Journeymen of Tomorrow: Week 4 Prospect Watch

Each Saturday, I'm going to summarize the weekly performance top prospects at each level. Hopefully, this will give more of a snapshot of how our future Cubs are doing.

AAA

Brett Jackson 2: The Golden (Sombrero) Army is cooked. His peripherals are bad (8.5% BB, 32.2% K), he's hit-lucky (.375 BABIP), and he's still well under league-average at AAA. I'm pretty sure the dream of him ever putting together 150 starts in a season at the MLB level is over completely.

Logan Watkins almost has as many walks as strikeouts (21 to 24). His rate on each is ridiculous (23.1% and 26.4%). Without the power to make major-league pitching fear you, his walk rate is going to fall precipitiously (meanwhile, his strikeouts will likely increase). For that reason, I'm still a little concerned. It's also worth noting that his strikeout rate has never been nearly this high before (he's in the 16-19%) range. That's not great but it's not anathema to success, either. All things considered, a line of .243/.418/.429 is really good but not as great as it might seem. I'd say that Watkins would probably hit for a .210/.300/.360 line in the majors right now.

Josh Vitters is still injured.

Nick Struck has looked pretty poor this year. His FIP is in line with last year's (where his E-F was negative), so there might not truly be a reduced skillset, but he's striking out 4 batters in 15 innings. It's still crazily early to get any meaningful conclusions from 15 innings, though.

AA

Ronald Torreyes is going to be in prospect posts from now on. On the season, he's batting .333/.457/.444, good for a .422 wOBA on the year. He's struck out one time in 49 PA. I don't think he's going to keep that up (also unstainable given his history: a 14.3% walk rate).

Arismendy Alcantara has picked up where he left off last year. His wOBA is the same (.355 from .356), his ISO is up slightly (.145 to .159), and his line hasn't meaningfully changed in spite of a BABIP normalization. It's not all roses: Arismendy's K rate is approaching critical levels (22.8% in AA isn't far behind Brett Jackson), but he's offset that somewhat with an increased walk rate. 

Christian Villanueva is still having quite a rough year. His line (.218/.291/.333) is still Barney-esque, and that's not going to cut it. He has reduced his errors, though. That's good.

Matt Szczur continues to turn in a solid performance. After a power outage to begin the season, Szczur has worked his way up to a more-than-respectable line of .293/.368/.415. Crazily enough, the Smokies' outfield has been so good he still has the worst wRC+ of the group (at 132, it's still 12th among outfielders in the Southern League).

I'm including Jae-Hoon Ha in my lists now. He's clearly earned it and I'm big enough to admit that I was pretty wrong on him earlier. Sure, he's been hit-lucky this year. He still carries a .312/.413/.377 line. His power has been sapped this year and I expect it to return; when that happens, his line could get even better. He's walking a lot more this year than last (12.8% this year, 9.8% last year, 4.5% the year before). That's a step in the right direction.

Kyle Hendricks was kind of my darkhorse prospect pick this year. He hasn't completely borne it out yet, but he's still only 20 innings into the season. His FIP of 3.40 is fine, but his ERA is 4.05 (he's stranded only 67.7% of baserunners).

Tony Zych had a disastrous week. He's now walked twice as many batters as he's struck out, and his LOB% is only 47.1%. That's good for a 5.91 ERA off of a 4.61 FIP.

A+

Javier Baez is on the comeback trail. His line sits at .253/.283/.495. There are still some obvious issues with his game (and if he doesn't improve his patience, he's going to stop being a prospect at all very quickly), but he still has the upper-tier potential that scouts usually drool over. As for me, I hope they trade him soon in a package for someone more certain.

Jorge Soler has not been as great as he was before the suspension. I'm not at all worried, though, as his .276/.354/.431 line is still more than adequate for his level and experience.

Stephen Bruno has kept murdering the ball. He's still the owner of a .355/.437/.468 line this season, good for a .420 wOBA and a 9th place showing on the FSL leaderboard. Enjoy it while you can: his BABIP is .468.

Zeke DeVoss is interesting with respect to his SLG being lower than his OBP. On the other hand, his ISO is .164, so .247/.427/.411 really isnt so bad. His line is way more sustainable than Bruno's, and DeVoss has done really well so far this year. There really are a good deal of position prospects on the Cubs right now.

Ben Wells has been boring and serviceable so far. I don't know what more to say about him. 

Starling Peralta didn't pitch this week.

A

Pierce Johnson has rebounded from his first start being poor to have 3 consecutive good starts in a row. He's quickly showing that he's probably to good for A-ball, which is exactly what you want to see from such a heralded pick. He's 22 so look for an aggresive promotion; in fact, I'd be surprised if he WASN'T in Daytona by midseason.

Gioskar Amaya has REALLY struggled this year. He's lost his power and his patience, and his strikeouts continue to climb. I had him as the #6 prospect in the Cubs system last year and had this to say:

#6 (80) Gioskar Amaya 2B

I'm a huge Amaya fan. His plate discipline has always been solid (9% walk rate), and his power has developed every year. It's not common for 2B to put up ISOs of .200, but Amaya did last year. He's got to work on fighting his strikeouts, but the combination of speed, power, and patience make Amaya a potential great at 2B in the (distant) future.

I still believe in him, but he's got to show some of his old talents and fast. 2B is stacked everywhere in front of him (Watkins/Torreyes/DeVoss), so it's not a huge blow if he crashes and burns, but I like the kid's game and though he could be the best of them all.

Jeimer Candelario has seen his power and BABIP drop for the second consecutive year. He's walking a ton and his strikeouts are manageable, but he needs to flash some of the power he showed in 2011 if he wants to play a corner infield position.

Marco Hernandez continues to rebound after a poor performance to start the season. He sits at .266/.294/.359 on the season, which is about where he ended up last year. That'll obviously need to keep improving, especially given his decreased ability in the field this year.

We're all still waiting for Daniel Vogelbach to turn on the power at Kane County. His ISO sits at a meager .092 on the season, the primary driver of his .289/.337/.382 line. I expect him to still turn it on as the season progresses, and on a positive note, all accounts say he looks better at first this year. 

Performance of the Week

Ryan Sweeney definitely deserves to be in Chicago over Dave Sappelt right now. Over the past 10 games, Sweeney has crushed the ball to the tune of .378/.425/.757, with 3 HR, 2 3B, and 2 BB. I don't expect that he's going to be incredible, but Sappelt is really struggling right now so you might as well give Sweeney a shot. Best case scenario, you find some trade value you didn't have before, or even a credible replacement when our OF is inevitably shipped out for spare parts.

Prospect Performance of the Week

Pierce Johnson had 2 starts this week and allowed 0 earned runs in them. His line for the two starts: 10.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 13 SO. Hard to do much better than that!

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