Cubs 2013 Top 25 Prospects: Preseason edition

I did a prospect list way back on November 1st. I do that because I want to make one based on my own observations and reports --  before the major prospect sites like Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, and others come out with their versions.  It turns out my list wasn't a whole lot different.  Since then, there's been a bit more information as we head into the season, so I'm giving you the updated 2013 pre-season version of the Cubs top 25.  In the next prospect article, we'll give you some additional names to keep an eye on, including guys who just missed the cut and some sleepers who could shoot up this list in 2014.

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  • Good list!

    I'm possibly crazy, but I can't shake the suspicion that after four months of playing competitively at the same level, Soler might sneak up to the No. 1 spot.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Thanks! I always say you can make a good argument for any of the 3 in that top spot. Soler could well be there by season's end.

  • Great job.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Thanks Kevin.

  • I am a huge Underwood fan and think he could be a TJ Walker type player next year.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    When he's on, he may have the best stuff in the system. Seems like the type that can get better quickly.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He was only 17 when he was drafted. He could be special and I really want to see him do a bullpen.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    You out in AZ yet? Might be able to catch him at Fitch. Would be interesting to hear what you think.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No I will be there this weekend.

  • During the season can you please try your best to keep us
    up-to-date on the prospects.. Cubs.mlb.com has a nice section on the
    minors.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'll do the daily minor league recaps again this year where I'll talk about risers, fallers, sleepers, etc.... and then a midseason update on the prospects

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    Wow - Vitters nowhere to be seen. Not that I would disagree...

    Nice list, John! Although I gotta say I'd really like to see you go beyond 25 someday. Maybe a top 200???

  • Thanks. He was in the mix for those last two spots. An early version had him at #25. I'm at the point right now where I don't think he can start anywhere but 3B -- but he's not very good defensively there. If he doesn't start, he doesn't have a ton of value whereas guys like Lake, Sczur, and Watkins can give you multiple skills and positions if they don't start.

  • It's better to wait until May before giving us updates the top 3-5 draft picks.

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    Very good list. I particularly like the placement of Lake and Watkins.

    Point on Hernandez (and to a lesser extent, Alcantara) though: right now, there are a bunch of obstacles in front of him. However, Baez is still growing as is Castro. It's possible that by the time Hernandez is ready, neither Castro nor Baez will have the range to play shortstop at the major league level. It's one of the big benefits the Cubs have with so much strength at shortstop.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That is very true. Marco Hernandez is a guy who has a chance to break out, in my opinion. If he does and Baez and Alcantara play as expected, the Cubs could be up to the gills in shortstops, that's a nice problem to have. And I haven't even mentioned Saunders, who I gave some consideration for this list.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    And thanks!

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    Depth is so important, not just star power at the top. Look at the Cardinals; John Jay, Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso, Matt Adams.....and I haven't gotten to the pitchers. None of these guys are all-stars, but all have at least one plus skill, and contribute at the ML level. They give STL tremendous payroll and position flexibility.

    I hate the Cards, but they are a drafting and development beast. We need to be that way.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Great point and we're starting to see that kind of depth developing with the Cubs but there's still a ways to go.

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    John, I feel like I should complain about you and be a jerk towards you because all I feel I do is praise you! Once again great work, I really like your list. Our young pitching prospects are incredibly intriguing. I assume Johnson has the best chance to succeed?

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    haha..thanks!

    Of the young guys (other than Vizcaino), I give Johnson the best chance. Second choice is Blackburn.

  • Soriano playing well today. HR'd and made a nice defensive play.
    Baez playing poorly, had a bad AB and then was non-chalant on an a grounder to SS, bobbled it then threw it away. No error given for some reason.
    Shark throwing 95-97 two seamers. That's pretty filthy.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I hope they make him watch the video of that first at-bat for a week straight. That's exactly what major league pitchers are going to do to him every time so long as he's overly aggressive going after their pitches.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    If he was in the MLB, that's all he'd see. What i see more of Baez right now is that he likes to get ahead in the count once in awhile, but he has no intention of walking. He's trying to put himself in good hitting counts and once he does, it seems like he plans on swinging at everything. If I were an MLB pitcher, I see no reason to give in even if I fall behind in the count. I'm throwing him a breaking pitch or a change off the plate.

  • If Brett Jackson fixes his swing and plays an entire season, how many stolen bases do you think he would average?

    Does Vogelbach have the arm strength to be a catcher?

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    I think he can be a 20-25 steal guy.

