Law rates Cubs top 10 prospects: My thoughts on Vogelbach, Underwood, Blackburn

Law rates Cubs top 10 prospects: My thoughts on Vogelbach, Underwood, Blackburn
Duane Underwood and Paul Blackburn

I wrote a lot of my thoughts back when Keith Law listed the Cubs as the #5 overall organization, so I won't go into detail rehashing here.  But the premise was that in order for anyone to rate the Cubs that highly, they have to like the Cubs pitching, particularly their young pitching, and few see them more often than Law, who does much of his scouting in Arizona.

Today he came out with his Cubs top 10 and that indeed appears to be a significant factor.  Five pitchers are in the top 10: Arodys Vizcaino (4), Duane Underwood (6), Juan Carlos Paniagua (7), Pierce Johnson (8), and Paul Blackburn (9).

Heres the rest of the list...

1. Javier Baez, SS (31)
2. Albert Almora, CF (33)
3. Jorge Soler, RF (42)
4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (64)
5. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
6. Duane Underwood, RHP
7. Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP
8. Pierce Johnson, RHP
9. Paul Blackburn, RHP
10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS

The top 5 are as expected because of his top 100 rankings, but there is usually a surprise or two on Law's list and, once again, he doesn't disappoint.  The Underwood and Blackburn rankings are the highest we've seen by far.  Paniagua also rates highly.  I'm a big fan as well, rating him 6th after getting all giddy about how the ball just explodes out of his hand with such an effortless delivery.  Baseball America had him 11th, though you could almost say they rated him top 10 as far as traditional prospects since they rated 32 year old NPB veteran Kyuji Fujikawa at #9.  So while the Paniagua rating is high, it's the Underwood and Blackburn rankings that were the most pleasant surprises to me.

In what is no surprise, Law left Dan Vogelbach off the list as he has been especially vocal about his athletic and defensive limitations. While that is a concern, that has been exaggerated in my opinion. On offense, Law grants he has "80", or top of the scale, power while also saying he has a "pretty good" idea at the plate. I have to respectfully disagree with that choice of words. By many accounts, including my own, Vogelbach shows an an advanced approach at the plate,  a good feel for hitting, a powerful yet efficient, fundamentally sound swing, and he controls the strike zone.  If that's "pretty" good, then I'd like to know what "very" good is.  Even more perplexing to me is that Vogelbach gets downgraded because Law doesn't see how the Cubs can use him.  My response to that is this: "How does that affect his pure ranking as an individual prospect and a ballplayer? "   I understand the concerns about being hesitant to rank a 1B/DH type who has only played at the lowest minor levels, but if he reaches his offensive ceiling as a good hitter with 80 power, then Vogelbach will undoubtedly have use as a major league ballplayer.  Perhaps "use" factors in if you're ranking overall organizational strength, but it shouldn't be a factor in Vogelbach's ranking as an individual major league prospect.

But let's get back to Underwood and Blackburn.  Their inclusion on the list gives us an excellent reason to talk about a couple of our favorite pitchers from the Cubs 2012 draft.

Some consider Duane Underwood to have the best raw stuff of any Cubs pitcher in the organization and he flashed it at times in AZ.    Right now, Underwood can touch 98 -- but he can also sometimes struggle to get out of the low 90s.  He can throw a big, breaking curve -- but sometimes it lacks bite and is too hittable.  He even shows potential for a plus change but it doesn't always have enough separation from his fastball.  He's also a very athletic pitcher which can be a big factor on how quickly pitchers can apply instruction from a purely physical standpoint.  There is a lot to work with when you look at Underwood and, to top it all off, he has reputation for being very coachable.  I imagine Cubs new pitching guru Derek Johnson must be chomping at the bit to work with him this spring.

Paul Blackburn is the more polished pitcher but that's not to say he doesn't have good stuff as well.  It would be a mistake to call him a finesse pitcher.  He can throw in the 90-93 range already, has an advanced feel for pitching, and should be able to develop at least average secondary pitches.  Like Underwood, he's a good athlete and as we've mentioned often, that translates into an ability to repeat one's delivery which in turn can translate into good command.   Aside from polish and athleticism, the Cubs see one more thing with Blackburn -- projection.  Physically he still looks very much like a teenager, which is to say he looks lean, maybe even a little gangly.  It's not hard to imagine the possibility that he will throw with better, more consistent velocity as he fills out that frame.  He has a chance to be a very well-rounded pitcher who some think may one day slot in nicely as a #3, but it wouldn't surprise me if he turned out to be a little more.  He's not going to wow you like Underwood, but he has good stuff, a clean athletic delivery, and the potential for plus command or better.  And, of all the Cubs young pitchers the Cubs drafted in 2012, nobody has more of that mysterious, unquantifiable quality known as "pitchability".

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  • Anybody's take on the inclusion of Underwood and/or Blackburn vice Maples?

  • In reply to C L Dubya:

    Law had Maples in the top 10 last year so my personal take is that it's not so much that he has a dislike for him, I just think he likes the new guys better.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Man, the anticipation of these prospects are making me giddy. Perhaps I need to temper my excitement a bit! :)

  • In reply to C L Dubya:

    Me too :)

    Sometimes I look at like this: Even if they don't make it -- and most of them won't -- it's still more Cubs baseball for me to enjoy :) It's fun to watch these guys develop as ballplayers.

    That's not to say that's enough because I want nothing more than to see these guys leading the Cubs to a title one day, but in the meantime I'm going to enjoy the ride.

  • Great to see a different take on our young pitching. I'll be very excited to see what effect Derek Johnson will have on these kids.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    He's going to play a big role. Especially interested to see how he impacts Maples and Underwood.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Maples has two plus/plus pitches. its his ability to repeat pitches that needs work, and maybe his attitude, since last year he admitted he didn't follow the teams recommended training regimen. He does seem to have learned that lesson, and this season should see some solid progression. 2 years ago, every scout I read said Maples had #1 potential. Time for him to flash it.

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    As I said in the last post the more I think about it the more the Underwood rank makes sense. He's really the only SP prospect of the bunch that has legit #1 potential. He has upside that rivals Baez, what holds him back being his floor which stands at the lowest of the entire group. If your big on upside he's your guy.

    Blackburn, I imagine is high because he has a nice balance of ceiling + floor without being labled a "finesse" guy which you don't see too often from an 18yr old. I like those ranked a lot.

    Johnson in such a short time span is a consensus top 10 prospect. Besides the big 4 I think he's the only prospect to be on every list i've seen.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Underwood is the choice if you're talking about pure upside. If you're a bit more risk averse than you go with a guy like Pierce Johnson or maybe Paul Blackburn. I like the Cubs mix there of both philosophies.

  • Underwood and blackburn could be good finds for the cubs. Like you said john blackburn can hit 90-93 and he is probably not done growing yet. So if he makes it to the majors he could have few extra ticks on that fastball. I think johnson could do wonders with underwood because of underwoods ability to be coached.

  • In reply to seankl:

    I couldn't find the article that talks about his high school days, but he really sounds like a well-grounded kid. Of course, given how much the Cubs value mental makeup, we probably shouldn't be surprised.

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    Wow he likes Jeimer Candelario that much too put him at 5 wow..

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    He even had him ranked in his top 110.

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    It was a nice opportunity to reflect that Pitching is on its way. Law ranked the Cubs 5th (higher than others) and his list ranks the pitchers higher than Sickels, Mayo and others. I hope he is right and the next/first Theo/Jed wave of pitching is legit.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    Agreed. It would be best if Law turned out to be the most accurate, not just because of the overall ranking but because of that emphasis on young arms with upside.

