amaya qc 2018

How Close Is the Cubs’ 2015 International Free Agent Class to Breaking Out?

In 2015, most of the Cubs’ top position player prospects reached the majors. The Cubs also began winning that summer, and the fortunes of the organization changed greatly. That same summer, beginning on July 2, the Cubs began signing what was thought to be a second wave of players who could possibly be their second group of core players to be available in 2020-2021. That would put most of them around 22-23 years of age.

Over the last year and a half, four of them were named at different points in time as the top prospect in the Cubs’ system by varying publications and blogs – Isaac Paredes got some love as number one after the Eloy Jimenez trade and before Paredes himself was traded.  Jose Albertos, Aramis Ademan, and Miguel Amaya were named as number ones at different points in time. Only in the last half of 2018 was there some consensus, as Miguel Amaya had a breakout power year.

In 2018, the former 16-to-17-year-old kids from 2015 turned 19 and 20. While international free agents do tend to take longer to develop, many of the 2015 signing class began to play at different levels throughout the states last year. Some made it to Mesa for the first time, while others popped up in Eugene, South Bend, and a few made it to Myrtle Beach and Tennessee.

As for the lofty expectations from their initial signings, things haven’t gone as planned. They are all developing at different rates. Some appear to be perpetually ready to breakout, while others have gone up and down and back up again. 2019 will be a telling year for this group.

The Big Guns: Miguel Amaya, Brailyn Márquez
Amaya looks to be on an MLB track as an everyday player. His defense, along with his power potential, propel him in that direction. However, Myrtle Beach is not known as a place where a lot of dingers leave the yard. As for Márquez, he definitely has the pitches needed to get to the pros. He just doesn’t have the ability to work as efficiently yet. Many times in 2018, he would tap out in the third or fourth inning. By the end of the year, he seemed to be working deeper and deeper into games. He’s a guy who could move quickly if he figures out how to be efficient.

The 2019 Breakouts: Faustino Carrera and Yonathan Perlaza
To be honest, I just love Faustino Carrera. He’s not a big arm in terms of miles per hour, but the dude just knows how to throw strikes to get guys out.  In the second half of 2018, he had a 1.63 ERA in seven games at Eugene. At 20 years old, he has command and control beyond his years, and he could do very well at South Bend with those two things. Meanwhile, injuries have held Perlaza back a bit. In 2018, the young infielder showed what he could do when healthy and that was to hit .317 for Cubs 1 in Mesa.

On the Cusp: Jonathan Sierra, Henderson Pérez, Orian Nuñez, Fernando Kelli, Aramis Ademan, Javier Assad, Mikael Aguiar
These guys are close to going over the edge and just busting out as prospects. Whether it’s the speed of Kelli or the power of Sierra, they all have something they need to work on in 2019. Cubs fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by catcher Henderson Pérez. He’s listed at 5‘9“ and 160 pounds. But that was when he was 16. He’s taking weight training to excess and has filled out rather nicely with some guns attached to the shoulders. While Ademan has flashed some outstanding defensive skills, his bat is lagging and could cause him to repeat High-A to begin 2019.

Waiting to Kick In: Eddy Martínez, Carlos Ocampa, Jonathan Morel
2019 will be Eddy Martínez’s fourth year in the system, and I don’t know how much more time the Cubs are going to give him to develop. I thought for sure Eddy would do better last year at Tennessee after a good second half at Myrtle Beach in 2017. He still has all the physical tools necessary to be a very good player; he just hasn’t put them together yet.

Special: José Albertos
Whether it was a case of the yips, something physical, or something mental, there’s no doubt in my mind that José still has high-quality stuff. The only issue is whether he can get it over the plate and down in the zone. Even when he was struggling at both South Bend and Eugene, he was still throwing 95 mph free and easy. However, it looked like he had absolutely no confidence whatsoever. And that’s damaging for a 19-year-old kid. Hopefully, the Cubs can rebuild him and get him back on track, as he has three elite pitches when he is on.

The key theme for 2019 has to be starting to fulfill their potential. There’s some immense talent in this international free agent class. Some of them have begun to tap into their potential and produce. Others have not. It should be interesting to see most of them play in full season leagues in 2019.

Lead Photo of Miguel Amaya by Todd Johnson

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