Baseball America: Cubs Top 10 Prospects

Baseball America: Cubs Top 10 Prospects
Javier Baez

Most of us know who the Cub top 4 prospects are.  There's not much gray area at the top.  Even Theo Epstein will talk about it openly,

Epstein is hoping his top prospects — namely outfielders Jorge Soler (a Cuban defector), Brett Jackson, and Albert Almora , shortstop Javier Baez , and pitcher Arodys Vizcaino — will all be in the majors together by 2015. First baseman Rizzo is already there.

Where opinions differ are the next 6.  Here's the Cubs top 10 per BA with a little snippet on each.  I can't give you everything or the details.  For that you'll need a subscription.  I also recommend their Prospects Handbook, which is excellent and comes out sometime next month.

  1. Javier Baez: You know about the bat and Sheffield comps, BA rates him as Cubs best defensive IF too.
  2. Albert Almora: Rated the best pure hitter and best defensive OF'er in the system. Scouts say he's the most polished high school player in recent memory and could be in the big leagues in 2 years.
  3. Jorge Soler: Tools, ceiling rival Baez in the system. Rated best OF arm in the system.
  4. Arodys Vizcaino: His fastball and curve rate as best in the organization.   BA projects him as Cubs 3rd starter behind Samardzija and Garza by 2016.
  5. Brett Jackson: Can still be a 20-20 player if he makes proper adjustments
  6. Pierce Johnson: 2 plus pitches (FB, CB). Cubs rave about his work ethic and character.
  7. Dan Vogelbach: Top power hitter in system and feel for hitter. Glove is question.
  8. Jeimer Candelario: Fluid swing, 20 HR power, needs to improve defense
  9. Kyuji Fujikawa: Good FB but splitter is out pitch. Possible closer if Marmol traded.
  10. Arismendy Alcantara: Scouts compare him to Jimmy Rollins, but may move to 2B

A Few Thoughts

The top 8 should be no surprise to anyone.  Some may have them in a different order.  But it's hard to argue that none of them belong there.  Some may have issue with Fujikawa at #9 simply because he's not really a prospect in the classic sense.  Arismendy Alcantara is perhaps the biggest surprise to me, though it's not hard to see why he made the list, considering he had success as a 20 year old true SS at the high Class A level.

I'm a little surprised at the love for Baez defense and they have Starlin Castro moving to 2B eventually.  I thought he was good but his range is not as great as Castro's was at the same stage.  I do think he has better instincts and plays more under control at SS, so that makes up for some of it.  It's close, but I'd still give the edge to Castro right now defensively.  The Cubs have the luxury of waiting since Baez will be at Class A Daytona.  Having just turned 20, he could still outgrow the position, which would save the Cubs from having to make a decision but for now there's no need to move him off SS.

Other Notes

  • Matt Szczur is rated as the system's best athlete and it's fastest runner.
  • To nobody's surprise Junior Lake is rated as having the best infield arm.
  • Juan Paniagua is projected to be the team's closer by 2016.
  • Logan Watkins has the best plate discipline.  It's nice to see a good prospect in this spot, previously this wasn't a strength in the Cubs system among their prospects.  It still isn't, but there has been some improvement.
  • Chadd Krist rates as the system's best defensive catcher which should come as no surprise.  Despite his great start with the bat, it's his catch and throw skills that will likely get him to the big leagues.
  • Alberto Cabrera rated as having the best slider in the organization, Brooks Raley has the best changeup, and Kyle Hendricks the best control
  • BA thinks Jorge Soler may be allowed to dominate at Kane County this year as he acclimates to US culture. I think this is possible too. It's worth noting that during instructs, he was always teamed with Albert Almora and Dan Vogelbach, both of whom are expected to start at Kane County.
  • The Cubs consider Arodys Vizcaino's ceiling to be that of a #2 starter and his floor as a closer.
  • The Kane County lineup is going to be stacked. 4 of the organizations top offensive players (Almora, Soler, Vogelbach, and Candelario) project to be there according to BA.  Wow.  Hope to see some of you there again next season!
  • Scouts love Juan Paniagua's fastball but feel his slingy arm action may translate better to the bullpen.  Not much is known about Paniagua, so that seems to have affected his ranking as well but he would have come in at #10 had they not included Fujikawa.
  • Christian Villanueva just missed the cut, according to Callis.
  • Callis also likes Gioskar Amaya but feels he's too far away from the majors right now.  He does rank Logan Watkins and Marco Hernandez ahead of him on his overall list.  He also likes Tim Saunders but wants to wait and see.  Rony Torreyes doesn't appear to be in the top 20.
  • It'll be interesting to see where the top 3 guys rank in the to 100 overall.  Callis would put Baez #11 overall and he has said on numerous occasions that the top 3 are pretty close -- almost interchangeable.  Callis thinks the system is in the top 12 in all of baseball now.

