Javier Baez ranks as BA's 25th best prospect; notes on Soler, Jackson, Vitters, Candelario and Szczur

Javier Baez ranks as BA's 25th best prospect; notes on Soler, Jackson, Vitters, Candelario and Szczur
Baez is leaping up the prospect lists

Javier Baez is making quite the leap forward in terms of prospect status.  After barely sneaking in some top 100 lists at the start of the year, Baez is now considered among the top prospects in the game just one year after being drafted.

Baseball America ranked Baez as MLB's #25 overall prospect.

The likelihood that Baez won't stay at SS likely prevented him from being ranked even higher.  Most scouts believe he'll end up at 3B where he has the actions and athleticism to be a superb defender.  He's also shown some surprising speed this year with 11 SBs in 12 attempts.  It's Baez's bat that will be his calling card, however, and he has the swing and bat speed to hit for both average and power.

The top 50 list didn't include recent draftees or international signees. That includes Cuban signee Jorge Soler, whom BA's Jim Callis said would have made the top 50 as well. Had Albert Almora been signed he would not have qualified either.  On a related note, Callis has said he expects Almora to sign sometime next week while RHP Duane Underwood should sign within the next couple of days.

Two players that did not make it were Brett Jackson who was listed, in fact, in the "Stock Down" category because of his strikeouts and the resurgent Josh Vitters.  When asked about Vitters in the subsequent chat, Callis said,

As someone who does our Cubs Top 30 for the Prospect Handbook every year, I talk to people incessantly about Vitters. He has made some progress, but his ceiling is solid regular and the guys on this list have higher ceilings than that. I'm also not sold Vitters could be an everyday third baseman at the big league level. I think you'd want a better defender than that. So no, I can't tell you he even received consideration for the Top 50.

When BAs JJ Cooper was asked about Brett Jackson's potential to regain entry into the top 50, he was not optimistic, saying,

My best guess on the end of season rankings is no. Jackson never wowed scouts with any plus-plus tool, now he's got a significant wart in a strikeout rate that is baffling.

So how close Jackson, Szczur, and Vitters were to making the list?  According to Cooper,

Not that close (Jackson), further away (Szczur) and not that close to making the list (Vitters). Jackson's K-rate is a major concern for a guy who doesn't have a lot of 65s on his scouting report. Szczur is a solid prospect, but didn't really compare yet to the guys at the back end of the 50 and Vitters is having a much better season, but there still doesn't appear to be a whole lot of ceiling there.

In other words, those guys are solid prospects, but they aren't top 50 type quality -- at least not yet in the case of Szczur, much as we've talked about here, so that shouldn't be a surprise.

John Sickels, who made his list earlier, ranked the following Cubs players in his top 120 list..

  • #22 Anthony Rizzo
  • #43 Javier Baez
  • #55 Brett Jackson

Matt Szczur also received consideration but did not make the list.  Apparently, Vitters did not receive much consideration from Sickels either, almost certainly because of his lack of ideal plate discipline.

Jason Churchill of ESPN (insider only), however, has put Vitters on his list of prospects who are next in line for an MLB call-up.  Of Vitters, he said that his improved approach and legit power numbers, combined with the lack of a regular 3B on the Cubs roster, makes Vitters in line for a call-up.

Kevin Goldstein also wrote a piece on ESPN (insider only).  Goldstein says that scouts have always reserved some optimism for Vitters because of his power potential and ability to make contact.  While he doesn't think he'll be a star, Goldstein believes Vitters is "definitely blooming" and can still be a guy who will hit for average and power.  Like Churchill, he also cites the Cubs gaping hole at 3B.

Keith Law said the following about Vitters on a response in his chat today,

His main flaw as a pro has always been the complete lack of patience/plate discipline. That's really not any better this year. And I say that as someone who raved about him out of the draft and would still call it one of the best-looking RH swings I have ever seen.

In the same chat, Law also called Jeimer Candelario a "legit" prospect right now.

As it looks right now, stock up on Baez, stock down on Jackson, and Vitters looks to have made significant progress but even the most optimistic evaluators seem him more as a solid regular than a star.  The same seems to be true of Matt Szczur.  With Candelario, it's much too early to tell, but he seems to have the chance to enter that "impact" category along with Baez, Soler, and Almora.

Anthony Rizzo's promotion means one less top 50 prospect and if the Cubs are going to add any top 50 prospects, they'll be Albert Almora when he signs and Jorge Soler.  Both should appear when BA makes it's top 100 list later while Jackson should also make the list with Szczur, Vitters, and maybe even Candelario having an outside shot depending on how they finish the season.

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  • It is my understanding that if you bring up a prospect in Sept.
    he is then added to the 40-man roster is this correct? If so,
    how does this affect Vitters and the 40-man roster. Who are
    other prospects that might create a 40-man problem

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    This is correct. It won't affect Vitters though because he's already on the 40 man roster. The one guy who is not on the roster who could get a call-up is Brett Jackson.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, do you have any insight as to what the Cubs hope to extract from other teams in projected/desirable trades? If they succeed in trading Garza, Dempster, Soto, Soriano, Marmol and possibly Maholm, Baker, Camp, Johnson, Barney, LaHair and possibly a couple others, that would be a large amount of prospects coming back to the Cubs. They couldn't protect that many on the 40-man roster and certainly wouldn't want to lose players to the rule5 draft after giving away a good number of players to get them. So do they lean toward prospects who are further away from the big leagues but hopefully with higher ceilings?

