Cubs Prospects: The Outfielders

Cubs Prospects: The Outfielders
Albert Almora

I thought about how to do this, that is, whether to break up the categories into LF, CF, and RF, or maybe just CF's and corner OF'er, but the truth is that apart from Soler, the Cubs don't really have any top starting caliber corner OF prospects.  Assuming RF is covered by Soler, the future LF'er will either move from CF or another position if they show enough bat.

The top two outfielders on this list by a wide margin are Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, both acquired by the new front office. Without those two, this would not have been an overly impressive list, though there are some raw,athletic players to intrigue at the lower levels and quite a few role player types with a shot at the majors.  While pitching is still a priority, the lack of impact OF'er outside of Almora and Soler leaves open the possibility that the Cubs would consider nabbing an OF'er such as Austin Meadows, Austin Wilson, or Clint Frazier with the 2nd pick in next year's draft.

Ultimately I decided to do a top  5 and cover the whole OF, though the balance is heavily shifted toward CF.  But because the OF entails 3 different starting positions, I added a bonus 6 pack of other prospects to watch. Here goes...

1. Albert Almora, 18, 6'2", 180 lbs, R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Kane County (A)
  • ETA: 2015

Almora gets the nod over Soler partly because he's a couple of years younger and also because he plays a premium defensive position -- and plays it extremely well.  Almora is a smooth defensive CF who makes up for slightly above average speed with great instincts.  He can play CF in the majors now and may be the best at that position already in the entire organization.  As a hitter, Almora has a sweet swing but it doesn't have much loft in it.  I'll try and have video on it for you within the next couple of days.  One thing I noticed during instructs is that his leg kick was less exaggerated.  Almora uses it as a timing mechanism but there is so much movement that he sometimes gets out of sync with his hands.  The Cubs don't want to take that away from him, but it makes some sense to tone it down a bit.  Almora has a lean build and the lack of natural loft in his swing likely means he is going to be more about contact and extra base power than home runs, though I do think he'll hit between 15-20 as he gains strength.  One more thing Almora was working on in instructs was his pitch selection.  His 4 walks in 36 PAs in instructs was twice as many as he had between AZ and Boise last season.  He appears to have good pitch recognition and I think he'll work counts as he matures, but he makes contact easily and probably won't be the kind of guy who walks a ton.  I do think he'll do it enough so that, when combined with a high average, he'll put up good OBP numbers long term.  His main tools are hitting and defense, both which rank around 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

2. Jorge Soler, 20, 6'3", 225, R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Daytona (Adv. A)
  • ETA: 2015

Soler is the one true corner OF prospect on this list at this point and he has played RF, where he has shown a strong arm, though he lacks some consistency with his accuracy.  Defensively he has good athleticism and his speed is a bit above average, but he's more of a long strider, so I don't see SBs as being part of his game long term.  His speed should play well in the OF as long as he continues to learn to get consistent jumps and take good routes. The tools are there, so it's a matter of working on it.  Soler has more of a laid back personality than Almora, but did everything he was asked to do at instructs and took to coaching quite well.  At the plate, Soler appeared to be working on simplifying his load, which can get a little deep, and using his lower half more.  He has been able to get away with his swing at the lower levels, but more advanced pitching may be able to exploit his swing a bit more, which is one reason the Cubs held Soler back for more instruction rather than expose him right now in the fall league.  He appeared to be making good progress with those adjustments.  There is no question about Soler's potential at the plate.  His hands are explosive through the zone and he hit one of the longest HRs we've seen this year at Kane County (and that's saying something considering Javier Baez hit a couple of bombs there).  His power potential rates at least a 70 on the scouting scale and he's shown the ability to shorten his swing with two strikes (just 6.8% strikeout rate in Peoria).  Soler also showed good pitch recognition and doesn't chase a lot of bad pitches, so while I don't think he'll be a .300 hitter, I do think he'll eventually supplement a solid average with a good walk rate. He's a potential monster at the plate and from a purely offensive standpoint, he is the best prospect on this list and one of the Cubs top 3 overall with Baez and Dan Vogelbach.

3. Brett Jackson, 24, 6'2", 210, L/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Iowa (AAA)
  • ETA: 2013

Based on some of the things I've read, it appears that most Cubs fans are already souring on Jackson.  The obvious concern is the contact rate.  He struck out 33.8% of the time in AAA Iowa and a whopping 41% in his short time with the Cubs.  It's a serious roadblock in what is otherwise a very good, all-around set of skills.  The Cubs have no illusions that Jackson will turn into a contact hitter or compete for batting titles, but the hope is that it is managed to where it doesn't obscure the rest of his game, which is average to good across the board.  Defensively he's a solid CF with an above average arm with the skills and instincts to stay there, but the likelihood is that Almora will move him to LF or RF one day.  Though he would be among the best defensive LF'ers in the game, that puts more pressure on Jackson's bat, so the adjustments he makes this offseason and upon his return to AAA next year will be vital to his long term success as a big leaguer.  The temptation is to compare his return to AAA's to Rizzo's last year but the expectations are different.  As a 1B, the Cubs expected Rizzo to return as an offensive force and run producer.  With Jackson, the Cubs will be satisfied if he cuts down on the strikeouts, knowing he can make up for some of it by grinding out ABs (and walks) and has the skills to contribute in all other phases of the game.  If he does that, he can still be a solid average starting outfielder in the big leagues, even if he has to move to LF.

4. Matt Szczur, 23, 6'1", 195 lbs., R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Tennessee (AA)
  • ETA: 2014

Szczur has excellent mental makeup and athleticism, so his chances of making the big leagues in some role are very good.  He's a grinder and he'll work hard on whatever he needs to do to improve.  He's been heavily criticized but he has made tremendous strides in areas where some felt he wasn't good enough.  He's become a better, more aggressive baserunner (38 steals in 50 attempts).  He's become an above average defender in CF and has improved his arm strength to the point where it can be considered average.  And he greatly improved his approach at the plate, walking 13.4% of the time in Daytona.  Szczur's last hurdle may be the toughest of all, and that is to transform his swing into one of MLB caliber.  Right now, Szczur tends to sweep his bat across the zone, using mostly the upper half of his body.  It helps him make contact, but it doesn't do much for making the kind of hard contact he'll need to produce extra base power at the MLB level.  In the fall league, Szczur was hit or miss.  At times I saw better hand speed and better use of his lower half, but at other times I saw him revert to old habits.  That is to be expected as he tries to revamp a swing he's used his whole life.  It won't come easy.  But as mentioned, Szczur's work ethic and mental makeup are off the charts and he's not the kind of guy you bet against.  If he can make the needed adjustments to his swing, he can still be a leadoff type hitter with OBP skills and gap power.  If not, he may be more of a 4th outfielder, a Reed Johnson/Juan Pierre type who may be able to produce for you as a starter when called upon.

5. Trey Martin, 19, 6'2", 190, R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Kane County (A)
  • ETA: 2016

Martin was an overslot signing in the 13th round of an overslot-happy 2011 Cubs draft.  One of the lesser known names on a loaded Boise team, Martin managed to garner attention with his raw tools and athleticism, particularly on defense, and enough bat that gives you hope he can develop into something down the road.  I'm not a comp guy, but the one name that kept springing to mind when I saw Martin was Torii Hunter.  He is a fast but smooth, effortless long strider in the OF who made some of most spectacular plays I've seen from a Cubs OF prospect this season while also making some very difficult plays look easy. On offense he has a long swing and it will need some adjustment as he moves up the organizational ladder.  He's still slender and won't turn 20 until December, so he has plenty of time and room to fill out, gain strength, and hit for some power without the need to lengthen his swing.  Martin oozes projection right now but he is far from a finished product.  He has a lot of work to do to become a major leaguer but if he makes it, he has a chance to be an exciting, starting caliber CF.
More prospects to watch that range from extra outfielders to raw players with the tools to start way, way down road...

6. Jae-Hoon Ha, 22, 6'1, 185 lbs., R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Iowa (AAA)
  • ETA: 2013

Ha has an excellent chance of becoming a 4th or 5th OF'er in the big leagues on his defense alone.  He is a natural athlete with superb instincts at all 3 positions.  His bat is a little short, but he has a good eye and this year it translated to a very respectable 9.5% walk rate.  He has some gap power and can turn around a good fastball, as we saw at the futures game when he took a 95 mph fastball from top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole and deposited into the RF stands.  He's not a burner, but he's a skilled base runner who is an asset once he gets on.

7. Shawon Dunston, Jr., 19, 6'2", 170 lbs., L/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Boise (Short season A)
  • ETA: 2017

Like his father, Dunston is a quick-twitch athletic ballplayer who plays the game with infectious energy.  But Dunston is carving his own identity on the field.  He is a CF by trade and his speed and above average arm give him the makings of a plus defender there.  At the plate he bats from the left side and has a more disciplined approach than dad, but was exposed a bit at Boise.   Upon returning to the rookie complex at AZ, Dunston found his stroke and his batting eye (9.8% walk rate), batting .286/.357/.410 after a slow start.

8. Jeffrey Baez, 18, 6'0", 180 lbs., R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: AZ (rookie level)
  • ETA: 2017

No relation to Cub top prospect Javier, Jeffrey Baez is a good prospect in his own right.  He was a prized signing from a strong 2010 international draft class, though he was overshadowed by bonus babies like Rubi Silva, Carlos Penalver, and Jeimer Candelario.   An athletically gifted outfielder, Baez has speed (61 steals in 122 pro games) with enough OBP skills and  pop in his bat  to make him intriguing as a potential starter down the road.  There's a long way to go, of course, but for those of you who like looking deep into prospect depth charts, Jeffrey Baez is one to keep an eye on.

9. Ricardo Marcano, 18, 6'2", 187 lbs., L/R

  • Likely 2013 club: DSL
  • ETA: 2018

Another player deep on the charts, Marcano's sweet left-handed swing elicits comparisons to fellow Venezuelan Victor Martinez.  Signed as a 3B, Marcano has already moved to the OF and will have to work hard to stay there.  Marcano is a disciplined hitter with the potential to hit for both average and power as he fills out and gains experience.  Some worry that he's a little thick in his lower half and it may relegate him to 1B down the road.  The Cubs signed him for his bat potential and the hope is that he can become an offensively oriented left fielder.  He struggled a bit in his debut but time is on his side, he played this year as a 17 year old, having just turned 18 five days ago.

10. Rubi Silva, 23, 5'11, 180 lbs, L/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Tennessee (AA)
  • ETA: 2014

An athletic, versatile player with an aggressive approach at the plate, Silva probably won't get on base enough or hit with enough power to be a big league starter, but he's a good defensive player who can play all three outfield positions and fill in at 2B in a pinch.  He has enough bat speed and contact skills to contribute some offense off the bench.

11. John Andreoli, 22, 6'1, 215 lbs, R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Tennessee (AA)
  • ETA: 2015

An extra outfielder type, Andreoli is an on-base machine (15% walk rate, .402 OBP) with very little power (1 HR, .087 ISO) despite good size. He's not a burner but he is an aggressive baserunner with excellent instincts, swiping 54 bases in 74 attempts.  Defensively he's a plus at the corners but is a little stretched out in CF, though he can contribute there on part time basis. More grindy than toolsy, he's maxed out physically and he is pretty much what he is going to be, but that's not a bad thing.  Andreoli  can be a nice asset off the bench if he continues to hit.

Position change candidates: Junior Lake and Zeke DeVoss have the speed, athleticism, and arm strength to be good outfielders while Jeimer Candelario is an example of a player who may force his way into the lineup in LF because of his bat potential.

Others:

Dave Sappelt is no longer a rookie and was not considered for this list, though he looks to be a 4th outfielder with the ability to start some against LHP. Reggie Golden would have cracked the top 5 of this list if he had stayed healthy and built on his last season.  When healthy, he has 30 HR power potential, good plate discipline, and the skills and athleticism needed to play RF.  Unfortunately, yet another injury puts his career in doubt, not just because of the severity of the injury itself, but also because it cost Golden so much badly needed development time.  Taiwan Easterling is an athletic OF who makes hard contact, but was baffled by offspeed stuff and struggled at Peoria before getting hurt.  Dong-Yub Kim and Xavier Batista are impressive physical specimens and Kim in particular has some surprising athleticism, but each struggled making contact and that, along with injuries, pretty much took them out of the equation during Boise's NWL title run. The switch-hitting Oliver Zapata is smallish, but one of the faster players in the organization and was red-hot when he was initially called up to Peoria before tailing off badly.  He just turned 20 and has a good eye and showed a solid bat at the lowest levels, so there's hope he can develop into a speedy extra outfielder type with good OBP skills.  Pin-Chieh Chen is a another fast player with a good eye and a knock for making hard contact,  Defensively, he has a good arm and good range, but a small frame limits his extra base power potential and relegates his ceiling to an extra OFer.  Bijan Rademacher got off to a hot start and made it all the way to Peoria in his first year before cooling off. He has some solid skills, including a good arm in the OF with some doubles power.  Garrett Schlecht has the athleticism to play all 3 OF positions and shows some bat potential with excellent plate discipline. Kelvin Encarnacion got off to a big start in the DSL but cooled off and was passed up by the younger, faster Jeffrey Baez.  He'll be 21 in November and has yet to set foot on U.S. soil.  We mentioned Trevor Gretzky and Rock Shoulders at 1B but both are athletic enough to stay in the OF if their bat proves worthy.  Michael Burgess takes a big swing and has some power and solid plate discipline.  Unfortunately, he lacks the talent to be a starter and his particular skill set is ill-suited to be an extra OFer.  Nelson Perez put up outstanding numbers at Daytona but will be 25 in November and can't seem to get over the hump at AA.  Yasiel Balaguert came to the Cubs from Cuba with the reputation as a good hitter, but looked out of shape and struggled with the bat both at Peoria and after a demotion to rookie-level AZ.

 

 

 

Filed under: prospects

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  • fb_avatar

    John. I know nobody likes to do this, but is this years' Austin Jackson a good comp for Almora? I mean the skillset and such, not necessarily the stats exactly. I guess I am asking is will Almora project to be the type of player Jackson is?

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    I think that's an interesting comp and it's realistic as to what we can hope Almora can be. I find it all the more relevant because Jackson, like Almora, is not really a burner but relies on great instincts to give him great range in CF.

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    I am one of the Brett Jackson skeptics. And I appreciate his range of tools, power, defense, etc, but ultimately the strikeouts are a career-killing problem that he will have to solve.

    Jim Callis was alarmed at the decline in strike zone judgement out of B-Jax during 2012, and not sure you can improve that. The Cubs are going to work on his swing, and they should, but not many hitters have dramitically lowered their strikeout rates like that.

    I hope I am wrong, and he turns it around. If he is the next Drew Stubbs, I'll be happy with that. But I could also see him being the next Joe Borchard or Brian Anderson: both had good toolsets, but couldn't make enough contact to stick in the majors. Hope I'm wrong, but I think that's B-Jax.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think we're all skeptics at this point and if he doesn't solve the contact problem, we may never get a chance to see the rest of his skill set.

    The strike zone judgement is still there ,as shown by his ability to work counts and his 15.5% walk rate in his stint with the Cubs. I think what happened was that pitchers attacked him early with strikes and left him vulnerable with a lot of 0-2 and 1-2 counts. Jackson tried to counter that and got his approach out of whack a bit. I don't see that as a long term problem, but the strikeouts are a huge concern. That said, if they become manageable, he's one of the more skilled players on this list. Too early to give up on him.

  • Thanks for the great breakdown, John. Since our top two guys hit R, does that boost that chances of any of the lefty hitters to get a) more playing time in the minors, and b) a longer look; so as to balance out the ultimate batting order? Or do we not concern ourselves with that until we are actually making out the 2014/ 2015 lineups?

    Also, if Soler doesn't project to be a .300 hitter, what numbers might we hope for re: BA, OBP, OPS, if it's not too soon for that.

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    In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Ideally you can chuck Rizzo in the heart of the lineup to break up the dominant right handed lineup we will have, but we will have a lot of right handed hitters. Almora, Baez, Castro, Soler, Castillo (Maybe). But, I would rather have a stacked right handed lineup then a mediocre balanced one.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    Wasn't the Cubs' line-up too right-handed a few years ago?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Your welcome and thanks.

    You really have to play and promote your best prospects and worry about R/L later. You hope that Rizzo and Jackson can provide some LH punch, maybe Logan Watkins at 2B, maybe Candelario if he makes it and is forced to move to LF.

    I see Soler as more of a .275-.285 hitter but I'll reserve that until I see how he handles the adjustments. So far so good. I don't do a lot of statistical projection and it probably is a little too soon at this point.

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    Just incase anyone did not see it, Keith Law in his chat today said that he thinks Almora will be an All-Star who hits for high average and has average or better power.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    I'll buy that.

  • I think B Jackson takes too many strikes. I subscribe to the grounding out at bats approach, but maybe he should be more aggressive with pitches in the strike zone. He will never turn his K's around hitting from behind in the count all the time.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Grinding out at bats

  • In reply to 44slug:

    You could be right there. Maybe he has to get a little more aggressive early in the count.