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  • I can't complain about anybody on this list, sounds alright to me . I would love if the Cubs let Soler start again at Kane County, imagine that lineup!

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I'm excited about that lineup: Almora, Soler, Vogelbach, Candelario...not to mention Amaya, Hernandez, Martin, Contreras, and maybe Bruno. Wowza!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I suppose I'm going to have to break down and try that minor league TV package.

  • Isn't it Juan Carlos Paniagua or did he change his name again? Either way, I was a little surprised he didn't make the list. I would definitely liked to have seen who else was close to making it.

    I agree about Fujikawa not being a prospect, but only because I would have rather gotten a write up on another young player.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    It is Juan Carlos, though he often just goes with Juan now. Typo. I've had a flu bug and fever the last 3 days. Surprised there aren't more errors!

    I like Paniagua a little better than Johnson but I have to admit I've had limited exposure to both. Both have two plus pitches but Paniagua threw harder and did it out of an effortless motion.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Also...I'll add some notes after the chat.

  • 2015 should be interesting for Cub fans.

  • In reply to 44slug:


  • I'm not sure if it is a good or bad sign that a big chunk of those listed were brought in by an administration that has been in place for about one year. If nothing else, it shows that Theo, Jed, and company inherited a fairly weak system.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    I guess it's a good sign going forward.

  • I have no doubt that Baseball America Cubs Top Ten Old Timers will have Dontrelle Willis heading the list.

  • John, how would you feel about a Dave Parker comp for Soler? I haven't seen him play but that's the name that comes to mind when I read the descriptions.

  • fb_avatar

    How are you feeling today?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    A little better so far, thanks. I did feel better early yesterday before everything came back with a vengeance later in the day, so I hope that doesn't happen again.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Your reports on this thing are what convinced me to go get a flu shot so, uh, thanks(?).

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Flu shot does not cover rough new strain people are dealing with this winter according to related news stories.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Aha! That explains it. I did get a flu shot but didn't help in this case.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Bad news is that I did get a flu shot! But it can't hurt. This bug is nasty.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I've never gotten a flu shot and I haven't had the flu since 1989.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    This is my first flu in as long as I can remember. I've gotten the flu shot the last 5 years or so but before then I didn't.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    You're killin' me. :(

    There's only one solution. Does anyone know where I can buy one of those bubble boy bubbles?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    LOL...wish I would have had one of those myself.

  • I think that's a reasonable comp as far as stats. Parker was a bit bigger but I think Soler can match him in terms of power. He may walk more than Parker did.

  • I'd include Villanueva and Paniagua instead of Fujikawa and either Candelario or Alcantara but these rankings are so fluid with no one criteria for judging them so whatever. Lotta good talent here and nice to know Baez may stick at SS.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    I think I'd agree with you there. Villanueva's bat not as good as Candelario but he does everything else well. Paniagua is a personal favorite of mine.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If Candelario can stick at third, I think I like him more, but it seems like that is not a sure thing at all, whereas there is no question about Villanueva being able to stick glove wise and might even have 2B potential.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    The problem for me is that Candelario just isn't that athletic and you worry that he, like Vitters, may not ever develop the footwork and actions around the bag that you like in an infielder. I think he has a shot, but it's going to take a lot of work.

  • I was pleasantly surprised to see Callis give the 10 spot to Alcantara and a little more surprised by the Rollins comparison.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    The Rollins comparison definitely stands out the most from this list, very interesting to hear.

  • fb_avatar

    Biggest surprise on this list was calling Baez the top defensive IF in the system. Better than Marco Hernandez? Or Villanueava? I know Callis said earlier in season in a chat that Baez's defense was the biggest surprise for him this offseason, but that's a strong statement.

    Other surprises:
    --No love at all for Dillon Maples, who Law and Sickels rate much higher, top 10
    --Callis likes Candelario more than others
    --I don't like BA including 30+ year-old International FAs on their lists, I will mention that to Jim
    --Szczur also rates a top-10 mention on most lists; his stock must have dropped more for Callis than for others

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Odd too because later (in the chat) he named Hernandez as the prospect with best shot to stick at SS.

    As for Maples, there's concern with that delivery. I posted it here once and I admit it makes me cringe.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Then again, maybe he picked Baez as best defensive IF because most scouts seem to think he'd be a heckuva 3B.

