Nico 2018 SB

Cubs’ AFL Prospects Give the Brass Plenty to Think Over

Nine Cubs prospects wrapped up their Arizona Fall League season on Thursday the 15th. It was a quick six weeks that Cubs management will probably use to make some decisions in the next week about the 40-man roster, certain players’ place in the system, and those players’ value going forward into 2019.

Here are some things that the Cubs should’ve learned about this fall’s six week session in Arizona.

Trent Giambrone can flat out hit. Going .348 with a .400 OBP in just 11 games likely turned a lot of heads. The Cubs probably thought he would do okay, but that kind a performance moves Giambrone ahead on the list to get to Chicago. Add in the facts that he hit 17 homeruns at Double-A in 2018 and will be playing in some hitter friendly parks in 2019, and things are looking up for Trent.

Jhonny Pereda’s performance was solid and steady, but not eye-opening in just eight games. Pereda will likely go unprotected and unpicked for this year’s Rule 5 draft. However, that is this year. Pereda should be able to hold his own at Double-A next year and his experience in the fall league will help move his career forward. We’ll probably be having a Rule 5 discussion about him again next fall.

DJ Wilson and PJ Higgins never really seemed to click at the plate and that was a little disappointing. Then again, they can hopefully learn something from the experience as both have a pivotal year coming up.

Bailey Clark came out on fire the first half and made the All-Star team, throwing 95 mph. He slipped a little in the second half, but he definitely raised his stock in the system. He should be a Double-A to begin next year and will probably work his butt off again this winter like he did last year.

Manny Rondón also had his moments this fall where he looked to be a guy reborn as a reliever. I am interested to see where the Cubs use him next year.

The fact Justin Steele is even pitching this year is pretty impressive. After undegoing Tommy John surgery in August 2017, Steele was someone I didn’t expect back this year except in a relief role. Instead, he came back pitching like a man with his hair on fire. He sat 95 regularly and was going five innings consistently. I’m excited to see what he can do next year at Double-A and hopefully Triple-A later in the season. He’s not that far away from Chicago.

Erick Leal had a dominant fall with 17 straight scoreless innings. Then in his last start, he gave up the farm, but still had an ERA in the twos. As a result, his brilliant curve might be enough to get him a 40-man spot (along with Justin Steele) come November 20.

The question I want answered at the Cubs Convention in January: Where is Nico Hoerner going to begin 2019? Will it be in Myrtle Beach or Tennessee? Based on his AFL performance, Tennesee has to be a strong consideration. Then again, Hoerner has to be tagged to appear in spring training with the major league club. That performance, along with three more months of training, will have more to do with his placement than his AFL experience.

However, Hoerner’s AFL trip doesn’t hurt. Hoerner did not seem phased at all by the elite competition in the Arizona Fall League. He adjusted, he adapted, and he gained the admiration of his teammates for his work ethic. I like the fact that he hit the ball with authority to all parts of the ballpark. The thought of him playing in Chicago fairly quickly has to be sitting in the back of everyone’s mind. How fast he can get there might be in the front of the minds of some important decision makers.

Lead Photo of Nico Hoerner courtesy of Todd Johnson

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