A look at Mesa’s season in the Arizona Rookie League

Isaac Paredes, Gustavo Polanco and Eugenio Palma all earned post-season honors while the Cubs reached the post-season.

The Arizona Rookie League serves several purposes during a season—developing young talent, some their first time stateside; serve as a clearing house for the Cubs new draft picks; and assist in getting injured minor leaguers healthy and back with their teams. This year was no different.

The Season

Cubs got off to a slow start and after falling 4-2 to the White Sox on July 13 were 8-10. They closed out the first half by winning eight of their final 10 games to finish 16-12 and one-game ahead of the A’s for the first half title. They never got going in the second half and after losing seven of eight, finished 12-16 for fifth place. In the single elimination playoffs, the Cubs were held to four hits and fell to the Mariners 4-0. 

Position Players

The Cubs used 22 position players during the year, all young prospects, including seven from the 2016 draft class.

Isaac Paredes, SS—The 17-year-old’s first pro season started in Mesa and ended in the Midwest League playoffs. After hitting .305/.359/.443 with a team-high 26 RBI, the Mexico native was promoted to South Bend for the final three games of the regular season and the post-season. Parades was named to the AZL post-season all-star team and is participating in fall instructs.

Gustavo Polanco, C/1B/DH—Named an AZL post-season all-star, the Venezuela native earned the honor with his bat, hitting .322/.351/.390 with a homer and 22 RBI in 46 games. The 19-year-old only played eight games behind the plate and threw out seven of 14 runners although he did commit four errors and allow four passed balls. The second-year pro earned a invite to fall instructs.

Luis Ayala, OF— After two seasons in the VSL, the 20-year-old had a solid stateside debut, batting .283/.330/.369 with 26 runs scored and a team-high 19 stolen bases. The Venezuelan native is currently at fall instructs. 

Kevin Zamudio, 1B/3B—Signed as part of the IFA 2015 class, the corner infielder led the Cubs with four homers and knocked in 23 runs while slashing .237/.291/.421 in 45 games. The Mexico native tied for the team lead with 14 doubles and his 48 K led the team.

Ruben Reyes, OF—Another Mexico native that made his pro debut in Mesa this summer, the 20-year-old hit .245/.276/.294 over 42 games with 16 runs scored and 11 knocked in. 

Jhonny Pereda, C—In his fourth year with the Cubs after signing in 2012, the 20-year-old compiled his best season   with a slash line of .289/.376/.406—all career-highs. The Venezuelan native added 23 RBI and earned an invite to fall instructs.

Yohan Matos, OF—Signed as part of the vaunted 2013 IFA class that included Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez, Matos started his career as a catcher but moved to the outfield in 2016 and hit .241/.346/.343.

Jhonny Bethencourt, 2B—The Venezuelan native made the jump for the VSL to the Arizona Rookie League and hit .235/.353/.313 in his stateside debut. The 19-year-old appeared in 39 games, splitting his time between second, short and third.

Rafael Mejia, 3B—After a solid debut season in the DSL last year, Mejia struggled with AZL pitching, hitting .203/.226/.313 in 36 games. The 18-year-old fanned 34 times, only drew three walks, and was charged with 20 errors at third. Mejia signed for a reported $250,000 in 2014 and is participating in fall instructs. 

Edgar Rondon, IF—After slashing .322/.437/.466 in the DSL in his debut season, Rondon didn’t have the same success in his stateside debut, hitting. 247/.358/.292 in 34 games. Made 31 starts at second with a .934 fielding percentage.

Jose Gonzalez, OF—The 20-year-old spent the first two months in Mesa (.122/.194/.133, 25 games) and was then sent to Iowa (.222/.222/.333) in early August and appeared in eight games. He finished out the year on Eugene’s title team, going 8-for-38 in 13 games. 

Kwang-Min Kwon, OF—After signing last summer out of South Korea for a reported $1.2 million, Kwon finally made his pro debut on Aug. 3 vs. Giants (0-for-2). In nine games with Mesa, the 18-year-old batted .267/.353/.333 and is currently back in Mesa for fall instructs. 

