Chicago Cubs’ prospect profiles: Lim, Silva, Bour and more



Today we will feature two players at each of the Cubs’ three highest minor league affiliates:  Iowa, Tennessee and Daytona.  Monday, we will feature players on the rosters of Kane County, Boise and the Arizona Rookie League Cubs.  We hope to make this a regular addition to
Chang-Yong Lim:  The Cubs promoted Lim, a RH relief pitcher, to AAA Iowa yesterday after brief stints for the Arizona League Cubs, Daytona and Tennessee.  Lim is one of the most intriguing players in the Cubs’ system.  In December of 2012, Lim, now 37, was signed to a two-year split minor/major league contract.  Lim pitched professionally for eleven seasons (1995-2006), almost entirely out of the bullpen, in his native South Korea before becoming one of the most dominant closers in the history of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the premier Japanese professional league, over a six-year stretch (2007-2012).  He accumulated 128 saves and produced an impressive ERA of 2.08 in NPB.
When the Cubs signed the sidearm throwing Lim, he was recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery that he underwent in July of 2012.  Lim said at the time that the Cubs expected him to debut for the big club in 2014 but that he was aiming to be healthy before the end of this season.  Lim was once regarded as the hardest throwing sidearm pitcher in baseball history, reaching over 100 MPH, and possessing an assortment of other pitches.  Last year, reports indicated that his fastball had dipped to the high 80’s.  However, some of the drop now appears to be the result of the elbow injury and not his advanced age, as it has been reported that his fastball has been clocked in the low 90’s during his matriculation through the Cubs’ system.
In eleven innings pitched thus far, admittedly a small sample size, Lim has allowed eight hits, no home runs and three walks.  His twelve strikeouts give him an impressive 4-1 strikeout/walk ratio.  His ERA is 2.45 and WHIP 1.000.  Lim has yet to debut for Iowa, the next step in his recovery.
It has been reported that Lim could earn up to $5 million on the contract he signed through next season, but it appears that he cannot start earning the major league portion of the money until he is healthy enough to pitch for the Cubs.  In other words, the Cubs have some injury protection against the majority of the earnable money in the deal.
A key question that needs to be answered is where Lim fits into the Cubs’ rebuilding plans.  At 38 next season, Lim could be an ideal candidate, if he is pitching well, to be flipped in a trade for more prospects.  Alternatively, if it appears the Cubs could turn the corner sooner rather than later, Lim could be a piece of a contending Cubs team.  For now, we will have to see if Lim can continue his successful run at Iowa.
Alberto Cabrera:  RH pitcher Cabrera, 24, was promoted to Iowa on July 18.  Cabrera, once a highly touted prospect who has been in the Cubs’ system since 2006, needs to surmount Iowa, which has been a consistent roadblock in his development.  In 2012, he compiled a 2-1 record for AA Tennessee with a 2.52 ERA and WHIP of 1.121 over 23 relief appearances covering 35.2 innings.  He yielded 30 hits and ten walks while fanning 45.  He earned a promotion to Iowa, where his ERA spiked to 4.19 and WHIP to 1.707.  Shorthanded at the end of last season, the Cubs promoted Cabrera on August 1, and he made 25 relief appearances over 21.2 innings but allowed an alarming eighteen walks and sixteen hits.  While he fanned eighteen, his ERA was 5.40 and WHIP 1.569.
In 2011, Iowa was also a house of horrors for Cabrera.  Then he made nineteen appearances (seventeen starts) covering 88.2 innings.  He produced a 3-6 record and an ERA of 6.60.  He yielded 118 hits and 53 walks, leading to his minor league, career-worst 1.929 WHIP.  He fanned 67.
Cabrera returned to Tennessee for the 2013 season and put together his best stretch as a minor leaguer.  In eighteen starts, he produced an impressive 9-3 record and 3.20 ERA over 112.2 innings.  He yielded 102 hits and 39 walks for a WHIP of 1.251.  He fanned 107.  Since his most recent promotion to Iowa, Cabrera has made three relief appearances covering five innings and yielded three hits and two walks.  His ERA is 1.80 and WHIP 1.000.  He has struck out two.
During his minor league career, Cabrera has made 64 relief appearances and 112 starts.  With three starters seemingly penciled into next year’s Cubs’ rotation in Travis Wood, Jeff Samardjiza and Edwin Jackson; and Chris Rusin making a strong bid to claim a fourth spot, it remains to be seen whether Cabrera’s 97 MPH fastball profiles better as a starter or as one of the power arms in the bullpen which the Cubs covet (of course assuming he can finally succeed at Iowa first).
Justin Bour:  1B Bour, 25 is a veritable hitting machine.  Bour, in his fifth season in the Cubs’ system, is likely limited to first base defensively due to his hulking size of 6’4 and 250 lbs.  Bour entered 2013 having hit 30 plus doubles in each of the previous three seasons.  In 2010 for Peoria (the Cubs’ former Midwest League affiliate), the big man hit .291 with twelve home runs and 87 RBI.  The next season for Daytona, Bour hit .277 and slammed 23 home runs and drove in 85.  Last year for Tennessee was probably Bour’s best all-around campaign, as he hit .283 with seventeen home runs and 110 RBI.
