The Minor League Preview rolls on with Daytona and their position players. We'll cover the pitchers tomorrow.
Daytona had a bit of a speedy, grind it out team last year lead by by Matt Szczur and John Andreoli -- but this year will be different. Daytona will very likely be home to the Cubs two highest ceiling prospects, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, and should feature a more powerful lineup overall.
(In case you missed it, both Baez and Soler figure prominently on Baseball America's top 100 list.)
Once again, we'll look at the top prospect at each position, others to watch for, and a sleeper candidate or two. The Daytona lineup figures to be a fluid one as the team should feature some athletic, versatile players.
Top prospect: Chadd Krist. Krist is advanced enough as a receiver to easily make this jump. He also showed surprising ability with the bat. He tore up Boise and then got off to a hot start at Peoria before cooling off late in the season. Krist showed an advanced, patient approach at the plate and flashed some extra base power in Peoria (.253/.324/.477). He profiles as a backup catcher at the big league level.
Others to Watch: Sergio Burruel. He is more organizational type than prospect but he's a good player to have on your side. He shows strong leadership ability, the ability to handle a pitching staff, and some tough, hard-nosed play.
Sleeper: Both Anthony Giansanti and Stephen Bruno have been pegged as conversion candidates, though both are unlikely at this level. Giansanti has seen more time at 3B and the OF of late and Bruno may start at Kane if the Cubs are going to develop him as a catcher.
Top prospect: Jacob Rogers has been on Theo's radar for a while, having been drafted by the Red Sox out of high school 4 years ago. As a college senior, he was much too advanced for the short-season leagues and he more than held his own in Peoria (.300/.493/.420). The slugging percentage doesn't reflect it but Rogers has big raw power, becoming the first player in history to nail the CF scoreboard at O'Brien Field in Peoria. As you can see by his OBP, Rogers is also an extremely patient hitter.
Others to Watch: Dustin Geiger. He'll be the starting 3B and we'll cover him there, but he could get some time at 1B as well.
Sleeper: If Dan Vogelbach mashes in the MWL and improves his defense, he may get himself a mid-season promotion, especially if Rogers is advanced enough to move up to AA.
Top prospect: We're going to go with Zeke DeVoss here under the assumption that the other candidates will be bumped up to AA. He's an intelligent, athletic player with a tremendous eye at the plate. He'll grind out ABs and draw a ton of walks (14.1% rate) but I'd like to see him be a bit more aggressive and use his wiry strength to slash some hittable pitches into the gaps. He's not a burner but he has above average speed and great instincts, so he should steal around 30 bases or more. Defensively he has good range and a strong arm, though he is still learning the position.
Others to watch: If Arismendy Alcantara repeats Daytona and makes room for Baez at SS, he immediately becomes the Cubs top 2B prospect. Rony Torreyes is still young for his league and the Cubs may want him to repeat the FSL for half a season before taking the big step up to AA Tennessee. We'll cover both players more in depth in the AA preview.
Sleepers: Even if Alcantara and Torreyes graduate to Tennessee, the Cubs will still have all kinds of athleticism here and it gives them some options. Tim Saunders and Stephen Bruno are capable of playing there on a full-time basis if necessary. If Javier Baez shows he's advanced enough to reach Wrigley in the next year or so, he may get some time at 2B to prepare for the call. Baez has said he's willing to play 2B, SS, 3B...even the OF if that's what it takes to get him to the big leagues, "For me, it don't really matter ... I can play outfield if they want me to. I'll play anywhere."
Top prospect: Dustin Geiger led Peoria with 17 HRs last season and slugged .451 overall. The Cubs liked him as a sleeper in the draft for both his hitting ability and glove work, however, he needs to show some improvement in his approach (6% walk rate vs. 24% strikeout rate).
