This past season was a topsy-turvy one for some of the Cubs’ more established prospects. Injuries took their toll several players sat out or struggled to produce consistently. This coming season could be big for a lot of these young players, many of whom will be in the upper echelon of the system, as they look to reestablish themselves.
As we continue this winter-long look at the farm system, we now present a series of snapshots of nine prospects who are hoping to rebound in 2018
Corey Black recently started throwing off of a mound after missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery. He received high praise from farm director Jaron Madison at the Cubs Convention for his maturity and arsenal of pitches. Black said on Twitter that he feels more comfortable heading into this year than he has in recent memory and he told our Evan Altman “Don’t be surprised.” It will be exciting to see what he can do when he is ready.
Ryan Williams flew through South Bend and Tennessee in 2015, but has missed two straight years with shoulder issues. I really liked his tenacity and his ability to control the zone as a starter. He’s never really had a chance to get it going at Iowa as a result of the injuries, and I don’t know whether he’s going be down in the bullpen or if the Cubs will let him be a starter again.
I remember seeing reliever Tommy Nance for the very first time in Clinton, Iowa when he pitched for South Bend. You could just hear the opponets’ bats cracking or splintering consistently. He can throw in the mid to upper 90s, but he sits comfortably at 93 with a hard sinking fastball that reminds me of former Diamondback Brandon Webb. If I could actually hit his pitches, my hands would be numb for a week after making contact. Hopefully he can return to normalcy this season.
Jake Stinnett missed four out of five months last year and was relegated to working out of the bullpen upon his return. He had more success as a reliever than as a starter and he continued his rebirth in the Arizona Fall League. He could be a possible piece this summer as a reliever.
Carson Sands missed most of 2017 after having bone spurs removed from his elbow. He did not look comfortable on the mound, especially when a man got on base, and was shut down after a just a few weeks at South Bend and Eugene. Ideally, he can return to the form he displayed in April and May of 2016 before the elbow issues began.
Tommy John surgery could not have come at a worse time for catcher Gioskar Amaya. He was getting ready to play AA baseball and he now could be heading back to the infield after spending three summers catching. He could be slated for Tennessee once again, but I’m interested to see what position he will play this summer and at what level.
Erick Leal missed all of 2017 and I’m unsure what role the 6-foot-3 right-hander is going to have this year. He could start, piggyback, or relieve depending on his arm and recuperation rates. I really enjoyed his 2016 season at Myrtle Beach (3.23 ERA in 92 IP) as he used solid command of a low 90’s fastball. Leal is rostered with Tennessee and should be competing for one of five spots in the rotation.
At one point, Keith Law ranked Carlos Sepulveda as one of the top 10 second baseman in the minors. After fighting through an injury for most of April last year, Sepulveda was shut down for three months before returning to rehab in the Arizona Rookie League. I am hopeful that he will be at Tennessee to open the season, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. Because he didn’t really do very well at Myrtle Beach when he was there, I wouldn’t be surprised if he begins the year back in South Carolina for at least a month.
Will Remillard came back last August and just destroyed the baseball for a month, showing no ill effects from missing two-and-a-half seasons because of two Tommy John surgeries. I love his leadership behind the plate and his ability to manage a staff. His arm looked great and I think he is ready to go, but he could end up anywhere in the system.
All of these prospects were in the Cubs’ top 30 — or even top 10 — at one point in their respective careers, so their resurgence will absolutely boost the system. How quickly and to what extent, though, may not be known for quite a while.
I will have part two of this series next week as I look at seven players who will try to overcome disappointing or uneven performances at Tennessee and Iowa.