Amaya, Young headline Cubs' next wave
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.Since their rise back on the scene in 2015, the Cubs have been one of
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.
Since their rise back on the scene in 2015, the Cubs have been one of the Nationals League's elite teams. Coinciding with this ascendance has been the graduation -- and eventual success stories -- of top prospects like
As the Cubs have become perennial contenders and made deals to acquire veteran talent, their farm system has taken a hit. This year, it finished 27th in baseball with a .461 winning percentage. That's not to say there isn't some upside in the Minor Leagues. Two domestic affiliates reached the playoffs, with Class A Short Season Eugene claiming an improbable Northwest League title. The Cubs might not have the glitz and glamor of a few years back, but there are positives for the North Siders.
Cubs Organization All-Stars
The Cubs' top prospect posted a .256/.349/.403 slash line with a career-high 12 homers, 35 total extra-base hits and 52 RBIs. Among catchers on the circuit, he was second with a .752 OPS, which also represented South Bend's highest mark and a personal best.
"He got off to a hot start at the plate, despite the cold weather and all the challenges he had -- he completely killed it in the first half," Cubs director of player development Jaron Madison said. "I think guys started making adjustments, the league adjusted to him and they started pitching around him. … Definitely an interesting guy, has feel to hit, has always had feel to hit. He has some sneaky power in there that I think is going to continue to grow."
The backstop's fly ball rate increased from 39.4 percent to 42.4 percent and his home runs per fly ball more than doubled to 8.8 percent. Impressively, he drew 50 walks and struck out 91 times. Amaya played 95 games (806 1/3 innings) behind the plate, posted a .989 fielding percentage and threw out an impressive 34 percent of would-be basestealers, a year after he nailing 29-of-49 for Eugene.
"I think the most important and impressive part is his development behind the plate and ability to connect with pitchers and call games -- we let guys call games completely," Madison said.
First base --
Mashing his way through April by hitting .406, the 2017 15th-round pick never slowed down with South Bend and slugged 10 homers en route to a Midwest League All-Star nod. In early July, he moved up a level and fared well against better competition, putting up a .282/.341/.431 line in his final 51 games.
It was an attitude from the outset of Spring Training that propelled Young to a career year, Madison said.
"He forced our hand to send him up to South Bend and absolutely killed it there," he added. "He couldn't have gotten off any hotter. … He continued to produce [at Myrtle Beach] and fit in really well. He's learning a new position; we challenged him to play first base, we challenged him to play the outfield. He took to both of those and attacked it and was really good."
Second base --
The 2016 25th-round pick spent most of his time at second base, where he had a .976 fielding percentage in 89 games, also playing shortstop, third and both corner outfield spots to give the Cubs a little more flexibility.
"He's just kind of well-rounded player in the
Third base --
The 2014 16th-round pick out of Northeastern set career highs and led the organization with 23 roundtrippers and 93 RBIs, earning a spot at the Southern League All-Star Game. Elevated to Triple-A in late June, Vosler saw no noticeable dip in his production. After making a good impression with the big club in Spring Training, he never let up.
"He really works his butt off and is in-tune with his swing," Madison said. "He understands what he wants to do with the ball. It really shows up when he gets into a game and gets into a groove, the ball jumps off his bat. He might have as much power as anyone in the Minor Leagues."
Organization All-Stars by MLB affiliate »
The club's 22-ranked prospect led Tennessee with 136 strikeouts but also tied for the home run lead with Giambrone and ranked second in the Southern League with 82 walks and seventh with a .356 on-base percentage. While his .227 average doesn't stand out, 47 percent of his hits this season went for extra bases, so pop remains an important part of his game.
"He's a really good hitter and the ball comes off of his bat hot all the time," Madison said. "He can control the zone and looks to do damage with each swing. … I think he really opened up eyes with what he can do at shortstop."
Playing center field for most of the season, the Texas Tech product had a .991 fielding percentage and 10 assists.
Zagunis sprayed his hits to all fields, finishing with a .271 average and 24 extra-base hits, despite a dry spell that slowed him for much of May. If not for a nagging shoulder injury, he could have produced even better numbers, Madison said.
"Overall, he has the best approach and plate discipline of anyone in the organization," Madison noted. "He's a guy that sees the ball so early out of a pitcher's hand that it seems like before the pitch is out of his hand he knows whether it's going to be a ball or a strike. Nine times out of 10, he's right."
His numbers dipped slightly against more advanced pitching, but he reached base at a .384 clip, including a .453 mark during a 17-game stretch in July. He played all three outfield positions, spending the bulk of his time in left and right. Much like Davis, he made up for a lack of power with speed, stealing 36 bases on 46 tries.
Right-handed starting pitcher --
The strikeouts stand out as he racked up 131 or an average of 10.3 per nine innings. Also impressive is the fact he allowed eight homers all season. His four-pitch repertoire coupled with a deceptive delivery make it a challenge for opponents to make solid contact.
"He showed feel to stay as a starter with a plus fastball, two average secondary pitches and a changeup that's coming that has a chance to be average as well," Madison said. "He has all the ingredients, fills up the zone and is just aggressive anytime he gets on the mound. It's really fun to way he goes about business, changes up speeds and frustrates hitters."
Left-handed starting pitcher --
Carrera totaled 58 strikeouts, but he held opponents to a .244 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and a .198 mark overall. He was particularly difficult on left-handed hitters, who had a .132 average and no homers in 21 innings against the Mexico native.
Relief pitcher --
The right-hander from suburban Downers Grove gave the South Bend bullpen plenty of versatility by pitching two innings or more 19 times. Down the stretch, he took his game to another level by yielding one run over his final 19 2/3 innings.
Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt.