This was supposed to have been an interesting year for several Cubs prospects, some of whom were literally going to be playing for their baseball lives. Failure to produce at a relatively high level could have meant a release at some point in the season. That should still be the case, but every game carries even more important if and when the shortened season begins.
The biggest name on the list is Aramis Ademan, a former number one prospect in the Cubs system who went to Myrtle Beach two years ago as a 19-year-old. He struggled at the plate throughout 2018, but it looked like he had gotten over the hump with a good start last season. After hitting .269 with a .376 OBP over the first half in the offensively challenging league, however, he hit just .172 in the second half.
Ademan’s chances to remain with the Cubs are now growing fewer as he has players pushing him from behind, most notably Andy Weber, Pedro Martinez, and Luis Vazquez. Because Ademan still draws praise for his defense, plenty of hope remains that he can reproduce last year’s first half over a full season. He’s still only 21, but he will be Rule 5 eligible after this season.
Dillon Maples is going to be 28 years old in May and how much longer the Cubs hold onto him is anyone’s guess. The right-hander with wiffleball stuff just can’t seem to control what he is throwing to the plate. Some of that is psychological, as Maples has admitted to falling victim to self-defeat on the mound at times. Perhaps the organization’s revamped pitching infrastructure can finally get him to a more consistent level of production.
One future free agent who could bust through this year is Kevonte Mitchell, who has struggled at various points in his Cub career. He did hit 14 home runs at Myrtle Beach last summer, finishing strong by hitting .279 with three homers and 14 RBI in 20 August games. Known for his excellent work ethic and natural athletic ability, Mitchell should benefit from getting out of Myrtle Beach and into the more hitter-friendly environs of Tennessee.
Wladimir Galindo and Erling Moreno were both signed as international free agents in 2013 and both have had extremely bad luck with injuries. Galindo finished 2019 strong at Myrtle Beach hitting .260 with a .317 OBP in the second half. Moreno was often injured last year and might be back in the ‘pen with the Pelicans to start the year. Despite flashing plus tools at times, health is likely to be the determining factor here.
2020 looks like it could be a prove-it year for Jake Stinnett, the former second round pick out of Maryland. He struggled as a starting pitcher but has had his moments as a reliever when healthy. The issue for Stinnett is he has not been fully healthy for a couple of years now, which has kept him from making it as high as Triple-A Iowa. He’ll turn 28 in April and is quickly running out of time.
And that’s just a small sample of some of the bigger names. We still don’t know how the season will progress, but there are dozens more players who are scheduled to be MiLB free agents at the end of 2020. While things could play out in any number of different ways, this list from the The Cub Reporter reveals quite a few players whose careers could soon be at a crossroads.
Jason Adam, Carlos Asuaje, Dario Beltre, Corey Black, Bryan Brickhouse, Rex Brothers, Charcer Burks, Roberto Caro, Erick Castillo, Noel Cuevas, Oscar De La Cruz, Galindo, Eric Gonzalez, Luke Hagerty, Zach Hedges, Corban Joseph, Danny Hultzen, Rafelin Lorenzo, Luis Lugo, David Masters, Ivan Medina, Ian Miller, Jordan Minch, Mitchell, Moreno, Richard Nunez, Tyler Olson, Eugenio Palma, Jordan Patterson, Jhonny Pereda, Hernan Perez, Josh Phegley, Jordan Procyshen, Caleb Simpson, Brock Stewart, Stinnett, Jerrick Suiter, Matt Tenuta, Alexander Vargas, Jerry Vasto, Mark Zagunis.