  • Is Daytona above Kane County? Or vice versa? I wish they came up with something better than Hi-A and Low-A to make those clearer. No one is confusing AA TN with AAA Iowa.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Daytona is higher...moving up it goes Boise, Kane County, Daytona, Tennessee, Iowa

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Daytona is higher.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    To remember the Cubs' single-A's, just think of where you'd rather be hanging out: Daytona is obviously more fun than Boise, and Kane County (formerly Peoria), is somewhere in the gray.

  • Some notes from Jim Callis' chat:

    Panigua was #11 on the list, Christian Villanueva was #12, and Alberto Cabrera was #13.

    Sterling Peralta was on this list before the Rule 5 draft.

    Villanueva gets raves for defense and make up, but some scouts question if he has even 15 HR power

    Last year's Cubs Top 30 was a 45 on the scouting scale, this year a 50-55

    Szczur has become a more selective hitter, has plus-plus speed, and enough raw strength to hit for avg. power, but has to translate tools into skills. Good 4th OFer likely.

    No shock, but he doesn't see Concepcion as a good investment and wasn't close to Top 30 list.

    Pierce Johnson could be in Wrigley by 2015 if he stays healthy...thought he would've gone bottom 1/3 of first round without the forearm strain

    Could argue for Lake over Candelario, but Callis him a tease. Thinks Lake moves off SS this year and his bat may benefit from a less demanding defensive position.

    Callis wouldn't be shocked if Baez was in the Cubs 2014 lineup...calls him "crazy talented"

    "Alcantara has the tools to be Jimmy Rollins in Rollins' prime--not saying that will happen, but the talent is there"

    Middle IF rankings after Alcantara - Watkins, M. Hernandez, guy might be Tim Saunders

    #s 1-2-3 could have gone in any order. Almora has highest floor and worst tools. Some scouts say Soler has higher ceiling than Baez

    Callis has the farm system ranked #12. Cubs are #13 in the handbook rankings

    Cubs wouldn't get much in return if they traded Vogelbach before he gets to full season ball, but he doesn't get enough credit for how good a hitter he is.

    Callis has Baez as the #11 prospect overall

    Baez over Lindor long-term

    Plenty of reasons to be optimistic about make up or work ethic questions

    Nick Struck, Stephen Bruno, Dae-Eun Rhee, Dunston Jr., Ha are not Top 30

    Vogelbach over CJ Cron as a hitter and defender...Vogelbach more power...both are DHs

    Doesn't think the Cubs would make the Garza trade again

    Top 4 should make Top 100 list...Jackson may sneak on to the end.

    Xander Bogaerts over Baez

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Concecpion may prove to be a bad investment but he was still a good gamble to take. Besides, he's owed less than $5m over the next four years. That's pocket change to the Ricketts.

  • Living in Peoria, i am really upset about this Kane County move!

  • In reply to plymkr:

    Me too. I live downstate. Kane co will play in Peoria though.

  • In reply to plymkr:

    I like that they're coming here to Kane County but I feel for you guys in Peoria. I've been to quite a few games there.

  • MLB rumors is saying the the Cubs signed Zack Putnam to a monor league contract.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    We actually reported that a couple of days ago. I believe Baseball America was the source.

  • Almora best/most polished in recent history? Trout? Harper? They're recent. Wow!

  • In reply to plymkr:

    It is amazing in that light. I guess Harper technically was a junior college guy (but I do agree he would have been pretty polished anyway had he come out a year earlier). As a high schooler a lot of people thought Trout would take more time as a guy from a cold weather state. He was a surprise and probably an exception to the rule. He was picked in the 20s if I remember. In fact, the Cubs had hoped he'd fall to them and he may have if the Angels hadn't had two picks in the 20s that year.

  • Gordon Wittenmyer ‏@GDubCub
    Source: Cubs one of several teams interested in Cuban defector/SS Aldemis Diaz. Turns 23 Tuesday, exempting him from signing $$$ limits.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Actually just wrote a quick piece. I like the idea. Can never have enough under 25 talent, especially when they can play the middle positions.

  • WARNING: If you click through to the BA write-up and read the sidebar you'll be reminded that we used our top pick in 2010 on Hayden Simpson....ugh!

    All kidding aside, that Top 10 is more than respectable and can't wait to see what is looks like a year from now!

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    That pick still hurts. Glad this team is going to handle the draft better.

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Agree, but it is just early still for our top guys. I remember how good Hee Sop and Patterson looked.

  • This is much better than in the past, when we could not find 10
    prospects to put on the list. Also good that we have more than
    1 top prospect at some positions.

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