Featured Photo: Miguel Amaya, C, Cubs (Class A South Bend)
* * * * *
Each week, Jared Wyllys digs into his notebook and shares some info on a prospect of his choice, then passes along some select entries from our 2018 Prospect Spotlight Library and 2018 Pro Scouting Report Library. This week, we get a closer look at the Chicago Cubs Class A teenage backstop Miguel Amaya and his efforts to simplify things in the batters box.
* * * * *
Prospect Focus: Miguel Amaya, C, Cubs (Class A South Bend, Midwest League)
Cubs prospect Miguel Amaya is only 19, but he is already working to simplify things at the plate – tackling one the biggest potential pitfalls for players of all levels of experience. In just his first year of full-season ball, Amaya is hitting for an OPS that is over 200 points better than the .607 he posted in short-season Eugene in 2017.
And for that Amaya credits something pretty simple: See the ball, hit the ball hard.
“I’m working hard with my coaches to keep the ball in the strike zone,” Amaya told 2080 Baseball. “They told me, ‘Don’t think about too many things at the plate, just see the ball and hit it hard.’”
Amaya clearly has taken that advice and put it into practice. He said that as he is seeing the breaking pitches from the Midwest League pitchers better and is having an easier time putting together quality at bats. That, Amaya said, has been the biggest difference maker for him. Combined with his general approach focusing on better pitch recognition and harder contact, Amaya has boosted his batting average to .275 despite a hit tool that has reportedly been rated by evaluators as average at best. Generally lauded mostly for his defense, Amaya’s offensive prowess in 2018 has been a pleasant surprise after hitting only .228 for Eugene last year and just .245 in the Dominican Summer League two seasons ago.
Not only is Amaya hitting for better average, but he’s also employing raw power that had not been present before. In nearly 450 professional at bats in 2016 and 2017, Amaya hit just four home runs. He already has 10 homers in half as many at bats this year.
This goes hand in hand with his work on making stronger contact – this includes, as Amaya discusses, putting his time in at the gym as well.
“I’m working with more weights, so when I hit the ball hard, there’s more power there.” Amaya said.
Through the first half of the season, Amaya is doing a lot of the things that tend to signify a maturing hitter. He has been driving the ball up the middle more and pulling it somewhat less. He is putting the ball in the air more without seeing any significant increase in his strikeout rate (Amaya struck out 20.1 percent of the time in 2017 compared to 21.6 percent this season). He’s taking a lot more walks, too. Something that does not often come easy for young hitters facing the challenge of the Midwest League.
Amaya offers plenty of promise with his glove as well. He recently caught five solid innings from the rehabbing Yu Darvish and has otherwise been managing a talented staff in South Bend with guys like 2017 first-rounder Brendon Little and international signees Erling Moreno and Javier Assad. Amaya has spent most of his time this season behind the plate, but he has also demonstrated the flexibility to play first base, making six starts there so far in 2018. He played first pretty regularly in the DSL two years ago and made eight starts at first base for Eugene last year. But Amaya does have a preference.
“My passion is to catch,” Amaya said.
He said he has enjoyed working with every pitcher on the South Bend staff, learning their routines and how he can help them both on their off days and on the nights they are pitching.
Amaya is young and still lacking in experience, but the early signs have all been good. While catching is not a present need with the big league club, it should be a nice luxury to have Amaya waiting in the wings in a few short year. –Jared Wyllys
Featured Reports: Midwest League
- Brendon Little, LHP, Cubs (Class A South Bend) – John Eshleman
- Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers (Class A West Michigan) – John Eshleman
- MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres (Class A Fort Wayne) – John Eshleman
- Tirso Ornelas, OF, Padres (Class A Fort Wayne) – John Eshleman
- Jeisson Rosario, OF, Padres (Class A Fort Wayne) – John Eshleman
- Luis Patino, RHP, Padres (Class A Fort Wayne) – John Eshleman
- Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds (Class A Dayton) – John Eshleman
- Jeter Downs, SS/2B, Reds (Class A Dayton) – John Eshleman
- Nolan Jones, 3B, Indians (Class A Lake County) – John Eshleman
- Oscar Gonzalez, OF, Indians (Class A Lake County) – John Eshleman