Cubs Post Draft Top 20 Prospects

Cubs Post Draft Top 20 Prospects
Albert Almora

The draft is over and we'll track signings as they come, but now it's time to see how those picks will impact the Cubs organization.  What I see now is that the Cubs are still top heavy in position players with two players joining the big 3 as potential  top 100 prospects.   Pierce Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino (when healthy), also have top 100 ability, though Vizcaino has no chance of reaching that status this season.  Another pitcher, 2013 draftee Rob Zastryzny is growing on us fast after hearing scouting information that was different (in a good way) from what we've read.  The Cubs drafted a lot of interesting arms, so perhaps the list will even out by this time next year.

As a bonus to this list, our friend and co-writer Jordan Bernfield spoke with Jason McLeod and Baseball Prospectus' Jason "Professor" Parks, who is among the best in the business when it comes to evaluating prospects.  Be sure to check out both podcasts by clicking on the provided links.  We will also get Jordan's thoughts on Kris Bryant in an article tomorrow morning.

Here is my top 20...

1. Albert Almora, CF, (A):  Like last year, you could make an argument for any of the top 4 to be #1 on this list.  After much thought I went with Almora.  Not because he's hitting .434 as of this writing, though that helps.  Rather, I ranked him first because there is no other prospect on this list with his combination of tools, instincts, makeup, and advanced feel for the game.  Everything about him spells MLB ballplayer.  He's going to hit .300 and eventually draw walks and hit 15-20 HRs per year. Add that he plays a premium position at a Gold Glove level -- and that he's a 19 year old tearing up a league with many 21-22 year olds and I think he's the clear #1 right now.

2. Kris Bryant, 3B: Bryant gets the edge over Soler for now because of his ability to play 3B.  I see them both as patient hitters with prodigious power, solid athleticism, and a plus arm.  The fact that Bryant does it with more positional value is the edge for me, even though Soler has proven himself at a much higher level of competition.  There's a hair's difference between the two and if you want to go Soler #2 (or even #1), you're not going to to get a huge argument from me.  After spending some time in Arizona, Bryant will likely head to Kane County to start his pro career, though there is a chance he's advanced enough for Daytona.

3. Jorge Soler, RF (A+): It's nice to have to make these tough decisions at the top and there are many years when Soler would have been the easy #1.    Soler, 21, is showing consistency with regard to most of his game this year.  His strike zone discipline continues to improve as is his ability to make adjustments at the plate.  He shows good tools in the outfield though his strong arm can be erratic  The one thing we haven't seen is consistent HR power but that will come as he continues to learn the league and adjust to playing in the U.S.  Soler profiles as a middle of the order power hitting RF.

4. Javier Baez, SS (A+):  Baez is only 20 and still has the highest ceiling on this list but he has the furthest to go.  For now his bat speed alone will carry him through the lower levels.  He'll struggle at times with his approach but he crushes mistakes.  There have been subtle signs that perhaps Baez is starting to tone things down.  He is taking more pitches and working counts better, but still doesn't have the high walk totals to show for it, though there has been incremental progress each month.  There is also the question of his ultimate position.  He's had a number of errors at SS this year, most of them throwing, but the feeling is he can still stay there.  His bat can potentially play anywhere.

5. Arismendy Alcantara, SS, (AA): Just 21, Alcantara has always been an exciting, athletic, quick twitch player but an improved approach has him blossoming into a potential offensive force -- and at an up-the-middle position.  Alcantara has added plate discipline to his game, walking  at a very good rate of 10.3%.  He's also increased his power with career highs in slugging (.486), ISO (.197), HRs (9), and doubles (14).  Alcantara is slender but he has quick, strong hands, generating gap power almost effortlessly while also posing an occasional HR threat.  If that's not enough offense, he also runs well, which allows him to steal bases efficiently (15 SBs in 16 attempts) while also helping his range in the field.  He has all the tools to stay at SS, but he has been erratic with his throws.  He should make an excellent 2B if he has to move.