  • John, what separates Szczur from Ha? Both are more likely than not bench OFs. It is likelihood of reaching that level, or the ever shrinking hope Szczur could be more that?

  • In reply to CubsML:

    Szczur is more athletic and faster but Ha has better instincts for the game. I think Szczur has a better chance of becoming a starter than Ha. There's still hope if he can tweak that swing.

  • brett jackson really is an enigma.
    good speed, good outfielder, good arm, good makeup, hits for power, walks a lot, but that strike out rate is unreal.
    the thing is, there are too many tools there to ingore. he may never be an allstar because of that strikeout rate, but if you can get it to be reasonable then he can become a very good player and probably a fan favorite.

    with the team that the cubs are trying to build i think jackson fits in very well. you cant have an allstar at every position, but you can have above average starters and thats what i think the cubs hope to get if all of thier top prospects work out. with rizzo, castro, baez, almora and soler you have potential all stars at 5 of the 8 positions on the diamond. with jackson in left, castillo behind the plate and (take your pick) at second you have very serviceble and possible above average starters everywhere else.

    obviously there are options if jackson doesnt work out. candelario, lake, golden(if he can stay healthy and start to figure it out), szczur, but among those guys jackson would be the best in field and probably has the best makeup. i think he should spend all year in AAA next year revamping his swing and if the f.o. thinks its close to where they want it to be he should get called up in august. any sooner than that (unless he really figures it out) seems like a waste of his potential to me.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    We've seen the Giants get by with a good defensive LF'er in Cabrera's absence. Jackson can be at least that while providing good ABs, power, and speed...but he does have to hit at least a little.

    I suppose they'll play it by ear with Jackson at Iowa, but even if he starts well, they'll keep him there until he slumps to see if he can adjust, much as they did with Rizzo.

  • When I see players with ETA of 2016 or 2017, so much can happen in between now and then. I like to stay focus for the next two years alone on upcoming prospects. We have see too many prospects who were over rated and never make it pass Double A.

    If Almora, Soler and Jackson are starting and projected as 5 tool players, we will not need backups like Szczur. We can use him for trade bait to get pitching.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    History tells me that of the top 4 prospects, Baez, Almora, Soler and whomever, the average return would be one making it as a good player. If two make it we will be very, very happy. Three estatic. Star player hopefully one. I know its a new regime, but the memories of Pie, Choi, Patteson, Montanez, Kelton, Hill, and Vitters are too recent to forget. It was not just Cub fans, but these players were for the most part highly regarded by most scouting sources. It's just the cold hard facts of reality. The other side of course, is that there may be one or two unexpected ones that pop out of nowhere. Let's hope that this regime can keep good prospects coming year after year. For the top 4 now, I stick to my earlier predictions.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    That would be a good problem to have and you're right. If these guys all turn out, you just dont' make Szczur a backup if he's capable of starting somewhere. Somebody will give up value if that turns out to be the case.

    That said, the Cubs will be very, very lucky if that happens. You hope that you get two starters out of this group and maybe a reserve or two.

  • Rumor has it that Marlins looking at Sandberg as manager.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    I hope Ryno is smart enough to avoid Miami like the plague.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I suggest everyone to avoid all of South Florida.
    Been there, and it is totally insane.

  • Szczur's swing reminds me of a wrist shot in hockey.

    When I was a kid, I had a horrible swing with a nasty uppercut, so I taught myself how to switch hit and I concentrated on having a flat swing. I ended up with a nice swing from the left side and I discovered that carried over to my natural side. Learning how to hit from scratch helped me a lot. Ever hear of that happening at the pro level?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Might be happening with Szczur...well, maybe not that far, but he is going to overhaul that swing if he wants to be more than a singles hitting extra outfielder.

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    According to MLBTR, Cubs have outrighted Cardenas, Socolovich, Berken, and Marcos Mateo. None are much of a surprise.

    I don't see much of a future for Cardenas, due to his defensive limitations

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Zonk:

    Also, the Anthony Recker era is over in Chicago: Mets claimed him

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Hopefully some additions to the Major League roster are on the way soon.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    He really is limited to his bat and it's good, but not special enough to carry bad defense at 2B.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    I would have liked to see Cardenas get some starts at 3b last year. By September we already knew what we had in Valbuena, why not get Cardenas some more consistent ab's and get a look at his defense?

