The 2016 Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: After peaking as the #3 book among all baseball books on Amazon last year, my new book, The 2016 Prospect Digest Handbook, is on sale! Check it out here!

And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.

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1. Albert Almora, CF                                                      
Born: 04/16/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Jae-Hoon Ha, Teodoro Martinez,

Tyrone Taylor, Shane Peterson, Jose Tabata

Height: 6-2 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 19 A 272 17 4 3 0.329 0.376 0.466 0.137 6.3% 11.0% 137
2014 20 A+ 385 20 2 7 0.283 0.306 0.406 0.123 3.1% 11.9% 100
2014 20 AA 145 7 2 2 0.232 0.248 0.352 0.120 1.4% 15.9% 63
2015 21 AA 451 26 4 6 0.272 0.327 0.400 0.128 7.1% 10.4% 105

Background: I always like to play a bit of a mental game when I’m looking at early first round picks. OK, Almora was the sixth overall pick in the draft in 2016 – also the first selection in the Jed Hoyer/Theo Epstein era. Knowing what we know now how does Almora stack up against some of the more known members of that draft class? Well, let’s take a look, shall we?

(Note: Obviously, Almora falls short when it comes to the class’ first two pick, Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton.)

  • Almora vs. Mike Zunino (#3 pick).
    • Winner: Almora. The bar’s set fairly low with this one; Zunino’s sporting a career .193/.252/.353 triple-slash line in over 1,050 big league plate appearances to go along with a rancid 71 wRC+.
  • Almora vs. Kevin Gausman (#4):
    • Winner: Tie. For a while there it didn’t seem like the Orioles knew how to handle the donut-devouring right-hander as they bounced him between the minor and major leagues. But Gausman’s averaged over 3.2 fWAR per 220 innings in his career. But you could go either way on this one.
  • Almora vs. Mark Appel (#8):
    • Winner: Tie. One could make the argument either way at this point as Appel’s hype/power-arsenal hasn’t been anything close to his dominance with Stanford.
  • Almora vs. Addison Russell (#11)/Corey Seager (#18)/Michael Wacha (#19)/Marcus Stroman (#22):
    • Winner: Each player not named Albert Almora.
  • Almora vs. Joey Gallo:
    • Winner: Gallo, whose power potential is Ruthian. And his ability to swing-and-miss is just as large. But Almora will add value on defense. It’s closer than you would think.

Anyway, Almora got a second crack at Southern League pitching after closing out the 2014 season with a disappointing 36-game stint with Tennessee, and the results – unsurprisingly – were much improved, even in another shortened season. Playing in fewer than 110 games for the second time in the last three years, Almora batted .272/.327/.400 with 26 doubles, four triples, six homeruns, and eight stolen bases.

Projection: Almora’s another one of these guys where I have one very distinct – and prominent – thought:

  1. He’s a victim of his own hype, sort of the Cubs’ version of Brandon Nimmo. While Almora brings enough to the kitchen table, it’s very possible that his defensive contributions will outweigh his offensive production. Not necessarily bad by any stretch of the means, but he’s been hyped for so long, ad nauseam, that’s he’s going to have trouble living up to the lofty expectations.

With that being said, he can fill out the back of a baseball card well enough – plenty of doubles, a handful of triples, 10 homeruns, and double-digit stolen bases. As a potential big league hitter he’ll hover around the league average, but it’s his defense that will push him over 3.0-win a year.   

