Cubs Top 25 Prospects

Cubs Top 25 Prospects
Javier Baez

I've already written several pieces going into great detail on a number of Cubs prospects, including the ones on this list, so I don't want to rehash that information.  In case you missed those articles on a position-by-position analysis, you can find them by clicking here. 

Lists are always going to be debated and that is certainly welcomed here.  There will be some that value higher ceilings more while others may favor proximity to the majors.  I tried to take both into account here.

There is also the question of positional value, so unless you have a potentially special bat like Dan Vogelbach, it's hard to make the list as a 1B, for example.  There were a lot of intriguing players that just missed the cut, but could easily crack this list next year, especially those coming back from injury and/or at the lower levels of the system who need to prove themselves for one more season.  It's a sign of the increasing depth of the system that I had to actually cut players out rather than dig for names to fill out the last few spots.

1. Javier Baez

2. Albert Almora

3. Jorge Soler

4. Arodys Vizcaino

5. Dan Vogelbach

6. Jose Paniagua

7. Pierce Johnson

8. Brett Jackson

9. Christian Villanueva

10. Alberto Cabrera

11. Jeimer Candelario

12. Matt Szczur

13. Dillon Maples

14. Marco Hernandez

15. Arismendy Alcantara

16. Gioskar Amaya

17. Duane Underwood

18. Logan Watkins

19. Josh Vitters

20. Junior Lake

21. Tony Zych

22. Trey McNutt

23. Paul Blackburn

24. Ronald Torreyes

25. Starling Peralta

Some notes on the list...

  • I'm guessing I may be a little higher on some prospects than others.  I really liked what I saw of Jose Paniagua and to me, his command, his delivery and the ease with which he throws his fastball separates him from the other lower level prospects on this list.  Alberto Cabrera is another one.  I'm betting he makes it as a starter, which is far from a sure thing, and if he doesn't cut it, then in retrospect I will have had him too high.
  • One of the toughest decisions was where to place prospects like Matt Szczur, Josh Vitters, Logan Watkins and Junior Lake.  They have advanced and have performed at higher levels, unlike many of the prospects I have rated ahead of them, yet right now all still need work to become everyday starters.  That could easily change this season with big seasons from any of them.  Even then, I don't know if any of them will be impact players.
  • Have already had lots of questions guys from 10-20 and my general response to that is that they're all very close.  I wouldn't take it to say that Matt Szczur is that much better a prospect than Logan Watkins, for example.  There is much more separation from the top 4 and the rest of the list than anywhere from within 10-20.

Honorable Mention

Some higher ceiling guys that I like that I just couldn't squeeze in were Trey Martin, Wilson Contreras, and Ben Wells.  The first two are just too raw and I would have liked to have seen Wells throw with more velocity.  Until then I'm reserving judgment.  Other than Wells, I'm not sure I'd even put them in the top 30 right now, but they're all sleeper candidates to really move up for the midseason list.  Robert Whitenack also has to prove he's healthy.  As far as guys closer to the majors, Nick Struck just missed for me.  Marcelo Carreno also received consideration, as did lower level guys Zeke DeVoss, Tayler Scott, and Stephen Bruno.

Filed under: prospects

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  • John, I think you may have inadvertently left Ben Wells off your list. I have him in the low teens on my list. I'd also like to see a list of your honorable mentions.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    He's just outside the list. I added him to my notes on the end. I want to see his velocity improve before I list him in the top 25. Saw him at 88-91 and that was enough to raise concerns for me. If he gets it back into the mid 90s, then he'll shoot way up the list.

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    John, I can't help but wonder how low on the rankings you'd have to go to include a catcher! (That is to say, we need catchers pretty bad.)

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    I just added a note on one. I may have to go outside the top 30. If you've read my catcher's list, you know it's Wilson Contreras, but just too raw right now.

  • Excellent list John, as always. The fact there there is no catcher does not surprise me, our catching prospects are pretty thin. I see Marco Hernandez and Amaya rising on this list quickly, just a feeling.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Thanks. Those two guys are a couple of my favorites too.

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    My list is significantly different, and I question a few things you did here, but it is all a matter of opinion. Only thing I feel worth mentioning is that I still feel that Jackson is the better all-around prospect than Vogelbach still and that Vitters shouldn't be so low (unless you had already written him off completely). After his struggles in sporadic major league playing time, it can be easy to forget his good season in AAA.

