Now that we’ve reached the official midway point of the season, new prospect lists are beginning to appear. In Baseball Prospectus’s Top 50 List, which broke last week, Eloy Jimenez (#28) was rated ahead of both Gleyber Torres (#34) and Ian Happ (#50). MLB Pipeline will release their updated top 30 Cubs prospects within the next two weeks. Keith Law and several other blogs will also publish their lists once the draft signing deadline is over (4 PM CT Friday) and the trade deadline has passed on August 1.
Although only three Cubs made BP’s list and Baseball America’s Top 100, there are more prospects coming. And once Willson Contreras and Albert Almora reach 150 plate appearances in Chicago, the two will lose their prospect status, which means more movement on the organizational list.
Here are some thoughts about prospects that are doing extremely well in the second half of the 2016 season.
Eddy Martinez – Since June 1, there is no hotter hitter in the Cubs organization than EJM. He has become much more selective on what he swings at and what he lets go. The power still could improve, but his six-week progression has taken his batting average from .200 to .270. At the rate he’s going he’ll be at .290 by the end of July.
Victor Caratini – The switch-hitting catcher has put together a pretty impressive campaign offensively. He got off to a poor start in April before rebounding nicely in May and June, hitting over .300 both months. My only concern about him is that he really has not hit for power yet. I think that may come next year in AAA or in the majors. Regardless, switch-hitting catchers don’t grow on trees. I think his value is pretty high, or as high as it is going to get without home runs.
Billy McKinney – He’s not going to skyrocket up the lists, but he has been pretty productive. Much more than I thought he would be coming off a broken kneecap. I did not expect to see him come around until right around this piont in the season. After hitting .206 in April, however, McKinney put together months of .287 and .288, and is currently hitting over .320 in July. Like Caratini, McKinney could stand to hit for more power as well.
Ian Happ – The second-year second baseman made a smooth transition from Myrtle Beach to Tennessee in late June. He’s hitting .393 with two home runs and 11 RBI in just 15 games with the Smokies. I think Happ is one of those players who gets better at each level because the competition is better. The pitchers are around the plate and not as wild as they are at lower levels.
Trevor Clifton – He’s always had the big arm and curve, but he hadn’t put it together until last August. Since then, the big kid from Tennessee has turned into one of the top pitchers in the system. He was named the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May, due in no small part to being more aggressive. Clifton is pitching inside and has been getting out of the first inning unscathed, an issue for him in the past.
Eloy Jimenez – He just continues to impress the living daylights out of me. I don’t think I’ve seen a hitter in the Cubs system the past five years with better pitch recognition skills than Jimenez. He can always tell what the pitch is, but sometimes he just can’t hit it even though he wants to. I’ve often wondered if he should be number one and I am inclined to say that he has become the best prospect. He’s always had the highest ceiling, but now his production is matching that foresight.
Making a case for list-worthiness
Carlos Sepulveda – After missing most of April and about half of May, Sepulveda has been raining down hits in torrents. In June, the 19-year-old hit .330 in 23 games. In July, he’s amped it up to .349. While he will not be a home run hitter, he can string together some doubles and triples. What I like most is that the left-handed hitting second baseman kills left-handed pitching to the tune of a .383 average.
Ian Rice – When he was drafted, most people thought he was just going to be an organizational catcher. When you hit nine home runs in two months at South Bend, it changes a lot of people’s opinions about your value in the system. In addition to power, he has an excellent eye at the plate. For the year he is hitting .297 with 13 home runs and 35 RBI and a .411 on-base percentage. I think the challenge for Rice going forward is just how much is he going to catch, play first base, or be the designated hitter.
Preston Morrison – I don’t have enough accolades for Morrison for this year. His ERA for the year is 2.44, but it’s only 0.68 since June 1. He’s struck out 73 batters in 81 innings and currently is on a 28-inning scoreless streak. And I get to see him pitch Thursday nice. I cannot wait!
Andruw Monasterio – This kid is real and this kid is raw. He can swing the bat, but he also chases after pitches. He can make any ground ball an adventure for the defender with his speed, then he can get thrown out easily at second base trying to steal. He can make a routine ball look hard and the hard-hit grounder in the hole look easy on defense. It’s going to take some time for him to gel and smooth out his imperfections, which are also his assets. He’s already gone from Eugene to South Bend and seems to be adjusting nicely.
It will be exciting to see other evaluations of the current crop of Cub hitters and pitchers. All the lists should be out by the first week of August.