Two of the hottest prospect names in the Cubs’ system are pitchers Adbert Alzolay from Venezuela and José Albertos from Mexico. They are just two of many young arms set to burst upon the scene. This summer, the Cubs could have several more Latino pitchers make a name for themselves in Mesa, Eugene, and South Bend. Their talent could help reshape the farm system this summer.
Joining Albertos in South Bend will be fellow Mexican Javier Assad. Assad is an interesting arm because he, for lack of a better phrase, still has some baby fat. He’s not quite done maturing physically. His fastball can sit anywhere from 91 to 95 and he’s getting better command to keep it down in the zone. One thing I really like about Assad is that he does miss a lot of bats. Last summer, he struck out 72 in 66 innings in Eugene, and that rate improved as the year went on. Hopefully, his growth in 2017 foreshadows a big year in 2018. He’s made two starts for South Bend in 2018, pitched nine innings so far, allowed two earned runs, and struck out seven.
After missing all of 2016, Jesús Camargo returned to the Cubs organization and was impressive in several pitching roles for Eugene last year. He started, piggybacked, and was a long reliever at times. While he can sit 91 to 93 on his fastball, his best pitch is a diving change up. He struck out 73 in 60.1 innings to go along with a 2.39 ERA. He just turned 22 and he is currently in extended spring training, most likely as a precaution until it warms up.
Emilio Ferrebus just turned 20 in November. He began his Cubs’ career in the now defunct Venezuelan Summer League at 17 years old. It did not go well, with an ERA over nine in 10 starts. The 6’2″ right-hander made adjustments for 2016 and improved his ERA to 4.25, this time in the Dominican Republic. In 2017, Ferrebus put things together with a 1.53 ERA and 58 Ks in 64.1 IP. He only made 12 starts in the Dominican before he was promoted to Mesa. He is mature and calm on the mound and can throw in the low- to mid-90s. He made four starts for Mesa including one in the playoffs, and overall he struck out 12 in 17 innings and held opponents to a .207 average against.
Danis Correa is likely the next big pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system to break out. His fastball percolates in the upper-90s but his secondaries still need a lot of work. He came onto the scene a little bit last year in the Dominican Summer League and then got a couple starts at Mesa in late August. He held his own (2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings) and I expect to see him in Eugene this summer. At 18 years old, Correa, who is from Colombia, might be the most exciting young pitcher in the Emeralds’ rotation. With that live of an arm from only a 175 pound frame, I wonder if he’s going to stay a starter. Remember his name come June when Eugene begins play.
Another 18-year-old Latino pitcher is Didier Vargas from Panama. Expect to see him at Mesa this summer after an excellent 2017 season in the Dominican where he posted a 0.99 ERA. Some of his other stats are exceptional as well: opponents only hit .188 against him while he allowed just 6.2 hits per 9 innings, the lowest of all Cubs starters in the minors.
Florencio Serrano signed last summer as an international free agent and was ranked as high as #29 by Baseball America. The 6’1″, 180-pound righty can get his fastball up in the low- to mid-90s. At one point, he went to high school in Texas before going back to Mexico. Now, the soon-to-be 18 year old should debut in Mesa this summer.
There are several other Latino pitchers who could break out this year at Eugene or Mesa. Lefty Brailyn Márquez has all the talent in the world, but struggled with his command last year at Mesa but struck out 52 in 44 innings. He only walked 12, but opponents hit .257 off him.
Jesús Tejada, 21, is a 6’2”, lean righty from the Dominican who threw a no-hitter last summer in the DSL and had one of the best months of any pitcher in August with a 1.96 ERA in four starts with 26 Ks in 23 innings. He should be in Eugene this summer. He just arrived in Mesa late last week for extended spring training.
Eduarniel Núñez is someone I think every Cubs fan could should keep an eye on this summer. He has an electric low- to mid-90s fastball and is only 18 years old. He did not get a lot of work in in 2017, but he was outstanding in his small sample size in five August appearances in the Dominican Summer League (3.31 ERA with 14 Ks in 16.1 innings). He will be on one of the two Mesa rookie league teams in Arizona.
These guys are just tip of the iceberg. There will be more Latino arms who could make an impact this summer—many more now with two teams in Mesa.
I will be back next week with a preview of the hitters coming north.
Lead photo of Javier Assad by Rikk Carlson