The Cubs’ short-season rookie team in Mesa began playing in the Arizona Complex League on June 28 and two Cubs teams begin Dominican Summer League play on Monday. Combined, those three new teams are going to feature several players who could possibly break out through this summer and early fall. Prospects Cristian Hernandez and Reggie Preciado already were mentioned in previous stock watch articles but there are several names that you should check out the rest of the summer.
Just remember that the stats really don’t matter much. How they do in Arizona or the Dominican is not a prerequisite to advance to the next level, nor is it a harbinger of future success moving forward. There have been plenty of prospects who’ve been great at one level only to flame out at the next, or who’ve looked lost before figuring things out at a later date.
One player who seems to be figuring it out early is outfielder Owen Caissie, a 2020 second-round pick of the Padres who the Cubs acquired last winter. His mix of average, power, and plate approach produces a hitting profile the Cubs don’t have a lot of in their system. In six games, he was hitting .313 with a .560 OBP thanks in part to nine walks. The power has not shown up in full force yet, but it will in time.
As for some other players you could possibly invest your hopes in, we’ve broken them down into three categories.
Felix Stevens is a 21-year-old outfielder the Cubs signed out of Cuba a couple of years ago. He played in the Dominican in 2019 and had a really good last month of the year, ending the season with a wRC+ of 138. Because of his age, I didn’t know if he would make it to Myrtle Beach this year, but he’s been tearing it up in the Arizona Complex League so far. He is slugging .773 in six games and has played a mix of outfield and first.
This is Felix Stevens, a Cubs 2018/2019 signing out of Cuba. He’s a massive 21 yr old RF, who had an XBH more once every 9.5 PA in DSL last year. His invitation to Instructs this fall signals the Cubs are high on him. If the swing and miss can get to tolerable place, watch out. pic.twitter.com/CpHLLKxLv6
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) October 19, 2020
Then there’s Brayan Altuve, who will be debuting in the Dominican. He’s an athletic catcher signed in 2019 and he has not had a chance to play yet. He’s only 18 and I was a little surprised that he was sent to the Dominican, but only mildly considering the catching depth the Cubs already have stateside.
Miguel Fabrizio is a 20-year-old catcher from Venezuela who played in the DSL in 2019 and who is now with Mesa in Arizona. He is just demolishing baseballs right now, hitting .545 with eight RBI and a 1.373 OPS in six games.
Have Your Money Ready
When the Cubs signed outfielder Daniel Ferreira back in January in international free agency, I just loved his swing. I think he’s going to be a guy that you can watch and be ready to invest in after just a few games. He has a very smooth swing that generates easy power, and he reminds me a lot of Brennen Davis in that his hands are so quick to the ball.
If you like Yohendrick Pinango, who is killing it for Myrtle Beach this summer, you’re going to want to invest in an outfielder Oferman Hernandez. He was also signed in January and I’ve been watching him work out on Instagram. He does a lot of soft toss and tee work, but he also uses an old tractor tire and he’s been bulking up quite a bit this past six months. Keep an eye on him.
The final hitter in this list is another man-child, Raino Coran from Curaçao. I see dingers in his future in the Dominican this summer.
Investing in pitching from either rookie league is a huge risk and the Cubs’ system has been littered with arms who pitched well early before faltering at either Eugene or South Bend. A good ERA in the Dominican or Arizona is just that, a good ERA there and nowhere else. It is neither predictive nor a prerequisite for future success.
That said, it’s helpful to get a look at some of these pitchers in live competition. Some quick names for you to jot down now before they begin moving through the system are 2020 draft picks Luke Little and Koen Moreno (who have yet to pitch in 2021); 2019 draft picks Porter Hodge, Tyler Schlaffer, and Johzan Oquendo; 2018 international free agent Joel Machado; and 2017 IFA Luis Devers.
All of these kids are in Mesa and are going to go through some ups and downs and they develop and get used to playing at this level. Schlaffer, Machado (who I really like), and Devers have had some success this season.
Joel Machado is making his debut in the Arizona Rookie League. 4 IP, 4 Ks, 1 Run. Signed as an IFA in 2018 but missed all of 2019. He's filled out some since. pic.twitter.com/vrpnDSmnb4
— Todd ⚾️🐻🦌 (@CubsCentral08) July 3, 2021
The Cubs have gone heavy on prep pitchers over the last two drafts and the lost year in the minors really set back what was already going to be a lengthy development process. That path begins in earnest for a lot of these guys right now, so it’ll be great to see how they react in their first taste of professional competition.