Kane County was the only Cubs minor league affiliate not in contention for a playoff spot during 2013. The Cougars finished 55-80 and were 11 games out of the top spot in the first half (30-36) and finished 22.5 games behind when the second half ended (25-44).
There's only one way to put it, the team pitching stats for Kane County were bad. Last in WHIP and next to last in ERA, strikeouts, and runs allowed. They walked the third most hitters and the MWL scored 5.24 runs per game against Cougars. The defense didn't help, 13th in fielding percentage at .966 and the backstops threw out 26 percent of base stealers, below the league average of 30 percent.
Kane County led the MWL in hitting in the first half but finished 6th at .259. The Cougars were 4th in slugging (.389) and on-base percentage (.334), and 5th in OPS (.723). Logic would tell you that KC would be among the league leaders in runs scored but that was not the case due to lack of speed and bad base running. They finished 13th, averaging 4.31 runs per game. They were last in stolen bases with 87 and were caught 57 times, the lowest SB rate in the league.
Here's a rundown of the hitters that stepped into the box.
Albert Almora didn't arrive in town until May 22 but made headlines going 14-26 (.538) in his first five games with five doubles and four RBI, making fans quickly forget about the broken hamate bone he suffered in spring training. Almora already posses the defensive skills to play the outfield at the big league level and showed the ability to hit low A pitching. What he didn't show, was the ability to stay on the diamond missing the final month of the season with a bone bruise in his groin. The 2012 first-round pick played 61 games for Kane County hitting .329/.376/.466 in 272 plate appearances with 39 runs and 23 RBI. The Cubs are sending the 19-year-old to the Arizona Fall League in an attempt to get some of those missed at-bats back.
Daniel Vogelbach proved he can hit with power and to all fields in his first full season, batting .284/.364/.450 with 17 HR and 71 RBI in 500 plate appearances. Vogelbach added 21 doubles and even swiped four bases. On defense at first, he logged 85 games with 54 assists and a fielding percentage of .986, making 11 errors. The 20-year-old earned a late season promotion to Daytona and was part of the D-Cubs FSL title team. He hit .280/.455/.440 in 17 games with 2 HR, 5 RBI and BB/K ratio of 16:13. Vogelbach, the Cubs second pick in 2011, is likely to start 2014 in Daytona and if he continues to hit, will be packing his bags for Smokies Park.
Rock Shoulders smacked 18 homers and drove in 74 runs earning mid-season and post season all-star honors. Shoulders was also named the Cubs Player of the Month in April after hitting .370/.457/.642. He spent a majority of his time as the designated hitter (57 games) but played at first (45) and both corner outfield positions (16). After the hot start, the 21-year-old (turned 22 Sept. 26) finished the year hitting .258/.352/.445 with 66 BB and 143 K. The left-handed power hitter should start 2014 in his home state with Daytona.
Jeimer Candelario had a quite season hitting .250/.346/.396, leading the Cougars in games played (130), plate appearances (572), runs (71) and finished third in doubles in MWL (35). Still only 19, Candelario matched his first two pro seasons in homers, hitting 11 with 57 RBI and showed great plate discipline with a 68:88 BB/K ratio. From the left side he hit .274 but 10 of his homers came as a right-hander. I was witness to his only left-handed homer, a bomb out of the park off Mariners' pitching prospect Victor Sanchez. Candelario is currently participating at fall instructs, where he needs to improve his defense, committing 26 errors and a fielding percentage of .925.
Like Candelario, Gioskar Amaya didn't tear up the stat sheet in his first full season hitting .252/.329/.369 in 117 games, 110 at second base. The Venezuelan appeared on several Cubs top prospect lists after a great season in Boise in 2012 (.298/.381/.496) but got off to slow start in MWL hitting .229 in April. It looked like he was turning the comer in July, hitting .319 as well as improving his walk and strikeout rates but that didn't last as the 20-year-old hit .167 over his final 22 games. Amaya also struggled in the field, committing 22 errors for a .959 fielding percentage. Despite the stats, I like Amaya after seeing him play this year. He has good hands at the plate and in the field. Reports out of fall instructional league are Amaya is catching, so a position change may be in his future. I still think he stays at second and starts 2014 in Daytona.
Marco Hernandez played 110 games for Kane County, 100 of them at shortstop as the 20-year-old (turned 21 on Sept. 6) hit .254/.287/.338 with 4 HR and 34 RBI in 443 plate appearances. He led the Cougars with 21 stolen bases but had a BB/K ratio of 16/72 and committed 29 errors (.939). Hernandez will most likely be promoted to Daytona but needs to have a better season to stay ahead of Carlos Penalver on the Cubs minor league depth chart.
