The Opening Day roster of the Kane County Cougars includes eight players ranked by Baseball America among the top 30 Arizona Diamondbacks. Three of the top 10 D-backs prospects are among them.
In other words, there’s a lot of potential heading to Kane County’s Northwestern Medicine Field to start the season.
Jasrado “Jazz” Chisholm, a 19-year-old shortstop from the Bahamas, leads the pack with a No. 5 ranking. He was a top player in the rookie-level Pioneer League last year, batting .281 with 9 HR, 37 RBI and 13 SB in 62 games with the Missoula Osprey. Baseball America projects him to be an above-average hitter with good bat speed and enough power to reach double-digits in home runs each year. He is the half-brother of Tampa Bay Rays prospect Lucius Fox, a shortstop currently assigned to the Bowling Green Hot Rods.
Outfielder/designated hitter Anfernee Grier, Arizona’s top draft pick last year (selected at No. 39 overall), ranks just below Chisholm at No. 6 in the Diamondbacks system. A shoulder injury caused him to struggle in his first pro season — he batted only .236 with 2 HR, 8 RBI and 9 SB in 24 games at lower levels last year — but scouts expect him to be fully recovered and ready for the Midwest League.
Three other position players are ranked prospects: middle infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe (No. 20), outfielder Marcus Wilson (No. 22) and catcher Jose Herrera (No. 24).
Basabe — whose twin brother Luis Alexander Basabe, an outfielder, is the Chicago White Sox’s No. 8 prospect — is looking to revert back to pre-Midwest League form his second time around with the Cougars. He batted only .217 with 3 HR, 13 RBI and 3 SB in 45 MWL games after Arizona obtained him from Boston as part of the Brad Ziegler trade last July. His 2016 season was going much better before that; he batted .310 with 4 HR, 25 RBI and 14 SB in 64 games with the Red Sox affiliate in the South Atlantic League.
Wilson is another returnee to Kane County. He split last season between the Northwest and Midwest leagues, cumulatively batting .252 with 20 RBI and 25 SB in 69 games. Herrera, meanwhile, moves up a level after batting .277 with 5 HR and 18 RBI in 36 games in the Pioneer League. The backstop has seen limited playing time because of injuries the past two years.
RHP Jon Duplantier (No. 9) is the most highly-touted pitcher on the Cougars staff. In 2016, he ranked eighth among Division I college pitchers by striking out 12 batters per nine innings for Rice University. His best pitches are a fastball and a curveball. He currently is a starting pitcher, though it’s very possible he will end up as a reliever because of injury concerns — he missed the 2015 college season because of a shoulder injury, pitched only one inning professionally last year because of an elbow injury, and pulled a hamstring in instructional league. He essentially is making his pro debut this season.
Two other ranked pitchers — right-handers Wei-Chieh Huang (No. 21) and Tommy Eveld (No. 30) — also are assigned to the Cougars roster.
Huang pitched for Kane County in 2015, going 7-3 with a 2.00 ERA, 68 strikeouts and 16 walks in 77 innings/15 games/12 starts. He didn’t fare as well last season, going 3-3 with a 5.88 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 23 walks in 59.2 innings for three teams, mostly the High-A Visalia Rawhide and the short-season Hillsboro Hops.
Eveld impressed in his first season, going 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA, two saves, 31 strikeouts and eight walks in 29 innings/24 games. The reliever is not ranked higher because of his age — he turned 23 at the end of December — but as Baseball America notes, “he’s still relatively new to pitching and owns a fresh arm” after the former quarterback changed sports in college following major knee surgery.
You can see the entire Cougars roster here.
Former Red Sox skipper Butch Hobson is managing the Cougars this year. You can read about him and his coaching staff here.