Chicago Cubs: Duane Underwood

Checking in on intriguing Cubs prospects

May, 20, 2013
5/20/13
11:19
AM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert AlmoraUSA TODAY Sports, Icon SMIThe Cubs have plenty of promising position player talent in the minors with Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora.
The Chicago Cubs' minor league system has enjoyed a recent resurgence in the past two years. Going from an afterthought to one of the more talked-about farm systems in the game, credit goes not only to the current front office and senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod, but also to Tim Wilken, who was in charge of a very fruitful 2011 draft and is currently a special assistant to the president and general manager.

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With only six weeks of results in, outside of a major injury or a complete degradation of talent, a scouting report on any minor leaguer isn't going to be much different than what it was when the season started. However, it's never too early to check in with some of the more intriguing prospects in the Cubs system and see how things have gone thus far.

A few things to remember when reading this piece: This is not a top-10 list or even a ranking of any sort. It's just a quick glimpse at some players who range from superstar potential to role player. Trying to judge a minor league player on his statistics is a highly imperfect way of analyzing prospects. Minor league stats never tell the whole story. That's why, as always, much of the information provided here is gathered from discussions with scouts and front office members from around the league.

All statistics are updated through Sunday's games.

[+] EnlargeJavier Baez
AP Photo/Morry GashJavier Baez is batting .256 with six home runs and 19 errors at Single-A Daytona.

Javier Baez

Position: SS Age: 20 Current level: High-A Daytona

Baez came into the season as arguably the Cubs' top prospect and among the 25 best prospects in all of the minors. When it comes to power, Baez is near the top, with only Twins prospect Miguel Sano clearly ahead of him on the list. Scouts have also begun to come around on Baez's defense at short. Despite the fact that Baez has 19 errors early on this season, the number of people who believe he can stick at the position in the big leagues continues to grow. There are those who feel that when it's all said and done, he'll be a better option at the position than current Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.

However, Baez doesn't come without his issues. While a very exciting prospect, it's his aggressive, almost out-of-control style of play that is a concern. This is currently being displayed with his .256/.293/.475 line and most glaringly his 46 strikeouts and only seven walks in 174 plate appearances.

Baez has to learn how to slow the game down and develop an approach. Right now, the book on him is that a pitcher doesn't have to throw him a strike to get him out. To reach his potential, Baez must make adjustments, and the fact is that that process may take some time. The Cubs have the luxury of being able to be patient with Baez since they're not competing, and they already have an All Star-caliber player manning short on the big league roster.

The fact that Baez's early struggles were not unexpected, at 20 he's still young for the league and the Florida State League is known to be pitcher-friendly all make Baez's problems at the plate a little easier to swallow. As one AL scouting director said prior to the season, "It's OK if we see him putting up bad numbers at Daytona -- it's all part of the process." Baez's disappointing start isn't something to get riled up about, but how he reacts and adjusts to these issues in the coming months will tell us a lot about his future.

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Cubs have top 20 picks under contract

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
2:42
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Cubs announced Friday that second-round selection Duane Underwood is now signed, meaning that all of their top 20 selections are now under contract.

The right-handed pitcher actually agreed to his deal last week and it became official Friday after the results from his physical exam were complete.

Baseball America reported that Underwood signed for $1.05 million. The value of the No. 67 spot where he was selected was $769,600, but Underwood had a commitment to attend the University of Georgia.

Underwood has a fastball that can reach above 95 mph at times with a solid curveball.

The deadline for signing drafted players is 4 p.m. CST on Friday. The Cubs are not expected to sign anybody else from their 2012 draft class. The highest selection that has not signed is 19th-round pick Damek Tomscha, an infielder from Iowa Western Community College.

The Underwood signing means the Cubs have come to terms with 29 of their 42 selections. First-round selection Albert Almora, a high school outfielder from Florida, came to an agreement on a $3.9 million deal earlier this week.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.280 11 52 41
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 20
RBIS. Castro 52
RA. Rizzo 59
OPSA. Rizzo .892
WJ. Hammel 8
ERAJ. Samardzija 2.83
SOJ. Hammel 104