Cubs catching prospect Miguel Amaya is expected to require Tommy John surgery, according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. Bastian says the team believes the surgery is “imminent”. Patrick Mooney of The Athletic adds that Amaya “is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery and begin a rehab program next month.”
Regardless of when the surgery eventually takes place, it’s unfortunate news for the Cubs as Amaya is one of the organization’s top prospects. FanGraphs, Baseball America and MLB Pipeline all have the 22-year-old within the top eight on their respective lists of Cubs prospects, with MLB Pipeline having him as high as number four within the organization.
Amaya was added to the team’s 40-man roster two years ago, in order to protect him from that year’s Rule 5 draft. At the time, he had only climbed as far as High-A, but the club felt good enough about his future to give him a roster spot despite his distance from the majors. The Panamanian has often gotten high grades for controlling the running game, as well as a patient approach as a hitter. In 2019, his 13.2% walk rate and 16.8% strikeout rate both pointed to a hitter with a competent eye and mature approach at the plate. The pandemic wiped out the minor league season in 2020, but Amaya seemed to be continuing on course in 2021. In 23 Double-A games, his walk rate jumped to an incredible 19.8%, although his strikeout rate also ticked up a bit, finishing at 20.8%. Despite a .215 batting average and just a single home run, he still managed a wRC+ of 117. He last played on June 3, being sidelined with the forearm strain that has led to the upcoming surgery. Unfortunately for Amaya, he will now have his progressed stalled until he can return to health.
The Cubs will now have to make a decision on how to handle Amaya’s roster situation in 2022, given that he’s unlikely to play much, if at all. He’s already used up two of his three option years, meaning he would be out of options if he is kept on the minor league injured list for the next year. Alternatively, they could recall Amaya and place him on the major league IL. That would allow the club to retain an option that could be used in 2023, but Amaya would be entitled to major league pay and service time for as long as he is on the IL. (Unless, of course, the rules are changed in the next CBA.)
The Cubs are set to have Willson Contreras behind the dish in 2022, in what will be his last season of team control. He and Amaya are the only two catchers currently on the team’s 40-man roster. If they turn to the free agent market to find a backup to Contreras, they will be perusing a class with very limited options.