem, up until 2016, was that he could never throw any of those pitches for strikes often enough for any batter to ever worry about them.

Last summer he repeated Eugene and found the control that had long eluded him. Paulino blew away the Northwest League with a 4-0 record with a 0.51 ERA in six starts. He struck out 37 batters in 35 innings and walked only three. That earned him a promotion to South Bend, where he wasn’t quite as dominating but still showed a solid control, striking out 32 and walking just 10 in 40 innings over seven starts. Paulino’s record in South Bend was 3-1 with a 3.15 ERA.

If Paulino can maintain the control that he found last year, he could have a major league future as a back-end starter if he can find a way to get right-handers out more consistently. Otherwise, he could settle in as a left-hander out of the bullpen. He’s doesn’t turn 22 until April, so he’s still young and could improve even more. The downside to his early-career struggles is that he was Rule 5 eligible this past year. I know several of you around here feared he would get taken, but you can bet that if he repeats his 2016 season in 2017, the Cubs will need to protect him or lose him in the Rule 5 draft, especially since he’s left-handed. Because of that, Paulino might end up as trade bait this summer.

Here’s Paulino recording a strikeout against a left-handed batter in South Bend last August. You get a good look at his slider in this at-bat. Really, the hitter never had a chance.

Projected 2017 Team: Myrtle Beach.

18. Eddy Martinez, RF. B:R, T:R. 6’1”, 195. DOB: 1/18/1995. Int’l Free Agent, 2015, Cuba (by way of Haiti).

So he was overhyped. The Andruw Jones comparisons were always ridiculous—Jones was in the majors at 19. (The $3 million bonus he received should have been a hint that he wasn’t destined for superstardom.) But it’s a bit sad that Martinez could hit .254/.331/.380 with 10 home runs in 126 games in his first year of professional baseball at age 21 and have people disappointed in him.

Instead of knocking him for what he isn’t, let’s look at what Martinez actually is. He’s a right fielder with a terrific arm who is still learning to play the outfield, but potentially could be plus in right field one day. I’ve seen him take a lot of bad routes to balls but I assume he will improve on that as he gains experience.

He’s not blessed with great speed, as we were led to believe, but he’s not slow either. I’d probably stick a 50 or 55 on his run tool. (That’s average or slightly above-average, for those unfamiliar with scout-speak.) He has some power, but he really doesn’t drive the ball with authority very often. He’s also already physically-mature, so I don’t expect him to bulk up and develop a lot more power. Martinez likes to go deep in counts, which meant struck out a lot last season, but he also walked a fair bit as well.

One of his big problems last year is that he struggled against left-handers, which is not something I’d expect to continue as a right-handed hitter.

So what is Martinez? His ceiling is probably that of a league-average starting right-fielder or a fourth outfielder who can cover center field in a pinch. That’s good enough to be valuable.

Here’s some video of Martinez hitting a home run in July. He shows some nice opposite field power here.

Projected 2017 Team: Myrtle Beach

17. Wladimir Galindo, 3B. B:R, T:R. 6’3”, 215. DOB: 11/6/1996. Int’l Free Agent, 2013, Venezuela.

When I went to see the Emeralds play last summer, the guy I walked away most impressed with was Galindo. (And no, I didn’t get to see Dylan Cease pitch.) Galindo is right-handed bat with a swing that uncorks itself through the hitting zone to drive the ball with authority. He was second in the Northwest League last summer with nine home runs and led league in extra-base hits with 32. His .243/.337/.462 batting line seems OK, but it’s much more impressive when you look at his road splits: .305/.389/.611. Eugene’s PK Park is a tough place to hit. (I saw him play on the road.)

Also, Galindo doesn’t look bad at third base. He has decent range and a strong arm that can get the ball to first in a hurry. He made a lot of errors, but so do 90 percent of the third basemen in the Northwest League. But he is a big man at only 20 and there is some well-founded fear that he’s going to outgrow the position and have to move to a corner outfield spot. But his bat and his arm should be good enough to play there, should that come to pass.

Galindo has a lot of upside and youth on his side. He could easily be a top ten or even top five prospect in the system next year after a strong 2017.

Here’s some video of Galindo clearing the bases with a bases-loaded double down the left-field line.

Projected 2017 Team: South Bend.

16. Thomas Hatch, RHP. B:R, T:R. 6’1, 190. DOB: 9/29/1994. Drafted 3rd Round, 2016, Oklahoma State.

After the Cubs drafted Hatch in the third round last summer (with their first pick), he finished pitching for Oklahoma State in the College World Series. Then the Cubs shut him down for the year, since he had already thrown 130 innings in college. That would have been a lot under any circumstances, but especially for Hatch, who missed all of the 2015 season with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament that, fortunately, did not require Tommy John surgery.

His 2016 college season should have put to rest any doubts about Hatch’s health, at least in the short run. He threw three consecutive complete game shutouts at one point last season and was the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year. Here’s a story on Hatch from ESPN.com during the Cowboys time in the CWS. Also, here’s a link to a video of former Angels outfielder Darin Erstad talking about Hatch in the College World Series. Erstad compared Hatch’s slider to that of Brad Lidge, which is a pretty nice compliment.

While I obviously haven’t seen Hatch pitch in the minors since he hasn’t done that yet, I did watch on television as he pitched on the big stage of the College World Series. What I saw was a big, strong starting pitcher that threw 90-94 mph on his fastball and he located it well, throwing it to both sides of the plate to batters from either side. He also showed a nice slider that he could locate for strikes. What Hatch didn’t have, at least not that I saw (and that I’ve read elsewhere) is one out-pitch that can put a batter away after he gets two strikes on him. I saw batters hit a lot of weak foul balls off of Hatch trying to stay alive, but Hatch didn’t really have one pitch he could blow by anyone and end an at-bat. Instead, he usually had to induce weak contact. Having said that, looking over his college stats I do see that he had three starts last year where he struck out ten or more batters. Maybe it was the competition or just that he was growing tired near the end of the season.

In any case, Hatch, assuming he remains healthy, projects out to be a workhorse starting pitcher who could move quickly through the system. He might not be anything more than a #4 starter, but one that can eat innings with a relatively high floor is still pretty valuable.

Here’s some video of Hatch pitching against Michigan.

Projected 2017 Team: South Bend, to start.

Tomorrow: Prospects 11 to 15.