Today, we complete the third annual Sports Bank Cubs’ minor league All-Star roster by naming the starting outfield. We chose whom we consider the three most deserving outfielders regardless of position. Previously, we named pitchers; a catcher and first baseman; and a second baseman, shortstop and third baseman to our squad.
1) Billy McKinney: Acquired in a trade from the Oakland Athletics last year, the left-handed slugging McKinney put together an outstanding first full season in the Cubs’ system. A first round pick in the 2013 draft, McKinney started the year for High A Myrtle Beach, where in 29 games and 125 plate appearances, he batted .340 with a an eye-catching OPS of .976 and WRC+ of 182.
McKinney continued to produce at a high level after being promoted to AA Tennessee. In a league with an average batting average of .253 and OPS of .700, McKinney hit .285 in 308 plate appearances with an OPS of .766 and added 26 doubles and 39 RBI. 73 of McKinney’s 89 outfield appearances were in right field.
A season-ending leg injury landed the then 20-year-old on the disabled list on August 15, but the second ranked prospect in the Cubs system according to MLB.com should be ticketed for AAA Iowa next season.
2) Albert Almora: After a slow start, arguably the best defensive outfielder in the Cubs system put together a solid season for Tennessee despite three separate trips to the disabled list and a several-week stint playing in the Pan-American games. The initial first round selection of the Theo Epstein regime, in the 2012 draft, the 21-year-old right-handed hitting Almora appeared in 106 games, including 69 in center field, and accumulated 452 plate appearances.
He batted .272 with 26 doubles, four triples, six homers and 46 RBI and produced an OPS of .727 and WRC+ of 105. He also improved his plate discipline, drawing a career high 32 walks and producing a career-best walk rate of 7.1%.
The fifth ranked prospect in the Cubs’ system will also likely be plying his trade for Iowa next season.
3) Mark Zagunis: The Cubs’ ninth ranked prospect and former catcher, Zagunis, 22, built on a solid first season in the Cubs’ system after being selected in the second round of the 2014 draft. The right-handed hitter finished second in the Carolina League in walks with 80, an organizational high, and he was an integral part of Myrtle Beach’s Carolina League championship.
He batted .271 with 24 doubles, five triples, eight homers, 54 RBI and 78 runs. Zagunis’ OPS of .818 dwarfed the league average of .679, and his WRC+ of 146 was exceptional.
Zagunis’ disciplined and cerebral hitting approach fits perfectly with the organization’s philosophy (the Cubs led the major leagues in walks through Wednesday). Zagunis made 80 of his 100 defensive appearances in right field.
Several other Cubs’ farmhands deserve Honorable mention for their exploits this season.
4) John Andreoli: The fleet-footed 17th round pick in the 2011 draft performed admirably in his first year at the AAA level. Despite two trips to the disabled list, Andreoli, 25, played in 106 games and made 448 plate appearances. While the Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s paradise, Andreoli bested the league’s average OPS (.773 to .750) and average batting average (.277 to .272). The right-handed hitter added 20 doubles, 72 runs, six triples, five homers and a league-leading 33 stolen bases. He also drew 55 walks.
Andreoli showed his defensive versatility by appearing in 42 games in center field, 36 in left field and 26 in right field.
5) Jeffrey Baez: Signed as a free agent in 2010, the native of Venezuela played his entire season for South Bend sans a late-season five-game stint for Myrtle Beach. After a sluggish start, Baez, 21, torched Midwest League pitching.
In 403 plate appearances and 101 games, including 91 in right field, the right-handed hitter batted .284 with an OPS of .751, exceeding the league averages of .254 and .682, respectively. He added 17 doubles, five triples, nine homers, 34 RBI, 67 runs and an organization best 34 stolen bases. Baez also produced a WRC+ of 117.
6) Robert Garcia: Signed out the Dominican Republic in July of 2013, the switch-hitting Garcia, 21, dominated the Arizona Rookie League. In 198 plate appearances and 47 games, including 32 in right field, he batted .341 and produced an OPS of .854, significantly better than the league averages of .250 and .671, respectively. Garcia swatted two homers, four doubles and four triples, drove in 23 runs, scored 32 runs and swiped 17 bases. Garcia finished with the league’s fifth best WRC+ figure of 152.
Andreoli and Baez are both eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft. They must be placed on the 40-man roster by November 20 to ensure they are not plucked out of the Cubs’ system.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks