Cubs Prospect Notes: Soler, Almora, Vogelbach, Paniagua, Candelario, Watkins

Cubs Prospect Notes: Soler, Almora, Vogelbach, Paniagua, Candelario, Watkins
Jorge Soler

Well the minors recaps are done except for Boise, but there continues to be increasing interest in Cubs prospects, particularly those at the lower levels.  The Cubs don't have much at AA and AAA, but the good news is that there is talent in the A leagues and below.

  • CSN's David Kaplan wrote an excellent article on Jorge Soler.  The Cubs are pleased with Soler's progress considering how raw he is and that he knew nothing of English or MLB baseball.  Kaplan says scouts look at Soler as a player with tremendous athleticism and a very bright future, but that he is raw with much to learn.  Said his hitting coach and Cuban ex-MLB ballplayer Barbaro Garbey, "Soler is a 20 year old kid. He is not a 20-year-old mature guy, he is a 20-year-old kid. He has the power, he has the talent and he has the time because he is only 20 years old. Like him, I came from Cuba and it takes time to make adjustments especially when you don’t speak English and he doesn’t yet understand how hard you have to play every single day." Garbey believes Soler will be a superstar one day.  His manager Casey Kopitzke had this to say, "He’s been a great pleasure to have. Watching him go about his work the way he has is real exciting. He has outstanding power and he is playing very well defensively for us and he has an excellent arm in right field."
  • There will be a full report on Soler on CSN"s SportsCentral tonight after the game.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America held a chat and fielded a few questions on Cubs prospects.  Interestingly, Callis rates Albert Almora ahead of Soler because of his better all-around skills and the position value of CF.
  • When asked if Dan Vogelbach can play LF, Callis responded, "I'll put it this way: I've never talked to a scout who thought Vogelbach had a chance to play left field. There's a better chance that he's a DH only than he's a left fielder. That said, kudos to him on a great year with the bat."  I have had the same experience in my conversations.  Vogelbach is considered a 1B at best and possibly just a DH, but I was also told that he had "80 power", which is at the very top of the scouting scale.
  • Callis was also asked if Juan Carlos Paniagua was the Cubs second best pitching prospect.  Coincidentally, that came up in the comments today as well.  Callis said he may well be their 2nd best prospect, especially considering the dearth of pitching prospects in the system.  He also mentioned that Pierce Johnson, Duane Underwood, and Dillon Maples would also be in the discussion.  We heard Keith Law chime in earlier on Paniagua, calling him a sleeper who showed easy mid 90s heat and a good, hard slider.  Law told me it was too early to ding Paniagua for his change-up because of the long layoff.  In my opinion, if he can regain the change-up he reportedly showed in the Dominican, it could be a breakout year in 2013 for Paniagua, who may be advanced enough to skip a few levels.  If he shows well in instructs, it wouldn't surprise me to see him start in Daytona next season given his relative polish and age (22).
  • Ben Badler has been answering questions from numerous people on Twitter regarding Cubs prospects.  Badler responded that Jeimer Candelario was more impressive to him than Gioskar Amaya and that Candelario was "impressive for skipping a level" and should develop plenty of pop.  I like both players and while Candelario may end up being the better hitter, Amaya may have the clearer path to the majors.  Even if Candelario can stay at 3B, he may find Javier Baez entrenched there.  However, Baez may be athletic enough to play 2B, so it may come down to which of the the two Boise products forces their way into the lineup.
  • When asked if Logan Watkins has a chance to be a starting 2B, Badler responded, "Certainly has a chance. Development took a nice step forward this year."  That should be no surprise to readers here, who have been tracking Watkins all year long, but it is different than what we heard from Kevin Goldstein earlier on Twitter, who considers him a utility infielder.  Frankly, many considered Watkins a utility infielder at the start of the season but Watkins showed marked improvement as far as power and approach at the plate.  Watkins has always had a good approach, but he did take it to a different level this year. It's the improvement in his extra base power, however, that gives him a shot at starting down the road.  He also offers good speed and solid defense at 2B.