  • In reply to Jackson Scofield:

    I think Vitters at best is an average MLB 3B but I did struggle with how low I put him and I have no qualms with those who want to put him higher. A 3B who can be average is not a small deal. That said, I have my doubts he will reach even that level. The OBP and defense will never be enough, in my opinion, so he really has to hit and hit with some power.

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    About Alberto Cabrera, John, supposing that he makes it as a starter, where in the rotation do you think his stuff would belong?

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Stuff-wise he's at least a #3 depending on how the change and command come along.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And I mean that to say he has a chance to be more. Not sure his slider can be the outpitch that Samardzija's splitter is, so as of now I like Shark better.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd agree with that for this year. It's hard to buy his change or command improving dramatically this year, and he'd have to consistent everyday with his slider to be more than a 3. Hard to see that happening in Year 1, but I guess you never know.

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    This list shows the impact the new front office has already had. Six of the top 10 have been acquird by Jedstein.

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    In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Maybe I should make that McJedstein

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    :LOL!

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Exactly and they're not just getting prospects, but they're getting the kinds of potential impact guys they lacked when they got here.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    And getting those six through all manners. Two by the draft, two by trade and two in the international FA market.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Yes, the Cubs need to explore all avenues to raise the talent level.

  • John: Thoughts on Brett Jackson at #8? He feels like he may have been one of your case in point examples about the axis between MLB ready and potential ceiling. Any additional thoughts you have on him would be appreciated!

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    I think he's right there on the axis. His athletic ability, all-around skill set, and plate discipline give him a chance to be an above average MLB player at a premium position. That's what separates him to me from someone like Vitters. That said, the contact rate has the potential to put the kibosh on all of that. If I had more confidence in his hit tool, I'd have put him in at #5.

  • Wow. A bit harsh on Watty. I get where you're coming from, but still.

    I guess I wouldn't have him that low as I know what my specifications are. If a hitter reaches 3000 AB, he qualifies. If he doesn't, he whiffs. To that extent, I have to make separate lists for hitters, SP 1000 IP) and relievers (300 IP). Because of that, I can't slot him behind Szczur, Amaya, Hernandez, or Alcantara. Not that I dislike those four.

    If we were to leave Watkins unprotected for December, he'd be Houston's shortstop for 7 years, or until someone took it from him. He will play. He'll struggle against lefties, but you can find righties to do that.

    Like I said, I get where you're coming from, but Watkins is going to be similar to Darwin Barney. There will always be room for guys like that.

    I like your pitching order.

  • In reply to tim815:

    Another guy I have no qualms about placing higher on the list. Really struggled with those mid-level types higher up in the organization. I think Watkins ceiling isn't all that high. We may have seen it at AA, which is a pretty good player, but the likelihood he'll reach that at the MLB level is questionable. I love his grindy game, athleticism, and OBP numbers but it remains to be seen if he can sustain that against top competition. It's not hard for me to see Watkins average drop into the .260s, his walk rate drop as he probably won't be a power threat at the MLB level. I think he'll see a lot of strikes so he'll have to continue to improve as a hitter.

  • In reply to tim815:

    More a side note, but I doubt Watkins would overtake Jed Lowrie at short. Lowrie has the advantage of being more established, but IIRC the numbers of Lowrie's defense this year, they were decent-average at short, and Watkins at short isn't likely to be above average by a fair amount, if he is that.

    (if anything, if Watkins was left unprotected, which I doubt as of now, and the Astros took him, he would probably battle Marwin Gonzalez for the utility job (I also doubt the Astros would take him ... just don't see them placing a bid on a guy like Watkins when they have Marwin as a utility player, Lowrie/Altuve entrenched up the middle)).

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    Has Christian Villanueva slipped in terms of prospect stock? I say that because he was #100 on BA's pre-season top 10 list, and most Cubs lists I have seen have him down. Either we have 8 other guys on BA's list, or Christian has slipped.

    He posted nearly the same OPS as last year while advancing a level, and the jump from A to A+ is a big one for hitters. Plus, at 21 he was on the young side for that level.