    Vogelbach won't be able to play catcher. Lot of skill required at that position and it's tough to pick it up quickly if you're not a good athlete. He's a 1B and the best hope is that he becomes solid defensively and keeps on hitting.

  • FWIW, it's this kind of contribution i find the most valuable from this site. A one stop shop for solid analysis of prospects, including guest posts from folks like KGallo, your prospect lists, and the daily minor league recaps. Stuff that I would have to hit 4 or 5 other sites, maybe pay a subscription fee, and spend an hour a day following, I can get here in 5 minutes. Thanks for your continued efforts!

    Also while I appreciate your willingness to spread the love, I agree that Baez is hands down the top Cubs prospect at this point in time. All 3 have things to work on, but that kid can see ball and hit ball. If he can develop his patience and fielding concentration, could be an all star. Cheers to the future.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    You're welcome and thanks!

    I do like them all, but Baez is my favorite now. He has such a unique skill with that bat speed. Just can't teach that.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    I agree! While I read every word this site produces and usually enjoy most all of it, it's the prospect analysis that makes this blog. I've never found better. Thanks John.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    You're welcome and thank you KSCubsFan!

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Thanks for the comment.

  • All of the prospects I can this week end.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Awesome.

  • Boy, this system has come a looooong way in the 18 months or so since Epstein came aboard. It seems to me that a very high percentage of these 25 players will be major leaguers and that at least a few will be all-stars. By next spring, we'll have added the No. 2 pick in the draft and prospects from dealing Marmol, Soriano and whomever else is attractive to contenders. Considering the only top 5 guy likely to graduate from the list by then is Brett Jackson, and the Cubs are a good bet to have the best system in the game by 2014.

    The real challenge will be protecting prospects in that 20 - 40 range from being scooped up by other, prospect-starved teams. John, I presume you'll be doing a post later this spring about how the Cubs will manage their roster so as to protect those young players?

  • In reply to Taft:

    The Cubs system should rise by this time next year as long as everyone plays to expectations. Many of the higher ceiling prospects will return.

    Will definitely do another post on players who may need protection from rule 5 draft. Probably an early preview midseason and then a final list in the offseason.

  • In reply to Taft:

    The system has indeed come a long way since Epstein came aboard, but let's not forget that the improvement actually started the year before, when Ricketts allowed a change to the draft and signing strategy. That was the first year that the Cubs used the overslot strategy to end up with the equivalent of several first/second round choices. Baez came into the system that year, along with Vogelbach, and Dunston.

    This was the technique that was used so successfully by Epstein at Boston (and unfortunately, a technique that is largely eliminated under the new labor agreement).

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Maples also came in with Baez, etc that year.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    That's a good point. That 2011 draft is shaping up to be a good one. They also spent big in the international FA period that year, though those prospects have yet to emerge.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Recipe for rapid farm system improvement:

    1) Great 2011 draft
    2) Very solid set of international teenagers graduating to the states
    3) The No. 6 overall pick and two compensation picks in a draft
    4) Trade half-a-dozen big leaguers for prospects
    5) Spend $60 million or so on IFA prospects, most of them older.

  • Good list. On this site we have had the opportunity to view many of the prospects hitting style and break it down. Who do you project to best of the bunch? I like Vogelbach.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Thanks. I really like Vogelbach's swing a lot and of the ones we've seen, it is the most compact, efficient swing, so I tend to agree...so far. I'd like to see some other swings -- notably Almora's swing, which was my favorite viewing at normal speed. Would like to get a good video to break it down. Would also like to see Candelario, Vitters, Torreyes, and Amaya. I should see 3 of them at Kane so if I can shoot a good video, I will.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Vogelbach reminds me of Ryan Klesko.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    He may have that kind of LH power. Not nearly the same kind of athlete Klesko was, unfortunately.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Do you think Vogelbach, if he continues to progress, is most likely a trade chip in a deal with an AL team?
    I appreciate your list but hope for future iterations to have more pitching and listed much higher!

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    I think his most likely scenario down the road is trade chip, assuming Rizzo is still producing in 2-3 years (and there's no reason to think he won't). All Vogelbach needs to focus on is to keep hitting and he'll be in the big leagues on way or the other -- and I think he can be very productive once he gets there. AL seems to be the best fit right now, but he still has time to keep improving on his all-around game.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If Vogelbach over shadows Rizzo he would a monster.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Absolutely. Considering that Rizzo is by far the better defender, Vogelbach would have to really out-hit him -- and that would definitely make him a monster.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    No way!!
    We're gonna need VBomb to DH when we play in the World Series!

