Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars which will appear every Monday. Each week, six of FanSided’s team blogs send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as these go on a five-week cycle.
Please note that any statistics used may be a day or two out of date, as we prepare our answers over the course of a week.
In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our Chicago Cubs blog Cubbies Crib:
Nathaniel says: Rosario, the Cubs’ sixth-round draft pick this year, already gets great reviews on defense even though he’s just days past his 18th birthday. In particular, he’s noted for his plus arm strength. The question is if he’ll hit, as even the strongest of defensive catchers have to at least show adequate offensive skills in the minors to get any sort of real look in the big leagues. Given that he’s just 18 and still physically developing, it’s difficult to say what sort of offensive production he’ll be able to muster. He’s off to a 13-for-36 start in the AZL, for what it’s worth.
At this point, I’d have to take Castillo and Steve Clevenger over Rosario as prospects—after all, they’ve proven they can hit in Triple-A, whereas Rosario has yet to show anything, and it’s not like Rosario’s draft spot really merits automatic insertion at the top of Chicago’s prospect heap. Castillo and Clevenger are six and seven years older than Rosario, though, so it’s possible that they could go on a long run as the Cubs’ catchers and be into their arbitration years before Rosario factors in at all.
The Cubs actually have a number of catchers showing offensive prowess in the minors. Castillo’s hitting .315/.376/.589, Clevenger has gone 25-for-61 (!) in his first 19 Triple-A games, and Luis Flores is slugging .663 (!!) in Double-A.
I’d rank Rosario over Gibbs at this point, though. Gibbs is a switch-hitter with nice plate discipline but no power who isn’t young for his level, and those sorts of players tend to get swallowed up in the upper minors. Look at Petey Paramore of the A’s, a very similar player, for an example.
So while he needs to prove something to become the team’s best catching prospect, Rosario is clearly the Cubs’ best catching prospect in the lower minors.
Wally says: I rarely put a lot of stock in how players perform in the Dominican Summer or Arizona Leagues, but hitting 0.367/.404/.612 in his first 11 games while transitioning to life as a professional is enough to get my attention. I don’t think we’ve seen enough to merit ranking him over any of the Cubs established catching prospects so he remains behind Castillo, Clevenger, Flores and Gibbs in my book. That certainly can change quickly and his age, early offensive returns and defensive reputation are enough to think he could easily climb to the top of the Cubs catching hierarchy in time. For now however, he gets an incomplete.