    Hard to read where his stock is right now

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    In reply to Zonk:

    PS: And I know Jim Callis does not consider Vogelbach top 100 material at this point. Baez, Almora,Soler are probably locks for BA top 100, but beyond that, not sure what else we would have there.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I'm hoping they have 4 in the top 100 with Vizcaino being the 4th. I don't see anyone else being at that level yet, but a lot of lower level pitchers have a chance to get their next year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    4's probably a fair guess. I think best case is probably 5 (both Vizcaino and Brett Jackson are borderline, I believe one of the BA writers mentioned that Brett had an outside shot at top 100, but I could be wrong)).

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Villanueva won't be a top 100 guy this year. I don't know if he's slipped so much as just stayed around the same level. With an influx of a bunch of new talent coming in the draft, the guys at the bottom of the list get bumped if they don't get noticeably better.

  • This is the offseason to definetly trade Vitters and IMO Jackson too. That is unless this winter there is a breakthru for one of them. I think Jackson can still get a good arm back . Vitters should have been moved last offseason in retrospect . JMO. . I love the depth in the system after just 1 year of retooling. This draft I would love to see another impact bat with the second pick ., a Catcher taken in the first 5 rounds that projects and then arms arms and more arms. I think the Cubs could pretty well not draft a single 2b or ss this draft since middle infield is stacked at alot of levels .

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Trading Jackson or Vitters right now would certainly be selling low. We wouldn't get much in return, particularly for Vitters.

    There is no harm in having them stay at AAA for now to work out individual problems. We have the luxury of time and roster spots right now, so we may as well give it a shot with the Cubs.

    I am pessimistic on both of them, but at the moment they are not blocking anyone, so why not keep them

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Agreed on the depth and there are more potential impact guys, which is what I favored toward the top of the list an why some guys slipped for me.

    Catcher is a good position to draft next year, but I disagree on shortstops. You always take them because they can always move if they have to -- and a true SS is a rare commodity, so they're always in demand.

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    John, one thing that we knew already but the list puts in stark detail: All our depth is at the low -levels.

    None of the top 7 last year played above A-ball. Only 8 out of 25 have played at AA or above. Only Vitters, B-Jax, and Cabrera have played at AAA, 3 out of 25. And only B-Jax is high on your list.

    We will have another year of stinking, but next year's list will hopefully have alot of these lower-level guys advanced, plus likely a couple more high draft picks from 2013 draft added to the top 10

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yep! At least that's the way I look at it. I'm sure you've noticed I tend to lean a little more heavily toward ceiling. I'd rather hit on a potential star high on my list who could possibly be a bust before AAA than go the safe route and take more ready MLB players with lower ceilings. I'm not saying that's the right way to make a list. Everyone is different, but that's my philosophy.

    We should have a real nice list by this time next year. Not too many star level prospects will graduate and more will be added via draft, int'l FA, and trades.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The only problem with so much lower-level talent is that it's unproven. Anybody can stink and draft high; how many Pirates prospects have been on the Top 50- in baseball over the years, based on draft position alone, and not panned-out? Their track record is deplorable.

    I am encouraged that we added 2 players to our top-10 through trade, without giving up a long-term piece. That, and developing international FA, will be key to turning the talent piece around.

    But given the concentration at low-levels, it will be 2015 before we start seeing dividends at the major-league level

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That's exactly why you can't comfortably say the Cubs are a top 5 system yet, probably not even top 10. Once they get high level talent at the upper level, that will change.

    There are two top 10 guys and a 3rd Anthony Rizzo didn't qualify for the end of year list because he used up his rookie status. Three top 10 level talents. I like it!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Just a random guess as of now, as I certainly didn't follow the entire minors as closely this year, but I think we're in that 8-14 range for systems, with good depth, but after the top 3/4, the next tier of guys are a bit thin in terms of quality, production, or development (or some combination).

    The positive thing is that it's not hard to imagine breakthrough seasons from some of the 11-30 guys (and we don't need all of them to move forward to improve as a system, although that would be nice) that could step up next year and jump into that 1st or 2nd tier. In some years in the recent past, it was hard to identify who those solid breakthrough potential types, with good ceilings, were. We have that potential now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Has the draft order been fully determined yet? Meaning besides #2 overall, what other high round picks do we have to fill out more depth?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    You forgot Vizcaino. He's top 7.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Random comment, but part of the reason some Cubs fans wouldn't mind a potential stinker of a season next year is the possible reward in 2014. Carlos Rodon looks like a potential stud pitcher, the type of arm we desperately need more of (even our top guys are iffy, I don't know if I buy PIerce Johnson as a frontline arm ... I've always loved Arodys, but there's no guarantee he's a starter).