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

2. Billy McKinney, LF/RF                                                 
Born: 08/23/94 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Jorge Bonifacio, John Drennen,

Austin Gallagher, Cheslor Cuthbert, Dustin Fowler

Height: 6-1 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 206 7 2 2 0.320 0.383 0.414 0.094 8.3% 14.1% 126
2014 19 A+ 333 12 2 10 0.241 0.330 0.400 0.159 10.8% 17.4% 92
2014 19 A+ 210 12 4 1 0.301 0.390 0.432 0.131 11.9% 20.0% 136
2015 20 A+ 125 5 2 4 0.340 0.432 0.544 0.204 13.6% 10.4% 182
2015 20 AA 308 26 1 3 0.285 0.346 0.420 0.135 8.8% 15.3% 116

Background: For the first couple weeks last season there was no hotter – or better – hitter on the planet than Billy McKinney, the 24th overall pick in the 2013 draft. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound corner outfielder put on his best impression of Ted Williams for the season’s first 29 games by hitting a scorching .340/.432/.544 with some absurd peripherals in High Class A: 13.6% walk rate, 10.4% strikeout rate, .204 Isolated Power, five doubles, two triples, four homeruns, and a 182 wRC+. The club promoted him up to Class AA in mid-May where he continued to hit well before a knee issue – and subsequent hairline fracture surgery – sidelined him after the second week of August. McKinney would finish the year with an aggregate .300/.371/.454 triple-slash line, setting a new career high with 31 two-baggers, three triples, and seven homeruns.

Projection: The knee injury was more of a freak accident type of thing, the result of him fouling off a pitch. Last year marked the first time in his career that the left-handed McKinney failed to produce against fellow southpaws (.212/.296/.247), so there’s reason to believe that it shouldn’t be more than just a brief speed bump. When he’s healthy, McKinney showcases an above-average eye at the plate, the ability to consistently hit .300+, and no worse than solid-average power with some more in the tank. Eventually the doubles – and he’s slugged a ton of them over his past two seasons – will turn into some significant power output. And just to put that into perspective, since 2014 McKinney’s averaged nearly 39 doubles for a full 162-game season. Think of McKinney as a David DeJesus clone circa 2008, someone who can slug .300/.360/.450 at the big league level.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

3. Gleyber Torres, SS                                                        
Born: 12/13/96 Age: 19 Bats: R Top CALs: Cole Tucker, Cito Culver,

Luis Reynoso, Alejandro Salazar, Osvaldo Abreu

Height: 6-1 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 183 6 3 1 0.279 0.372 0.377 0.097 13.7% 18.0% 119
2015 18 A 514 24 5 3 0.293 0.353 0.386 0.093 8.4% 21.0% 116

Background: The latest Chicago prospect to offer up significant offensive upside at an offensive deficient position. Torres, a leggy 6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop out of Caracas, Venezuela, signed a rather impressive deal at the ripe ol’ age of 16 – an ice cold $1.7 million. Torres would wait another season until making his debut, a rather aggressive approach by the Cubs who pushed the then 17-year-old prospect straight into the Arizona Summer League. Torres responded well, hitting .279/.372/.377 with doubles power before catching fire during a seven-game promotion (.393/.469/.786). And once again the front office challenged Torres for the 2015 season: he spent all but seven games with South Bend in the Midwest League; and those other seven games were spent with Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League. Overall, Torres hit .293/.353/.386 with 24 doubles, five triples, three homeruns, and 22 stolen bases (in 35 attempts) in the Midwest League.

Projection: First, here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Tremendous eye for such a young kid, solid contact s kills and enough pop to suggest it becomes an average-ish skill down the line. It’s still incredibly early, but CAL’s suggesting there’s quite a bit of upside between 2014 first rounder Cole Tucker and Colorado’s Trevor Story. Looks like a solid find on the international market.”

Well, he certainly looks like a potential steal – and I can’t believe I’m about to write this – for $1.7 million. But it’s true. Torres took some important steps forward with his defense last season, commanded the strike zone well for a teenager making his full-season debut, flashed doubles power that will likely develop into 12 or so homeruns down the line, and a potential above-average stick. 