6. Pierce Johnson, RHP, (A):  It's hard to say that one particular thing stands out about Johnson.  He just does everything well. He throws a fastball which ranges anywhere from 91-96, a power curve, a cutter, and an improving change.  He has average command and it may get a bit above that but I don't see him as a guy who is going to paint the corners anyway.  Johnson is aggressive with his power repertoire and throws enough strikes to keep the walks down (2.64 per 9 IP) while still missing bats (10.09 Ks/9IP).  Johnson should probably move up to Daytona (A+) mid-season.  He's 22 and overmatching hitters in the Midwest League, which is one reason I didn't rate him one spot higher.  He projects as a solid #3 starter.

7. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (AAA):  Vizcaino has been injured all year and may miss the season after having calcium deposits removed post Tommy John surgery.  He's still just 22 and will be 23 all season if he has to go back to AAA in 2014, so it's not like he's getting to journeyman age.  His 92-94 mph FB peaks at 97 and throws a sharp-breaking curve which he commands pretty well.  He also shows an average change, so he has the repertoire to start, it's going to be about durability with him.  If he can't start, he should be a very good back -end reliever, possibly a closer.

8. Jeimer Candelario, 3B, (A):  The switch-hitting Candelario is just 19 and holding his own in the Midwest League, showing patience (11.7% walk rate) and doubles power (18 two-baggers).  He has strong hands but there isn't a lot of loft in his swing and doesn't generate the kind of torque a player like Javier Baez does, so he's not going to be a huge HR guy, but he could hit 20 or so on strength alone.  Candelario's offensive game will be about line drives, gap power, and the occasional long ball to go with walks, so he should hit for average and put up a good OBP.  The other question is defense and while Candelario isn't very athletic, he can make all the plays at 3B.  The Cubs believe Candelario can stick there long term. He probably won't be more than average, but it's about the bat with Candelario.  He gets a slight positional boost and is one year younger than the next player on the list, but it was a tough call.

9. Dan Vogelbach, 1B, (A): A fan favorite for his competitiveness, outgoing personality, and big-time power potential, Vogelbach sometimes gets underrated as a hitter.  He has a good idea of what he's doing up there, waiting for his pitch (10% walk rate) and sometimes going the opposite way, where he has shown improved power this year.  Despite the 11 HRs, the power is a bit down this year overall as he adjusts to more advanced pitching.  He's still just 20 and he's a big kid, so some have questions about his defense.  In all honesty, we're not going to see the second coming of Mark Grace at 1B, but Vogelbach is there to hit.  As long as he makes the plays he's supposed to make while mashing baseballs at the plate, then the Cubs will be happy.

10. Rob Zastryzny, LHP:  Zastryzny was a bit of a surprise in the 2nd round but the Cubs saw some arm strength there that maybe was missed by some.  He was hitting 95 by the end of the year and the Cubs believe he'll eventually sit 92-93.  He also throws a change-up which has a chance to be a plus pitch and two breaking pitches (slider, curve).   Zastryzny reminds some of Mark Buehrle in that he's an athletic lefty who works quickly, changes speeds, and commands his pitches well.  I've also heard Tom Glavine comps for some of those very same reasons.  Zastryzny has a chance to pitch with more velocity than either pitcher but to ask him to have Glavine-like command is a tall task for anyone.

11. Duane Underwood, RHP:  Underwood has yet to pitch outside of the complex in Arizona so we're really going more on stuff than results right now.  He's an athletic kid who is said to be coachable and it may be starting to show already as Underwood has reportedly hit 97 and  has often hit the mid 90s.  His breaking pitch still lacks consistency, as does his command but the 18 year old oozes upside.  He's a potential front line guy if he develops.  The ceiling is high but obviously the floor is still pretty low too.

12. Junior Lake, 3B-OF (AAA): Described as a "freak" by his Iowa manager Marty Peavy, Lake is all kinds of athletic with great size, speed, and strength.  He also works hard.  It seems there is a lot to work with here but some criticize Lake's approach at the plate and in the field.  He's improved his walk rate (from 5% to 7.8% last season) but it's still inconsistent and he has been moved off of SS to 3B while seeing increased time in the OF.  I think eventually he's an OF'er with the arm strength to play RF and the current speed to play CF.  His bat  may not profile anywhere but CF, so he may end up being a player who moves around a lot, ala former Cubs Jose Hernandez and Mark DeRosa.  On offense, Lake gives you some power and speed and is an exciting player who can beat you in a number or ways, but struggles on defense and an inconsistent approach may relegate him to a supersub type role.