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  • Now that the minor league season is over I hope to see
    more of these reports. Can you come up with a list of
    those prospects are part of our future and those that can
    maybe be traded.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Thanks e! I think making a list like that is difficult because those kinds of things are almost impossible to predict. Too much has to play out between every level of the organization. What I can do is make a depth chart at each position, and that can give you an idea of where each prospect stands and who might be the depth they'll be able to deal if everything works out.

  • Christmas came early for me as it looks like I may get extended looks at Baez/Soler/Paniagua and possibly others in Daytona next year.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'd be disappointed if Paniagua didn't end up at Daytona at some point. I think he'll start there, but even if he doesn't and starts in Peoria, then I'd be disappointed if he didn't pitch well enough to move up mid-season.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Allegiant Air non-stop direct from South Bend to Sanford (40 mins from the ball park) for $130 Roundtrip. come see them sometime!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Wow! That's a great deal. Maybe I'll do that!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's how I'm able to fly back and forth so

    They also fly out of Rockford and Gary/East Chicago airport to Sanford. Forgot that would be closer for you

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    I'm probably about to embarrass myself here. Is Vizcaino the Cubs top pitching prospect or am I missing someone obvious here?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ha! It's Vizcaino. I probably should have written that in!

  • Zonk wrote on your previous article to temper our enthusiasm until they hit the upper levels because busts can and will happen. While I agree wholeheartedly, I prefer to get excited right away until prospects fizzle. I get much more salivated when prospects excell at the upper levels, but there is much reason for excitement. Also, if we are following the National's model, I think it will work. Here's what the Nats have done with their big league roster (starting in 2005 for homegrown heroes):

    2005 -
    1st round (4th pick)- Ryan Zimmerman - 3b
    11th round - John Lannon - Relief Pitcher
    12th round - Craig Stammen - Relief Pitcher

    1st round (6th pick) Ross Detwiler - Starting pitcher
    2nd round - Jordan Zimmerman - Starting Pitcher
    Amateur FA - Sandy Leon - Backup Catcher

    3rd round - Danny Espinosa - 2b
    16th round - Tyler Moor - Backup LF, 1b
    19th round - Steve Lombardozzi - Backup 3b, LF, SS, 2b

    1st round (1st pick) - Stephen Strasburg - Starting Pitcher
    1st round (10th pick) - Drew Storen - Closer

    2010 (1st pick) - Bryce Harper - CF

    That's 12 players from the farm on their team, including three starting pitchers, your starting 2b, 3b, and CF. The rest are fill ins and big free agents. While Zonk is correct, we have to keep in mind that if we get a 3b and two passable OF out of this group, we have Rizzo and Castro to build off of. It all comes down to pitching. We need some of these prospects to make it to our starting staff if we hope to do what the Nats have done.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    I understand tempering excitement but it's hard not to be optimistic when you have some genuine top 50 talent now. Last year it was Rizzo, Vizcaino, and Jackson. This year they have Baez, Almora, and Soler. The Cubs haven't had guys with those kinds of ceilings in a long time -- and while they may not all work out, at least there's a chance for some exciting things to happen on the farm for a change.

  • Great Article as alway John. I agree with everything you have said. I have been a fan of Watkins even called him the Sleeper for the Cubs. I completed agree that Baez could handle 2B. But the true question about that are you will to take a guy who could be a Gold glove player and move him for a player that in average but a good bat? They way I look at it there are a couple ways this could go. The IF could look like this Rizzo 1B, Watkins 2B, Castro SS and Baez 3B. This would be a very good to great defensive IF. Or we could see Baez at 2B and Candelario at 3

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    Thanks Wickit.

    That's a good point with Baez. You may get more bat with him at 2B and Candelario at 3B, but you will probably weaken the defense. It's something the Cubs will have to balance when (and if) that time comes.