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

4. Ian Happ, LF/RF                                                           
Born: 08/12/94 Age: 21 Bats: B Top CALs: Jonathan Rodriguez, Grolmann Gonzalez, Dylan Cozens, Reid Fronk, Jaff Decker
Height: 6-0 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 20 A- 130 8 1 4 0.283 0.408 0.491 0.208 17.7% 21.5% 156
2015 20 A 165 9 3 5 0.241 0.315 0.448 0.207 10.3% 23.6% 118

Background: Let’s take a quick look back at General Manager Jed Hoyer’s draft track record in the first round since taking over the Cubs:

  1. Albert Almora, OF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Kyle Schwarber, C

So it only makes sense that Hoyer would once again hone in on another polished stick, taking the University of Cincinnati outfielder with the ninth overall selection last June. Happ, a 6-foot, 205-pound corner outfielder who bounced around UC’s infield at various times as well, was a three-year mainstay in the heart of the Bearcat lineup. He opened up his collegiate career on a high note, hitting .322/.451/.483 while tying for the team lead in doubles (13) and triples (1), while finishing with the most dingers, six. The switch-hitting Happ followed that up with an eerily similar campaign his sophomore season: .322/.443/.497 with 13 doubles, one triple, and five homeruns. And then the pre-season awards started rolling in, like Garth Brooks’ Thunder:

  • College Sports Madness Preseason All-American Conference
  • College Sports Madness Preseason American Athletic Conference Player of the Year
  • Perfect Game Preseason All-American Athletic Conference
  • Perfect Game Preseason American Athletic Conference
  • National College Baseball Writers of America Preseason All-America Third Team
  • Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American Third Team
  • College Sports Madness Preseason All-America First Team
  • Baseball America Preseason All-America First Team
  • Golden Spikes Preseason Watch List

And he surpassed – by leaps and bounds – every single expectation. In 56 games with the Bearcats, Happ bashed to the tune of .369/.492/.672 with career bests in doubles (18) and homeruns (14) while posting a 49-to-49 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Then the awards and recognition really poured in:

  • Capital One Academic All-America First Team and All-District First Team
  • ABCA First Team All-America
  • com First Team All-America
  • Collegiate Baseball Second Team All-America
  • Louisville Slugger Second Team All-America
  • National College Baseball Writers of America Second Team All-America
  • Baseball America Second Team All-America
  • College Sports Madness Second Team All-America
  • College Sports Madness American Player of the Year
  • College Sports Madness First Team All-America
  • Golden Spikes Semifinalist

Projection: I would be remiss to mention Happ’s back-to-back appearances in the premier Cape Cod League in 2013 and 2014 as well. So I will. Here’s what I wrote for his pre-draft write-up last year:

“A bit of an odd prospect because he really doesn’t have a set position once he transitions to the pro level. He could easily find himself at a corner outfield spot – where the bat doesn’t play extraordinarily well – [or] third base, where it has a chance to be league average for the position, or second base, a potential reincarnation of the Indians’ Jason Kipnis.

Offensively speaking, Happ has a lengthy track record of success with his time in a Bearcats’ uniform as well as – and more importantly – in the Cape Cod Summer League. He has an elite eye at the plate – he’s walked in nearly 18% of his career plate appearances (as of May 6th) – and enough pop to slug 25 doubles and 10 homeruns in a pro season. Happ’s decline in stolen base frequency and success are the only red flags to speak of during his final collegiate season.

He’s in the mold of a Jason Kipnis/Dustin Ackley-type player – solid league-average offensive performers. He’s a typical Oakland A’s-type prospect – college bat with some defensive versatility – but likely won’t be around when the franchise goes on the clock with the 20th pick.”

And, really, how much of a difference is there between Oakland’s front office and the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime? Not much. 

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

5. Trevor Clifton, RHP                                                       
Born: 05/11/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Yelper Castillo, Paul Demny,

Zachary Fuesser, Jason Garcia, Wilmer Font

Height: 6-4 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 10.3 0 0 6.97 3.43 13.06 6.97 29.4% 15.7% 0.00 61.9%
2014 19 A- 61.0 4 2 3.69 4.31 7.97 4.43 20.2% 11.2% 0.44 70.6%
2015 20 A 108.7 8 10 3.98 3.94 8.53 3.89 22.3% 10.2% 0.58 67.5%

Background: A big, projectable 6-foot-4 right-hander taken out of Heritage High School in 2013, Clifton received the highest bonus for a 12th rounder that year, nearly $400,000, the equivalent of late fourth round money. And Clifton’s paying off in a large way. The Tennessee native had a bit of a coming out party with Boise in the Northwest League two years ago, averaging nearly a punch out per inning as he battled some below-average control/command issues. But Clifton took a rather big – and important – developmental step forward with South Bend in 2015. In 108.2 innings of work, he fanned 103, walked 47, and posted nearly matching 3.98 ERA and 3.94 FIP.

