Chicago Cubs 2011 draft re-assessment: another Shawon Dunston on his way?

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Yesterday we featured the most celebrated members of the Chicago Cubs’ 2011 draft class, first round selection Javier Baez and second round pick Dan Vogelbach.  Today we briefly profile six of the other twelve members of the final draft overseen by former Cubs’ general Jim Hendry who, we believe, have been productive enough since joining the organization to conjure hope.  While the 2011 draft appears to be nowhere near as deep as the first two under the Theo Epstein regime, there are some potential diamonds in the ruff whose progress Cubs’ fans should follow.

Zeke DeVoss:  Right-handed hitting outfielder DeVoss was originally drafted by Epstein’s Boston Red Sox in the 38th round of the 2009 draft but opted not to sign and returned to school.  Serendipitously, he was waiting for Epstein when he assumed control of the Cubs, having been drafted by his predecessor in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

DeVoss, an On-Base-Percentage (OBP) machine, is now plying his trade with Daytona, the Cubs’ Florida State League affiliate.  In 459 plate appearances through Tuesday, he was averaging .260 with five homers, fifteen doubles, five triples and 47 RBI, the latter number impressive given DeVoss bats leadoff.  He leads the league in walks with 71, is second in stolen bases with 32 (having been caught only eight times) and is also second in OBP at .406.  DeVoss has even been plunked by 45 pitches, including 20 this season, and has sixteen career sacrifice bunts.  With less than a month remaining in the season, DeVoss could eclipse his previous high in walks (82) and stolen bases (35).  He has spent time at second base, left field and center field during his three seasons in the Cubs’ system, but this year he has played the outfield exclusively.
DeVoss, 23, is definitely ticketed for Class AA next season.  As we noted yesterday, the Cubs have a surplus of talented position players, but someone with DeVoss’ speed, defensive versatility, base-stealing acumen and ability to work counts, draw walks and get on base always has appeal to major league teams, whether as a starter or reserve.
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Update:  In Daytona’s doubleheader split last evening against Clearwater, DeVoss went 1-5 with an RBI and two more walks.   
Tayler Scott:  Right-handed starting pitcher Scott, drafted in the fifth round in 2011, has struggled at Class A Kane County after a strong first full season in the minors pitching for the Boise Hawks of the short-season Northwest League.  Scott, 22, has a decent fastball (91-94 MPH) whose velocity the Cubs hope will increase as Scott continues to add size to his 6 ‘3 165 pound frame.  His curveball and change-up, on which he is working this season, are still considered average, but he is lauded for having an innate feel for pitching.
Last year for Boise, Scott made fifteen starts covering 71.1 innings and allowed 66 hits, no home runs and 20 walks and struck out 43.  His ERA of 2.52 was more impressive than his 1.332 WHIP, 3.7 walks per nine innings and 1.48 strikeouts to walk ratio.  This season for Kane County, Scott has made 22 starts covering 119 innings and allowed 133 hits, including six home runs.  He has walked 49 and fanned 58.  His ERA has climbed to 4.31 and WHIP to 1.529.  While his walks per nine innings has held steady at 3.7, his strikeouts per nine innings has slipped from 5.4 to 4.4 and his strikeouts to walk ratio to 1.18.  Heading into the final weeks of the season, Scott is probably on the bubble regarding whether he will be promoted to Daytona next season or remain at Kane County.
Danny Lockhart:  The left-handed hitting second baseman Lockhart, drafted in the tenth round in 2011, has had a breakout season at age 20 for Boise after two miserable campaigns for the Cubs’ Arizona Rookie League squad.  Through 195 plate appearances this season, Lockhart’s .294 batting average ranks sixth in the Northwest League, and he has an OBP of .351.  He has added five doubles, one triple, sixteen RBI and thirteen walks.  In 451 career plate appearances, he has just one home run, eleven doubles and five triples, leading to a paltry slugging percentage of .316, but he has increased his overall production across the board this season.  He also has eighteen career steals in 24 attempts, including four of five in 2013.  Defensively, he has exhibited versatility, having played shortstop and third base in addition to second base.  Finally, Lockhart is the son of former major league infielder Keith Lockhart, who played ten seasons between 1994 and 2003 for the San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves.