Wilson Contreras' development as a catcher is still a work in progress as the 21-year-old caught 72 games but committed 18 errors and was charged with 19 passed balls. His season at the plate was highlighted by 11 homers, more than he had hit in his first four years of pro ball combined. The Venezuelan got off to a good start hitting .326 in April but finished the year at .248/.320/.423 in 310 at-bats.
Carlos Escobar, 22, caught 45 games for Kane County, second most on the squad, but only threw out 18 percent of base stealers (13-71). The 2012 15th round pick hit .237/.293/.387 with 4 HR and 23 RBI. Yaniel Cabezas served as one of the backup catchers for Kane County until June when he was promoted to Daytona, playing in 32 games. At Kane County, the 24-year-old Cuban hit .324/.361/.412 in 11 games and had a slash line of .237/.302/.278 for Daytona. Cabezas caught both no-hitters for Daytona. Neftali Rosario, 20, another backup catcher, played in four games going 2-9.
Not sure anyone had Oliver Zapata playing the most games in center for Kane County when the season started but the 21-year-old did just that. In his second year in the MWL, Zapata improved slightly on his previous year hitting .240/.317/.372 with seven homers and 49 RBI.
Reggie Golden joined the Cougars at the end of May and played the second most games in the outfield for Kane County. A second round pick in 2012, the 21-year-old miss most of last year due to a knee injury. Golden hit nine homers in 233 at-bats but fanned 77 times and ended the year at .227/.282/.382.
Bijan Rademacher was one of five Kane County position players who got promoted to Daytona and helped the D-Cubs win the Florida State League title. With a lineup full "top-rated prospects," it was Rademacher who was named to the MWL all-star game hitting .303/.374/.378 in 55 games for Kane County. The former college pitcher displayed a strong arm in right field, throwing out seven runners. Rademacher continued to excel in High A, finishing with a slash line of .276/.338/.407 in 42 games.
Pin-Chieh Chen, 22, was back in the MWL for the second straight year, playing 44 games after hitting .259/.345/.347 in 127 games for Peoria. Chen is an under-rated defensive outfielder and a solid fundamental player. He hit 242/.346/.298 for Kane County before getting promoted to AA Tennessee for two weeks in June. Chen finished the year at Daytona and hit leadoff for the D-Cubs in the playoffs. In 51 games in the FSL, he had a slash line of . 281/.369/.351.
Trevor Gretzky spent the last two weeks of the season in Kane County and made the most of his opportunity with a four-hit game on Aug. 22 against Beloit and blasted his first pro homer on Sept. 1 vs. Peoria. He finished with a slash line of .306/.33/.408 and a BABIP of .400. Gretzky played 27 games for short-season Boise hitting .256.
Giuseppe Papaccio was the first 2013 draft pick (18th round) to reach Kane County as the Seton Hall grad played 37 games for Kane County after beginning his pro career in Mesa (9 games, 10-32). The 22-year-old hit .279/.331/.364, seeing time at second, third and short.
Jose Dore, 21, was promoted to Kane County after 29 games in Boise (.200/.284/.356). It was his third straight year in the MWL, spending the first two in Fort Wayne in the Padres organization. Dore played his first game on Aug. 1, hitting a homer in his debut and finished the season at .212/.274/.318 in 95 plate appearances.
David Bote came to Kane County after beginning the year in Daytona. He played in 17 games for the Cougars hitting .143/.311/.224 with 12 walks in 61 plate appearances. Bote went to Boise and had a solid season for the Hawks. Brad Zapenas, 23, finished 2013 in Kane County after spending time in Tennessee and Daytona. The middle infielder hit .255/.419/.319 in 17 games.
Chadd Krist, 23, and Wes Darvill, 21, each spent a month in Kane County before heading to Daytona, becoming starters on D-Cubs FSL title team. Krist caught 12 games, hitting .263/.417/.316 in just 48 plate appearances. Darvill played in 15 games, batting .347/.429/.469 with 23 total bases.
Trey Martin was cracking top 20 Cubs prospect lists at the beginning of 2013 but that all ended when the slick-fielding centerfielder had surgery to correct a reoccurring labrum problem in his non-throwing shoulder. The 20-year-old only played 11 games before the surgery, hitting .200/.286/.257. He has recovered from the injury and is participating in fall instructs.
Centerfielder Kevin Encarnacion made an impression when he arrived at the end of June going 8-20 in his first five games. The 21-year-old struggled in his next 11 games hitting .125 and was sent back to Boise. Cubs major leaguers OF Ryan Sweeney (1-4) and 3B Luis Valbuena (1-3 BB) played Aug. 31 in a rehab start before joining the Cubs on the Sept. 1.