  • In reply to eaton53:

    I respect your powers of positive thinking

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I will see what I can do about that this weekend.

  • Well, John - you've done yeoman's work with all our prospects, but you've utterly failed at the most important thing of all. That is fast-forwarding us to 2015 when all these prospects are murdering everyone else in baseball. So what's up with that? LOL!

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Haha! I'm still working on my time machine.

  • I can't access the top 25 list. When I click on next or previous nothing happens. Any suggestions?

  • In reply to cubman:

    It might have to do with your browser and how quickly it's loading. Make sure the "next" button is a red box (and not just a link) and it should say 1/25 in the middle. If it doesn't, it will just go back up to the top of the page. Might have to wait a bit until it fully loads. If not, may need to refresh the page and try again.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I tried it all nothing happens. I don't have a 1/25 in the box. Oh well, probably just something weird with my system. I'll try it at home tonight, hopefully it will work there. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the discussion.

  • In reply to cubman:

    Hope it works. Let me now. If you can't get the gallery to appear, I can email you the rough draft version.

  • In reply to cubman:

    Were you able to get in? Is anyone else having this issue?

  • Great work John. A little tough-love on McNutt, eh? I thought you liked his new David Wells off season program?..... I still think he is a SP conversion candidate if he does well out of the pen.

    For me, the exciting part is how far our system has come in the last two years. Add in our 2013 draft picks and any prospects acquired via trade and we should be top 3 next year.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I like McNutt a lot but I think even he would tell you he needs to throw strikes consistently to succeed. He can be a beast when he does.

    And I do agree he's a conversion candidate if he learns to do that (and develop a consistent offspeed pitch). He has the kind of size and stuff to be a solid #3 workhorse.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, I don't think he's ever shied away from taking responsibility to throw strikes consistently. Ironically though, weren't we saying the same things about Shark a few years ago?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yes. And that's what gives you hope. That's why you like those athletic pitchers because they are more likely to learn to repeat their delivery consistently. Once McNutt does that, he's got the kind of stuff to really break through in a big way.

  • John, is a good mental make up hard working/ good attitude? If so, can u imagine there weight room. Most of these guys have probaly never met anyone who works half as hard as them, and now they are in a room full of hard workers. That will push most of them even harder!!

  • In reply to MyersTech:

    Mental makeup encompasses a lot of things. One is work ethic, another is a good attitude, someone who is able to handle adversity well. It can also meant intelligence and the ability to adapt to coaching. It could be part competitiveness (but not overly so, which can indicate other issues). It could also vary by role. Tony Zych, for example, has the ideal mental makeup for a closer. Guys with all-around top of the scale makeup on the Cubs include Christian Villanueva,, Albert Almora, Pierce Johnson, and Matt Szczur. Those are the names that stand out. I like Amaya's makeup...also Watkins, Vogelbach... you could go on and on since the Cubs are really good at drafting guys with that strength, especially the younger prospects.

  • DeVoss not on the list?! I would've thought you'd have him a notch above Szczur.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    I really like DeVoss and he's a bounce back candidate for me after some struggles at the plate (despite a high OBP). Like Szczur there are questions about his hit tool, but Szczur managed to hit well at the high Class A level, while DeVoss struggled at the low A level. I'm hoping ZeVoss rebounds with the bat and makes the midseason list. i like guys who see a lot of pitches because sometimes that translates the following year.

  • Good stuff Maynard. I was turned on to site via another Cubs site. Have been coming back everyday since. Vogelbach to many of us is quite interesting. Any chance he can pick up on a corner OF position? Really,if he continues to mash, I would hate to use as a chip.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    Maynard?

    I like Vogelbach a lot, both from a baseball standpoint and as a person, he's just a good, hard-working guy who loves the game, so it pains me to say negative things about him. I just don't see him having the speed or general athletic ability to play the OF. What I want to see is him become a good 1B defensively because that alone will give him more options.