    * I don't really follow the baseball draft until the year that it's there, but off the top, the 2014 class could be real good.

  • I added one more bullet point because I think I should clarify something. The 10-20 prospects are crammed together, that is to say there is little separation between 10 and 20 in terms of potential impact.

    I'd say top 4 is one tier, followed by 5-9, and then 10-20. but the latter group is highly interchangeable based on your philosophy and sometimes it's as little as a gut feel that separates some of those guys.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    ah, okay. Thanks, sorry about asking that below. I decided to type my comments before going through the thread. Sorry.

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    Love the aggressive ranking of Vogelbomb. I think I might flip Pierce Johnson and Arodys Vizicaino, but I guess those guys are pretty similar, one's coming off TJ and the other one, people are worried about him having to have it in the future cause of his delivery. Perhaps together with Paniagua, one out of three of them might emerge as fronline guy we need. There always hope!

  • In reply to James Knott:

    I struggled with that because I'm a strong believer in defense and position value, but Vogelbomb has a chance to make a huge impact with his bat. He may be a two tool guy (hitting, hitting for power), but those tools are impact quality.

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    Are Beliveau and Chapman considered prospects? Both are pretty fingy bullpen guys, but they do have a higher floor than alot of guys on the list. Not sure how to rank them.

    The ceiling for both is probably just "reliable back of the bullpen guy".

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Hard to make the list if you're a bullpen guy. Need to have closer potential, as the two on this list do.

  • John: Amazing that only a year ago, Jackson, Szczur, McNutt and Vitters ranked 2,3,5 and 6 on MLB.com's Cubs Top 10 Prospects. Is that a testament to the job the front office has done improving the minor league system; or does it say something about the development those four prospects(maybe a little bit of both)? I will be interested to see what 2013 brings for Hernandez; he seemed to bounce back after being sent down from Peoria-I am just not as high as some after watching him play. Thanks for this article; you guys do a fantastic job covering the younger players and prospective off-season moves.

  • In reply to Upstate NY Cubs Fan:

    Thanks!
    That's a testament to the work this FO has done. And you could even argue about the great work they've done with guys like Baez and Cabrera to make them better.

    I think it boils down to philosophy. It depends on what you favor in a player. I really like Hernandez's athleticism and smooth actions at SS. He's got a nice swing, potential for average power and has good speed. I think his skills translate better than some of the other guys. To me, he's a natural ballplayer. Needs to work on discipline, though.

  • Thanks for all the work, John. I'm sure to be unpopular, but I don't see all the glitter for Vogelbach, especially at #5. As discussed before, he's a one-position guy with a good, maybe exceptional, bat. But he's not athletic enough to play OF, would have below-average speed, and limited range even at 1B, and is blocked by Rizzo (for years and years, we hope).
    If he could play the OF, he might be another Jason Kubel-type player, but he can't. He might indeed be another Bob Hamelin instead.
    So other than trade bait, or the frightening prospect of the DH in the NL, I can't see him being that valuable to the Cubs.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Your welcome Hubbs.

    I think there are a lot who may feel as you do and I really thought about those same reasons -- except for the blocked part. I wanted to rank Vogelbach on his own merits. it's the potential to be a difference maker with the bat that clinched it for me, but the arguments against (defense, position value, athleticism) are very strong.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You are right about ranking these guys on their own merits. Rizzo's presence doesn't negate Vogelbach's skill set--and what happens if Rizzo gets hurt or fades? As you imply, a prospect's value is not limited to what he may bring to the Cubs; it may mean he's an important bargaining chip in acquiring someone else down the line...cf. Rangers with Dempster this year. They had the organizational depth to pull that deal off without decimating the farm system.
    So I will try to cut some slack on Vogelbach (other than as SFToby and Zonk say, it's too early to get rabid about the guy as a low-minors, one- or two-tool player). Let's hope he opens my eyes with some added athleticism or tools.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Athleticism probably as good as it it's going to get. It's about the bat. But it's a pretty good one at that.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I agree completely with you Hubbs.

    Years ago if you had an athlete that was limited by his footwork, you'd send him to some kind of alternate type training. Ray Meyer once coached up a clumsy center named George Mikan by having him attend ballet classes. Mikan ended up in the hall of fame. There are training programs for developing quick twitch.