13. Matt Szczur, CF (AA): Another player with very good athleticism, Szczur has a solid approach at the plate (9.3% walk rate, .359 OBP).  He knows his role, which is to get on base and wreak havoc with his good speed once he gets there.  He has an unorthodox swing that doesn't lend itself to power (.393 slugging, .101 ISO) but he has some strength and there's a chance he can shoot some balls into the gaps.  He has worked hard to improve certain elements of his game -- his defense, arm strength, and plate discipline and has put himself in position to challenge Brett Jackson and others for the CF job, though even if he wins it he could just be keeping it warm for Albert Almora.  If he doesn't keep the CF job long term, he could also make a solid 4th OF'er.

14. Christian Villaneuva, 3B (AA):  Villanueva got off to a bad start (.205 in April) and is still struggling to get out of that hole.  Since that April he has hit .282/.358/.504 with 4 HRs and an 8.1% walk rate.  While those are solid numbers, Villanueva is more known for his defense, where some scouts grade him a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.    He's the inverse of Candelario in that the hope is that Villanueva provides average offense with plus defense.  Both players could see their path blocked by top draft pick Kris Bryant, though there is a chance Bryant moves to the OF.  Villanueva is still just 21 and he's holding his own at AA, so time is on his side.  Though I have him lower than Lake and Szczur, I'd rank him above each player if we're strictly talking future starters.  Villanueva has the best shot of that trio.

15. Alberto Cabrera, RHP, AA:  The re-transition to starting has had it's ups and downs but overall it's been a good one for Alberto Cabrera who has pitched better than his 4.08 ERA would indicate.  Cabrera has a 3.60 FIP and a solid K rate of 8.66 per 9 IP.  The control is average at best (3.57 walks/9 IP).  Cabrera has a power arsenal, led by a heavy, low 90s fastball as a starter (mid 90s in relief), a hard slider, and an average change.  He has 3rd starter's stuff though his command probably bumps him down to a #4 ceiling.  If he doesn't succeed as a starter, returning to the bullpen (where his fastball plays up) is always an option.

16. Kyle Hendricks, RHP (AA): Hendricks isn't going to wow you with his stuff.  He's about 87-91 mph with his fastball with an average breaking ball and a good change-up.   He's about pitchability, command and changing speeds -- and nobody in the Cubs system does it better and with more consistency than Hendricks.  I've been reluctant to rank him in the past simply because I had doubts whether his stuff would play at the upper levels.  That he's succeeding in AA is very encouraging in that he's facing more talented, experienced hitters.  But his margin for error will continue to shrink as he looks to take the final two steps, so his already good command will have to keep improving.  The 23 year old former Ivy Leaguer is 6-2 with a 2.14 ERA (2.57 FIP) with 7.70 Ks vs. just 2.02 walks per 9 IP.

17. Gioskar Amaya, 2B (A):  It's been an up and down season for Amaya, who hit .229/.247/.313 in April, then .283/.377/.434 in May -- and is now hitting .167 again in June.  He has an .826 OPS at home and a .513 OPS on the road.  He has played good defense all year and if he can be consistent on offense, he still has a chance to be a quality 2B.  He can hit just about any fastball and has enough speed to be an asset on the bases.  His approach is solid but he's wavered a bit with it early on this year.  At his best, Amaya can be a guy who hits for average and supplements it with enough walks to put up a solid OBP, some gap power, and good defense at 2B.

18. Brett Jackson, OF (AAA): Jackson made some adjustments to his swing and he's had some fits and starts but overall it's been a struggle for him.  He's cut down his K rate from 33% to 28% but it has cost him some power .155 ISO after .224 last season and he's only hit .236 so far.  We haven't given up on him yet.  He has shown some flashes of breaking through and then seems to revert back into a slump again.  It's a big year for Jackson as he was the heir apparent to David DeJesus in CF when the year started but may have been passed up by 27 year old MLB veteran Ryan Sweeney with CF's Matt Szczur and Albert Almora in fast pursuit.  Jackson needs a strong 2nd half to try and reclaim the CF of the future title.  If he does not, he does enough things well (defense, power, speed, patience) to make a solid 4th OF'er.

