Cubs Insider was all set to roll out an extravaganza of minor league content during the opening week of the MiLB season. The Growing Cubs podcast was going to record one episode each day. I was going to have a projected first half All-Star team and we were planning to publish affiliate previews, along with looks at which prospects were ready to break out. But COVID-19 put an end to those plans.
This week would’ve marked the end of the first month of the minor league season, at which point I would have put out a “Prospect Stock Watch” to evaluate those players primed to increase their value. Even though there’s no baseball being played, however, there’s still plenty to think about when it comes to who you’ll want to keep an eye on once the game returns.
Keep in mind that these are all new investments of your attention. You should already be all-in on Brennen Davis, Brailyn Marquez, Chris Morel, Miguel Amaya, Chase Strumpf, and Kohl Franklin at this point.
Shortstop Cristian Hernandez is reportedly set to be the Cubs’ top prospect in the international free-agent market, whenever that opens up. The normal July 2 deadline could be moved back as late as January 2021, but Hernandez more than likely becomes a top-five prospect in the system at whatever point he’s eligible to sign. At 6-foot-2, Hernandez has a projectable frame with the potential for power. What’s more, Baseball America’s Ben Badler thinks Hernandez has all the tools to stick at short.
During the small window during which several prospects got some exposure in spring training games, 19-year-old shortstop Luis Verdugo garnered praise from Theo Epstein on the air (see below). Signed out of Mexico in 2017, Verdugo spent two years in the Arizona Rookie League waiting for his bat to catch up to his glove. He was named the Cubs’ minor league player of the month in August 2019 and could be at either Eugene or South Bend when the season resumes.
Luis Verdugo — 19-year-old who hasn't played above Rookie ball — made his Spring Training debut today. 1-for-1, 1 RBI, 2 runs, BB.
Here was his single, which Theo Epstein was pretty excited about. pic.twitter.com/68wStfGfAu
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) March 2, 2020
Edmond Americaan had a brief call-up to South Bend in late May last season and it did not go well. The Cubs retooled his swing a little bit in Eugene and he really caught fire in July to become one of the best hitters in the system the last six weeks of the season. He showed the ability to hit for average and power and should be at South Bend this season.
Edmond Americaan dinger pic.twitter.com/FO2fW5i6Le
— Duke? (@RealCubsAnalyst) March 25, 2020
When it comes to bullpen arms, there are three you might want to invest in now. The first is Dakota Mekkes, a familiar name who looks to be much leaner and credits that improved fitness for a fastball that was jumping out of his hand early in spring. With expanded rosters, he might be a guy who finally gets his opportunity in Chicago. Another to watch for is Yunior Perez, who makes Lee Smith look small. Originally a starter, he was moved to the bullpen last year in Eugene and took off the last month of the season throwing upper 90s heat.
Yunior Perez 79 mph breaker pic.twitter.com/hq0fme0ndH
— Duke? (@RealCubsAnalyst) March 25, 2020
My favorite draft pick from last summer is none other than Hunter Bigge, the former two-way player from Harvard who shifted to the bullpen and was throwing upper-90’s gas in the Northwest League. That velocity gives Bigge a little leeway as he gains experience and continues to hone his game.
Catcher Bryce Windham and righty Chris Clarke are my sleeper prospects for this summer or fall. Windham did very well at Mesa last year, hitting .325 with a .459 OBP, and he’s a Swiss Army knife type of player who the Cubs have been trying to turn into a full-time catcher. Clarke was a starter at USC as a freshman before moving back to the ‘pen. The Cubs put him back in the rotation, where his breaking stuff now really plays up.
Chris Clarke has a nice curveball. pic.twitter.com/DDas5L2mOz
— No — I'm still Rael (@thats_so_cub) July 21, 2019
Your actual investment accounts might not be looking too robust right about now, but maybe your outlook on Cubs prospects just got a little brighter. You should also be ready to invest in at least three players coming from this year’s draft whenever that takes place. There’s some pretty good depth this year and, considering the Cubs are drafting a little bit higher, they should end up with some high-upside players.