On Thursday, June 16 I was on hand to scout Midwest League action between the Lake County Captains and the South Bend Cubs at Four Winds Field in South Bend, Indiana. The Cubs won the game 5-1. You can see my notes on Cleveland prospects Francisco Mejia, Willi Castro, and Casey Shane here. In this piece we will take a look at three prospects in the Cubs system.
Eloy Jimenez: Signed for $2,800,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Jimenez is getting his first taste of a full-season league following an adequate, if underwhelming, showing in the Northwest League in 2015. At age 19, he is one of the youngest regulars in the Midwest League this season. John graded him at B- entering the year, noting his need to polish his offensive game and defense.
The first thing that stands out about Jimenez is his size. Listed at 6-4, 205 pounds Jimenez has broad shoulders and strong wrists that underscore his impressive present strength. Physically, he is a man among boys at this level.
There is no question that Jimenez's offensive game will be his calling card as he continues to climb the ladder. Through 65 games, Jimenez is hitting .341/.379/.535 which translates to an impressive 168 wRC+. His isolated power is .194 on the strength of 33 extra-base hits.
In this game, Jimenez showed his impressive offensive tools while going 2-4. He showed the ability to handle average velocity all night. His first-inning single was lined to left field on a 90 mph fastball on the inner part of the plate. In his second at-bat, he struck out looking on a well-located fastball on the outside corner after Casey Shane had pounded the inside part of the plate against him repeatedly.
In his third at-bat, he doubled inside the bag at third on a 91 mph heater. Despite breaking his bat, his impressive strength allowed Jimenez to muscle the ball down the line. In his fourth and final trip, Jimenez flew out to the warning track in left center field on a 90 mph fastball. This day was uncharacteristically cold for June with a game-time temperature of just 61 degrees and Jimenez drove this ball into a northern wind. On a different day, that ball likely leaves the yard.
Defensively, Jimenez has played 50 games in left field for South Bend and eight in right. He did not have much action in this game, but he has the physical tools to be an average corner outfielder.
It's worth noting that Jimenez has hit to a .421 BABIP so far this season. While some of that is no doubt a product of his ability to scorch the baseball when he connects, there is also some obvious correction coming in that department. His walk rate (5.8%) and strikeout rate (22.4%) are both reasonable given his age and level of competition, but plate discipline is an area of his development that bears monitoring.
There is much to like with Jimenez at this point. He has the potential to be an impact bat capable of playing solid corner outfield defense at the Major League level.
Donnie Dewees: Last year's second round pick out of North Florida, Dewees is off to a nice start in the Midwest League. Listed at 5-11, 180 pounds Dewees gets the most out of his physical tools. John graded the 22 year old center fielder at C+ coming into the season noting a good combination of speed and power.
Through 66 games, Dewees is hitting .259/.319/.420 which is good for 115 wRC+. John noted the need for Dewees to tighten up his control of the strike zone after an uninspiring stint in the Northwest League last summer. Dewees has showed considerably more polish this season with both his strikeout (11.1%) and walk (8.0%) rates moving in the right direction.
Dewees shows a swing geared for line drives. While he does not project to hit a ton of home runs, he is strong and can drive the ball in the gaps where his plus speed allows him to take extra bases. In his final at-bat in this game, Dewees lined a 91 mph fastball toward the line in right and hustled his way into second with a double. He also demonstrated control of the strike zone as he fought off several tough pitches before earning a walk in his second at-bat.
Defensively, Dewees showed the tools to continue in center as he advances through the system. His speed and hustle help make up for a below-average arm. He took solid angles, hit his cutoff men, and showed great effort on balls in the gaps.
While Dewees lacks the pure ceiling of Jimenez or right fielder Eddy Martinez, it is easy to see a Major League profile here. His plus speed plays well on offense and defense to go along with a solid hit tool. He appears to have a fairly high floor with the chance to develop into starter, or perhaps a quality fourth outfielder.
Preston Morrison: Morrison was an eighth round pick out of Texas Christian last year. After signing he made nine solid appearances including a 0.81 ERA and 30 strikeouts against three walks in 22.1 innings. He has had a solid first half with South Bend with a 3.32 ERA and 53 strikeouts against 20 walks in 59.2 innings. John gave Morrison a Grade C heading into the season.
Listed at 6-2, 185 pounds the lean right-hander works from an overhead windup, slinging the ball from a low, nearly sidearm slot. At age 22 he lacks physical projection. While his stuff is not overwhelming, he showed good poise and pitchability against younger competition.
This was one of Morrison's best outings of the season as scattered five hits and two walks over seven innings while striking out nine. His fastball sat 86-87 and was typically located well in the bottom part of the strike zone. He effectively utilized a low-80s change up with good fade and a mid 70s curve to keep hitters off balance.
Morrison fits the mold of a typical polished college arm feasting on players with less experience. His ability to keep the ball down while throwing two solid secondary pitches on a consistent basis has helped him generate two ground ball outs for every air out this season. His lack of pure stuff limits his overall ceiling, but he may still have his uses as a low-leverage reliever capable of working multiple innings and inducing grounders.