Name: Carlos Penalver, SS
Age: 20 (5/17/1994)
Signed as a free agent on July 2, 2010, out of Venezuela for a reported $550,000. Scouted by Hector Ortega and Julio Figueroa
Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Low A (128 G, .211/.263/.270, 1 HR, 40 RBI, 21 SB)
The Cubs signed several Latin American teenagers in 2010 but none received more money than Penalver’s reported $550,000. The Venezuelan made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2011, hitting .272/.364/.341 with 21 SB in 72 games. He drew 35 walks and fanned 42 times. Penalver spent his first season stateside in the Arizona Rookie League in 2012, appearing in 49 games with a slash line of .273/.341/.322. After starting 2013 at extended spring training, the Venezuelan native earned Northwest League all-star team honors at Boise and was second in the league with 43 runs. Penalver finished with a slash line of .261/.338/.359 in 68 games.
Penalver was one of the key components in Kane County’s historic season, anchoring the infield with one of the top gloves in the minors. While the 22 errors may jump off the stat page, Penalver logged over 1,100 innings and possess a big league glove and arm at short. April was Penalver best month at the plate, hitting .261/.333/.330 but concluded his first full season with a slash line of .211/.263/.270. Kane County manager Mark Johnson said Penalver’s numbers didn’t reflect the type of at-bats he had during the season and a .262 BAbip backs up Johnson. Penalver’s dangerous when he gets on, swiping 21 bases, and scoring 55 runs. When the playoffs (seven straight wins) rolled around, Penalver stepped up at the plate, hitting .308/.367/.462 including a homer and three RBI. He capped off the year at fall instructs.
There wasn’t a coach on Kane County’s staff that didn’t think Penalver was a big league shortstop based solely on his defense. However, to become an everyday player, he’ll need to improve his numbers at the plate. Penalver should begin the year in Myrtle Beach but with the departure of Marco Hernandez from the organization, could finds himself in AA. The youngster will also be Rule 5 eligible at season’s end and with 40-man roster spots at a premium for Cubs infielders, may have an opportunity to catch on with another team in 2016. If the Cubs do package a group of youngster for pitching, Penalver could be included as team’s should value his glove and the North Siders have Gleyber Torres coming.