Carlos Diaz, C—Signed as an undrafted free agent in  August out of Jackson State, Diaz was 4-for-33 in nine games after turing pro. The 21-year-old earned an invite to fall instructs. 

Erick Gonzalez, C—The catcher appeared in five games in Mesa before being assigned back to the DSL for the rest of the year.

Draft picks

Michael Cruz, C—The first player to sign from the 2016 draft class, the seventh-round pick made his pro debut June 22, going 1-for-3 with a RBI against the D-Backs. In 40 games, the left-handed hitting backstop batted .237/.370/.331 with two homers and 15 RBI. The 20-year-old Puerto Rican native is currently participating in fall instructs.

Tolly Filotei, OF—The Cubs 38th round pick appeared in 24 games with a slash line of .176/.299/.179 with 10 RBI. The 20-year-old went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in his debut on July 25 vs. Brewers.

Zack Short, SS—The Cubs 17th round pick in June celebrated a Northwest League title in September. The 21-year-old made his pro debut for Mesa and in 14 games, hit .318/.500/.386. When Andruw Monasterio was promoted to South Bend, Short headed to Eugene and was the Ems starting shortstop for their title run. In 39 games in the NWL, he only hit .236 but sported a .401 OBP. Short got an invite to fall instructs.

Delvin Zinn, IF— Drafted by the Cubs for the second straight year, the 19-year-old appeared in 11 games after signing (.182/.206/.212). Zinn made his pro debut as a pinch-hitter and collected his first pro hit off former Cy Young winner Zack Grienke of Arizona. The Mississippi native was invited to fall instructs. 

Zach Davis, OF—Currently participating in fall instructs, the 22-year-old 32nd round pick out of Texas Tech made his pro debut July 13 vs. White Sox (0-for-4, 1 RBI, 2 K).  In six games, Davis went 3-for-16.

Connor Myers, OF—The Cubs 27th round pick out of Old Dominion made his pro debut (0-for-4) on July 3 vs. A’s and a week later was headed to Eugene (10 games, .265/.366/.382). Myers finished the year in South Bend and started in center (34 games, .221/.258/.344, 3 HR).

Samuel Tidaback, C—The Illinois native was the Cubs 21st round pick and made his pro debut July 3 vs. A’s (0-for-3, 2 K). Tidaback only played two more games in Mesa before heading to Eugene. A short three-game stint to South Bend was part of his debut season and he ended the year back at Eugene for the playoff run. Between the three levels, the 22-year-old hit .219/.268/.370 with a homer and nine RBI in 73 at-bats. Currently in Mesa for fall instructs.

Pitching Staff

As you can imagine there was a pile of arms that saw action in Mesa this summer. I broke them into starters, bullpen, draft picks, rehabbers and free agents. 

Starting Rotation

Javier Assad—The ace of the Mesa staff, the right-hander made seven starts during the regular season and got he ball in the Cubs 4-0 playoff loss, surrendering four runs in one frame. The first year pro from Mexico went 2-2 with a 2.87 ERA, 37.2 IP, 13 BB, 42 K, 1.38 WHIP. Assad is back in Mesa for fall instructs. 

Pablo Ochoa—The 18-year-old left-hander started the season in the DSL but after three games (0-1, 8.53 ERA, 6.1 IP) was promoted to Mesa and appeared in 12 games, making six starts. The second-year pro from the Dominican Republic went 1-6 with a 5.79 ERA with a .339 BAA over 37.1 innings.

Junior Marte—Part of the 2013 IFA class, the 21-year-old has his roughest season, going 0-5 with a 5.77 ERA in  12 games, six starts. The 6-foot right-hander fanned 45 over 34.1 innings but sported a 1.49 WHIP.  Marte is currently in Mesa for fall instructs. 

Andry Rondon—After two years in the DSL, Rondon made his stateside debut and made five starts (12 games). Over 34 innings, the 6-foot righty went 2-2 with a 7.15 ERA and a .324 BAA.