19. Willson Contreras, C, (A): Contreras is a guy who caught my eye in instructional league with his athleticism, work ethic, and competitiveness.  He's a tough kid who has already ruffled some feathers in the MWL with his hard-nosed style of play.  But this isn't just about intangibles.  Contreras hard work is starting to pay off.  His athleticism is an asset behind the plate, though he is still learning the nuances of the position.  On offense, he has improved his approach.  His walk rate has gone from 4.1% to 7.75 and he does  a good job of waiting for his pitch.  That has also helped him improve his power significantly (ISO up to .175 from .084).  He has strong wrists and a quick bat and should be able to handle just about any pitcher, but he lacks consistency.  If Contreras continues to develop, he could provide the Cubs with average power on offense and a good arm with excellent mobility behind the plate.

20. Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP: Paniagua has one of the best arms in the system, rivaling Underwood and Vizcaino, but like both of those pitchers, he hasn't pitched competitively this year.  In Paniagua's case, it's because of an inability to secure a visa.  When he does get to pitch, he can be a little like Vizcaino in that he doesn't have great size, but has a live arm with a fastball that explodes out of his hand and can sit mid 90s and touch 97.  However, his breaking ball isn't as advanced and Paniagua is now 23 with just a couple innings in Boise to show since signing with the Cubs as their top international free agent pitcher.  He does have the potential to be a starter with a plus FB, above average command, and average secondaries but it's looking more like his ultimate role is as a reliever, though it could be as a power arm at the back of the pen.

Others getting consideration (in no particular order)

  • Marco Hernandez, SS
  • Zach Rosscup LHP
  • Carlos Penalver, SS
  • Paul Blackburn, RHP
  • Shawon Dunston CF
  • Rock Shoulders, 1B
  • Reggie Golden RF
  • Rubi Silva OF
  • Jae-Hoon Ha OF
  • Logan Watkins, 2B
  • Ronald Torreyes, 2B
  • Dustin Geiger, 1B
  • Daury Torrez, RHP
  • Eric Jokisch, LHP
  • Brooks Raley, LHP
  • Chris Rusin, LHP
  • Dillon Maples, RHP
  • Tyler Skulina, RHP
  • Trey Masek, RHP
  • Scott Frazier, RHP
  • Josh Vitters, 3B

Note:  Lots of mentions on Josh Vitters originally being omitted from my list and I should say he did pop into my mind but didn't get serious consideration because of a very low floor.  What I mean by that is that Vitters is a good hitter with low OBP skills and average power who plays a fringy 3B.   That would be a second division starter at best (similar to Lake and Szczur) but a more likely ceiling is a guy on the short-side of platoon, since most of his damage at the plate comes vs. LHP.   The biggest reasons I like guys like Lake and Szczur better, though, is the potential for better position value (both are potential CF'ers) and both have secondary skills -- i.e. speed, versatility, defense, plus either OBP skills (Szczur) or power (Lake) that are useful as reserves.  If Vitters doesn't become a starter, which is likely at this point, he's basically a pinch hitter vs. LHP.

Let me also note that many not on the "others considered" list are still good ballplayers.  I just never considered them for a top 20 list.  That is not to say they don't have a chance of making the majors or making a larger list (say, top 30 or 40), only that they didn't have the kind of qualities that I look for in a top 20 guy.  Off the top of my head Zach Cates, Ben Wells, Chadd Krist, Michael Heesch and many others are great examples of guys I think have a shot at being MLB players, but just didn't stand out enough (and/or are close enough to the majors) to warrant serious consideration for a shorter list.


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    Not getting consideration: Josh Vitters

  • In reply to Louie101:

    I know. I guess I probably could put him on the list. I probably gave him as much consideration as some of the other fringe guys on the list, but right now I wouldn't put him in my top 30 were I to extend the list further.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I get your floor and ceiling argument with Vitters, but the fact that he has already made his MLB debut (admittedly terrible) and has put up good numbers in AAA, when others on your list have similar floor ceilings but have yet to make it past lower levels is puzzling. Several of these guys (Shoulders/Silva/Dunston/Geiger) will be lucky to get where Vitters already is.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I think Vitters ceiling is pretty low right now. Those guys indeed are unlikely to get as far as Vitters has, but right now I'm looking forward, not backward. I just don't see a lot for Vitters moving forward. I hope he proves me wrong.

  • Excellent list. I think I might drop Vizcaino down even further, but otherwise I don't have any quibbles. Alcantara up to 5, Baez down to 4, these are the signs of someone who is really plugged in.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Thank you.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Agreed on both accounts. Wonderful list, and Vizcaino being too high. Dude might not throw a professional inning for two full years, has only 280 IP in total, 210 of which are at or below A+, and never over 115 IP in the same year. At some point he has to prove he can be a starter, and if he can't do that, I'm not sure relievers, even high end ones at that, can be rated this high in any system, let alone one that is supposed to be in the Top 5/10 range.

  • In reply to Monkey Shines:

    And it worries me that the one year he topped 100 IP, he broke down, and hasn't pitched since.

  • In reply to Monkey Shines:

    I can see that argument but Vizcaino is still young and we were all well aware of his injuries last year when he still made some top 100 lists. Anytime you have a 22 year old at the AAA level with a high ceiling (front end starter) and, assuming he's healthy, a high floor (back end reliever) he still deserves some consideration. And after the top 6, the level of potential impact prospects drops -- Vizcaino may be higher risk, but I see him as still having more impact potential than most of the guys behind with the possible exception of Underwood, who is a lot further away from making that impact than Vizcaino is, health or no health.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Totally agree that the potential is about as good as it gets in the Cubs system, but guessing his ranking is going to get hacked in almost all (if not all) the national lists for missing two years in a row. I just can't see a publication like Baseball Prospectus ranking him top 7 after missing two straight years. Back end of the top 10 is a more likely destination for me. Still really high in a good system, but definitely shows a more cautious approach.

  • In reply to Monkey Shines:

    I considered him as low as 9, but in the absence of a true impact premium position player or starting pitcher (at least one with a track record), I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Other players have a chance to pass him by season's end, but right now I don't see a guy that jumps out at me as someone with better higher ceiling/high floor combo -- and at an advanced level of professional baseball -- than Vizcaino provided he comes back healthy and strong. He's a big question mark to be sure but potential impact was the difference.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Totally. It all makes sense, and is very fun and interesting to discuss. Lots of talent to get excited about in the Cubs system.....just going to be really hard waiting (and hoping) for it all to arrive.

  • In reply to Monkey Shines:

    I think half the fun of these lists is the debate! As long as it's respectful as it always is here.

    Totally can see why people would knock down Vizcaino and if I saw someone make a list with him at 18 or something, it wouldn't shock me at all.

  • What is going on with Paul Blackburn, I heard alot of buzz draft time last year about him. .

  • In reply to Josh Sims:

    He'll likely start at Boise. Velo hasn't projected as well as hoped so far so we're looking right now at a back-end starter until that happens. Projecting players physically is tough. Some guys add velo right away, some later, some never at all. Underwood gets the nod because that velo is coming sooner and while pitching is much more than velo, it gives him the better starter kit for high upside right now.

  • Nice list. I hate to see BJax fall so far. I had such high hopes for the kid. I thought he had Edmonds type potential for awhile, but he seems to be in a rut. Maybe a change of scenery or different instruction can help. I don't want the Cubs to sell low on him, but it is almost too late.

  • In reply to RayA:

    Right now he's a 4th or 5th OF'er to me because he can provide defense at all 3 OF positions plus some power and speed off the bench. I think he's a guy right now that you play occasionally but would probably get exposed if he were in the lineup everyday. There's always a chance it clicks for him. We know he's going to work extremely hard and do everything in his power to improve.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    At what point does the whole ‘retooling’ of Jackson’s swing get scrapped? It seems to have sapped his power and his K-rate is still bad. Seems to me his only hope now might be to bulk up a bit, swing from the heels and become a three outcome guy with good D and decent speed. He then could be useful in a platoon.