    I guess he's now in the Blake Dewitt category. Contact hitter who does nothing else and can't play a good enough defense to have much of a role in the majors.

  • fb_avatar

    Sounds like we can definitely take Mark Grace out of the Cubs announcer derby.

    Facing 4 years in prison after being indicted on 4 felonies today.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/baseball/mlb/10/25/mark-grace-dui.ap/index.html?sct=mlb_t2_a4

    He is not eligible for probation because it was his second DUI in 15 months.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Pink underwear does wonders for folks like Gracie.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    4 years for DUI. Grace needs better legal representation.

  • Grace needs to wake up, smell the coffee, and get with the program.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SFToby:

    And why would the Cubs take a chance with Sutcliff either? Google "Sutcliffe drunk" and look for his interesting visit to a broadcasting booth in San Diego.

    Not reliable material

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I'm not sure if Sut got behind the wheel of a car. I do know they sell lot of Stone beer at Petco, and some Stone is around 10% ABV. Hopefully he had a driver. Harry and Piersall used to down a Falstaff every inning. Its a wonder that nothing really bad happened as a result of that.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I'll drink to that.

  • They make some great IPA, as does Lagunitas, who by the way is working on opening a brewery in Chicago near the United Center. Once they open, you'll see a lot of good west coast beer becoming available in Chicago. I'd like to see Wrigley stop supporting InBev and the Cards by getting rid of Bud. Switching to Lagunitas would be a nice change.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I'm hoping that he accepts the help he needs to get his life straight.

  • I know I'm in the minority from other lists I've seen, but I put Soler 1, Almora 2 because of Soler's power potential. (And my gut, but that doesn't sound nearly as justifiable.)

    Big dropoff after 2, though. I've come to think of Szczur as the poster boy for the Cub's Way. He seems to really have bought in with his vastly improved approach at the plate. Dropped off a bit after being promoted to Tenn, but you gotta root for the speedster.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    It's possible. I think Almora is the safer bet but Soler could wind up better. Definitely has a chance to be the better offensive player.

  • I think it's important to put Brett Jackson's epic Strikeout Problem in perspective. Last year he had 142 plate appearances and had a K% of 41.5%. How bad is that? I searched Fangraphs with the following filters: All outfielders with a minimum of 140 plate appearances over the past 100 years, with the results sorted by K%.
    If I performed this search correctly (someone please confirm) Brett had the highest K% of any outfielder in the last hundred years. It gets worse; he had the highest K% by a pretty big margin (the next highest was 38.7%).
    I can only hope that his small major league tryout was an aberration, a slump due to nerves and the shock of the new. Unfortunately, if I had to bet on how many years he will roam the outfield in the major leagues, I'd bet on zero.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    We're talking about 120 MLB ABs (when the team already knew he wasn't ready) and a 24 year old guy with some talent. How do you write players off at that stage?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I didn't write him off. In fact I pointed out my hope that since it was a brief stint that his failure my have been a slump/initial jitters. Due to the epic problem within that small sample size, I pointed out that if I had to bet, I would bet he never makes it.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Ahh, in that case, I'm largely with you on this. Every reason to be skeptical, concerned, etc. Really want him to make it, but improving contact rates often harder than improving walk rates.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. And just to prove that I'm not a cranky pessimist, I was all in on LaHair before the season started, based on his wild romp through the PCL and Venezuelan League. I would have bet that he was going to hit 25 home runs, and I still think he might if given a full chance. So there you go. Bullish on LaHair, bearish on Jackson; my irrationality balances out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Jackson struck out an awful lot while he was at Cal. As soon as Almora needs his spot at Iowa, I'd cut or trade him.

  • I'm with you on Jackson. I've completel;y written him off. It's not just strike outs, but strike outs of historical proportions. The only players that have had big problems in this area have hit 40+ home runs. I don't think 20+ home runs and good defense will cut it. I don't know what coaching can do to cut down strike outs. My instincts tell me there isn't much they can do except cut down the swing and this has other ramifications.

  • In reply to cubman:

    I don't think they're going to cut down his swing. Agreed that would be a bad idea. They seem to feel it requires a couple of tweaks. We'll see. But a team that's as short on talent as the Cubs are shouldn't be writing off 24 year players with his skills and history of production in the minors up until last year.

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    I stated before I am a Jackson skeptic, but I agree it's too early to write him off. We should work with him a couple years, and hope he can turn this problem around. It can't hurt, it's not like B-Jax is blocking anybody.