Erling Moreno—Watched a lot of the Cubs pitching prospects this summer, the 19-year-old Columbia is near the top of the list. Only logging 16 innings his first two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, Moreno threw 32.1 innings for Mesa in six games and then help lead Eugene to the NWL title, going 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA in six starts (30.1 IP, 0.70 WHIP).

Jose Albertos—Signed out of Mexico last summer for a reported $1.2 million, the right-hander only made one start  (4 IP, 1 H, 7 K) and was shutdown for the season. The 17-year-old has been invited to fall instructs.

Bullpen

Eugenio Palma—The 5-foot-11 left-hander earned AZL post-season all-star honors after going 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 14 games. Spending his first two pro seasons in the DSL, the 19-year-old Venezuelan native tossed 42.1 innings and held AZL hitters to a .242 BAA while recording a 1.13 WHIP.

Yapson Gomez—In his fourth season with the Cubs organization, the left-hander led the pitching staff with 50 K and 43.2 innings in 15 relief appearances. The Venezuelan native went 3-1 with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP.

Jose Leidenz—Making his stateside debut in his fourth season, the 21-year-old righty appeared in 18 games—2-1, 6.55 ERA, 33 IP, 11 BB, 26 K, .338 BAA, 1.70 WHIP.

Luis Aquino—The former Indians farmhand led the Cubs with six saves, appearing in 19 games. In his second season with the Cubs, the Dominican Republic native went 0-3 with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP.

Jordan Brink—Started and ended the year with Mesa with a two-game stint in Eugene. In 10 games in the AZL, the Cubs 11th round pick in 2014 went 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA and 25 K in 20.1 IP. 

Enrique De Los Rio—The 21-year-old right-hander spent the first two months of short season in Eugene but was sent to Mesa for the final month of the season. In five relief appearances in the AZL, De Los Rio went 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA with 14 K in 13.2 innings.

Tanner Griggs—After serving a 50-game drug suspension, the Cubs 12th round pick in 2014 got back to the mound for six games with Mesa (1-0, 3.60 ERA, 10 IP, 10 K) and finished the season in South Bend (2-2, 2.67 ERA, 14 G, 30.1 IP, 7 BB, 27 K). 

Andin Diaz— The left-hander’s time in Mesa only lasted six games (0-1, 1.23 ERA, 7.1 IP, 7K) before he was promoted to Eugene. Diaz tossed 20 innings for the Ems with 23 K and a .237 BAA.

Ho-young Son—Signed out of South Korea as an infielder, Son made the switch to the mound in ’16 and appeared in   four games (1-1, 8.10 ERA, 3.1 IP, 3 K). Son is currently at fall instructs.

Draft Picks

Nathan Sweeney—The 19-year-old prep made five appearances after being selected in the 33rd round. The Colorado native went 0-1 with a 12.46 ERA in 4.1 innings.

Matt Swarmer—The 23-year-old from Kutztown University logged 18.2 innings after the Cubs selected the right-hander in the 19th round in June. Currently at fall instructs, Swarmer went 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA and 23 K and nine walks. Invited to fall instructs. 

Michael Rucker—The Cubs 11th round pick out of Brigham Young made his pro debut on Aug. 4 vs. the Padres, fanning two in a scoreless inning of relief. The 22-year-old appeared in five games for the Cubs, going 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 8.2 innings, 11 K. In Eugene he added four more scoreless frames and pitched in two playoff games for the Ems, fanning three in 3.2 relief innings. 

Holden Cammack—The right-hander out of Oral Roberts made his pro debut July 24 against the A’s, working .2 innings of scoreless relief. In seven games in the AZL, the Cubs 16th round pick fanned 12 over seven innings and held hitters to a .222 BAA. Invited to fall instructs.

Tyson Miller—The Cubs fourth-round selection led all draft picks with 28.2 innings between Mesa and Eugene. Miller made his pro debut July 23 and went three innings, allowing two unearned runs with two punchouts. After another three inning outing, Miller was promoted to Eugene and was 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA in six games, 22.2 IP, 4 BB, 14 K, 1.32 WHIP. Invited to fall instructs.