Projection: Here’s the thing about long shots, or in this case late round over-slot signings – sometimes they pay off. And less than 200 innings under his professional belt, Clifton’s making an awful lot of noise as an up-and-comer in the Chicago system; so much so, in fact, that he could have as much potential as any hurler in the organization’s farm system. His strikeout rate is creeping up while he’s slowly improving his control/command. He’s big and projectable – with plenty of gas left in the projection tank. And only two other qualified starters under the age of 21 in the Midwest League last season missed more bats (Justus Sheffield and Grant Holmes, a pair of high round draft picks). Clifton has a chance to be an impact arm at the big league level. Watch out.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

6. Duane Underwood, RHP                                           
Born: 07/20/94 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs:  Carlos Pimentel, Tyler Green,

Travis Ott, Robert Hernandez, Luis Heredia

Height: 6-2 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 A- 54.3 3 4 4.97 4.77 5.96 4.47 13.9% 10.4% 0.66 57.1%
2014 19 A 100.7 6 4 2.50 4.42 7.51 3.22 20.3% 8.7% 0.89 80.0%
2015 20 R 5.0 0 0 0.00 1.42 10.80 0.00 33.3% 0.0% 0.00 100.0%
2015 20 A+ 73.3 6 3 2.58 4.16 5.89 2.95 16.7% 8.3% 0.74 75.4%

Background: The 2012 second round pick gave the organization quite a scare in late June – Underwood, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound well-built right-hander, started experiencing some discomfort in his powerful right-elbow, an ailment that worried the club enough that he underwent an MRI in early July where no structural damage was revealed. He would make just a pair of tune-up starts in late August in the Arizona Summer League, throwing five innings of pure dominance. Before the injury, Underwood was in the midst of breakout campaign: through his first 11 starts, the burly hurler tossed 63.1 innings, punched out 41, walked 17, and tallied a barely-there 1.85 ERA. For his career, he’s sporting a 3.12 ERA with a 181-to-93 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book,

“Then something clicked for the former second rounder and over his final 11 games he fanned 55, walked 16, and posted a tidy 2.13 ERA in 55.0 innings of work.”

I continued:

“Finally the real Underwood showed up. Granted it’s just an 11-game stretch, but the lively armed right-hander was simply too dominant to ignore. Opponents hit .199/.268/.346 off of him. If, and it’s a big if, he can carry that momentum forward – and there’s no reason to believe he can’t – Underwood’s going to start garnering a lot of attention outside of Chicago. At the very least he’s a dominant bullpen arm.” 

Well, he carried that momentum into 2015 season…and straight onto the DL. So now he has 22 starts of just ridiculous dominance. The only question is whether his arm will slow him down or not. Assuming it doesn’t spontaneously explode, he has front-of-the-rotation potential and the strikeouts could come in bunches. 

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

7. Mark Zagunis, OF                                                         
Born: 02/05/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Wesley Cunningham, Joey Rickard,

Jose Constanza, Mark Payton, Lucas Duda

Height: 6-0 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A- 191 9 2 2 0.299 0.429 0.422 0.123 16.2% 16.2% 145
2014 21 A- 191 9 2 2 0.299 0.429 0.422 0.123 16.2% 16.2% 145
2015 22 A+ 512 24 5 8 0.271 0.406 0.412 0.140 15.6% 16.8% 146