  • In reply to Puma0821:

    That may be his long term role if he make it, he'd make a good LF'er even if he did get bigger. He has pretty good power at his current size, though.

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    I like Zastryzny cracking the Top 10. He's one of those guys everyone seems to be warming to, at least partly because he's "our" late-blooming lefty now. Hope he lives up to his draft slot, but the tools do seem to be there.

    But, yeah, if just half of our Top 100 type positing players make it, this offense is going to be scary.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Kept getting some info after the draft that I wish I had before it. Then I could have been excited when they selected him! But I don't blame them for being secretive about their reports on Zastryzny.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree completely. The more I hear about him the more I really like him. He may turn into a major sleeper from this draft.

  • Thanks for putting this together, John. I'm not as high on Sczcur and Lake as you are. From the sounds of it, those guys don't have much of a chance to be everyday players, more 4th OFers/utility guys. A guy like Villanueva, on the other hand, seems like he can be an average everyday 3B, though.

    But thanks for putting the list together and let's hope we can add another 4-5 guys into this top 20 list in the next 2 months! If I were to put the over/under on # of players added to our top 10, I think I'd put it at 1.5. # added to top 20, more like 4.5.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Making these lists for me is always a challenge between listing guys who are doing it at the upper levels (Jackson, Lake, Szzur) and a chance to be useful as reserves vs. guys who have high ceilings but are in the lower levels (i.e. Jeimer Candelario) vs. more starting potential but alo might have more of a starter or bust type profile, such as Christian Villanueva.

    I think there's a chance that guys like Lake and Szczur could be 2nd division starters (including the Cubs themselves until their 2nd wave comes in) but their usefulness as potential reserves gave them the edge over Villanueva if they don't. Not much room for Villanueva if he doesn't hit enough to be a starter. Tough to find room for a guy who will give you plus defense at 3B but doesn't hit enough to start and probably can't play any other position. He's in an odd way, bat dependent despite his good defense, so I see a tad more risk there.

    That said, I can see an argument for putting Villanueva above Szczur and Lake. Lists like these are always up for debate.

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    Dustin Geiger is a beast

  • In reply to Mitchell Williams:

    Big fan of Geiger and he got consideration for that 20 and I'd put him in the top 30 as of today. What hurts him is that he is now a 1B with average defense and average RH power. You don't see a lot of those guys starting in the big leagues. If Geiger was playing a solid 3B, he probably would have made it.

  • Excellent list John. Where does Bryant's power rank in the cubs organization? Is his power greater than a soler or vogelbach?

    Also, I think Bryant will ultimately go straight from AZL to Daytona because thats where the most opportunity to play 3B is with Candelario in kane county and the DH spot not having much room either.

  • In reply to nickdib123:

    Power wise I dont think it even a debate Bryant is at the top of the list now. I tried yesterday to find out where he will start but I got that will be decided after he signs.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Better than Vogelbombs? That would be impressive, I saw Vogelbach several times last year in AZ and his power was impressive. Maybe its time to campaign for the DH in both leagues, then we could keep Vogelbomb. Id hate to see us trade him and he ends up a masher in the AL.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Yes Vogelbach is a 70, Bryant is an 80. I love Vogelbach but I don't see where he fits in the future.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Right between Mike Zunino and Austin Wilson?

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Could that potentially play into the negotiations at all? I.e., can Boras ask for him to be at a certain level and the Cubs concede or is that stuff typically determined after they've and reported, making it solely based on skill level...

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    2016 Rotation?

    1. Samardzija R
    2. Garza R
    3. Wood L
    4. Johnson R
    5. Zastryzny L

    2016 Lineup?

    2b Alcantara S
    Cf Almora R
    Lf Candelario S
    3b Bryant R
    1b Rizzo L
    Rf Soler R
    Ss Castro R
    Ca Castillo R

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Michael, who plays DH? Baez? Or Vogs?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    If the list goes that way Baez is in LF and Candelairo is trade bait.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Agreed, but I see Michael's concern with the lack of leftys. If we are so incredibly fortunate that all of the top 5 make the majors, they'll probably work out a deal at some point for more lefty power.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Can we put a moratorium on "projected" line ups and starting rotations that go further out than one year?

