Patrick Mooney has a great deal of information in his latest piece for The Athletic, including a discussion on how the Cubs are viewing Matt Mervis that very closely echoes what we’ve written here recently. Our focus for the purposes of this quick hitter, however, will be very positive updates on injured prospects Miguel Amaya and Ed Howard.
Amaya has been snakebit over the last few seasons and has logged only 264 total live plate appearances since 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, a dislocated finger, and a Lisfranc fracture in his foot. Even when he was able to play last season, he was limited to DH duties as the organization sought to reduce the strain on his surgically repaired right elbow. Now fully healthy, Mooney reports that Amaya will start catching bullpens this week in Mesa.
That is a huge development for both player and team, as Amaya is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster after Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart. With his 24th birthday still over a month away, Amaya is young enough to make up for lost time even at a position that requires more seasoning than most. He’s always been viewed as advanced for his age in terms of his receiving skills and the potential for plus offense is tantalizing.
Amaya will probably start the season back at Double-A Tennessee, especially since the Cubs have both Dom Nuñez and Luis Torrens to provide depth at Iowa, but a promotion to the big club isn’t out of the question. A more likely target is 2024, when the Cubs will be down to one big league catcher if they don’t exercise a $6 million club option for Gomes.
You certainly don’t want to predict any more misfortune for Amaya, but the Cubs have the safety net of that Gomes option plus Barnhart’s $3.25 million player option if the youngster isn’t ready for whatever reason. I don’t believe the team will need to use that emergency option, though, as I think Amaya will remind folks why he was a top-3 prospect in the system just a couple years ago.
The other bit of good news is that Ed Howard, who was previously said to be at a full-go for spring training, is expected to be ready to return to a minor-league affiliate at the start of the season. That’s much better than sticking around for extended spring training to continue ramping up. Howard was at South Bend for just a month before an injury while running to first resulted in season-ending hip surgery. He just turned 21 at the end of January and will likely find himself back at High-A, where he may once again be paired with Kevin Made on the middle infield.
This is the kind of stuff that adds just a little more context to the prospect rankings we’ve been covering lately because both of these players would probably be candidates for top-100 lists had they remained healthy.