    But we also can't count on him to man the CF position like we can with Rizzo or Castro at this point. We need a backup plan, and I don't think a long-term solution for CF has revealed itself yet. Might be B-Jax, might be Szczur, might be Almora, might be none of those. Who knows.

    It's not just the strikeouts in MLB last year, it's the 33% K rate at Iowa; that's really bad vs. AAA pitching

  • In reply to Zonk:

    True, but he was under 25% up until last year's late promotion. And AA pitching often just as talented, sometimes more so, but less experienced, of course. I think he has the ability to do better than 33%, that was a pretty big jump, so I'm not going to take that figure as if it's indisputable evidence yet. I think there is more involved here than just a straight look at the numbers and there are some things he can fix, or at least improve. I'd take his AA rate at the MLB level if he can contribute everywhere else.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    By "last year" I meant 2011, btw.

  • I think Jackson needs an Aram approach. Ramirez was aggressive in the strike but did not chase much and he is still raking. Brett has those same skills. He does not chase, but has some power. DeJesus can be 0-2 and get a 10 pitch walk. Jackson is not that type of hitter and most likely never will be, but will get his share of walks because he lays off of pitches out of the strike zone. I believe that with his overskills he can be a good major league streaky type player.

  • I must have missed this post the other day.

    All in all, another good list. A bit surprised with where you put Martin, but then again, we're quibbling about a few spots.

    Some points, a lot of which has been made -

    - I've been a B-Jax fan for awhile, but he's got a tough road this winter. He's got to

    a) Rework his swing (not sure if it's possible, the swing isn't that bad, from what I understand, but he is a bit rigid)

    b) Adjust his approach a bit and become a bit more aggressive.

    It's hard enough to do one thing - doing both is going to be tough. What should be noted, though, is if he can simply get to a passable average (say, .240-.250), you would have a usable corner OF.

    - At a certain point, the youth of Szczur, baseball-wise, just doesn't matter anymore, as your age is ... your age. The Keith Law critiques of him were always fair, and still are, but he's really improved his approach and discipline. He looks like a safe bet to make the bigs in some fashion, and his skillset as of now could lead to some fluky years where the ball just bounces the right way. This isn't to say that he doesn't need to try and improve his pop - if he can, he would become a very good OF option, buying Almora time. But for all the problems that people have with Szczur, unless you think his ability to make contact was exposed in his AA stint (and I don't), his overall package is improved enough to viably consider him as a big leaguer at some point in his career. This certainly wasn't the case a year ago, when a lot of things were troubling, chief among them, his walk rate.

    - I've never been a big fan of Ha, but I do wonder sometimes if he gets overlooked. There's a case that he might be the top defensive centerfielder in the system. One could argue that he might be the top corner OF in the system, defensively. The issues are on offense, but it's not like he has a horrid approach, and there are tools. This isn't to say that I buy the end of the season as a sign that he's going to step it up (or that I buy Ha as a major leaguer), but just that, the combination of age, tools, and solid end of season offensive performance, plus his defensive ability should get more attention than it does at times, IMO.

    - I can't help but wonder if Pin-Chieh Chen might breakout a tiny bit offensively. He's another very solid defensive centerfielder. I actually see some similarities right now between Chen/Szczur (but Szczur has more offensive upside). Of course, he's in the Marco Hernandez spot of this year, being a year ahead of a key prospect in the system at the same position - he'd have to be excellent to hold off Almora climbing up the ladder whenever Almora is ready. (of course, Trey Martin is in a tougher spot ... being on the same level as Almora as of now and, as of now, not having the power to really project to a corner role)

    - The potential OF in Peoria next year could be fascinating. It seems possible that Reggie Golden starts there, along with Almora. There's Martin, Rock Shoulders in the mix. I guess Shawon Dunston Jr. can't be ruled out, although XST/Boise seems a more likely path. Schlect could be in the mix.

  • In reply to toonsterwu:

    Is a .240 - .250 ba average passable for a corner outfielder? I doubt it. Many fans don't believe that a .254 average is passable for a 2nd baseman.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    meant center fielder...

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    In reply to toonsterwu:

    I am hoping Matt Szczur as a major league player is Scott Podesnik.

    If he becomes that guy, I think we will be very happy w him as a 4th OF, pinch hitter, pinch runner, ect.

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