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Why? People have fun with them. You don't need to read them.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I was hoping we would be closer to 2015 with that lineup;( and some of these kids sometime in'14. But if that's r 2016 lineup; then some of these kids are kicking some serious ass MC. and I'd take that. Just to knock Rizzo out of the three hole alone would put some serious depth in that lineup.

  • Don't believe the handful of games Almora has played this season is enough to push him above Soler & Baez. Not taking anything away from him, but it is a very very very small sample size and he isn't doing anything that Soler & Baez haven't already done.

    Not sure exactly where or plug Bryant in there. I'm assuming that the level of competition he's faced is on par with A ball. If so, I'd go:


    Almora's maturity and advanced approach may push him past Baez, but it hasn't yet IMO....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    This is kind of where I am, though I do see John's argument. Moreover, I think Almora is going to be in the major leagues on defense alone, so he has that going for him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    This ^.

    Almora is the only one of John's top 5 that has plus defense. That means a lot. Again, he has the highest floor of all of them, but I still see Baez and Bryant (no particular order) have the best ceiling. They both have 70 power.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It's not about his performance, which is what I mentioned in the Almora write up. Other than proving he's healthy and ready to play at a high level, his fast start didn't factor into the equation. Statistics, in general, aren't a huge factor at the lower levels.

    Almora is simply the best combination of floor and ceiling on this list right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Floor I get and agree. Ceiling, maybe. Though I'm guessing the premium position bumped him up at least a slot or two. You don't have positional concern with Almora like you might with Baez or Bryant. Everything about Almora screams Bernie Williams to me.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If his quick start in KC didn't factor into it at all, then how do you take your #3 guy from last fall and MLB #37 prospect and move him ahead of Soler & Baez (#1 on your list last fall and #15 on MLB) when they both raked in big league camp and are having success at a level higher than Almora?

    I'm not saying your wrong, I just don't see it. There's still a ton of baseball to be played before any of them sniff the MLB clubs line-up, so these things will certainly sort themselves out. But the combination of floor & ceiling for those 3 is no different than the last time everyone ranked them.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Because I hadn't seen Almora play live until instructional league and then this year at Kane County. And the quick start proves that he's healthy and his ability to adapt on the fly, but the numbers themselves didn't factor much.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    No, I definitely see the argument for any of the four. The reality is it's too early to say for certain. I think the unanimous parts are Almora has the highest floor, Baez the lowest. Baez also has the highest ceiling though. If Almora had been tearing up big league camp or A+ ball, fine he gets the nod. But so far he's had a handful of really impressive games vs low A ball pitching. I'd expect a guy with his floor to hit like he has.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    The sample size on Almora is very small, but of all our prospects, he is the only one that can already play a premium defensive position at the ML level, CF. Everything so far says he can make contact. Those two things alone will get him to the majors, and means he has the highest floor of anyone on the top-4 list, IMO.

    That being said, he probably does not have the highest ceiling; Albert won't steal bases. How valuable he is probably depends on how much power he develops, and is the difference between him being a guy, or a star at the ML level.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    He's probably less than a week away from having 100 ABs on the season. Still a small sample size, but getting closer to statistically significant territory.

  • In reply to JB88:

    I wouldn't say stats in the Midwest League are all that significant.

  • In reply to Norm:

    Well that's sort of a strawman reply. I didn't say the level of statistical significance. It isn't like we are talking about Almora doing this at the ML level, but, if he were, we would be stating that the number of ABs is a small sample size and, therefore, subject to huge swings in either direction.

    Sure, the significance of what Almora is doing is lessened by him doing it at A level ball, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have ANY significance.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I get that his floor is highest. But I'd also argue that his ceiling is the lowest of the big 4..... Still a very nice player, but I think the .300 avg and 15-20 HR's John mentioned is his ceiling, not his floor.... Right now, Baez is still playing a position that is even more premium than CF so.....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think Almora's floor may be higher than many of the other CF'ers ceilings.