Bailey Clark—The Cubs fifth-round pick out of Duke only pitched in four games after signing, two in Mesa and two more in Eugene. Clark’s last start was Aug. 10 for the Ems. The 6-foot-4 right-hander recorded 13 K in 11.2 innings between the two levels.

Marc Huberman—The left-hander out of USC got the win in his pro debut on July 18, fanning two in a scoreless inning. After two more games in the Mesa, the Cubs 18th round pick was promoted to Eugene and went 3-0 with 1.72 ERA, 15.2 IP, 10 BB, 17 K, .185 BAA. Invited to fall instructs.

Colton Freeman—The left-hander from Alabama made his pro debut on July 25 against the Brewers (two runs in one inning). The Cubs 20th round pick appeared in four games for Mesa, allowing six earned runs in 3.2 innings with four punchouts.

Jed Carter—After making his debut in the Arizona Rookie League (3G, 3.1 IP, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K), the Cubs 15th round pick out of Auburn-Montgomery appeared in eight games for Eugene (3-1, 5.68 ERA, 6.1 IP, 5 BB, 11 K)  and tossed a scoreless innings of relief in the playoffs. Invited to fall instructs.

Dakota Mekkes—The 6-foot-8 right-hander made his pro debut in the Arizona Rookie League but after two games was on his way to Eugene. In nine games for the Ems, Mekkes went 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA and fanned 21 in 17 relief innings. The Cubs tenth-round pick out of Michigan State fired four scoreless frames in two playoff games and earned a save. Invited to fall instructs.

Duncan Robinson—The 22-year-old right-hander made his pro debut in Mesa on July 16 with a scoreless inning  of relief and was shipped to Eugene. Selected in the ninth round out of Dartmouth, the 6-foot-6 right-hander tossed 19.1 innings of relief over seven games, posting a 2-1 record with a 4.19 ERA. Invited to fall instructs.

Rehabbers and Free Agents

Stephen Fife—Signed during the off-season, the 29-year-old right-hander started the year at Iowa but ended up in Mesa after two trips to the DL. He returned to the mound in early August with two games in the AZL and returned for Iowa for the final four starts of the season.

Jack Leathersich—The former Met signed with the Cubs while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and worked his way to AAA Iowa. The comeback started in Mesa with 10 games (1-0, 1.13 ERA, 8 IP, 16 K) and then after 11 games in Tennessee (0-0, 3.48 ERA, 10.1 IP, 12 K), ended the year with five scoreless relief appearances in Iowa.

Brian Matusz—Signed by the Cubs in mid-June, Matusz made two starts in Mesa, then one appearance in Tennessee, and two in Iowa before getting one start for Chicago (3 IP, 6 ER vs. M’s on July 31). Matusz was sent back to Iowa, went on the DL and made two more starts in Mesa and one two-inning stint back in Iowa before season’s end.

Josh Conway—Started the year in AA but went on the DL in early July and headed to Mesa for rehab. Conway returned to the mound in late July for Mesa and pitched in four games for Eugene in August before returning to Mesa for one more relief appearance. The 25-year-old was the Cubs fourth-round pick in 2012 out of Costal Carolina.

Aaron Crow—After missing all of 2015, the 29-year-old signed with Cubs and appeared in three games in June in Mesa with three scoreless innings but didn’t appear in another game. He was assigned to Iowa on Sept. 7 after the season was over.

Oscar De La Cruz—Slowed by an army injury in spring training, one of the Cubs top pitching prospects made one start in Mesa (3 IP, 3 H 3 R 1 BB 2 K) before pitching for Eugene and South Bend. 

Erick Leal—With Myrtle Beach in 2016, the right-hander went on the DL in late July and appeared in two games in Mesa before returning with the Pelicans and making one playoff start.

Duane Underwood—Placed on the DL in early July, the right-hander started his rehab work in Mesa on Aug. 15 and also pitched for South Bend and Myrtle Beach, including one playoff game.

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