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    Word is they want 3 good prospects for Garza, I'd imagine a couple for Demp, though probably at a lower level. Those are the two guys that can really help transform this system. The other guys will either be sweeteners or maybe bring back a prospect in the case of LaHair, Marmol, or Barney. I don't think Soto gets dealt this year.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    That stinks about Soto, I'd love seeing Clev and Castillo play every day

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I'd like to see those guys get more ABs as well, but Soto's value is zero right now. Better shot in offseason, I think.

  • It is nice to see Vitters re-establish himself as a viable prospect again. Goldstein is right, Vitters will never be a star but a very solid player.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Law just chimed in with something similar in his chat. Thinks Vitters needs to be a .300/.335/.500 guy to be a long term starter because of his below average defense.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think he has the potential to do it. But dont rule out him improving his D over time. It's unlikely but not unheard of.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I think the best hope is that he becomes average. Doesn't have great range, hands are so-so, arm above average. Tools really aren't there and he's worked hard on it, maybe can improve a bit, but won't ever be great but you hope he can hit well enough to compensate (a la A-Ram)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think the matter of his defense is moot, considering if Baez pans out Vitters will be playing left field if at all for the Cubs.

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    These list are fun to talk about but mean little. I love the fact that Baez has jumped in certain eyes, but I won't hold my breath either. If Vitters turns into a regular 3rd base-MAN at the MLB level I'll take it.. I've watched super highly touted prospects be complete busts(Patterson/Pie/Choi ).. Besides Vitters has to be an upgrade over Ian Stewart...

  • In reply to Barry Bij:

    LIsts are always just for fun and debate. Vitters could be a solid regular and I'd take that too, but Cubs have 2 prospects in Baez and Candelario who can be more than that. And Cubs desperately need impact players. We've seen the difference Rizzo has made already.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, would you include Lake in with with Baez and Candelario?

  • In reply to Moonlight:

    I'd put him a notch below that, but I know some baseball people who like him better than Vitters.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Has there ever been discussion of Vitters playing other positions? Could he ever end up being a player like Allen Craig?

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    He could play LF or 1B, but offensive value is best at 3B.

  • John, what's your best estimate of Baez playing 3B for the Cubs? Could the earliest be 2014 (Sept. call up)?

  • In reply to Greg Shuey:

    That would be optimistic but not impossible. I think mid to late 2015 is more likely though.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I wouldn't mind seeing if Vitters can man 3rd until then. Throw em out there and see what he does. What do we have to lose.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Agreed. He looks like their best option for next year right now.

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    One thing I love about this site is how these scouts and their lists are seen by the commenters here as a reference, good incite, etc but not treat them as if their evaluations are the end all be all of what a prospect will be. The people here understand that some scouts are biased, some seem to judge prospects off very small sample sizes, some pinpoint certain traits and if a prospect doesn't have those specific traits they write them off etc.

    Just because Brett Jackson or Josh Vitters aren't in their top 50's doesn't mean they won't have better careers or at least improve on certain things like shark.. Look at Brian Beachy before he got hurt. he was undrafted.

    Again I like how the people don't take everything these scouts say as gold and actually take time to form their own evaluations :) sometimes scouts just look at numbers and a few may have never even seen these guys in person. Who knows.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    They're not infallible. They make mistakes all the time, as do stats guys. You just try to make the best evaluation with the info you have.

    That being said, you have to respect what scouts say because they do see players with a trained eye, and they see certain players a lot more than the average fan does.

    We'll have to wait and see, hopefully they're underestimating Vitters, Jackson, Szczur, etc.

  • Was pleased to hear Callis' comment on the nearness of Underwood and Almora signing.

  • In reply to Moonlight:

    Underwood announced he will sign on Twitter, by the way.

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    John, Geiger is sort of reminding me of Mike Olt. Where does Geiger fit into all this.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    He's more of a sleeper type. Does have a good glove and a good bat, but not the plate discipline of Olt. I think he can hit for a better average, however.

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    By the way, it was me who asked the Vitters question.

  • In reply to James Knott:

    Ha! Really? That was great, made me laugh.

  • John, just to better frame all of this, where did Castro rank right before he got called up or the year before he got called up?

  • In reply to Greg Shuey:

    16 on Baseball America's list in 2010..

  • In reply to furiousjeff:

    16 with a bullet. If he'd stayed in the minors another year, he probably would have cracked the top 5.

  • Anyone else notice that all the draft selection picked higher than Almora have signed for less than the recommmended slotting amount? The only pick so far to sign for at least the targeted amount is the 7th pick following Almora...

    Very interesting, I'd love to be a fly on the wall when Boras and Theo /Jed negotiate this signing bonus...

  • Unfortunately, since the Cubs shamefully didn't begin rebuilding until this year, our reservoir of future star players is almost empty. Many current and former Cubs vets should have been traded two or three years ago for prospects; if Hendry had done so the Cubs would already be far along in their rebuilding phase.
    In addition to Hendry's horrible failure regarding assessing the state of his team and the glaring need to rebuild, now we're finding out that his top draft picks might not even pan out to be everyday players, much less stars. Failure all around!
    Even if Theo hits bullseyes with all of his draft picks and his trades, it could be three or four years before these prospects even go through their MLB rookie growing pains.
    In the meantime, we're forced to watch Sveum stitch together a crappy quilt from his misfit pieces of fabric. According to Fangraphs' WAR stat, the Cubs' team MVP so far is Soriano.

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    In reply to baseballet:

    I don't totally disagree with you, but I think we could begin to be decent sooner than that. Next year will probably not be good, although we'll all enjoy it more because it will be more of the future and less of Soriano, Baker and the other leftovers.

    I'm no Hendry apologist, but we should at least acknowledge that last year's draft looks to have been pretty solid. It doesn't necessarily speed things up, but there's some potential there.

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