  • I wonder how did a young Greg Maddux rank one year into his professional career? It would certainly help provide a frame of reference for scouting projections in general for me at least.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Maddux impressed right away with his combination of poise and pitchability. But it's also interesting to note that he wasn't the strike throwing machine in his debut season in the rookie league. I also remember the Cubs being pleasantly surprised he was available in the 2nd round -- which was most likely due to his slight build. He didn't fit the mold physically.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True, John, but didn't everyone then rate Harkey at the top , not only with the Cubs, but in all of MLB? One scouting report on Eastern League pitchers had the rating "Harkey 1st, then everyone else". His injury nightmares are worse than Kid Ks were.

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    M's and King Felix agree to record 7yr 175mil deal which will take him to his age 33 season.

    These are the kind of deals that make sense for teams. He a young, durable, true ace pitcher. True superstars that are still young should be the only players getting deals like this. The Mariners will be paying for all his prime years, not his declining ones. Paying for what he will do, not what he did before.

    Most teams would love signing to superstars to deals like this. Usually teams pay for 1-2 prime years and 3-4 declining ones. Good deal for the M's.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Felix is their only "marketable" player. Seattle fans and media love him. Knowing he is here long term gives them a building block and the fans know they have a foundation from which to build.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Price of reliable pitching just keeps skyrocketing. Fewer and fewer front end guys are seeing the open market. It makes it all the more important to develop your own talent. I hope Law is right and a few of these guys can develop into good cost controlled starters down the road.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Agreed. It's not going to be easy to get an ace through free agency anymore. Yet another reason to draft and develop your own pitchers!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The Cubs don't need anybody else's stinking aces. We will have our own. Not only are drafting and developeing, but 2013 looks like a good staff. I see upside at every level.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Haha! I like it. Develop our own. If the Cubs have to get one from the outside, then it's going to be a little disappointing, not to mention costly. But I guess on the flipside, part of the reason you build up your farm to begin with is to have assets to go and get an ace if things don't work out.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Spellcheck has # 1 stuff, now comes time to see if the league adjusts to him. I liked last year, Samardizja became more of a pitcher than a thrower w/o the loss of velocity. This should be the year where it can be determined if he has the mental game to be a TOR pitcher.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Sorry, but have to disagree here. I don't care how reliable or productive a pitcher has been (or a position player either for that matter). The contracts these guys are signing are out and out ridiculous and offensive.

    I'm not eager to cheer for a team of guys each making more than an entire school district's budget, or the new heart wing of a hospital costs, etc.

    I know I sound like a cranky old man and I am, but at some point this has to stop.

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    In reply to Just Win:

    Well what your talking about is an entirely different(but valid) subject. In that retrospect yes, MLB contracts have gotten high and most people in this country don't think athletes should make as much as they do

    .....BUT... If were talking straight baseball and it's current market, as baseball fans, then it's a great deal for the M's and a great deal for baseball in general. I was doing the latter.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I couldn't agree more.. How can a family afford a ball game anymore. Just killing the sport.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I'm old and cranky, too. Just ridiculous..,and just keeps getting worse.. Till ballparks become empty because people/familys just can't afford it anymore.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    The thing is that player salaries go hand in hand with owners' revenue. You want salaries to go down? The owners' income will have to go down as well. They're all making big money no matter what some may claim. If enough fans stop lining the owners' pockets then the owners could try paying their players less.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    This may not be morally correct (that's up to people's own morals to decide), but the fact of the matter is that while there are millions of people in the world who can teach school children, there are only a handful of people in the world who can hit a 95mph fastball that moves from 60ft away (or 90ft, or whatever it is). It's a matter of supply and demand, and the demand is right for a baseball player.

    It is strange that someone can become a millionaire to play a game? Sure. But we need to keep in mind that just because the games are expensive to see in person doesn't mean that these guys are bad for the city. The Cubs and Wrigley bring in millions into the area, which brings in tax revenue, which then goes to areas like schools, etc.

    Of course it'd be nice if every family could go to the games, but as long as tickets are still selling the team and the neighborhood still stands to benefit.

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    In reply to Just Win:

    My students are working on projects on things exactly like this.