Background: Can I get whatever the front office is feeding college bats? Because that superhuman potion the club fattened Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber with apparently made its way down the line to Mark Zagunis, an overlooked backstop out of Virginia Tech a couple years back. Zagunis, who would eventually be tabbed in the third round in 2014, was an absolute force in the middle of VT’s lineup over the course of his three year career, hitting an aggregate .338/.430/.495 with 37 doubles, seven triples, 16 homeruns, and 52 stolen bases in 164 games. And much like Bryant and Schwarber, Zagunis tore through a few levels during his debut two years ago, slugging a combined .288/.420/.420 while making stops in the Arizona Summer, Northwest, and Midwest Leagues. Chicago bumped the backstop-turned-outfielder to High Class A for 2015, and he responded by hitting .271/.406/.412 with 24 doubles, five triples, eight homeruns, and a wRC+ of 146, the seventh best mark among all High Class A bats.

Projection: I’ve always been a fan of the budding sabermetric star; here’s what I wrote during his pre-draft evaluation:

“English Field [Virginia Tech’s home park] tends to inflate offensive numbers, but the tools are strong across the board. Solid-average power, above-average hit tool, good speed for a catcher, strong eye at the plate, and solid contact skills. The lone red flag – and it’s pretty glaring at this point – is his inability to control the [running] game. He has nabbed just 20% of would-be base stealer [so far in 2014].

His overall skillset is fairly similar to Zane Evans, the Georgia Tech backstop taken in the fourth round last year by the Royals, though Zagunis has a higher ceiling.

Overall, the Hokie catcher looks like a solid bet to develop into a league average everyday player with a peak around .270/.340/.400 with double-digit homeruns and stolen bases.”

Well, the analysis still looks spot on. The plate discipline has proven to be an elite skill; he’s walked in over 15% of his career plate appearances. The power is solid-average, as is the hit tool. And the club wisely moved him away from behind the plate. Simply put, Zagunis is one of the better prospects you’ve never heard about. I could easily see him carving out a 10-year career with average offensive production north of 100 wRC+.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

8. Carl Edwards, RHP                                                     
Born: 09/03/91 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Shawn Armstrong, Corey Knebel,

Pedro Strop, Maikel Cieto, Sam Demel

Height: 6-3 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A 93.3 8 2 1.83 2.06 11.76 3.28 32.4% 9.0% 0.00 71.7%
2013 21 A+ 23.0 0 0 1.96 1.85 12.91 2.74 36.3% 7.7% 0.39 81.6%
2014 22 R 5.7 0 0 1.59 3.33 12.71 6.35 36.4% 18.2% 0.00 83.3%
2014 22 AA 48.0 1 2 2.44 2.92 8.63 3.94 23.8% 10.9% 0.19 75.1%
2015 23 AA 23.7 2 2 2.66 2.97 13.69 6.46 36.0% 17.0% 0.38 60.2%
2015 23 AAA 31.7 3 1 2.84 3.50 11.08 6.82 29.6% 18.2% 0.00 72.5%

Background: It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for the pitcher formerly known as C.J. Edwards. A late, late, late round pick by the Rangers in 2011, Edwards’ career was on an impressive trajectory – especially for a 48th round pick – until shoulder issues derailed his speedy ascension last season. The rail-thin right-hander out of Mid-Carolina High School tore through the Arizona and Northwest Leagues during his pro debut, leaped through the Sally and FSL in his sophomore campaign, and opened up the 2014 season with four promising starts with the Tennessee Smokies. But Edwards, not to be confused with the NASCAR driver with the same name, would miss more than three months (with injury) before returning in late July. Chicago converted him to a full-time reliever in 2015 and Edwards made stops at three different levels: Class AA, Class AAA, and MLB. He would finish the minor league season with 55.1 innings, 75 punch outs, and a whopping 41 base on balls. He would also issue another three walks in 4.2 innings with Chicago down the stretch.

Projection: “We certainly, in no way, shape or form, have given up on him as a starter. But we also realize we [have] to manage his innings a little bit this year and start him off in that role allows us to do that, and then make an assessment which way we want to go with him.” – Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, April 8, 2015 via the Chicago Tribune.