    Like Vogelbach himself has said, all he can do is work hard and play good baseball. That's the only thing he can control. The rest will have to work itself out when the time comes.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks. Good stuff Maynard is from an old T.V. show years past. One of my many quirks

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    Haha! I thought so. When I was in my early 20s I had a goatee (chin-part only) and my friends' dad used to call me Maynard after Maynard G. Krebs from the Dobie Gillis show. Ironically, that friend's name was Bill...so I did a double take there!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have always enjoyed your descriptions of Vogelbach. One thing I think about is his work and nutrition effort. For him to go from 290 lbs to 240 lbs since being drafted, that took a lot of work and discipline. I think he still has 3 years to go in the minors and in that 3 years he just might lose a little more weight and gain some good muscle mass. He might just gain some speed in those 3 seasons. If he has some more speed it could be possible to play LF?? Maybe?? But I am looking forward to your reporting on his exploits. My favorite one last year is when he hit a homer out of the park and hit the bus.

  • In reply to John57:

    I'll never rule out anything completely with Vogelbach but he's a naturally big kid. I don't think he'll ever get too small because he's just not built that way. He was blessed with a body to mash baseballs, but unfortunately not to track down fly balls in the gap.

    He was easily one of our favorite players when we saw him in AZ. I really hope there is some way he can stay with the Cubs.

  • Looks like Bryan Bogusevic is getting sent down. Great spring, just not the right fit right now. Should be among first guys called up if an OF'er goes down or gets traded.

  • Hector Rondon has made the team, no surprise. Chris Rusin sent down, which means they want to make him that 6th starter. It also tells me somebody, be it Garza or Baker, are about to go on the 60 day DL.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Really feel bad for Rusin. He pitched spectacularly this spring. But I suppose the fact that they see him as a starter is better for him long term. He'll probably get the chance to earn the #5 slot next season if Feldman and Villaneuva are flipped at the deadline.

    I'm concerned about Baker but, if one of the TJ guys was going to fail, I'm glad it's him and not Vizcaino. The wisdom of pushing the recovery will probably be debated for a while.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes. I knew that was a choice they had to make. Bullpen guy or keep stretched out as a starter. It may be better long term that they chose the latter because he should be up this year and take that role.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    how far back can they retro that 60-day DL?

    I feel bad for Rusin, because he has out pitched some others, but he will have a shot at the rotation soon enough.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It shows they view him as a starter and that he may have a future very soon there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So his upside is a 5th starter and floor a LOOGY? I'll take that. But we seem to have an abundance of those within the organization, what's their worth on the market?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'd say that's pretty accurate. I think he has more value as a cost-controlled versatile lefty than he would on the open market. Team will just say they have guys like Rusin anyway. For the Cubs, however, he's proven his worth, so I think they should keep him.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Someone can correct me if I'm wrong. I believe they can retro back to their last game they played.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    Yes. Although I think there is a limit on how many days you can go back total.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    I think that's right if it's a ML game. I read that the Yanks were playing Jeter in minor-league games only, so that he can be retro'd to the earliest date possible. If he's in ML ST games, the DL-retroing can only go back to the latest ML game.

    Nice informative posts as always, John/Tom/Felzz....

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks Hubbs.

  • Good list, John. Its nice to see the Cubs(Finally!) with some REAL talent in there system, Seems to me as many as 6-8 out of your top 25 have big league potential, and 3-4 of them have potential to be stars.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Thanks MB. I agree with that assessment. I say they all have big league potential (and even more who didn't make this list), but I do think they have 6-8 guys who can make a long term impact with the team.

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    Great list John but can I ask for a favor in future lists or write ups about the prospects? Can you please give us the info on their bat side and arm throwing hand>

    Example (Throws: left / Bats: Right)

    It might be nit picking but I'm getting the sense that the future lineup for the Cubs may be extremely "right handed." It was an issue when the Cubs played the Dodgers in the play-offs last time.

    Thanks much for your consideration.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Absolutely. Thanks for your feedback. I especially think being too RH or LH in your organization can certainly impact trades and free agency.

  • Too bad that we can't count both Rizzo and Vogelbach. Both would fit nicely somewhere in the middle our projected lineup. Baez, Soler, Almora, Villannueva, Lake, Vitters, Castro, Barney, and Castillo all right. Jackson, Watkins, Candelario, and Schrrholtz are in house left or switch hitters who may figure into the near future. Who did I leave out?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. I like Vogelbach enough to the point where I would vote for the DH just to get him in the Cubs future lineup. Can't wait to see im mash at Kane County.

  • Great post John, this is a perfect example of why I visit nearly every day.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks Toby! Always appreciate your support!

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    Great list and great work. My only concern is the lack of a catcher prospect in the top 25. I am a huge fan of Welington Castillo but still not sure if he will pan out in the bigs. I hope that somewhere we have a decent catcher coming up to go along with the backlog of SS.

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