Chicago Cubs’ 2012 draft stock report: players up

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When Vice President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein, and General Manager, Jed Hoyer, assumed control of the Cubs in the Fall of 2011, they promised to exponentially improve the organization’s player drafting and development departments.  They pushed for better scouting, they promised to mine the entire world for International prospects and they demanded upgraded player training facilities and enhanced coaching and player development in the minor leagues.

It has been just over one year since Epstein’s and Hoyer’s and head of player scouting Jason McLeod’s first draft with the Cubs and a perfect time for us to chart the progress of many of the 40 players selected (some opted not to sign with the Cubs and to attend or return to college instead).  It should be noted that the true value of this draft will not be known for a few more years–no player from the 2012 draft has advanced beyond Daytona, the Cubs’ Advanced A Affiliate in the Florida State League.  We will first focus on players whose stock is rising based on their 2013 performance and then, in a separate post, feature those players whose stock is sliding.  Then we will draw some final conclusions.

Albert Almora:  Almora was drafted sixth overall by the Cubs in the 1st round.  Almora, 19, has played CF almost exclusively in his brief minor league career.  He hit a combined .321 last year for the Arizona Rookie League Cubs and the Boise Hawks of the short-season Northwest A League.  He added two home runs and nineteen RBI in 145 plate appearances.  This season, after a delayed start due to a hand injury, Almora has had a successful stint with Kane County, the Cubs’ Midwest League A Ball affiliate.  There, he is batting .330 with three home runs and 21 RBI in 221 plate appearances.  He is considered an elite defensive outfielder.  On the downside, he has just fourteen walks in 366 career plate appearances and nine stolen bases in fifteen career attempts.
Pierce Johnson:  RH starting pitcher Johnson was a first round compensatory pick for the free agency departure of 3B Aramis Ramirez following the 2011 season.  Johnson has advanced as far as any member of the Cubs’ 2012 draft class, earning a June promotion to Daytona of the High A Florida State League.  Like Almora, Johnson split last season between the Arizona Rookie League Cubs and Boise.  In six starts, Johnson, now 22, pitched a total of eleven innings, allowing fourteen hits and three walks, and had an ERA of 3.27 and WHIP of 1.545.  He struck out 14.  This year, between Kane County and Daytona, Johnson has made seventeen starts, producing a record of 7-6 with an ERA of 3.09 and a reduced WHIP of 1.298.  In 91 2/3 innings, he has allowed 89 hits and 30 walks and struck out 92.  In over 102 career innings, he has allowed just five home runs.
Paul Blackburn:  RH starting pitcher Blackburn, 19, was a first round compensatory pick for the free agency departure of 1B Carlos Pena following the 2011 season.  Blackburn pitched for the Arizona Rookie League Cubs in 2012.  He produced a record of 2-0 with a 3.48 ERA in nine games and six starts.  In 20 2/3 innings, he allowed 23 hits and seven walks for a WHIP of 1.452.  He struck out only 13.  This year, pitching for Boise, Blackburn’s numbers have improved across the board.  His ERA is 2.92 in six starts and 26 innings.  He has allowed nineteen hits and twelve walks for a reduced WHIP of 1.192 while striking out 25.  He has yet to allow a home run this season after yielding two last year.
Corbin Hoffner:  RH relief pitcher Hoffner, 19, was a fourteenth round selection last season.  He has had a successful two-year stretch since being drafted by the Cubs.  Last season pitching for the Arizona League Cubs, Hoffner appeared in seven games covering 12 2/3 innings and allowed thirteen hits and four walks.  While he produced a sparkling ERA of 0.71, his WHIP was a confounding 1.580.  This season for Boise, he has pitched in eight games covering 23 2/3 innings, allowed only fourteen hits and six walks and fanned 23.  His ERA is 1.52 and WHIP a sparkling 0.845.  In 36 1/3 combined innings since being drafted, he has allowed only one home run.
Michael Haman:  RH relief pitcher Haman, a sixteenth round selection, has been nothing short of dominant this season after a rough first round in the Cubs’ system.  Last season for the Arizona Rookie League Cubs and Boise, Haman pitched 11 2/3 innings, while allowing eleven hits and three walks for a respectable WHIP of 1.200 but high ERA of 5.40.  He fanned eight.  This year, in 14 2/3 innings combined between Boise and Kane County, Haman, 22, has not allowed a single run while accumulating five saves.  He has allowed only nine hits and four walks while fanning fifteen, leading to an exceptional WHIP of 0.886.
Nathan Dorris:  LH relief pitcher Dorris, 22, was a seventeenth round selection.  Last season, Dorris combined to pitch 24 innings and 16 games out of the bullpen for the Arizona League Cubs and Boise, fashioning an ERA of 1.88 and WHIP of 1.292.  He allowed 24 hits and eleven walks and struck out 21.  This season for Kane County, Dorris has pitched 40 innings, all in relief, and allowed 38 hits and seventeen walks while fanning 35.  His ERA and WHIP are up slightly to 2.92 and 1.375, respectively, but that can likely be explained by the superior competition he is facing.  Significantly, in 64 innings since joining the Cubs’ organization, Dorris has allowed only one home run.
Steve Perakslis:  RH relief pitcher Perakslis, 22, was 21st round pick.  Perakslis has produced two quality seasons since being drafted.  Last season, pitching almost exclusively for the Arizona League Cubs, Perakslis fashioned a 4-0 record in sixtten games pitching out the bullpen with a 3.42 ERA and 1.215 WHIP.  In 26 1/3 innings, he allowed 26 hits and only six walks while striking out 26.  This season, pitching for Kane County, he has fashioned a 1-3 record, a 3.53 ERA and 1.246 WHIP.  In 25 games covering 42 1/3 innings, he has yielded 38 hits and six walks while fanning 32.  In almost 70 innings since joining the Cubs’ organization, Perakslis has allowed just one home run.
Tyler Bremer:  RH relief pitcher Bremer was a 27th round selection.  No one has improved his stock more since last season than Bremer, 23.  Pitching for the Arizona League Cubs and Boise last season, Bremer appeared in ten games covering 17 1/3 innings, allowed 21 hits, three home runs and five walks.  He struck out only five.  His ERA was 5.71 and WHIP 1.500.  This season, pitching exclusively for Boise, Bremer has appeared in eleven games covering 15 1/3 innings and allowed only nine hits, five walks and one home run.  He has lowered his ERA to 3.00 and WHIP to 0.933.  Meanwhile, he has fanned 25.
Ben Carhart:  3B Carhart was a 35th round selection.  We debated whether to include Carhart in this category or simply omit him from this post, but ultimately we opted to include him, as we explain.  Carhart, 23, had a tremendous 2012 campaign for the Arizona League Cubs, batting .353 with a home run and 21 RBI.  He also banged out nine doubles.  This year, he was promoted past Boise and Kane County all the way to Daytona, matching Pierce Johnson and Tim Saunders for the highest advance by a member of the 2012 draft class.  Carhart has managed to hit .252 with three home runs and 43 RBI (which ranks him fourteenth in the Florida State League).  His 24 doubles place him seventh in the league rankings.  Finally, his fielding percentage at third base has improved from .941 last year to .960 this season.
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