Update:  In Boise’s 13-2 throttling of Eugene last evening, Lockhart went 2-5 with a double, a stolen base and a fielding error.
Shawon Dunston, Jr.:  Speaking of pedigrees, we next profile the son of the legendary Cubs’ shortstop with the same name who was drafted in the eleventh round in 2011.  Unlike his father, Dunston bats left-handed and plays the outfield.  Dunston, in his second full season in the minors, was enjoying a breakout campaign for Boise before a leg injury forced him to the disabled list on July 21.  Last season, playing in 39 games for Arizona and nineteen for Boise, Dunston had a combined 255 plate appearances.  He finished the season with a .257 average, ten doubles, five triples, three home runs, 22 walks, 26 RBI and an OBP of .328.
Playing the entire 2013 campaign for Boise, Dunston has lifted his average to .328 and OBP to .411, an indication that he is a more patient and disciplined hitter than his free-swinging father.  In just 146 plate appearances, Dunston has added seven doubles, a home run and a triple apiece and sixteen RBI.  He has achieved the rare feat of having walked more times, eighteen, than he has fanned, fifteen.  In 91 minor league games, Dunston has shown limited base stealing ability, swiping just eleven in seventeen attempts.  The main similarity between him and his father, according to scouts, is the intense hustle with which he plays.  Look for Dunston, who has played center and left fields during his brief minor league career, to be promoted to Kane County for the 2014 season.
Dillon Maples:  Right-handed starting pitcher Maples, a fourteenth round pick in 2011, has had disparate seasons within one.  Maples was rated as a second round talent entering the 2011 draft, but his flirtations with college football discouraged enough teams from drafting him that the Cubs were able to scoop him up in the fourteenth round.  Maples throws a mid 90’s fastball and one of the best curveballs in the Cubs’ system.
Yet through his first 1 1/2 seasons, it appeared that Maples, 21, had been felled by Steve Blass Disease, the affliction named after the former Pittsburgh Pirates’ star pitcher of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s who inexplicably, in 1973, lost the ability to command his pitches, sadly ending his career by 1975.  The same affliction forced St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel to trade in the rosin bag for a Louisville Slugger in order to salvage his career in the early 2000’s.
In 10.1 innings for Arizona last season, Maples walked ten, hit three batters and threw six wild pitches.  In 34.2 innings for Kane County this season, Maples walked 31, hit seven batters and threw seven wild pitches.  Then, on July 16, the Cubs demoted Maples to Boise, where he has shown no traces of the severe control problems that had plagued him.  In six games covering 23 innings, he has allowed only seven walks, hit two batters and thrown two wild pitches.  He has yielded 20 hits and no home runs and fashioned an ERA of 1.17 and WHIP of 1.174.  If the bouts of acute wildness are indeed behind him, Maples should be promoted back to Kane County or even Daytona for the 2014 season.
Rafael Lopez:  Catcher Lopez, 25, was drafted in the sixteenth round in 2011.  Last week, Cubs’ general manager Jed Hoyer lamented the lack of catching talent in the team’s minor league system.  While Welington Castillo appears to have a vice grip on the starting position with the parent club, the left-handed hitting Lopez might be the ideal complement to the right-handed hitting Castillo.
Lopez has spent the entire season at Tennessee, where in 315 plate appearances he has set personal highs in several offensive categories, including doubles with 20, home runs with eight and walks with 42.  He has driven in 35 runs, just four short of his career high from 2011 and a number he should eclipse with approximately three weeks left in the season.  Overall this season he is hitting .254 with a .356 OBP.  For his career, he has thrown out 29% of attempted base-stealers.  Scouts have effusively praised his defense, but his offensive production relative to his Southern League catching counterparts is impressive too.  He leads Southern League catchers in doubles and walks, is second in home runs and third in RBI.  With Cubs’ backup catcher Dioner Navarro scheduled to become a free agent at season’s end, Lopez might have a fighter’s chance of entering the competition to back up Castillo if Navarro is not retained.
Update:  In Tennessee’s 6-2 victory last night against Chattanooga, Lopez went 0-2 with a run scored and two walks.
Tomorrow we will feature the last six players from the 2011 draft who, we believe, have achieved sufficient success since joining the Cubs’ organization to merit discussion.
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