Most breakouts occur at the lower levels of the minor leagues as a little-known prospect begins to let his talent shine for all to see. In the first half of 2017, this is mostly the case for the Cubs organization. Several prospects are putting together some eye-popping performances, a few of which are somewhat out of the blue. Many of them are showing that they could be assets at the MLB level.
Charcer Burks – OF – He has been outstanding as the leadoff hitter for Tennessee, hitting .314 with a .412 OBP. I don’t think Burks is in Tennessee much after the All-Star break. If he can add some more power, I wonder if he’s actually a lot closer to Chicago than anyone thinks. Add in his Gold Glove defense and he is becoming someone to think about at the next level.
Zack Short – SS – He reminds me a lot of Mark Zagunis. Short leads the Midwest league in walks (49) and put up an on-base percentage of over .400. Once he went into the leadoff spot, South Bend took off.
Wladimir Galindo – 3B – I have always been intrigued by Galindo’s power potential. This year, he showed he can hit for average, batting .290 with 4 HRs and 19 RBI before a broken leg ended his season. He will be back next year.
Jason Vosler – 3B – Hitting 12 home runs will get anyone noticed. Add in a .400 OBP at AA and you have Jason Vosler in 2017. He already tripled his HR output from last year and needs 2 RBI to equal last year’s mark there. He has a smooth, quick stroke to the ball and hits lefties (.305) better than righties (.257). That’s not a skill you see everyday (except with Anthony Rizzo).
Daniel Spingola – OF – He adjusted his swing a little bit to create more lift and that has made all the difference this year. He’s been the model of consistency and has hit between .280 and .300 each month
Bryant Flete – 2B – As the leadoff hitter for the Pelicans, he has made the team go. He has proven this year that he is more than just an organizational defensive player. Flete can hit and his average is testament to his hard work. He is stronger than people give him credit as he has 6 HRs to date.
Dillon Maples – RHP – It looks like he finally has it all together after five years. Maples carved up the Carolina League this spring as a setup man and then a closer. Now he is in Tennessee doing the same. I watched his curveball destroy several hitters’ will to live or even swing a bat. Maples confounded the Twins’ top prospect, Nick Gordon, so much that it looked like Gordon screwed himself into the ground swinging. Combined over two levels, Maples has struck out 50 batters in 34 IP. He’s basically become a fastball/curve reliever. His FB comes in at 96-98 and his curve is in the mid-to-upper-80’s at over 2000 RPM, per Pelicans broadcaster Scott Kornberg. Going forward, he needs better command of his fastball. If he gets that down, he becomes a power arm for the bullpen quickly. The curve, as it stands now, is magnificent and MLB ready and then some.
Duncan Robinson – RHP – He has a monster curveball and an upper 80’s/low 90’s fastball that runs in on the hands of right-handed hitters. He dominated the Midwest League, first in relief and then as a starter. I don’t know how long he’s going to be at South Bend, but I would say not much longer.
Michael Rucker – RHP – I really like what Rucker can do on the mound. He attacks hitters with a low-to-mid-90’s fastball all in the zone and rarely walks anyone. His ability to throw strikes inside has been the key. I wonder how long he is going to start this year versus being a reliever, as he consistently hits 95/96 in relief, which could change the conversation about his usefulness.
Dakota Mekkes – RHP – He was ungodly good for South Bend and his first two outings at Myrtle Beach followed suit. He still needs to cut down on some walks, but his deceptive delivery allows him to strike out batters at an exceptional rate.
Justin Steele – LHP – With 13 starts and a 2.32 ERA, it looks like Steele is finally putting it together. Over each of the last two months, his ERAs are 1.63 and 1.62. He has power MLB-type stuff and it looks like he his harnessing both the physical and mental aspects of the game. His WHIP is a little high (1.39), but he has been able to strand those runners on base.
Breakout Player of the First Half
Adbert Alzolay – RHP – He has been fantastic this year at Myrtle Beach on the strength of a fastball has been hitting 96 to 97 regularly. Most importantly, he is able to keep that up throughout the game, 6 to 7 innings deep. He’s struck out 67 in 70 IP with an ERA of 2.83. The three keywords to his success are: tempo, tempo, and tempo. There are other breakout pitchers who have put up better ERAs than Alzolay, but they lack the power fastball and, better yet, the efficiency to pitch 7 innings like a major league starter needs to.
While these performances have not taken place over a full season, they’re not flashes in the pan either. Though some have worked their way onto a prospect list or two, others above have not and they may never do so. However, they still have something to offer and their play is speaking volumes.