Well, do you think after the season that the club is any closer in determining Edwards’ future? Likely not. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound right-hander has, historically speaking, always offered up solid-average control. But consider this: since coming back from the shoulder injury in late July 2014, Edwards has walked 68 in 105 innings of work, or nearly six free passes every nine innings.

The arsenal – an above-average fastball, hard upper 70s curveball, and an 88 mph changeup – plays very well in the rotation, obviously, but if he doesn’t recapture his previous control there’s no way he makes it back to the big leagues as a starting pitcher.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

9. Eloy Jimenez, LF/RF                                                  
Born: 11/27/96 Age: 19 Bats: R Top CALs: Zolio Almonte, Zacrey Law,

Oscar Rojas, Wander Franco, Natanael Delgado

Height: 6-4 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 164 8 2 3 0.227 0.268 0.367 0.140 6.1% 19.5% 80
2015 18 A- 250 10 0 7 0.284 0.328 0.418 0.134 6.0% 17.2% 113

Background: One of the club’s biggest expenditures in the international market over the past several seasons, Jimenez, who signed a massive $2.8 million deal out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old, struggled to adapt to a brand new culture and far more advanced pitching during his pro debut in the Arizona Summer League the following season. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound man-child batted .227/.268/.367 with just 13 extra-base hits in 42 games. But the organization, keeping with their original aggressive approach, pushed Jimenez up to the Northwest League where his production rebounded greatly; he hit .284/.328/.418 with 10 doubles and seven dingers in 57 games as an 18-year-old against hurlers that averaged three years his senior.

Projection: Again, here’s some more context: only one other 18-year-old slugged more short-season dingers than Jimenez: Colorado’s Kevin Padlo, with 10. Jimenez has massive, massive power potential – something that his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame only hints at. Solid-eye with some room to grow as he familiarizes himself with more advanced pitching. He also has strong contact rates, another encouraging sign for a budding power-hitter.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

10. Daniel Vogelbach, 1B                                            
Born: 12/17/92 Age: 23 Bats: L Top CALs: Mike Carp, Max Muncy,

Stefan Welch, Chris Parmalee, Austin Gallagher

Height: 6-0 Weight: 250 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A 500 21 0 17 0.284 0.364 0.450 0.166 11.4% 15.2% 128
2014 21 A+ 560 28 1 16 0.268 0.357 0.429 0.162 11.8% 16.3% 126
2015 22 R 17 2 0 0 0.455 0.647 0.636 0.182 35.3% 5.9% 265
2015 22 AA 313 16 1 7 0.272 0.403 0.425 0.154 18.2% 19.5% 140

Background: One of the last holdovers from the pre-Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era that’s still considered a top prospect. Vogelbach continued his slow, arduous trek through the minor leagues last season, spending the entire year with Tennessee – and partly on the Disabled List. Appearing in 76 games with the Smokies in the Southern League, the hefty lefty-swinging first baseman, who battled a semi-serious oblique injury, mashed to the tune of .272/.403/.425 with 16 doubles, one triple, and seven homeruns en route to posting a whopping 140 wRC+. And just for argument’s sake, here are those counting stats pro-rated for a full 162-game season: 35 doubles, 2 triples, and 15 homeruns. For his career Vogelbach is sporting an impressive .284/.382/.473 triple-slash line, most of which was done against much older competition.  

Projection: For everything that Vogelbach does well – an above-average or better eye at the plate, 15- to 20-homer power potential, squares up the baseball – he has yet to consistently solve left-handed pitching. Here are his OPS totals against southpaws since 2013: .1200, .660, .637, and .769. And those two successful seasons can be easily explained away: rookie ball and a small sample size buoyed by his walk rate. If he can solve LHP, he’s a slam dunk solid-average or better MLB first baseman. If not, well, he’ll make a lot of money as a bench bat/platoon option.   

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2016

 

 

Author’s Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



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.