Duane Underwood, P
Age 19 (7/20/1994)
2013 Team: Boise Hawks, Northwest League, (SS)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking—# 36
How acquired—Drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft, # 67 overall
Prior to Cubs
Underwood dazzled scouts with a 97 mph fastball at Pope High School and hit .337 with 6 HR, 19 RBI, and 13 SB his senior year. On the mound he had a 2.36 ERA with 75 strikeouts. He participated in the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego where his fastball was clocked at 96 mph. Some draft experts had Underwood a first-round talent while others felt he could go in the third or fourth round.
Underwood had plans to head to University of Georgia as a two-way player for the Bulldogs but the Cubs used their second-round pick and over $1 million signing bonus to change his mind. Contract negotiations lasted up until the deadline and by the time he signed, the Arizona Rookie League was well underway. After several bullpen sessions, Underwood made his debut on Aug. 5 allowing a homer and four runs while facing five hitters. He ended 2012 with a 2.1 scoreless inning stint against the A's even through he allowed two hits and two walks. Underwood threw 8.2 innings with a WHIP of 1.50 but a BAA of .206 in his first pro season.
The Marietta, Georgia native headed to Boise after extended spring training and was second on the staff with 54.1 IP but many of those were painful lessons for the 19-year-old. He finished 3-4 with a 4.97 ERA, 1.64 WHIP and 4.5 BB/9. He allowed the most runs in the NWL and fanned six batters per nine. He recorded his first pro win July 15 at Hillsboro allowing a run in 5.1 innings, the longest outing of his career. He got the start in the Hawks division clinching playoff win over Salem-Keizer but only lasted into the second inning before allowing three runs on two hits, a pair of walks, and a hit batter.
Some scouts think Underwood has a top of the rotation arm citing the late action on his fastball, glimpses of a good curve, and a good feel for his change. They also believe he needs to transform from a thrower to a pitcher. Underwood should start the year in Kane County as he moves up the minors and embarks on his first full-season of pro ball. The right-hander won't turn 20 until July so he has time to learn his craft. Underwood has a 93-95 mph fastball but needs to command both sides of the strike zone and pitch ahead in the count.
Shamil Ubiera, OF
Age 21 (9/28/1992)
2013 Team: Dominican Cubs, Dominican Summer League, (R)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking—Not rated
How acquired—Signed as a free agent on Jan. 20, 2012
Ubiera made his pro debut June 2 and spent his first season in the Dominican Summer League, playing in 66 games. A 16-game hitting streak highlighted the season as he batted .297/.360/.450 with four homers and 14 stolen bases. Playing all three outfield position, Ubiera committed six errors and had eight assists.
The Dominican native improved his approach at the plate in 2013 as his walk rate improved while his strikeout rate dropped. He put up a solid slash line of .310/.375/.441 and continued to show power with four homers, 18 doubles and three triples in 68 games. He led the league with 56 RBI and also swiped 13 bases in 19 attempts. Ubiera spent the season in right field, but made five errors with three assists.
Concentrating their drafting efforts on pitching the past two years, the Cubs haven't signed an abundance of position players so several international prospects should get their shot this year. Ubiera's success with the bat the past two years could earn him a trip stateside this spring and a season in the Arizona Rookie League.