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    Sorry phone screwed up. Candelario at 3B would be more likely an average defensive with above average to great defense. I believe if Baez goes to 3B he will be a Gold Glove winner at 2B I am not so sure.

  • i just noticed that the top 20 prospect list on the cubs home page has been updated. It has some new names. Missing are Paniagua and Vilanueva. I think Vilanueva was 6 or 7 before and now has fallen out of the top 20.

  • In reply to John57:

    I have to think that Paniagua and Villanueva will make my top 20. I probably wouldn't include Whitenack and Wells at this much as I like them both.

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    This may be a stretch but If Baez can handle Second base does anyone else feel like he would increase his value beyond belief? As a 2b his kind of bat has MVP type potential and gives us something only a handful of teams have and that's an impact player at 2b, those are rare and would allow us to play a Vitters or Candelario at 3b. In short our offense and overall team would be incredible if Baez can man second. If a guy like Amaya or Devoss pass up Candelario or Vitters you can easily move Baez over to third and be fine.

    Side note: Albert Almora rank 52nd best propect in baseball already. Soler was at 72 I think. Pretty impressive considering these guys JUST got here.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Provided he hits the way people expect, his value would be tremendous at 2B. Right now, the likelihood is that he's a 3B, where he can be a star defender as well as a big bat. Plenty of time for this all to shake out.

  • I am thinking how good the Cubs can be by 2015 or 2016......if these players come up and help out guys like Castro, Jackson & Rizzo, we will have a damn good team.......we just need the pitching to come through........just think, when was the last time we had a very good farm system in the making?........Remember the days of Karl Pagel?....Scott Thompson?..........Randy Martz?........Ty Waller?...........Earl Cunningham?......Lance Dickson?.........Jessie Hollins?.........Kevin Orie?...........Bobby Brownlie?.......Felix Pie?.................i sure hope we have a farm system that is something better then what we use to have.....

    Somewhere in a container, I have every Topps Cubs card from 1970 to 2011 - Mint....I go to it once a year to add the next Topps Cubs cards set...........I think this year, the set will hit 50 cards will all the updates added on.

    Too bad Cubs never had Joe Carter on Topps card.......but his Donruss Rookie looks cool.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    The early 2000s had some promise as the Cubs had what was considered one of the top 3-5 farm systems in baseball. As we all know, however, they failed to develop Patterson, Kelton, and whole host of arms they had at that time.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    ...that's why prospects are always suspects, until they arrive at the majors. You never know. At one point, we had so many good minor league arms that we struggled to find everyone rotation slots. Then, a raft of arm troubles, not just Prior and Guzman, but Blasko, Brownlie, Hagerty, 2002, 4 first-round pitchers drafted, 4 busts.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    ..not to mention Hee Seop Choi, Bobby Hill, Luis Montanez, Ryan Harvey, Brian Dopirak.........all top prospects.

    Hate to re-open old wounds, but.....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    We understand that not all prospects will make it and some would rather reserve their excitement until they're closer to the majors.

    There are many others who choose to be excited that the Cubs have potential impact talent in the system. They're going to need to continue to build that if they expect to be a successful team.

    Sometimes -- most times -- prospects don't make it. It's part of the game.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I hear you, but that was the old regime. They didn't develop worth a damn and they made bad picks. As I mentioned about the Nats, they did it right. Their prospects worked out. So did the Braves (5 of 9 position players homegrown, 3 of 5 starters homegrown). All the picks you mention were either bad or undeveloped. You have to admit that there is a different kind of excitement about these kids. I felt the same way about Pie and Patterson coming up as I did about Vitters. So let's leave the past out of this. This is the future, and the future is bright. Good organizations draft smart. We are now a part of that group. I'm willing to bet that the 2015 Cubs have a similar homegrown pedigree as this years Nats or Braves.

    The Cubs of old had no culture, and no direction for Minor League ballplayers. I'm glad to shut the door on the past. I don't think it's fair to re-open wounds that weren't caused by Theo and his boys. I'm waiting to reserve judgement. And while I wait, I'm enjoying every minute of watching the youth movement.

