I thought it would be neat to review my critiques at each position that I made before the season. Let's see how wrong I was!
Beef Castle is the definite starter next year. He's projected by BJ to have a wOBA of .318. I like him a pretty good deal: his minor league numbers indicate that he is ascending, he improved over the course of the season, and his defensive game-calling abilities are vastly underrated and overreported. Not an area of concern. Steve Clevenger's projection seems incredibly optimistic. I'm not sure I expect an wOBA above .285-.290. If he does reach .310, he becomes a very useful backup/utility guy; it's also the only way he stays on the roster. Some people believe he played all of 2012 hurt, but that's either false or stupid (take your pick). Dioner Navarro is 5 years removed from being useful. He's the de facto backup, though he can't hit and can barely field so who knows how long it'll be until he's usurped by Clevenger or someone else.
All in all, a pretty damn fine job here! He ended up with a .328 wOBA, which is essentially exactly in line with his 2012 numbers. He cemented himself as a long-term solution at catcher. Clevenger was traded midseason. I missed on Navarro, as did everyone else. He played himself into a starting role somewhere else next year (but not here).
Juan Apodaca is a 26-year old journeyman who put up very nice numbers in AAA last year. He's been with 4 organizations and never reached the bigs. I don't understand why: he's not old, he's walked at every level, and the very few scouting reports I've seen on him indicate he's not terrible behind the plate. He's got low power, but that's no game breaker: he maybe deserves a backup role somewhere but it won't be with the Cubs – they released him last year (he's with the Rangers now). I include him only because he was the primary AAA guy this year: the other guy (that wasn't Castillo) was the abortiveBrian Esposito. I haven't seen his release notice on mlbtr so I assume he's still with the club: he's 33 and can't hack it at AAA. Blake Lalli was also booted. The Cubs had 4 primary catchers on the AAA roster last year and none of them will be back.
I was right. None of them were back, though Blake Lalli saw some time with the Rangers organization this year.
Michael Brenly is the "favorite" to break camp with the AAA squad (if Clevenger isn't waived, clears, and accepts). He is the son of Bob Brenly, which is the only reason he was drafted. Since then, he's been an unspectacular, slow-moving catcher. I have no reason to believe he'll ever contribute at the MLB level. Luis Flores put up a .572 OPS as a 25 year backup in AA last year.
Brenly left the organization not long after his father did. Luis Flores was as anemic as he ever was, this time as the backup in AAA. Progress!
Micah Gibbs might be a backup one day, maybe? He walks and he's not particularly old for his level (I mean, he's not a prospect level, but he's not completely worthless yet). He's got no power and for a 3rd rounder has disappointed. Se la vie…Chad Noble was so bad last year that I couldn't even include him on this list. Rafael Lopez is too old for this level, but has been a solid performer so far. Catchers as a rule get a longer age-leash in the minors, so the book isn't entirely closed on him. He's got mediocre gap power, which for a catcher is pretty good.
Gibbs repeated A+, couldn't hack it, was released, and was picked up by the Royals, and he couldn't hack it there either. Chad Noble is org filler. Rafael Lopez acquitted himself quite nicely in AA this year, picking up an ASG nod and a .344 wOBA. He'll be the full-time catcher in AAA next year, and he's got potential as a major-league backup.
Yaniel Cabezas had an OPS under .550 and thus didn't qualify for my list, because he isn't a baseball player. Sergio Burruel has youth on his side, but he's been in the organization for 4 years and has never slugged above his OBP. Chadd Krist inexplicably sounds like the name of a porn star to me. He had a very nice season in 2012 and should start the year as the A starter, or maybe the A+ co-starter.
Cabezas was much better this year, but still really bad after a promotion to Daytona. Burruel went to the Mexican League. Chadd Krist had a nice season, and was the A starter AND A+ co-starter.
Willson Contreras is young and adequate at Boise this year. He also had a 47% CS last year, which is probably unsustainable. He's been in the organization for 4 years and has always been average to middling with the bat, but that's no dealbreaker at all. Lance Rymel was a 28th round draft pick in the 2012 draft and got embarrassed in his 25 games. His BABIP was under .200 so he's a fair bet to look better next year, but he has some definite work to do if he wants to stick around. Carlos Escobar is another 2012 draftee (15th), and he acquitted himself quite well. He'll be 22 next year, and should grab the bulk of the starts for the club next year if not promoted to A outright.
Willson Contreras broke out this year, with a .341 wOBA in 345 PA at A. His CS went down to 30%, but that's still a fine number. Lance Rymel was much improved but still nothing special. Carlos Escobar did adequately in a timeshare with Contreras, but he probably got more time than he deserved due to being a 2012 draftee.
Justin Marra is become Youkilis, destroyer of pitchers with poor control. He got a late start to his career after being drafted in 2011, but embarrassed the rookie league much like Vogelbach did (albeit in a much different way). He had a .397 BABIP, so he's a serious regression candidate (as is the fact that he very likely just took the walks given to him), but you couldn't ask much more from a guy in his first taste of baseball. Hits doubles, and walks, what's not to like? Alberto Mineo is 17 and has 62 career PA. I'd be lying if I told you I knew anything about him.
Marra battled injuries and ineffectiveness early on this year, but rallied to hit .224/.313/.482 with 6 HR in 96 PA. That was on the back of a .265 BABIP, also. He'll be the full-time starter at C if I'm not mistaken with an opportunity to really impress. Alberto Mineo had even less PA than last year.
I'm not going to do FRk, because it's so far from my periphery.
The Cubs don't have any real breakout candidates anywhere near ready to hit the majors. Depending on how you feel about Clevenger, you might not even have great depth at the major league level. I think that there are a few fringey-prospects in the deep minors (Marra, Escobar, Contreras) but absolutely no one that I'd feel projecting to ever start for the Cubs in the next 4-5 years.
All in all, I think I did a pretty good job. Contreras took a step forward, but there still isn't anyone really that close to being a game-changer at the MLB. Fortunately, it doesn't matter, as Welington Castillo has been more than adequate over the past 2 years.