2013 Cubs Prospects In Review: Gioskar Amaya

Gioskar Amaya came to the Cubs as a 2009 J2 signing. His signing bonus isn't listed anywhere, so we'll assume the Cubs didn't exactly break the bank on him. Amaya entered 2013 as a hot pick to have a breakout season in the Cubs organization. Some of the notable reports:

Sickels:

11) Gioskar Amaya, 2B, Grade B-: I think he will take a huge step forward in 2013. Defense at second base is better than it was at shortstop. He's got pop, can steal bases, and has a good swing.

Callis:

I do like Amaya and think he has the upside of a solid regular. He can hit for average, might surprise you with some pop, has plus speed and plays a nice second base.

And one more from a November 2011 Kevin Goldstein column just because I found it and what the hell:

The Sleeper: Venezuelan teenager Gioskar Amaya is a plus runner with excellent contact ability who could grow into a utility role, and possibly a bit more.

Despite not much action on top organizational prospect lists — likely do to his youth and short-season ball status — Amaya seemed to be a name everyone was watching. A 5'11, 175 lb MIF bat, Amaya shuffled back and forth between short and second before finally settling in as a 2B late in the 2011 AZL season. Meanwhile, he hit .377/.417/.510 in his first season stateside, playing 52 games in Arizona.

2012 saw him moved up to Boise where he continued to rake, hitting .298/.381/.496, displaying a patient approach (33 BBs in 317 PAs for a 10.4% rate, more than double his 2011 performance a level lower), and nice power (8 HRs, 12 3Bs). A 20.5% K-rate was a bit disappointing, but Amaya proved himself more than ready for the test of full-season ball at Kane County in 2013.

Performance

Amaya got off to a frigid start and never fully recovered, hitting .229/.247/.313 in April and .238/.307/.375 in June. His pre-All Star line settled at .242/.311/.357 as he struggled to adjust to better pitching and the ice-cold spring the midwest league had to offer in 2013. In hindsight, it's fairly unsurprising that Amaya got off to such a sluggish start, playing in seriously cold weather for the first time.

A scorching July helped turn his season around, posting an eye-popping .319/.414/.489 line over 25 games and flashing the breakout potential scouts saw in him before the season. It was not to be however, as August and the long full-season schedule were unkind to Amaya, finishing with an improved-but-still-disappointing .252/.329/.369 line for the season.

Scouting

A .698 OPS in his first go at full-season ball is not going to give Amaya a ton of helium this offseason, but as a 20-year old, he can afford to have a challenging year. If you're looking for reasons to be pessimistic, his 8.1% walk rate and 21.1% K rate are certainly worth keeping an eye on as he rises through the ranks. 

Here's BA's report on Amaya from this year's Prospect Handbook:

Amaya starred alongside Marco Hernandez in the Rookie-level Arizona League during their 2011 U.S. debuts, and again at Boise last summer. Amaya can do a little bit of everything, but he stands out most for how easy he makes it all look. When the Cubs needed an emergency infielder in Triple-A in mid-May, they sent him to Iowa and he delivered a double in his lone at-bat. Amaya uses a short, quick swing that has produced a .333 batting average in two years in the United States. He's growing into some sneaky power and has plus speed, and he hinted at both with his Northwest League-leading 12 triples last summer. After alternating between second base and shortstop with Hernandez in the AZL, Amaya played exclusively at the keystone in 2012 with Boise. His range and arm strength weren't quite good enough at shortstop but are solid at second. He topped NWL second basemen with a .968 fielding percentage. Club officials love his makeup and how he's locked in to play every day. If Amaya keeps producing at the plate when he gets to full-season ball in 2013, he'll start to move quickly.

Despite the struggles, nothing about 2013 changed any of this for Amaya. He'll only be 21 next season, still has a quick bat, and is still growing into his power. His home run power is likely minimal — maybe a 10-15 guy optimistically at the major league level. But with his speed, there's the potential for a lot of doubles and triples if he can make the adjustment and start to hit full-season pitching the way he dominated the rookie leagues. And given the positive reports of his makeup, the quality of his swing, and the solid plate approach he's displayed before Kane County, I think he's perfectly capable of making those adjustments.

Outlook

Frankly, I think Amaya's 2013 performance was better than the line reflects. There were a lot of challenges to overcome, and in hindsight, a struggling year of adjustments was probably fairly predictable. It truly was a frigid spring in Midwest League towns, making the already-offense-suppressing environment play as more of a pitcher's league than usual; warm weather didn't roll in for good until mid-june, which, coincidentally, is about the time Amaya's bat started to heat up. You could create a fairly convincing narrative built around Amaya struggling to adjust to cold weather for the first few months of the season, getting hot for about a six week stretch, and then wearing down due to the grind of a full-season schedule. Of course, struggling is struggling, whatever the reason, and he still needs to prove he can make adjustments to more difficult leagues. But I wonder if the somewhat common notion of 2013 as a breakout season for Amaya wasn't a year or so premature.

Given his struggles, Gioskar should start 2014 repeating Kane County. The FSL isn't any more offense-friendly, and he needs to prove it against his current level of competition before taking on tougher challenges. With 500+ PAs logged at low-A already, however, I would think a hot April would be enough to earn a Daytona promotion and keep him from falling behind in the developmental track. With a bit of a warmer spring and a year of full-season experience already under his belt, I'm expecting a nice rebound (and potentially breakout) season out of him next year.

Long-term, the picture for Gioskar is a bit murkier. The glut of infielders already in the mix for playing time at the major league level will likely make him expendable, barring a farm-clearing trade for David Price or similar ilk. If 2014 does prove a breakout season for him, his name could find its way into some trade scenarios as third- or fourth-pieces in a bigger package.

Whatever happens, 2014 is, in my opinion, a make-or-break point in Amaya's career. Another year of struggling in the midwest league and he'll drop off the radar fairly quick, whereas a breakout season could make him next year's Alcantara. As with all Low-A players, there's a ton of volatility to his future, and it's up to Amaya and his bat to make order out of it all.

UPDATE: Myles was kind enough to remind me that the Cubs are using the fall as an opportunity to test Amaya out at Catcher, however Mark Gonzales writes that the move is not considered permanent at this point, he's just getting work in instructional leagues.

2013 Cubs Prospect Reviews

Quantcast