Bour dealt with some adversity early this season.  First, the Cubs inexplicably failed to promote him to AAA Iowa and instead handed the 1B job there to journeyman minor leaguer Brad Nelson.  Then Bour suffered a fractured wrist that led to a two month stay on the disabled list.  But since being activated on June 19, Bour has been on a hitting tear.  A slow start to the season has dragged down his overall average, but he is hitting .242 with fourteen home runs and 39 RBI in just 213 plate appearances.  Bour averaged 561 plate appearances the last three seasons.  His season totals extrapolated over that number of plate appearances would equate to 40 home runs and 112 RBI, both of which would be career highs.  Bour, not a gifted fielder, is enjoying his best fielding percentage of .989 since a 55-game debut in 2009.
Obviously the Cubs committed a long term contract, through at least 2019, to Anthony Rizzo as their first baseman of the future.  And although Rizzo’s average has dipped under .240 this season, he continues to contribute as one of the best defensive first basemen in the major leagues and with a high on-base-percentage.  He also leads the Cubs in RBI and doubles.  Thus, it will take prodigious numbers from Bour to force the Cubs’ brass to think twice about replacing Rizzo.  But the benefit of having excellent players throughout the system who play the same position is that you can use the surplus as trade assets to fill other positions of need.  It remains to be seen if this is how the Cubs assess Bour’s value.
Rubi Silva:  OF Silva, 24, defected from Cuba in 2010 and signed with the Cubs in January of 2011.  Perhaps below the public radar, Silva has put together three outstanding seasons in the Cubs’ system.  In 2011 for Peoria, Silva hit .300 in 416 plate appearances with three home runs and 37 RBI.  He added sixteen doubles and seven triples.  The following season in 445 plate appearances for Daytona, he averaged .302 with three home runs, fifteen doubles, eleven triples and 61 RBI.  This season in 370 plate appearances for Tennessee, Silva is having arguably his best overall season.  His .285 batting average is tied for tenth in the Southern League, his 22 doubles for fourth, his seven triples also for fourth, his 101 hits for sixth and his twelve home runs for ninth.  Over the course of three seasons, Silva has demonstrated versatility, playing all three outfield positions and second base.
Silva needs to upgrade his plate discipline and running game.  In 348 minor league games and 1423 plate appearances, Silva has a mere 42 walks against 260 strikeouts.  Moreover, he has only 27 career stolen bases in 58 attempts.  But overall, Silva has been one of the most productive and fastest rising players in the Cubs’ system.
Zeke DeVoss:  OF DeVoss, 23, does not have statistics that stand out unless you look carefully, and even then, it is clear DeVoss will likely have to improve his all-around game in order to exploit the two skills that make him unique.
DeVoss, who can play CF, LF and 2B, is hitting .248 for Daytona with five home runs, nine doubles, five triples (tied for seventh in the Florida State League) and 42 RBI.  However, DeVoss leads the league in walks with 62 (22 more than the player with the second most); on-base-percentage (.397) and stolen bases (28 in 33 attempts).  While DeVoss’ career batting average is only .259 in 1166 plate appearances, his on-base-percentage is .398.  If DeVoss could lift his average around 30 points as he progresses through the Cubs’ system, he could compete for the leadoff position in the batting order or a super-utility role.
Incidentally, even though DeVoss was drafted by former Cubs’ general manager Jim Hendry’s regime in 2011, he is well-known and respected by Theo Epstein, Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations, and Jason Mcleod, Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development.  When the two were with the Boston Red Sox, they drafted DeVoss in the 38th round of the 2009 draft.  DeVoss did not sign and opted to return to the University of Miami.  In Boston, DeVoss was known as the player who got away.
Dustin Geiger:  1B/3B Geiger is enjoying a breakout season for Daytona.  While he has played all but five games at 1B in 2013, he still has played more games at 3B than any position in his four seasons in the minors.  This year Geiger is hitting .282 with ten home runs and 70 RBI (third in the Florida State League).  His 25 doubles rank eighth, 40 walks 11th, and .444 slugging percentage 12th.  Geiger has already set career highs in walks, RBI, doubles and hits, and his current batting average and on-base-percentage of .359 would also establish personal bests.  Only last year, when he walloped seventeen, did Geiger hit more home runs in a season.
Defensively at first base, Geiger has a .998 fielding percentage and has committed only two errors in 87 games and 810 chances.  Like we discussed with Justin Bour, an organization can never have enough good players in the minors.  If it is later determined that there is not a place on the big league roster for Geiger–that is he will not press Rizzo in a couple of years, compete for third base or get moved to the outfield–he would be yet another valuable trade asset with which the Cubs could fill positions of need.  But all of that contemplation is premature.
Tomorrow we will profile a couple of players each from Kane County, Boise and the Arizona Rookie League Cubs.  Let us know if there is a player you think deserved our attention or if you have had the opportunity to see any of the Cubs’ prospects we mentioned play live.
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