2013 Cubs Prospects in Review: Zeke DeVoss

zeke-devossZeke DeVoss turned 23 in July and he played the entire season at High A Daytona. He's right handed, switch hits and moved to CF this season. 2nd base had been his position until 2013. As you can tell by the image at the right, he's a little guy. He's 5-10 and weighs 175 pounds. He was drafted out of Miami in the 3rd round in 2011. He was one of several overslot signing by the Cubs that year and his bonus was half a million dollars. He turned down a signing bonus with the Red Sox in 2009 out of high school (38th round pick). He made a wise choise.

Performance

Zeke DeVoss isn't going to show up on any top prospect lists. He may not even appear in the Cubs top 30 (he wasn't last year). He won't hit for a high average (.257 in his career, below .250 each of the last two seasons). He has little power (12 home runs in 1296 career plate appearances). He'll even strikeout more than you'd like for someone without power who has speed. He does have speed, but why are we even talking about DeVoss if all of this is true?

It's easy. The guy can get on base even though he's not hitting his way on. He's taken 162 walks over the last two seasons. He's been at 80 or higher each of the last two years in a full season league. In the Florida State League, only one player had a higher walk rate than DeVoss' 15.2% (Robert Refsnyder 15.4%).  He had only a .246 batting average yet he managed a ridiculous .393 OBP (third in the FSL). As soon as he gets on, he can steal the next base. He stole 39 of them in 2013 and 34 the year before.

Word is that he became Tom Ricketts' favorite player after 2011 when he saw him take 3 walks in a game and took out the catcher in a home plate collision. I would imagine Ricketts has found another favorite player in the minor leagues and his name is probably Javier Baez, but that's a nice impression to leave the game with.

Overall in 2013, DeVoss hit .246/.393/.354. That was good enough for a .361 wOBA and 125 wRC+. Along with that and the 15.2% walk rate, he lowered his strikeout rate to 18.0%, stole 39 bases in 49 attempts and hit 6 home runs. His 12 home runs have come in the last two seasons. He also had 17 doubles and 5 triples.

The batting stats are very similar to the previous year at A level Peoria (the Cubs now play at this level in Kane County). In 2012 he hit .249/.382/.370. He stole 34 bases, had a .354 wOBA and 119 wRC+.

Scouting

There hasn't been a lot of information about DeVoss over the last year or so, but there is this from the two years ago.

The Red Sox made a run at DeVoss as a 38th-round pick out of high school in 2009, but he opted to attend Miami, then signed for $500,000 as a sophomore-eligible in the third round last summer. He has all the tools to be a leadoff hitter, most notably on-base ability and speed. He ranked fourth in NCAA Division I with 57 walks last spring, and he drew more free passes (33) than he had strikeouts (32) in his pro debut. A switchhitter, he's adept from both sides of the plate, though he won't hit for much power. He can run the 60-yard dash in 6.45 seconds and knows how to use his speed, swiping 16 bases in 20 tries as a pro. DeVoss split time between second base and the outfield with the Hurricanes, and Chicago deployed him mostly at second. He has the quickness for the position, and his hands and arm are good enough to keep him there, though he made 14 errors in 31 pro games. DeVoss has the wheels and instincts to handle center field if he can't cut it at second base. The Cubs aren't afraid to push players, so DeVoss could wind up in high Class A at some point in 2012. — Baseball America)

Getting on base and then using his speed is what DeVoss will have to do to stay relevant. I don't expect him to wow scouts or fans with anything other than those two skills. His speed should play well in CF and I seem to remember reading how fun he was to watch out there at some point this year.

Outlook

DeVoss will move to AA Tennessee next year and be further challenged. It's difficult for guys without power to show high walk rates, but his has been so high that I'm not as worried as I might be if it was only around 10-12%. DeVoss clearly has a good idea of what to swing at and what to take and that should pay off. The question is going to be whether or not pitchers at the higher levels begin to challenge him more than he's been challenged so far. There's no way to know at what ratio the strikes and balls are. It's very possible he's still a dangerous enough hitter that he's not being pitched to as frequently because of it. If that changes, DeVoss is going to have to hit for a higher average.

Even if he doesn't, he could still prove to be a bench player at the MLB level. His walk rate actually increased over A ball. Considering there doesn't seem to be much difference in walk rates between A and High A, that's a promising improvement.

2013 Cubs Prospect Reviews

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