Hottest Cubs Prospects in the Second Half, Part 2 – The Hitters
In the first half of this two-part series, we looked at the hottest pitching prospects in the Cubs system. This can be a challenging time of the season, but several young players are withstanding the grind and surging into the month of August. In doing so, they are raising their value in and to the organization. Now we look at the hitters whose bats are heating up as the summer drags on.
Bijan Rademacher – After a great April (.351), he cooled off through May and June before hitting 359 for the month of July. He was then promoted to Iowa, where he played five games in his first week. Rademacher has displayed some power, but nine home runs are not going to get you an everyday gig in the major leagues. [beautifulquote align=”left”]Nine home runs are not going to get you an everyday gig in the major leagues. [/beautifulquote]
Chesny Young – I could almost copy and paste from above because it is almost the exact same story for Young. He was the Cubs’ minor league player of the month for April but faded thereafter. In July, however, he put things back together and hit .2906 with a .400 OBP. I am interested to see how he does next year at Iowa, being that close to the majors.
Yasiel Balaguert – Balaguert has never met a fastball he didn’t like, and that’s especially true over the past month-plus. He won back-to-back Carolina League Player of the Week awards and hit .339 with five home runs and 28 RBI in July. In fact, at 16 home runs and 83 RBI with 30 games to go, it’s possible he could get to 100 RBI and 20+ home runs.
Charcer Burks – Burks began to step things up in late June and he ramped it up even more when Rashad Crawford left. Now batting leadoff, he is hitting .282 with an OBP of near .400 in his last 10 games at the top of the order for the Pelicans. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his resurgence has corresponded with a nine-game winning streak.
Jeffrey Baez – This kid tore it up in the second half as a leadoff hitter in South Bend last year. He is not hitting at the top of the order for Myrtle Beach, but he has warmed it up at the plate, hitting .323 with three home runs and 11 RBI over his last 10 games.
Matt Rose – I love to watch this guy hit. He has great balance in his swing and it shows in his feet. I know that sounds weird, but go watch some video and watch how his weight transfers perfectly from the back to the front. I also love how, when he was sent from South Bend to Eugene this year, he went down and worked his butt off and came back a better hitter within two months’ time. He’s hitting over .300 since his return and has been playing first and third base. Rose has also given South Bend some much-needed power behind Eloy Jimenez and Eddy Martinez.
Yeiler Peguero – When short-season A-ball began, he got off to a great start but cooled off. He’s a lot of fun to watch on the basepaths as he has electric speed, but that has not translated into stolen bases.
DJ Wilson – He began the year hitting leadoff for Eugene, but it did not go exactly as planned. He did show a nice approach but it just didn’t translate to hits. Since being moved to the number nine spot, everything changed and Wilson’s batting average went from .151 to .253 in two weeks. In addition to hitting for a better average, he has also been displaying some power. It started in batting practice, though he’s beginning to carry that over to the real game.[beautifulquote align=”left””]Pieters leads the Northwest League in stolen bases as a first baseman.[/beautifulquote]
Chris Pieters – He might be my favorite all-around player at Eugene. He’s a decent enough hitter with the potential for power, but he has speed for days and leads the Northwest League in stolen bases. In addition, he does not miss much with the glove at first. Yeah, you read that right: a first baseman who leads the league in steals. His well-rounded skills make him an extremely valuable commodity going forward.
Zack Short – I really like this kid. The Cubs’ 17th round pick in the 2016 draft, the Sacred Heart product has a short, quick stroke that has some lift to it. Even though he’s only hit one home run so far, he is showing that he can hit for average and get on base at an high rate. In Arizona, he hit .318 with a .500 OBP and he’s followed that up at Eugene with a .291 average and a .400 OBP. I think Short is going to be a fan favorite, as he perfectly fits the definition of a baseball rat. I cannot wait to see him next year in South Bend.
Michael Cruz – As the only position player the Cubs selected in the top ten of this year’s draft, Cruz got off to a rough start in Arizona. He’s been changing things around the past few weeks, though, and is hitting .353 in his last ten games (almost .280 for the year). I think he moves up to Eugene this year to DH, but I don’t know if he starts at Eugene next year or skips right to South Bend. My understanding is that he is in Arizona now to work on his catching more so than his hitting.
The last three and a half weeks of the season should be very interesting for these prospects. Usually, those who finish the season strong carry it over to the following year. With the Cubs only signing eight total position players from this year’s draft, it is extremely important that these prospects pick up the slack, so to speak. While only Wilson is considered an elite/top prospect, all of these players have attributes that can benefit the organization in some form if they continue on their current trajectories.