  • I've seen Baez play up close. I was on the field for games he played at SS, 1B, and C. I've also watched him throw a bullpen session. Granted, this was at HS & 18U travel ball, but this kid was clearly a man among boys then. I believe, and more importantly Javier believes that he can literally play anywhere. I know a few local HS coaches with MLB playing experience that say the same thing about him.

    Some of the scouting reports I've read state that they think he can stay at SS. So I see no reason why he couldn't be a plus defender at 2B or 3B. Watch the kid play, he has more range than Barney...

    I think he gives he the Cubs a lot of flexibility to play him wherever they need him just to get his bat in the line-up.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He was a man among boys even in Peoria. I think Baez has enough athleticism, bat and arm to play just about anywhere on the field. There is some flexibility there. You can't even rule him out playing SS and Castro moving, though that seems unlikely right now.

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    I really think just having these types of guy in the system is what's most important. It gives us great flexibility for those "waves" that Theo talked about from the very start. Trying to figure where they will be in 3 or 4 years is really a fools game for now, imo.

    Let's remember that Theo traded away Nomar when he was a God in Boston. Everybody has a price and knowing that you have some great talent on the farm that could fill in very nicely gives you the ability to just make your team that much stronger. So not that I would want to trade away a Castro, Rizzo or Jackson....... anything can happen in 3 to 4 years from now.

    Let's get these waves a roll'n!!! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee It's gonna be fun folks

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Garciaparra, though, was also 30 and making pretty good money. The value was no longer there and he was becoming a liability defensively.

    Coincidentally, Castro will turn 30 when his deal is up and if he's still producing, he'll get big money -- and if he is no longer a good defensive SS, maybe Theo does it again.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    All good points John. But I'm not trying to single out any one player. My point is that if Theo really does stick to his plan this time and continues to build our team from the farm, he will have much more flexibility to trade just about anyone at any time. In Boston, he did get away from this concept in his last few years and caved in to pressure to "buy" a winning club.

    We now see how Boston is doing when they traded everyone away to start anew. The main difference may be that Boston may have a better farm system at the higher levels than Chicago. If we look around the league at who the up and comers are, we see Texas and Washington both going to be good for many years to come. They both have strong farms to fill their needs.

    So I'm just saying that while all this talk about players we have that may look good on paper for the 2015 season or beyond. It's kinda like blowing bubbles in the wind. There they are and then they they go. Who knows what the wind will blow in?

    But I must admit, I'm one extra excited Cubs fan. Been waiting my whole life to see what's going on in the Cubs organization! I'm still wearing my Cubbie blue proudly!!

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Very true. This team will have a lot of turnover in the next few years. We'd like to think that we have enough talent to field a homegrown team, but the odds are that it won't happen.

    But it is exciting to have high ceiling guys for a change. It's unlikely that they'll all pan out but between Rizzo, Castro, Jackson, Almora, Baez, Soler, etc. you hope that a few can form that nucleus to build on.

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    It seems like Christian Villanueva isn't in alot of prospect conversations lately.....this despite a pre-season BA top 100 ranking (granted, #100), and having a good season at A+. He posted a .789 OPS in a notorious pitcher's league, and overall seemed to make decent progress. Have scouts soured on him? I would expect him to start at AA next year.

    Speaking of BA Top 100s, how do we assess the season Szczur had? He did show more plate discipline than last year, but struggled a bit in the move to AA, and scouts are unsure if his funky swing will work at higher levels. On the plus side, he's athletic and coachable, so has the skills to fix problems. Where does he stand?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think with Villanueva.its more about not standing out in anyone area. He gets lost in the shuffle.because he's a player with average tools across the board.

    As an example, we get excited abut Vogelbach because of his power tool but given the level and Villanueva's ability to contribute in all phases of the game, he may be more likely to make it.

