2014 Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects

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After a long delay – something measured in the months, not days –  I have a bit of an announcement to make: I will be publishing the first ever Prospect Digest Annual sometime late January/early February.

The Prospect Digest Annual will feature each organization’s Top 30 Prospects, ranking the farm systems, and several additional articles.

Until the big day happens, I will be posting each organization’s Top 10 Prospects, starting with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Enjoy!

For more Top Prospects click HERE

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1. Kris Bryant, Position: 3B, Age: 22

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

RK

33

262

.429

.485

.964

12.1%

21.2%

.536

3

0

4

2/2

A-

77

209

.354

.416

.692

10.4%

22.1%

.338

8

1

4

0

A+

62

212

.333

.387

.719

4.8%

27.4%

.386

5

1

5

1/1

Profile: The top player on my pre-draft big board for college players, Bryant took to wooden bats like…a damn shark, a big badass damn shark. The number two overall pick hit a combined .336/.390/.688, slugging 14 doubles, a pair of triples, and nine bombs in 146 plate appearances spread across three levels. And he continued his torrid streak in the Arizona Fall League as well, slugging .364/.457/.727.

Analysis: Prior to the draft I wrote, “The elite bat in the class, Bryant profiles as a middle-of-the-lineup thumper, capable of hitting .290/.360/.540 with 30+ dingers. And despite the fact that he’s probably headed across the diamond to play first base, the need for offense in the professional game makes him the top collegiate player in this season’s draft class.” Plus power potential, strong plate discipline. Hopefully, the Cubs will do everything possible to keep his bat at third. Offensively, I’m still sticking by my pre-draft assessment.

Ceiling: 6.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

2. Javier Baez, Position: SS, Age: 21

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A+

337

145

.274

.338

.535

6.2%

23.1%

.261

19

4

17

12/14

AA

236

185

.299

.352

.650

8.1%

28.4%

.350

15

0

20

8/10

Profile: The Cubs hit a homerun with Baez, the ninth pick in the 2011 draft. The young shortstop put together one of the most impressive offensive minor league seasons to date, hitting a combined .282/.341/.578 with 34 doubles, four triples, 37 homeruns and 20 stolen bases. Baez has shown marked improvement in his walk rate, increasing it at each stop throughout his career.

Analysis: Now, some bad news: both home ballparks Baez played at last season, Jackie Robinson Ballpark and Smokies Park, inflate offensive production, particularly homeruns. With that being said the power is quite real and should settle in the 30-HR range in the big leagues. The improvements in his walk rate are essential. Defensively, there’s some question as where he’ll remain at shortstop long term. Baez committed 44 errors in 123 games last season. Ouch…

Ceiling: 6.0- to 6.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

3. C.J. Edwards, Position: RHP, Age: 22

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A

93.1

1.83

2.51

11.76

3.28

32.4%

9.0%

0.00

46.8%

A+

23.0

1.96

1.82

12.91

2.74

36.3%

7.7%

0.39

37.3%

Profile: The crown jewel from the “deal” known as the Matt Garza heist, the Rangers deserve credit for unearthing Edwards in the 48th round in 2011. That recognition pales in comparison to the blunder of dealing the promising right-hander to the Cubs for some replacement level pitching from Garza. Among all MiLB hurlers with 100+ innings, Edwards finished second in K-rate (11.99 K/9) and strikeout percentage (33.1%).

Analysis: The only knock against Edwards is that his dominance occurred mostly against an age-appropriate level of competition. Solid control with the potential to be above-average. Elite strikeout ability. Good groundball rates. Impeccable SIERAs. There’s really nothing to not like about Edwards as a baseball player. 

And despite totaling just 23 innings in high Class A, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Edwards up in Class before too long, maybe even to open the year.

Ceiling: 5.5- to 6.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

4. Albert Almora, Position: CF, Age: 20

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A

272

137

.329

.376

.466

6.3%

11.0%

.137

17

4

3

4/8

Profile: Almora missed a big part of the season due to a broken hamate bone, a type of injury that can sap a player’s power for a year or so. Nonetheless, upon his return the former sixth pick in the 2012 draft hit .329/.376/.466 and his total production was 37% better than the Midwest League average.

Analysis: Almora walked just two times in 140 plate appearances during his debut, raising all kinds of red flags. He put some of those to rest after showing a decent 6.3% BB-rate last season. Again, the power is likely to improve as he removes further away from the hand injury.

Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

5. Jorge Soler, Position: RF, Age: 22

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A+

236

128

.281

.343

.467

8.9%

16.1%

.186

13

1

8

5/6

Profile: Signed to a nine-year, $30 million deal in late June 2012, Soler lost significant time last season: five games to a suspension for his involvement in a brawl and several weeks due to a stress fracture in his left tibia. When he wasn’t raging or aching, the Cuban-import hit a respectable .281/.343/.467 with Daytona.

Analysis: A well-rounded offensive game at this point in his career, Soler’s willing to take the occasional walk, flashed some power, and isn’t completely lost on the base paths. Twenty- to 25-HR power potential.

Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

 

6. Arismendy Alcantara, Position: 2B/SS, Age: 22

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

AA

571

132

.271

.352

.451

10.9%

21.9%

.180

36

4

15

31/37

Profile: Inked to a deal in November of 2008, the Dominican-born Alcantara once again flew under the prospect radar last season, despite setting career highs in most offensive categories (2B, HR, BB%, ISO, SB, and wRC+). Defensively, he hasn’t quite found a home yet, splitting time between both middle infield positions.

Analysis: Wildly underrated as a prospect. Alcantara continues to take noticeable developmental steps forward each season. After his walk rate hovered around 4% during his first three seasons, it more than doubled last year to 10.9%. His power continues improve, perhaps giving hope that he could slug 18- to 20-HR with the Cubs in a few years. And he’s become more efficient on the base paths as well. Alcantara cound peak as a .290/.345/.465-type hitter with 20/20 potential.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

7. Daniel Vogelbach, Position: 1B, Age: 21

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A

500

128

.284

.364

.450

11.4%

15.2%

.166

21

0

17

4/8

A+

66

166

.280

.455

.440

24.2%

19.7%

.160

2

0

2

1/1

Profile: Vogelbach impressed during his stints in rookie ball and with Boise in 2012, hitting .322/.410/.641 with 41 extra-base knocks in 61 games. Last season the former second round pick spent the majority of the year in low Class A, batting .284/.364/.450 with 21 doubles and 17 homeruns.

Analysis: Power, patience, and the ability to put the ball in play on a regular basis. Vogelbach has 25-HR potential, but his production to date has been mostly against age-appropriate levels of competition. He may never hit for a high average, but the bat will play at the position.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

8. Christian Villanueva, Position: 3B, Age: 23

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

AA

542

126

.261

.317

.469

6.3%

21.6%

.208

41

2

19

5/12

Profile: Villanueva finished with the third most doubles in the minor leagues last season, slugging a career high 41. The Cubs acquired him from their favorite bartering partners, the Texas Rangers, in exchange for veteran Ryan Dempster at the 2012 trade deadline.

Analysis: It’s all about the doubles for Villanueva right now. His plate discipline is so-so. He no longer runs. And his defense at third could use some work. Power potential is the name of the game right now. Villanueva knocked a career best 19 dingers last season, but that could be just the beginning.

The Mexican-born third baseman has averaged a shade over 40 doubles per 162 games in his career, and some of those will eventually turn into homeruns. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him slug 25+ homeruns in a big league season. Villanueva could be one of those late blooming types like Edwin Encarnacion.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

9. Mike Olt, Position: 1B/3B, Age: 25

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

AAA

420

76

.197

.302

.368

13.1%

31.3%

.176

18

1

14

0/0

Profile: Vision problems wrecked Olt’s season, leading to a career lows across the board. Prior to the year, he looked like a potential force with the bat, hitting .288/.398/.504 with 28 homeruns in Class AA in 2012.

Analysis: Very difficult to project. I was never completely on the Olt-bandwagon heading into the year, but thought he was capable of being an above-average everyday player bordering on a Three True Outcomes guy. Now, though, hopefully the eye issues will be merely a speed bump in his professional career.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

10. Pierce Johnson, Position: RHP, Age: 23

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A

69.2

3.10

3.20

9.56

2.84

25.0%

7.4%

0.52

38.5%

A+

48.2

2.22

3.58

9.25

3.88

25.5%

10.7%

0.18

50.3%

Profile: After a breakout junior season at Missouri State University, the Cubs grabbed Johnson in the supplemental first round two years ago. The organization pushed the 6-foot-1 right-hander to low Class A in 2013, despite totaling just 11 professional innings during his debut.

Analysis: Impressive strikeout numbers from a starting pitcher, but his collegiate background clouds the water a bit. Essentially, Johnson performed as expected for a polished collegiate pitcher nabbed in the first round. Double-A will be the great separator from backend starting pitcher and a potential #2/#3.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.


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