Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.
If you were perusing this series back in 2015:
The Riser: Willson Contreras, C: Our very own Carson Cistulli was all over Contreras like a fat kid on a Smartie this past season. The catcher came out of nowhere to become one of the Cubs’ more intriguing prospects. He significantly improved his plate discipline while moving up from A-ball to Double-A for the first time in his career. Contreras, 23, averaged a strikeout rate of about 20% between 2012-14 but saw it drop to just 12% in 2015. Not only that, he showed more pop and took more walks. With Kyle Schwarber likely relocated to the outfield from catcher for good, Contreras is the catcher-of-the-future in Chicago.
Now on to the new stuff:
First Taste of The Show: Duane Underwood Jr., RHP: Underwood Jr. is a bit of an enigma. He was a highly coveted pitcher coming out of high school but he’s battled injury, seen his stuff take a step back and questions have been raised around his effort/maturity. Still, he made it to The Show in 2018, albeit for one game. He’s athletic but he has a stiff delivery and could stand to use his legs more but that might also lessen his command/control. As with most pitchers, he’s at his best when he’s down in the zone and avoids the middle of the plate. His stuff is good but it’s not overpowering. Underwood Jr. might be better suited to relieving where he can focus on his fastball and breaking ball while perhaps adding back some velo on his heater.
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