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Cubs Wed Jun 20 2012
The Kane County Cougars hosted the Midwest League (Single-A) All-Star Game last night with four minor leaguers for the Cubs invited, while only three played because of an injury to catcher Rafael Lopez. I was lucky enough to attend the festivities, and was able to get a small look at each guy.
Before getting to the scouting reports - it's important to note that an All-Star game, while fun to attend because of the bulk of prospects on hand, is a difficult environment to judge a player because it's not a real game, pitchers are only throwing an inning at most, and hitters are trying to muster some good cuts in an at-bat or two.
The three Peoria Chiefs players (the Cubs Single-A affiliate) aren't among the top twenty prospects in the organization, but that doesn't mean they won't see the majors at some point in the future. A mechanical change here, a positional change there, and these guys come out of nowhere all the time.
That being said however, each player has quite a ways to go before stepping onto to the field at Wrigley.
Paul Hoilman (1B) - The starter at first base for the Western Division, Hoilman plays first because of his mass (6'4", 230) and not because of his glove-work. Though he didn't get any ground balls, he wasn't able to scoop the only non-perfect throw after a great stab up-the-middle by shortstop Sean Jamieson followed by a throw that appeared to be a relatively easy short-hop.
At the dish, Hoilman is your typical 'Three True Outcomes' righty. He leads the league in strikeouts with 89 in just 269 plate appearances and his long swing is the obvious reason why. He saw just four total pitches in his two at-bats, resulting in a pop out and double play. At 23-years-old, he's the least likely out of the three to get to the majors because his massive strikeout rate (ask Brett Jackson about that) and lack of position not named designated hitter.
Zeke DeVoss (2B) - DeVoss came off the bench mid-game (an 18-2 drubbing won by the East I might add) and actually played right field, which is something he's capable of, but would never profile at in higher levels of the minors. He's a third round pick from the Cubs 2011 draft and actually fits the profile of a Theo Epstein draftee (the Red Sox drafted him in 2009, but he didn't sign). He's known for being a patient hitter (.372 OBP and 38 walks in the first half), but didn't get a chance to show off those skills in his only AB. He gave a fastball a ride to right field (he's a lefty), but it was slightly into a wind carrying balls out to left.
I wish we would've gotten the chance to see him play second, but in seeing his arm (not very strong) and speed (relatively fast) in the outfield, you can imagine he can hold his own at the easier position up-the-middle. At just 21-year-old, he'll probably make a 40-man roster at some point in his career, and a job as an everyday major leaguer isn't out of the question either.
Kyler Burke (LHP) - Burke was by far the most intriguing prospect of the three Chicago farmhands on display. He was drafted as an outfielder by the Padres in the supplemental round of the 2006 draft. After being dealt to the Cubs in the Michael Barrett trade, he failed to make an impact with his bat while toiling in the low minors. The Cubs decided to try him on the mound, and the results have paid dividends.
He's 24, which is pretty old for the Midwest League, but after pitching well in Low-A last season (2.86 ERA), he's continued his success on the mound with an invite to the All-Star game. Unfortunately, the lefty's performance wasn't up to his season's standard.
In just two-thirds of an inning (split over the first and second frames), Burke allowed five runs on three hits and three walks, and also let a pair of inherited runners touch home while qualifying as the worst performer of the night. His fastball didn't reach 90 on the gun, and his control was all over the suburbs in large part because his right foot lands well wide of the first base side of the rubber, making it incredibly difficult to locate pitches on the glove side of the plate.
The other Peoria player that would've made the All-Star team had he been playing there all year is 2011 first rounder Javier Baez, who's tearing up the league in his first 18 games with .317/.419/.556 line. Baez is playing shortstop, but he won't stay there long term, more than likely moving either to third (high probability) or an outfield corner (right field possibly) because he won't have the range as he grows into his body type. If there's a player to watch on the Single-A club for the rest of 2011, it's clearly Baez.