    If Vogelbach needs to develop his footwork, coach him up. If he needs to develop his arm to make throws, have him begin to long-toss.From where I live, I see a lot of a very good third baseman named Pablo Sandoval who seems twice the size of Vogelbach, and he plays third extremely well, especially considering his size. A lot of players play both corners. I wonder if he can switch?

    Vogelbach seems like a very dedicated player and I think he'd go along with the program. If nothing else, this would make him a better 1st baseman.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    We have had another left-handed hitting 1st baseman prospect, drafted in the 2nd round out of a Florida high school. He put up a monster season in A ball early in his career, cracked the BA top 100.....and disappeared. Two words of caution: Brian Dopirak.

    That doesn't mean Vogelbach will repeat, he could also be the next Adam Dunn. Let's see how he does in A+ or higher before worrying about him being blocked at 1B, or wonder about trade value, or generally get too excited.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Dopirak was in the system when the philosophy was pretty much let them get by with their talent. Dopirak didn't receive enough coaching to help him adjust to AA. I'm just saying the opposite - give Vogelbach additional coaching to help him at least be a candidate at another position. Maybe it will help him be better than a "one step and dive" defender at first.

    Being stuck at 1st is one reason I'm not as high on Vogelbach as others obviously are.

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    I've heard a lot of good things about Zych and was surprised to seem him out of the top 20, what do you see/or not see in him that has him not cracking the top?

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Mostly position value. Don't like to put RPs all that high but I really like Zych and I think he will probably have a longer, more successful career than most of those ahead of him.

    If he needs to do one thing it is perfect his slider. If he does, I think he has everything you want in a closer.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    see, I get where you are coming from on Zych, but your final statement gave me a chuckle (don't take it in the wrong way).

    "If he needs to do one thing it is perfect his slider. If he does, I think he has everything you want in a closer."

    That's the reason why I can't rank him high as of now (borderline top 30 for me, and maybe below that). I can find guys with makeup, plus fastballs in the minors. But not many one plus pitch guys make it, and he really needs to improve that slider. I mean ... the gap from Zych to Marcus Hatley isn't THAT much (don't get me wrong, Zych should go ahead).

    I mean, Dolis has a plus fastball, and his slider has shown much better than Zych's. Sure, he doesn't have Zych's makeup, but for a pen arm, stuff comes first for me.

  • Great list. Not too many qualms here, certainly understandable and I love the fact that the list focuses more on impact and ceiling rather than ability to reach majors and safety. Which is evident with the Vitters and Lake rankings (guys who probably won't be impact guys or even average regulars). Love the aggressiveness on Vogelbomb and Cabrera.

    As far as my own list goes I probably wouldn't have Hernandez that high, although the fact that he can be true SS should suffice. Also maybe it's because of the injury (and probably the slight build) but surprised that Peralta made it over Rosario. Also given that Rosario seems to have better secondaries albeit with less velo. Also I would've had Blackburn higher but that's for my own selfish reasons. :)

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    My 2 cents, if you don't mind:

    - I have a bias for Hernandez, so let me note that first. But one thing to note is that his ceiling is really, really good, and he really only had 1 major flaw this year (whether or not more flaws more show against tougher pitching, only time will tell). Now ... the flaw is a big one, but he showed improvement ... at Peoria ... and at Boise. But we're talking about a potential above average to plus defensive shortstop, with good lateral range and speed, excellent bat speed, and some power potential. Dang enticing package. If you just looked at tools and position, one could make an argument for him to be higher, IMO (and I did, last year ... and the tools showed well thsi year).

    - I like, but don't love, Rosario and Peralta. Rosario's got more consistent secondary stuff right now, but Peralta's slider has plus potential and has shown that at times (particularly that one outing against, um, Beloit?, this year). Build is a justifiable factor in distinguishing the two at the lower levels. As you move up, it's less of a factor, as a starter, if guys show well, but at the lower levels, I think it's a fair factor to analyze.

  • I remember the Cubs prospects of years ago that had Karl Pagel, Randy Martz, Scot Thompson, George Riley and Jesus Figureoa that would change the Cubs around........

    And when we did have a good one in Lee Smith, he gets traded for "garbage".......