    There are multiple things going on here economically. First of all, it's important to note that free agency is an auction market. It's a unique auction market in that for guys like Jeff Baker there are a lot of people who can give you exactly what he can, lowering his value. But for guys like Felix Hernandez, there are maybe 3 guys in the game capable of doing what he can, raising his value. The reason an auction market is important is because every team will put a value on Hernandez. The ones with lower valuations will fall out as the bid price rises, leaving only the team that values him most. So, without any dollars at all, we know that the salaries guys like Hernandez are going to get represent the highest estimate of their value. (This ignores hometown discounts. It is a factor -- and may well have been a factor in Hernandez's case -- but only a minor one. It can also be explained with economics, but will really go off on a tangent.)

    Now, what is putting these high dollars there? Several factors. First of all, winning the World Series is a financial bonanza. This article (http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=yp-gennaroeconomics103107) from 2007 has the Red Sox gaining $45 million from going to the World Series. The numbers have only increased since then. That is what the owners -- well, most of them -- are chasing, and adding a guy like Felix Hernandez to your roster makes it much more likely.

    Not only that, but simply having Felix Hernandez on your team draws people to the ballpark. Both at home -- come out to see him play -- and on the road -- "It's our only chance all season to see King Felix, we need to buy a ticket!" A chunk of that money goes into the owners pockets.

    Add on to that money from selling Felix Hernandez jerseys, bobble heads, etc.

    Finally, TV revenues. Some of this is already captured in the "World Series bonanza" argument, but you also have to consider that having Hernandez makes you more likely to be the Fox Game of the Week -- which brings in more revenue -- and local stations will be willing to give you a bigger contract to broadcast your games. This is more revenue being brought in.

    So, a guy like Felix Hernandez increases team revenue in multiple ways. In labor econ terms, we say his marginal revenue product is quite high. (That is, the additional revenue adding that employee brings in.) Workers are paid their marginal revenue product -- and so the best players get very high salaries.

    The "solution" to this is for interest in baseball to collapse and people to not only stop going to the parks, but to stop watching it on television. Given that all of us spend significant amounts of our time here talking with one another about baseball, that seems -- to me -- to be a high price to pay to lower salaries.

  • I find it interesting that Brett Jackson was either 4th or 5th on both the mlb and baseball America list and doesn't even crack the top 10 here.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Law referred to Jackson as an extra OFer this week in his chat. Says that Jackson's swing and miss issues have made him skeptical that Jackson can be a regular at the major league level.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Also found it interesting that he didn't mention him as far as guys who could help in 2013. He went with Vizcaino and Lake (though he called Lake fringy)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, he has a point. We hope he is wrong about Jackson and right about the rest.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    He does. There's every reason to be skeptical. Just surprised he didn't get mentioned at all.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I have heard some really good things about Jackson's revamped swing. Hopefully that will help cut down on tgd strikeouts.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Everyone's swing looks good hitting off a tee or short toss from 20 ft. The question is when it comes to live pitching, will he be able to repeat the mechanics he has been working on...

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    You can see holes in swings on soft toss. But yes it is about repeat ability but the Cubs did a good job fixing Rizzo last year.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I get the feeling that Mr. Law is basing his opinions on where these guys were at the end of last season. A lot of them have been working on their shortcomings over the winter--B. Jackson with his swing, for example, and the many who played winter ball--Lake who raked, for example.
    Yet it sounds like this kind of between-season improvement wasn't a consideration for Mr. Law.

  • Law also chatted today about his lists...couple Cubs related notes:

    JJ (Liberty Twp, OH)

    I noticed Trey McNutt didn't make your Top 10 Cubs prospects list. Is he still capable of helping them as a 4th starter type, or has that ship sailed?

    Klaw (1:24 PM)

    Far more likely to end up contributing from the pen. Still has a great arm, still a great athlete, still no progress on command.

    BassmanUW (Chicago)

    Of these three overhyped Cubs prospects, who do you think has the best chance to be at least an average regular: Vogelbach, Szczur, Lake? Who has the worst?

