Cubs Prospect Roundup

The Cubs top prospects were in town last week for the Rookie Development program and Cubs Convention. Well known by now, the Cubs system has evolved into one of the top two or three in all of baseball. Here, we review some recent prospect rankings to see how the Cubs stack up both nationally and within the organization.

Eight Cubs in Scout.com’s Top 100

The Cubs placed eight players on Scout.com’s ranking of the top 100 minor league prospects, with three in the top 13. The biggest surprise on the Cubs’ list was not the fact they placed so many, tied with the Pirates for the most of any team in baseball, but the order in which they were rated. Most analysts consider Javier Baez and Kris Bryant to be the top two Cub prospects. But Scout.com’s National Baseball Analyst Kiley McDaniel ranked Albert Almora as the Cubs’ number one prospect. Here is the list of Cubs and their top 100 rank and position:

  • #8           Albert Amora, OF
  • #10         Kris Bryant, 3B
  • #13         Javier Baez, SS
  • #44         C.J. Edwards, RHP
  • #53         Jorge Soler, OF
  • #80         Dan Vogelbach, 1B
  • #85         Pierce Johnson, RHP
  • #88         Arismendy Alcantara, SS

Baez is ranked as the #4 overall SS, which seems a little low given his offensive dominance (37 home runs) in high A and Double A last season. Baez will no doubt be ranked higher on most other national prospect rankings. Alcantara is also ranked as a SS even though he moved over to 2B last season to accommodate Baez during the second-half at Double A West Tennessee. This is a testament to Alcantara’s athleticism and defensive tool set, which plays in CF as well as SS and 2B. Bryant is ranked as the #1 3B on the list. On Almora’s ranking, McDaniel said:

Most thought I had Almora a little high as a top 10 guy, but when pressed, almost every scout conceded he’s a high-probability, quick-moving guy that conservatively has a ceiling of .280 with 15 homers and plus defense. Almora may not have the flashy raw tools of other prospects ranked this high, but those projected numbers are close to what Carlos Gomez did this year, posting an 8-win season.

After getting the opportunity to see Almora interact with fans and media at the Cubs Convention last weekend, it is easy to see why those who know him best are so high on his potential. He carries himself more like a 30-year-old than a 20-year-old. Because of his maturity and makeup, he has a higher probability than most players his age of approaching his talent ceiling in the major leagues.

MLB Draft Insider Top 14 Cub Prospects

Chris Crawford of MLB Draft Insider ranks the Cubs top 14 prospects as follows:

      1. Javier Baez, SS
      2. Kris Bryant, 3B
      3. Jorge Soler, OF
      4. Albert Almora, OF
      5. C.J. Edwards, RHP
      6. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS/CF
      7. Pierce Johnson, RHP
      8. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
      9. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
      10. Eloy Jimenez, OF
      11. Rob Zastryzny, LHP
      12. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
      13. Scott Frazier, RHP
      14. Neil Ramirez, RHP

Here, Soler is ranked ahead of Almora, one more testament to the depth of the minor league talent pool.  Of note on the Draft Insider list are three players projected to arrive in the big leagues this year: Bryant, Vizcaino, and Ramirez. It’s tantalizing to think we could see Bryant in Chicago by late 2014. He has moved so fast and is already such a polished hitter, it is a distinct possibility. I also expect to see Vizcaino in the big league bullpen by mid-summer.  All reports indicate Vizcaino’s mid- to high-90s fastball has returned post-surgery and he could turn into a valuable bullpen piece for the Cubs this year and beyond.

Ramirez was the player-to-be-named in the Matt Garza trade last summer and is an interesting prospect. Projections on Ramirez are mixed; he is projected here as a potential back-of-rotation starter with plus command of his low- to mid-90s fastball and a potentially plus curveball. However, FanGraphs’s assessment (see below) is somewhat less promising.

The biggest surprise here is the inclusion of Eloy Jimenez in the top 10. Jimenez, who signed last summer as an international free agent, is only 17-years-old. He has a big frame (6’4” 200 lbs) with big power and profiles as a right fielder with a plus arm. Jimenez is young and raw and a top ten ranking is probably a little high, but he could legitimately emerge as a consensus top 10 Cub prospect in the next year or two.  Another surprise is LHP Rob Zastryzny, who crops up for the first time close to the top ten.

FanGraphs Top 15 Cub Prospects

 Marc Hulet at FanGraphs summarizes the Cubs system as follows:

The system is strong although it’s somewhat top heavy. The Top 10 list starts to taper offer after No. 8 but I’d consider the overall depth to be above average. The Cubs feature one of the most enviable one-through-four group of prospects in the game.

Unlike most, Hulet has Pierce Johnson ahead of Edwards. He projects mid-rotation ceilings for both pitchers, but notes that Edwards is more likely to develop into a high leverage reliever than a starter. Like Crawford at MLB Draft Insider, Hulet also includes Jimenez and Ramirez in the top 15. Concerning Ramirez, Hulet observes that he “lacks a reliable third offering to go with his low-to-mid-90s fastball and above-average curveball.”  Hulet projects his major league potential as a reliever rather than a starter. Kyle Hendricks cracks the top 10 here, though he does not appear at all on Crawford’s top 14.

      1. Javier Baez, SS
      2. Kris Bryant, 3b
      3. Albert Almora, CF
      4. Jorge Soler, OF
      5. Arismendy Alcantara, SS/2B
      6. Pierce Johnson, RHP
      7. C.J. Edwards, RHP
      8. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
      9. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
      10. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
      11. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
      12. Christian Villanueva, 3B
      13. Duane Underwood, RHP
      14. Eloy Jimenez, OF
      15. Neil Ramirez, RHP

Look for more prospect coverage later this week with the release of Jason Parks’ Top Ten Cubs on Baseball Prospectus.