    Pascual Perez, one time MLB pitcher was shot and killed in his home in D.R. in a robbery over his pension check....he was 55 yrs old.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Karl Pagel? You're going old, old school on that one. Inflated numbers in what was an extreme hitters league at the time.

    RIP Pascual. One of my favorite non Cubs as a kid.

  • Per Muskrat, the Cubs have "been in contact" with Ryan Dempster.

  • That would be a simple way to get some quality innings. You know he loves it here.

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    You know what? Immediately after I read Muskat's tweet I almost had a stroke, but, come to think of it, and trying to be as dispassionate about it as I possibly can, I believe it would make a whole lot of sense for the Cubs (presuming he'd come back on the right deal).

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    In reply to João Lucas:

    (That was supposed to be in response to the Dempster info.)

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Agreed. Would make some sense. Now he'd have no trade veto rights too!

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    Says a lot about the system when Stephen Bruno just torches NWL pitching and he can be left off a top 25 list with no qualms. Can't wait for 2015 when that cohort is moving into Tennessee and Iowa.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Oh, there's a qualm or three. Love Bruno's hit tool and underrated athleticism.. Barrels up consistently. Would have been top 30 and strongly considered for 25. Only issue was age relative to league, size...kind of guy who will have to keep proving himself -- but also the kind of guy who probably will..

  • Nice, Vogelbach breaking the top 5. Bottom of the list is a little depressing though with McNutt still cracking the top 25 despite being converted to a reliever. Shows we still have some work to do in adding depth. Here's to hoping you have to revise this list a couple three times after this offseason.

  • It will cost too much to get Dempster, and we don't forget what he did

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    My issue with resigning Dempster is based on if they have to give him a multi-year deal. 1 year? Sure, at a reasonable price, but nothing longer than 1 year.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    The Cubs could offer a multi-year deal but without a NTC.

  • Agree with Ray. You guys are forgetting that Theo & Jed are dispassionate baseball cyborgs. Not sure they are going to put too much stock in what Demp did or didn't do before the trade deadline given that he had a NTC when trying to determine what they are willing (or not) to pay.

    If they can get him to take a Cubs discount without a NTC, he may very well be back on a club friendly multi-year deal.

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Been out all day guys. Just got a quick article and poll in on Ryan Dempster.

  • Don Zimmer re-upped with the Rays. Congrats!

  • Nice! Congrats to him and Soot.

  • In other news, ASU is backing out of sharing the new facility in Mesa, according to BA. There are new renderings and elevations available on Mesa's website. Gonna be huge and beautiful, bigger than Baseball World in the D.R.

  • Dempster might return to the Cubs?

    Really?

    What about re-signing Gregg, Hawkins, & Zambrano also!

    Lets give a call to Clavin Schiraldi, Mike Griffin and Mel Rojas to see if they can throw.....

    Please, let Ryan sign with Toronto so we don't have to go through another July deadline talking with the Dodgers about some surfing dude named Zach in a Dempster trade.

  • I don't understand the antipathy for Dempster, He had a good career with the Cubs, had a good first half last year, and then brought in a couple of prospects, one of which looks pretty good. I hope we can sign him for a one year deal, and flip him again. He is a good guy to have, and a good guy to trade at this point.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Agreed. I understand the frustration at the time, but I don't understand that lingering resentment.

  • Nice list. As always, I tend to think the main value of lists is to engender discussion, and when you factor in that after the top 3 guys on the list, things are bunched together quite tightly for the Cubs system, I really can't find fault with your list.

    But since the point is to engender discussion, I'll toss in a few thoughts. I apologize if some of it has been discussed - don't have time to go through all the comments right now. If they have, skip it. I haven't toyed around with a list since my top 20 that I toyed around with on nsbb, so there's certainly a possibility that there have been things that I have missed the last few weeks.

    FIrst thought - where do you draw your "tier lines" for the system? I'm just curious about that in general. I have a different list than you, but I drew it after 3, after 6, after 9, and after 15. Realistically, 11 through say, 30, for me, is fairly close in the system.

    2nd - I have a tougher time putting Vogelbach up there. I recognize the potential elite bat, but he's got, relatively speaking, not much room for "error" in that, as a 1st/DH, he simply has to mash. When you factor in how far away he is, it's just tough for me to go top 5, but everyone judges differently (I had him at 9, so it's not like it was a big gap, again, more for discussion's sake).

