Cubs Minor League Preview Series: Class A Daytona, Part 1

Cubs Minor League Preview Series: Class A Daytona, Part 1
Javier Baez and Jorge Soler (photo from mwltraveler.com)

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.

Catcher

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.

First Base

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.

Second Base

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."

Third Base

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.

Shortstop

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

Left Field

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 WatchAnthony 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.

Center Field

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.

Right Field

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.

Comments

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  • Thanks for the detailed report, John. I am fortunate in often being close to Daytona and other FSL towns, so I look forward to catching some D-Cubs games. Also I can see the AA Smokies when they come to Jacksonville. Looking forward to your Smokies report.
    It will be fun to watch these talented kids develop this spring and summer !

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks Hubbs! You should have a lot of fun in the FSL assuming both Baez and Soler are there -- at least for the first half. Should be a different kind of team this year. More power, less speed. It'll be interesting to see how that plays in those bigger parks.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I'm in the same boat. Planning on making the 1hr drive to Daytona a few times this year. Will also be able take in a Suns/Smokies series.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Will be interested to hear what you and Hubbs think of that Daytona team.

  • Castro reiterated wanting to win a gold glove today. I wouldn't put it past him. I can't wait to see what he can do this year. I'm interested to see Baez at 2nd.

  • In reply to gocubsgo:

    Yes, he really seems to be driven to improve this year, particularly on defense. I'll have a piece on that later.

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    Krist continues to intrigue me. He's hitting the ball well -- against guys much younger than him. I'm guessing he doesn't have the "ball jumps off his bat" factor working for him, and thus his lack of prospect status.

    Still, if he keeps hitting, he could be a very nice backup. I wonder where he finishes this year -- given his age, AA or even AAA seems possible.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I second this opinion on Krist. Given the lack of any legit prospects at Catcher, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility to see him at Iowa by season's end.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think he'll move quickly -- if he hits -- but that's been a question that has dogged him since his college days. He's never going to be a natural hitter like some of the Cubs better prospects, but he can certainly be a grinder up there, draw some walks, hit .260 with some doubles power. It'd certainly be enough to make him a quality backup and maybe enough to start somewhere considering his defense, intangibles, and the dearth of catching in the system and around baseball. For me though, he's an ideal backup

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Everyone has guys they like more than talent or performance suggest they should. For many Cubs fans, Tony Campana seems to fit the bill. For me, it's Krist and Roni. But, yeah, I think your characterization of his upside is about right. As you say, he's a backup guy -- but I think it's sometimes easy to ignore the value of having a cheap, capable backup catcher or mop-up guy in the bullpen. I'll be *the* guy in the stands happy to see a game where Krist is giving Castillo a night off. (No offense, Wellington, if you're reading this. You're one of those guys I like *because* of your talent and performance.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I hear you. Krist is easy to root for...intelligent, willing to grind it out, good defender. And those qualities are especially desirable in a catcher.

  • Really intrigued by players like Timothy Saunders and Stephen Bruno and their pure hitting abilities. Maybe one or both of these guys can project to a Mark DeRosa-type career for the Cubs.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    That would be ideal. Would love to see them develop into that kind of player.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, Im still trying to remember, isn't Saunders the kid who was the D2 college player of the year and his coach said the Cubs "got the steal of the draft" when they drafted him in the 32nd round or somewhere like that? Kids bat has played pretty well so far.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I believe his coach did say that. His bat has been much better than expected. I think even the Cubs were surprised a bit. I really think that guys like Saunders and the guy we mentioned above, Krist, have great shots at being big league players.

  • After reading this, I'm expecting Stephen Bruno to show up under the pitching prospects as well.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Ha! Him and Saunders. They can play just about anywhere. Baseball rats.

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    Just noticed Rogers. With raw power and an apparently excellent approach, why did he go in the 40th round?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He doesn't have the body that the scouts look for. He is very thin. Apparently they don't give you much love if you are too thin or too heavy.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    College senior and doesn't project to get a whole lot better than he is now. Doesn't help that he's a 1B only too. Has a lot of raw power but haven't seen it consistently in games.

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