Theo must love the Cape. It’s not too far from Boston and it has great weather in the summer, not to mention all the food and spirits. But best of all, it has a lot of good baseball played with wooden bats. Over the past four years, the Cubs have used the Cape Cod Summer League to browse players for the draft the following year. The most recent player who showed out there was none other than Donnie Dewees.
This spring, Dewees has been ripping the ball. Or as I like to say, he woke up, fell out of bed, and laced a triple. Dewees will be assigned to South Bend to begin the year, but at the rate he is hitting, I don’t know how long he will stay there.
Dewees was the second round pick of the Cubs in 2015 out of North Florida. Though he doesn’t have a big frame — he’s 5’11” and 180 pounds — or a big-school pedigree, he has shown that he can hit with the big boys. He batted .340/.427/.473 in 150 at-bats for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks in 2014 after playing only 14 college games as a sophomore. The numbers are even more impressive when you consider that the abbreviated prep season was due to a wrist injury.
Dewees returned to North Florida and had an outstanding junior campaing, slashing .407/.463/.743 with 10 HR. The mix of power and hitting for average was intriguing. Dewees was promptly assigned to short-season Eugene, where he started out strong, struggled, and then rebounded over the course of 66 games. After hitting .308 in the first 13 contests, his average dropped down to .225 in late July. He then recovered to hit .292 in August.
Dewees talked with MiLB.com about the tweaks he had to make:
“I’ve been doing my best to adjust from the college pitching where I was at in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Definitely, the competition is a lot better here, so I had to make a big adjustment, but I’m starting to come around and I’m starting to feel confident and get my swing back. I’ve been feeling good, my body’s been holding up well for me, so hopefully I can start producing a little more and help them win a lot more games and maybe get a ring for the second half.”
While most eyes will be fixated on Eloy Jimenez at South Bend this summer, don’t sleep on Dewees. When I check The Cub Reporter’s daily box scores, Dewees seems to have a solid line every day. It’s either 1 for 3 with a walk, 2 for 3, or 2 for 4. He has to be near a .500 OBP for the spring.
Dewees generally plays center but he’s capable of playing any of the three outfield positions. He also has good speed, and maybe even more power than previously thought. MLB Pipeline said this of Dewees:
Dewees has excellent feel for the barrel and should hit for average with his compact left-handed swing and line-drive approach. He’s not a big guy, but he does have bat speed and the ball jumps off his bat. If he can control the strike zone as well as he did in college — he fanned just 16 times in 60 games in 2015 — he could be a .280 hitter with 15-20 homers per year.
Dewees’ plus speed gives him the ability to steal bases and chase down balls in center field. He played mostly left field in his pro debut, deferring to 2015 first-rounder Ian Happ when they broke into pro ball together at Short Season Eugene, but should get regular time in center this year.
Pipeline currently has him ranked as the number 12 prospect in the Cubs system while FanGraphs has him at 22 and Baseball America has him at 17.
Going from being a college player to a full-time professional is not without trials. Some players struggle to maintain focus while others feed off of the environment of swing adjustments, constant coaching, and long bus rides. I think Dewees is the type of player who, along with Ian Happ, will take to living, eating, and breathing baseball 24 hours a day. Both prospects feed off constructive criticism and coaching because they know it will only make them better. That, combined with their advanced bats, will carry them through the organization at a quicker pace.
As for how 2016 could break down, I think Dewees will do well at South Bend. It is not exactly a home run paradise because of the cool air in April and May, but Dewees will like the spacious confines of Four Winds Field. He should be a doubles and triples machine with his speed. I think .285 is the magic number for him; it’s a solid batting average for the environment.
While there’s lots to like about this top prospect, the Cubs would still like to see his arm improve. He can get to balls with the best of them on defense, but needs to gain strength when it comes to getting the ball back in. He should play all three spots, but he projects best as a left fielder at this point.
If all goes according to plan, Dewees should be pushing for a trip to Myrtle Beach by around June or so.