    Klaw (2:21 PM)

    Vogelbach, as a DH. You can have the other two.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    It wouldn't be an ESPN chat if one of their readers didn't mention "overhyped" Cubs prospects.

    Does anyone else see the irony here?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I could see it from across a football stadium....They make it so obvious that no one there has any idea what they're talking about.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Tim Tebow doesn't see the irony...

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    LOL

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Haha! Nicely played.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Ive said many times-Chicago fans will fall in love with Vogelboom if this kid gets to Wrigley. Just watching this kids batting practice is a show, Id advise Rays bleachers to get an insurance adjustment , cause this kid will put a few onto Sheffield every year. Also has a great approach at the plate, his number of ks and HRs at Boise last yr was 1/1.

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    I think we'll see a huge jump in the development of Cubs prospects this season. Last year at a Peoria/Snappers game, I had the pleasure of talking with Joe Bohringer(cubs director of pro scouting). He talked about getting a late start, hiring coaches, hurt the Cubs in getting "their people" in the organization. The beauty of Theo & company is a track record of developing prospects. I can't wait to see the results this season and beyond.

  • In reply to chicagojay23:

    Good stuff and that's encouraging to hear. No doubt this is a big year for the Cubs organization, particularly at the development level.

  • Law's is so fixated on his weight that he overlooks all of vogelbach's plus skills. Plus discipline, great hit tool, good clubhouse guy, and great make up.

    I think Law is going to look like an idiot in a couple of years.

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    I disagree with some of his opinions abut Vogelbach, but he's a smart baseball man. The reality is that if you are a scout or talent evaluator, you're going to miss most of the time -- and I really hope that's the case with Vogelbach.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    All i'm saying is that he definitely one of Vogelbach's harshest critics, it's almost like he hasn't heard about all the weight he's lost or doesn't want to acknowledge it. Most evaluators mention the fact that they like his effort and character and believe he can has a chance at 1st if he keeps up his conditioning.

    Law is like nope DH at best. Great Character...nope...DH. He just seems stubborn, which always rubbed me the wrong way about his evaluations.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have agree with Law at times and have strongly disagree with him a lot. I think he see players once and makes up his mind. Not a good way to scout but what does it matter if he is wrong. He won't get fired he works for a network not a team.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I'm the same way. No question he's a talented evaluator, but it doesn't mean we have to agree with him. And it's not just him -- it's all those guys....Callis, Mayo, Sickels, Goldstein back when he was writing for BP...you can respect their opinion without having to agree with every one of their evaluations and conclusions.

    I think that's what makes these things fun. As long as you can disagree without disrespecting the person behind the opinion, then I think anybody's rankings are fair game.

    Other than being respectful, another thing I want to stress is that if you do challenge the experts opinion, then be prepared to back it up from a baseball standpoint, not because you think he dissed your team.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It not that I don't respect him I his don't agree and it more then what he had said about the Cubs. I disagree with a lot of his thoughts on the up coming draft too. I think he makes a lot of snap judgments at times.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And this started with slider I mean curve ball at Petco.

  • John, Im not an ESPN insider, so I don't have much to check on Laws track record on prospects. Have you done any checking on how well his top 100 prospects work out every couple of years?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I haven't but the reality is he has his share of misses. That's not singling out Law, that's just the nature of the business. Even the best scouts in the game have far more misses than hits.

    Even with the advent of advanced metrics and greater information systems, scouting is still largely subjective, especially at the lowest levels of the minor leagues.

    I want to clarify that the main point with the Vogelbach portion of my article was that I disagreed with some of his reasoning in that particular evaluation. I think Law is an excellent talent evaluator overall.

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    I guess I'm glad Law rates our pitching that high, but other than Vizcaino, it's all projection at this point. This is a critical year to develop pitching, and I think we need to see these guys a full season before we get excited.