    3rd - On the flip side, I actually have no real big issues with Paniagua in the top 6 (and I have him at 6 as well). I mean, ideally, I don't like ranking guys like Paniagua, heck, even Almora or Soler all that high, but he's got such explosive stuff that I'm willing to give some weight to the potential "elite talent" argument.

    4th - I've been defending Alberto Cabrera for awhile (Sickels Cubs Discussion list last off-season was one spot ... I remember because Sickels said he'd bet that Cabrera never made it to the bigs as a successful pitcher) because I saw the quality of the stuff, but 10 seems awfully high. You've really got to buy development in the slider, improvement in the changeup, and overall control development, and that seems like a lot of stuff to buy to put him at 10. But that's me. Still think he's very likely a candidate to be closer of the future, so that puts him in a top prospect discussion list, depending on how one views pen arms.

    Don't want to make this too long, so splitting it into two posts.

  • In reply to toonsterwu:

    Continuing with some comments ... again, I actually like your list just fine, as to each their own, just for discussion's sake (and if it's been asked, sorry)

    5. I put Arismendy Alcantara in my top 10. I'll cut and paste my quick argument. Let me reiterate - I'm not a huge "buyer" of Alcantara as a major league player yet.

    "I’ve said before that, on gut feeling, I’m still very wary of Alcantara, and I stand firm on that point. But leave aside gut feeling for a moment. Here’s a toolsy shortstop, who will only be 21 next season (22 after the season). He has to become more consistent defensively, but the tools are there to be a plus shortstop. He doesn’t strike out THAT much, but he certainly could work on improving his approach. He showed some pop this year and had a breakthrough offensive season before getting hurt. It’s hard not to be intrigued with that package."

    How much one judges personal bias for guys, and how viewer's effect influences a person, makes these lists fun. But from a broad perspective, I sort of feel that Alcantara has been lost in the shuffle, probably because injury ended his season early. If you take away the name, since we know what his past has been like, I'd be fascinated with a prospect that offered Alcantara's potential and was likely to start in AA, coming off a good year in High A. Doesn't mean he'll succeed, doesn't mean I love him, but it's a damn intriguing package.

    6. Alright, folks on another site might get a good chuckle out of this - but I tend to think Torreyes is too low. Yes, I'm loosely defending Torreyes again. I've said it before, but he is a "prove it at each level" guy for me like Bruno, and in your 2nd base list, we found areas of agreement on Torreyes, IIRC. But ... he's still so dang young, and he did have a really nice stretch in A+ this year. I've got a tougher time with Watkins that high because we've seen Watkins get streaky in the summer months the last two years, while being pedestrian for the other months, and thus to me, it feels like Watkins has a greater shot at being a utility guy that a starter (not that I can't see Watkins as a starter, maybe his hot months are a truer indication of his ability and he just has trouble finding a way to get started early in the year). I'm not sure Torreyes is a starter either, but I have a tiny degree more optimism with him than I do with Watkins, and the age/level issues are in Torreyes' favor (that said, I had him at 14, and I said 11-30 is close for me, so quibbling for discussion).

    7. Jae-Hoon Ha - He's in the same grouping for me as Alcantara in that, I don't like him that much personally, but there's enough that intrigues me that I rank him higher than how much I like him (in this case, in that late teens/early 20's area). Whether or not he's an elite defensive CF is debatable ... but he is capable. He did have a hot finish to his year, off the top, and he is toolsy. And ... he's awful young. Again, grand scheme of things, quibbling, but was a bit surprised that you didn't mention him.

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    In reply to toonsterwu:

    Actually, I like Torreyes. He is a plus defender, and shows very advanced bat control; he just doesn't strike out.

    He started very slow, but in his defense was very young for his level (A+ at only 19). The rap on him is that he is so small scouts wonder if he'll ever develop enough pop for 2B, or if he'll just be a 2B Rey Sanchez. But he's promising.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    The size was the biggest concern for me and whether he could provide enough offense outside of his batting average.

  • Other thoughts:

    - I can understand your stance on Ben Wells and Robert Whitenack. I have Wells a bit higher (16), but if this injury issue isn't totally resolved, or if his velocity fails to come back, then yeah, he'd drop. I put Whitenack in that late teens/early twenties grouping in an instance of "gut feeling". I heard enough to think that the velocity won't be an issue on his plus sinker, and I'm willing to play this year off as "Year 1" off from TJ, as it often takes some time. But he could fail to find his stuff next year, or like Rhee, have some slippage, so concern is warranted.