Others to Watch: Tim Saunders name will come up a lot because of his versatility, athleticism, and strong instincts. He figures to move around the field if he doesn't snag a starting position outright as the Cubs try to work his surprisingly good bat into the lineup. Anthony Giansanti (.296/.344/.347) is another versatile player who showed some ability with the bat in Peoria and a penchant for coming up with the big hit. Wes Darvill has good size and athleticism but hasn't developed as hoped so far. He has a decent approach at the plate but struggled overall (.224/.285/.306). He's also capable of filling in at 2B and SS.
Sleeper: Javier Baez. If he's playing here (and/or at 2B) it means he's getting close to the big leagues.
Top prospect: Javier Baez is the Cub top prospect overall and gets a second shot at Daytona after finishing the season there. Baez feasted on MWL pitchers (.333/.383/.596) but found the more advanced FSL pitchers were able to exploit his aggressiveness better. He'll need to improve his approach but there is no doubting that bat, which rates near the top of the scouting scale in terms of both hitting for average and hitting for power. His bat speed is unmatched in the system. In fact, he has few peers overall in the game right now and it not only allows Baez to hit long, long HRs, but also effortlessly poke line drives into the gaps. He is also an excellent base runner despite average raw speed, stealing 20 bases in 23 attempts in Peoria. Defensively he is better than expected, showing excellent instincts, good hands, and a rocket arm though, in my opinion, he doesn't have the fluidity or range of Starlin Castro. According to Theo Epstein, Castro will remain at the SS position even when Baez is promoted -- but, hey, having two potential stars at SS is a "problem" many teams would like to have right now.
Others to Watch: Whenever Baez gets a day off or plays a different position, Tim Saunders will probably get the call -- unless the Cubs want Arismendy Alcantara or Rony Torreyes to start the season in the FSL. Both are capable of playing the position with Alcantara having the natural tools to play there full time -- which is why he'll likely get every chance to move to Tennessee despite not having played 100 games in a season yet in his career.
Sleeper: Timothy Saunders
Top prospect: Stephen Bruno. I'm going out a bit on a limb here by saying that a) Bruno will skip Peoria and b) he'll get a chance to start in the OF in order to get his bat in the lineup. He's a better athlete than advertised and though he doesn't have the HR power you like in LF, his offensive production (.357/.438/.492 at Boise) should be plenty. You may remember that he ended the season as Boise's starting RF'er.
Others to Watch: Anthony Giansanti also factors in and will vie for a starting job. Pin-Chieh Chen may get a look here too if he doesn't start in CF.
Sleeper: I also like the idea of trying to get Timothy Saunders bat in the lineup here on occasion, especially since he hit at all levels (.381/.431/.536), which included a brief stint at Daytona (.310/.362/381) last season. Saunders is also a good athlete with great instincts, so he can play anywhere -- though he has the most value at the middle infield positions and the Cubs will want to play him there as much as possible.
Top prospect: Pin-Chieh Chen has plus speed and a very good approach at the plate. He's not a big player and doesn't have the frame to put on much weight, but he makes good, hard contact, uses all fields, and walked at an 11.5% rate. Defensively he uses his plus speed and solid arm to be an asset at all 3 positions. His future as an MLB'er would be as a 4th or 5th outfielder.
Others to Watch: Zeke DeVoss was an excellent defender in CF as a Miami Hurricane. He also saw time there at Boise in 2011 and may get some time there again to help relieve the potential log jam at 2B.
Sleeper: It wouldn't be surprising to see Albert Almora in a Daytona uniform by mid-season.
Top prospect: Jorge Soler. Much has been said of the Cubs slugging outfielder of late so no need to rehash here. In case you missed it, see Kane County OF preview. This ideal scenario is that Soler handles the FSL and earns a promotion to AA Tennesse by the year's end.
Others to Watch: In the increasingly unlikely event that Soler has to start at Kane County then we may see the Cubs mix and match with some of the previous outfield names listed above.
Sleepers: Reggie Golden and Taiwan Easterling are long shots but if they show progress the Cubs may want to move them along. Both have missed time and are behind schedule due to injuries. Easterling in particular is a bit old for the MWL. Both players are covered in the Kane County preview.