    As much progress as we have made, it's going to be a long climb out of the talent hole we're in. On Law's list, Vizcaino is the only one close to ML-ready

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    In reply to Zonk:

    I think Paniagua could move pretty fast. Agree though, develop is paramount to success right now.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Everything Ive read on Paniagua suggests hes most likely closer material, doesn't appear to carry his stuff deep into games. Last scouting report I saw on him gave him a comp to Todd Worrell, the former Cards closer from the mid 80s.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    Where did you see he couldn't carry his stuff deep into starts? I'd heard the issue was he may not have the 3rd pitch a starter needs.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Have to say that when I saw Paniagua, Todd Worrell's name never sprung to mind. Worrell was a big fastball/slider guy with intimidating mound presence. Paniagua is smaller, lean athletic type who throws deceptively hard because of his easy delivery. Though he didn't throw one when I saw him (didn't need to in his brief appearance) reports from the DR say his change is pretty advanced, something Worrell didn't have.

    While it's very possible that he ends up in the pen, maybe even likely, it's still early and there really isn't a lot of info on Paniagua simply because scouts haven't seen a lot of him.

    Cubs intend to develop him as a starter and see what happens. He does have the 3 pitches, which is a good start. He's also athletic with a pretty clean delivery (though, according to BA, some think he slings it a bit).

    Other than concerns about his slinging motion, I think one other obstacle to being a starter is the fact he's getting a late start. He's going to have to hit the ground running and show well early -- but I do think the Cubs will be patient this year.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Exactly. It's easy to get excited but projecting young pitchers is one of the most difficult tasks in baseball.

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    Just take a look at that.

    The Cubs have the 5th best farm system in the league, and of their top 10 prospects, 5 are pitchers and 2 are shortstops. Also, 7 of the top 10 have been added in the last year -- including all 5 pitchers.

    Hendry isn't completely absent here -- Baez, Candlario, and Alcantara were his picks -- but what a huge accomplishment for the new front office.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Good observation. The impact of this new FO is huge on Law's list.

  • I think "pretty good" is a good walk rate but a 20% K rate in short season ball.

    "Very good" would be a much lower K rate, especially since we're talking Low A.

    In my opinion of course.

  • In reply to Norm:

    The ability to make contact is more often about skill than approach. K rate alone is not sufficient information to make that sort of evaluation, especially at the lower levels.

    Strictly from a baseball standpoint, I realize Law is a pro, but I have confidence in my own background and my ability to evaluate the game as well as a few of those in the game that I trust. And based on that, I feel I have sufficient reason to question his judgment

    Separately, as a writer, the first thing that struck me is that he chose that wording to downplay his strengths, while simultaneously using highly charged words like "brutal" to overstate his weaknesses. Those kinds of word choices don't just happen. My immediate reaction was that those words were more about being persuasive than descriptive.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I agree. Law often writes for effect rather than exposition. Leaves people wondering where he's really coming from.

    Another point: I wonder how much the experts feel they must differ from the other guys' opinion and rankings, just to prove their "unique perspective".

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    The thing is when he's writing his scouting reports they're excellent -- my favorite of any writer out there. These kind of pieces are written for a broader audience, I suppose. And his audience seems to be obsessed with the idea that all Cubs fans are infatuated with Vogelbach, Szczur, and Lake. They mention it every chat.

  • Nice ranking for Paniagua, good to see him getting some love. Law's missing the boat on Vogelbach though. I'm guessing DV will clobber the ball again this year and Law will be late to the party with next year's rankings.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Vogelbach is going to be fun to watch this year.

  • The once concern we all have to have that of these 10 players on the list, only 1 will be starting above "A" ball. Vizcaino should make it to Chicago by August, but each and everyone of the other 9 will be at Daytona or below. A lot of time for things to go poorly and these guys flame out...

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    That's my big concern for me too, especially starting at #5 on down.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Yep,... and the fact that most of the potential impact guys in the minors are at least a year from getting regular Major League playing time is why I figure those who are overhyping (not most of us here) our chance of making a playoff run this season are off base.