    - No issue with where you have Peralta (got him a couple ticks higher but it's insignificant in list comparisons), but I get a feeling that he's a bit ... under-rated. I know why, but first, it should be noted that here's a guy with a starter's body who, at his best, shows a mid-90's plus fastball and a plus slider. People talk about the lack of excitement in Cubs pitching prospects, which is undoubtedly fair (Pierce Johnson doesn't get me that excited as of now), but Peralta is always a guy to point to as a sleeper. Of course, the lack of a solid 3rd pitch, command issues, inconsistency on the breaking ball ... all of it could lead him down a Rafael Dolis/Alberto Cabrera path (the Cabrera as of now ... maybe Alberto finds himself as a starter), so I can't fault the concern.

    - I'm mildly fascinated on your placements of some young arms. I feel like Maples is a bit high, but I'll guess that's a "ceiling/upside" nod, although I really have to see him throw to see if my arm action concerns can be mollified a bit. I've got no real qualms with Underwood's placement, although his inconsistency had me dropping him outside of the top 20, but I get it. A bit curious about Blackburn there. I honestly was thinking of slotting McNeil as the 3rd arm of our top young guns, but I was leaning more towards the early 30's for both guys.

  • In reply to toonsterwu:

    The list is indeed intended for discussion and you certainly did that! I did address many of those concerns either in the article itself, in the comments, or on Twitter.

    In general I tend to lean toward upside. In the end you need impact players. I don't feel like players like Ha (who would have been in the top 30) and Torreyes fit that mold. I know there is the excitiement of age relative to level, but I'm concerned with whether Torreyes will provide much on offfense outside of batting average. He's an aggressive hitter and at 5'7", 140, the ability to hit for power will be a concern. He's not a burner on the bases either. So basically you have a guy who can hit for average and be a soiid, but not great defender. I like Amaya's and Watkins potential to contribute in more areas.

    Cabrera's ranking is on my feeling that he can be a starter and he already has the potential for good command, good FB, good slider, and a solid change. The tool kit is there. If he doesn't make it and stays in the bullpen, then the ranking will have been too high.

    McNeil is crazy raw right now and his stuff doesn't measure up to the other raw pitchers like Maples and Underwood. No doubt potential is there for that stuff to improve, but he's mostly projection at this point. Blackburn has better stuff and command right now and still has some projection left himself. To me he's easily the better of the two as of now. Both project well, but Blackburn has the head start.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If you get a chance, could you give me your take on what I said about Alcantara above? As a note, I'm not actually a big believer in Alcantara. I'm not looking to sway you, and I doubt you'd be able to sway me on where I put him, but I am curious on your thought process on that one.

    I don't use twitter, but the little I scanned of yours, I don't recall seeing anything on it, and outside of the Alcantara discussion in the shortstop thread (which I guess holds some validity here), I don't recall seeing a discussion on your placement of Alcantara in your overall top 25 list.

  • I know, my comments are a day late (literally), but better late than never:

    Very excellent article and list. I loved reading it. My comments are nits only, I agree with most of your analysis:

    + I do think you're "drinking the koolaid" a bit on Szczur. It's his bat. He's barely hanging in there at the level he is at. His ceiling is Reed Johnson, maybe. He's heady and a great athlete, but hitting an MLB curve ball? Let's say I'm skeptical.
    + Agreed on Cabrera. He should be higher if he pans out as a starter.
    + Still think BJax and Vitters are being bailed on too early. There is a long list of hall-of-famers who struggled when initially brought up. Vitters in particular showed significant progress last year. Both should be ranked higher.
    + I really hope I'm wrong, but Almora seems over-rated to me. Unless he really grows, I just don't see much power potential in his bat, so his ceiling is just not much higher than someone like BJax or Vitters. Maybe he becomes the next Bernie Williams and I (gladly) look like a fool, but I don't see him as an All-Star caliber player.

  • It's FINALLY nice to see that we have a list of 25 legitimate Prospects who could make it to the BIGS. For so many years, BA comes out with the, OMG, that's the best we got prospects. I like the direction we are headed, especially going into this Draft. I just wish that it had the Can't Miss guys in it!!

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