    My thought with Szczur is that he still has a lot to catch up as far as instincts for the game. Szczur was a part time player from a cold weather state, so his baseball "life experience" is a little short right now. I think he works hard to close those gaps but until he grinds his way to the majors and succeeds, there will always be doubts with him. Right now, I think he's a big leaguer but not necessarily as a starter.

    Going to the AFL is big for him. He needs to play and continue to develop.

  • John - I'm puzzled why so many seem so eager to move Castro from SS for a still-unproven Baez. If Baez is ready in 2015, Castro would be 25 and in his 6th ML season. Given the remarkable improvement in his defense this year alone why risk (with a team 'likely' to contend) a relative unknown at a critical position? I get that Baez may in fact be a blue chip prospect. Castro is proving to be a blue chip major league shortstop!!

    I haven't had Hoosier's 1st hand experience seeing the kid, so no knock on you Hoosier or on Baez. Just, um, thinkin' out loud.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    I don't think anyone is "calling" for a Castro move or Baez to displace/replace him... I know I'm certainly not. I'd like nothing better (except for a WS ring) than to have Castro celebrate his 3K hit as the SS on the Cubs.

    I think that Baez's ultimate position will probably come down to some mix of organizational need and how his body develops. Not saying he will be a better SS than Castro, not saying he won't. Ultimately, I'm looking forward to seeing these two in the same line-up......

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    I don't think anyone is eager to do that. I think it's more about making a point about being flexible and open to everything when you're trying to find ways to get your best talent on the field.

    As it stands right now, Castro is a better SS than Baez and probably will continue to be better over the years.

  • To me the more likely scenario than Baez ending up at 2nd is either he or Candelario ending up in LF.

  • In reply to JB88:

    That's also possible. I have no doubts Baez would make a good outfielder. We'll see how Candelario develops. I don't see him being a great OF defensively but if his bat develops as many hope, they could probably "hide" him a bit out there as long as he can carry the offensive load.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If Manny Ramirez can play LF for a dozen years, I have no doubt that Candelario will be able to do so as well.

  • In reply to JB88:

    Manny Ramirez is the kind of bat you find a spot for. We can't say that about Candelario yet.

  • Is Reggie Golden still alive?

  • In reply to kevie:

    Season ending knee injury/surgery early in the season. He has been one of my favorites but he was pretty raw and he continues to lose development time. He needs to turn it around quickly.

  • In reply to kevie:

    Golden not a milk carton candidate yet.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    LOL. Now that's funny!

  • Carrie Muskrat says Starlin is 4 hits shy of 500.

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    John. Where do you think the big names (Baez, Soler, Almora) will start next season? And if Baez does well next year, could he be a September call up?

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    I think Baez and Soler in Daytona. Almora in Peoria. Baez would have to tear up Daytona early and get called up to AA -- then tear that up to. Not impossible, but a lot of things have to go right. Sometime in 2014 is more likely.

  • Oh whoops! John, I forgot to mention that Jim Callis was on hit and run and talked Cubs prospects and well as the young guys on the current team. We just talked about him before Saturday's game and then the next day he was on the radio. Sorry. The comment about Barney being a better defender at SS then Castro made my jaw drop. Here is the mile long link:

  • In reply to WillieG1:

    Ha! I did listen to it actually. I don't agree with Jim on the Barney thing. I don't think he has the arm to make all the plays at SS.

  • This is so funny. The Kane County ball park was packed Sunday night. So when I sat down, I looked around to look at the crowd and one guy stood out. I saw a bald guy working on his lap top. I thought to myself what a nerd and his head is really shinny. When he looked up I recognized him right away. David Kaplan! I didn't talk to him but he was smiling the whole time and seemed like a really nice guy. It was obvious that he was writing a story about Soler 'cause every time he came up he was taking pictures of him. Too bad he left before he hit his huge homerun.

  • You get my email John?

  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    I did Johnny. Sorry meant to answer it. I'll do that now

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