    The 2013 team will be more consistent (IMO) than last season. They will still struggle to score runs, and unless Stewart does better than expected and the OF mix has a power surge - they will have to scrounge around for runs. The defense should be at least the league average, and the pitching as well. That alone is an improvement over last season.

    But once time & effort filter out the best from among the pool of youngsters we should start to see some of them contributing by late 2014 and during 2015.

  • It feels like the Cubs have group of players coming together as a group that will rise together like the way the Dodgers had with their players of Garvey, Cey, Lopes, Russell, Yeager, Rau, and Buckner back in the early 70's.

    I am still sticking with 88 wins in 2013.

    The Reds will not win 90 plus games again...the Cardinals are over-rated........It will be a 3 team race.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    You are more optimistic than I am Cubs Talk,... but nothing wrong with that!

    My money (if I were to bet any) is that we'll see about 75 wins this season.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    You ARE a Dreamer...,gotta love it though!!!!

  • It seems the FO of the Cubs knows the value of ss prospects as does the majority of all MLB baseball. Three trades in less then a year have benefitted the receiving team with high value pitching prospects or established MLB arms. Segura, Gregorius, and Hechavarria helped their former teams and each was a Top 10 prospect for their organization

  • In reply to Scheider:

    Yes -- it's an excellent commodity to have as an organization. I don't think you can have too many SS. They are always in demand or they can switch positions.

  • Any thoughts as to why the have Vogelbach's power graded as a future 6 on MLB.com? Baez has future 7, which seems legit but Vofelbach at 6!? Can that be right? "Legitimate plus plus" and 6 are not the same thing.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    No rational explanation than I can think of. That rating made no sense to me. Almost always hear his power described as 8 (80) and no lower than 7.

  • Blackburn's fbv in AZ sat around 89-91 but seemed like he still managed to get it done out there. I know that's not a ton of information but really seems like he knows what he's doing when he gets on the mound. I get the feeling he's one of those bulldog types, just goes after hitters with a good command and a good feel for pitching.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    Thanks Jeff. I'd heard the velo was a little down from the pre-draft scouting reports but I didn't know the exact numbers. Not concerned though, that's not uncommon in the first season.

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    Great to see some encouraging words about young pitching in the Cub system for a change! I think this year is going to be a defining year for the entire organization.
    They have done the scouting and signing, hired an army of FO personnel, put the latest technology in everybody's hands. They have completed the "re-build" part and this will be the year that will show the most progress for the org as a whole, if not the 2013 team. It seems that most of the key players (these Top 10 lists) are poised to show what they can do. They had last year to acclimate, adjust, whatever, and now we get to see how good they really are, or aren't.
    Keep up the great work John! This kind of reading is light-years above espn or mlb.com. Saw a preview where Jim Duquette says, "with Garza, Samardzija, and Jackson...their top 3 starters are not horrible." Shows you the total ignorance out there about the team and what's really going on.

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips67:

    Thanks Adolpho!

    "Not horrible"? Haha! Well that's a relief.

    I'm still worried about risk but the pitching is encouraging in terms of ceiling. That's not something we've seen enough around here. I couldn't agree more when you say this is a big year for this front office and this organization. We'll have a much better idea about where the Cubs stand.

  • First of all, I hate the DH. But if the National League is gonna adopt it, let's do it now. Cuz DH is the only place for Vogelbach!

  • In reply to Joe Tarzan Wallis:

    Great handle!

    Two things have convinced me that I prefer the DH: Vogelbach and watching Matt Garza bat.

  • I'm highly encouraged about our young pitching prospects. The addition of Johnson and the much-improved player development department are a breath of fresh air after the Fleita years. This year's Rule 4 draft and international free agent pool will add a few more really good arms to the list. We may even get the wave after wave of pitchers Theo and Jed plan to have.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I think we'll get those waves...most guys won't make it so you have to keep those waves coming and hope you hit on a few over time.

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