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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Eloy Jimenez, of|
|2. Ian Happ, 2b/of|
|3. Albert Almora, of|
|4. Dylan Cease, rhp|
|5. Oscar de la Cruz, rhp|
|6. Mark Zagunis, of|
|7. Jeimer Candelario, 3b|
|8. Trevor Clifton, rhp|
|9. D.J. Wilson, of|
|10. Jose Albertos, rhp|
As slogans go, “When it happens” seemed fairly boastful considering the Cubs had not won the World Series since 1908.
That slogan was a mantra throughout the organization since Theo Epstein took over as president of baseball operations and brought general manager Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod from the Padres to rejoin him. The trio had helped end Boston’s misery by winning two World Series for the Red Sox and stocking the organization with many of the pieces that won Boston’s 2013 title.
By 2013, the Cubs were in the midst of their rebuild—they drafted Kris Bryant second overall that year—but still in tear-down mode in the big leagues. By 2015, most of the pieces were in place and Chicago won 97 times and advanced to the National League Championship Series.
In 2016 the roster featured Bryant coming off a Rookie of the Year season, a rotation rebuilt through deft trades (Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks) and expensive free agents (Jon Lester, John Lackey) and another year of experience for Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Addison Russell.
The Cubs had built baseball’s best team despite a dreadful season by high-priced free agent right fielder Jason Heyward. They moved to fortify the bullpen with two July trades, including a blockbuster with the Yankees in which they surrendered prospect Gleyber Torres to acquire closer Aroldis Chapman. Chicago won 103 games to run away with the NL Central, then won their first NL pennant since 1945.
Then came the World Series. The Cubs rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Indians in seven games, becoming the first team to do so with its final two victories on the road since 1979.
What does the BA Organization of the Year do for an encore? The big league core is incredibly young, athletic and dynamic thanks to the growth of rookie catcher Willson Contreras, Baez, Russell and Bryant. Kyle Schwarber returned from a knee injury to show truly elite hitting ability in the World Series.
The lower levels of the Cubs system have talent, which is evident in the rosters at short-season Eugene, low Class A South Bend and high Class A Myrtle Beach.
The Cubs have more intriguing arms at the lower levels and armed themselves in the 2016 draft by taking 27 pitchers among their 38 picks. But the system has the ammunition for more trades if needed this offseason or during the 2017 season to bolster the rotation or bullpen.
The new slogan, McLeod says, is “Where it happens,” because the Cubs are positioned to win more than one championship.
1. Eloy Jimenez, of |
Born: Nov. 27, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013. Signed by: Jose Serra/Carlos Reyes.
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: Jimenez’s father Luis played and coached basketball in the Dominican Republic, so Jimenez grew up around athletes and some degree of fame. He was ready for the spotlight when his baseball career took off as an amateur and he ranked as the top talent in the 2013 international signing class. The Cubs signed both of the top players that year, Jimenez for $2.8 million and Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres for $1.7 million. They have grown into exactly what the Cubs thought they were getting, with Torres the savvier, steadier middle infielder and Jimenez the high-risk, high-upside corner bat. While Torres was traded to the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal in July 2016, Jimenez emerged as the Cubs’ top prospect with a breakout season at low Class A South Bend. He led the Midwest League in doubles (40) and slugging (.532) while ranking third in batting (.329). He also played in the Futures Game, where he homered and made a highlight-reel over-the-fence catch in foul ground down the right-field line.
Scouting Report: Jimenez was signed for his bat and his body—one club official admiringly called him “a physical animal”—and has started to deliver. His body evokes comparisons with former Cub Jorge Soler and Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, but he’s more than a power-first hitter. Some scouts rate Jimenez’s pure hitting ability on par with his power, or put 60 grades on his hitting and 70 on his power (on the 20-80 scouting scale). While his walk rate is modest, Jimenez improved his strike-zone judgment in 2016 by seeing more pitches per at-bat, identifying spin more and applying the Cubs’ selective-aggressive mantra. When he turned it loose, he barreled balls and made plenty of hard contact. He added a knee tuck and a bit of a hand pump to his swing, getting less rotational and on time more often, and it aided his ability to drive the ball to right-center field. Some scouts see long levers and a long swing, which could be exploited more by advanced pitchers. But others believe he has the aptitude to adjust quickly and laud his hitting intelligence. Jimenez’s other tools grade out as average. He’s an average runner but limited to a corner, and he mostly played left field in 2016. His weakest tool is his fringy arm. His throws lack carry, though he has become more accurate. He had only one outfield assist in 2016 and has five in his career. He has a chance for an average arm, though, if he dedicates himself to a throwing program. The Cubs are working to keep him lean and athletic physically so he doesn’t get too big. Some scouts question Jimenez’s ultimate level of athleticism, as he’s not graceful, but the Cubs believe he is still growing into his body and will gain body control with natural physical maturity and added strength.
The Future: While the Cubs don’t need Jimenez soon, he may force their hand if his bat continues to progress. He has polish to add against lefthanded pitchers, who handled him with a steady diet of offspeed stuff, and to his defense to be more than just a left fielder. He likely will take one step at a time, reporting to high Class A Myrtle Beach for 2017, with a big league ETA of 2019.
|South Bend (LoA)||.329||.369||.532||432||65||142||40||3||14||81||25||94||8|