    I think Almora will develop average to slightly above average power, which is to say 15-20 HRs with lots of doubles. That would be excellent considering everything else he brings to the table. It'll make him an all-star player. But even if he doesn't quite reach that level, he still has the potential to be an above average player at the position.

  • Overall, I like the list and feel like you've got the right names on it. I do think you've got Zastryzny a couple spots too high, but I have a preference for the guys with more of a track record in the system.

    I'm also a little surprised you didn't include Michael Heesch since he seems to be the only Kane County pitcher you ever scout in person.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Ha! I like Heesch and it is no slight that he wasn't mentioned. I probably should have put Heesch on my "Others considered" list but the truth is, like Vitters, he didn't even enter my top 20 thought process. He might get mention in a larger list later in the year. I think he has a chance to be a big leaguer.

    That's what makes these lists tough. I don't ever mean to say guys not on the list like Vitters or Heesch don't have a chance. They certainly do.

  • Is there any update on Paniagua at all? For all the positives that the position players have shown this year, it has been equally disappointing for me on the pitching side. I was really hoping we'd see something from Vizcaino and Paniagua, but alas, nothing.

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    In reply to JB88:

    It's funny how expectations shape moods. I was hoping we'd get a big step forward out of either Paniagua or Johnson and one of the Round 2-4 crowd from last year would establish himself as a serious prospect. As such, I've been quite happy with our pitchers this summer.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That is funny. Especially regarding the Round 2-4 crowd. Because with McNeil and Conway out for the season and Underwood and Blackburn still in AZ, it's hard for me to really say that I'm quite happy with our pitchers. In fact, expanding beyond the initial two I mentioned just makes me even more depressed at this point.

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    In reply to JB88:

    Underwood is on his way to Boise. He is also extremely young and developing his pitches and missing bats. He is way ahead of where I expected him to be.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'm with you on Underwood. Let's just put it this way, logically, I know that a return of 2 out of 7 pitchers would be a great return, but I was hoping for better results at this point, better health, and something from Paniagua. I'm encouraged by Underwood and Johnson, but disappointed that there hasn't been greater health and/or better results from the others.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He is but it's hard not to be bummed overall about our top pitching prospects. When we've got nothing from Vizcaino and Paniagua who were arguably our top two. Then you take 2 of the high upside arms in the lower levels and lose them for the season and all we've had is Johnson and Cabrera plus an inconsistent Maples to see so far....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I realize it's impossible to "win" this because we're talking about how we feel, and that doesn't change. Maybe this is just my training as an economist affecting how I see this. But we know that pitching prospects are risky propositions (TANSTAAPP). This is a pure numbers game. It shouldn't surprise us that some of them aren't performing for whatever reason.

    But when I look and see a big performance out of Johnson, developing stuff out of a very young Underwood, Hendricks come from sorta-maybe a fringe bullpen arm to a legit rotation piece, I can't help but be excited. Really, if just one of those 3 make it as a legit front-middle of the rotation arm, we're doing well.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Not that we can't get about those individual successes, certainly we may. It's just not much to be excited about as a whole. Yes, we expected a high attrition rate, for whatever the reason(s). But as a whole, our Farm system for producing that first wave really isn't any closer than we were this time last year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, I think some of the disconnect in view points is that some feel that we need to beat the averages because we are so thin in pitching. While you are looking at it from a historical view, some view we have to beat those numbers to get ahead.

  • In reply to JB88:

    No new update as far as I know. The pitching is indeed a major disappointment for me as well. Johnson is the one guy on this list with the stuff and current performance to get excited about right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What about Cabrera? Can you see him as potentially our 6th/7th starter ala Rusin next year?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think he eventually returns to the bullpen but the chance and skill set to start is there, so can't rule him out. We have to count on some pitching attrition and if Cabrera is still pitching well, he has a chance to sneak in the rotation.

  • I'm really excited by Hannemann. I saw a highlight video that BYU put together of him (posted by Yagyu over on ProSports Daily) and he looks like a ballplayer. Tall, long, lean, athletic with a good lefthanded stroke. You know, the type of player that the Cubs never seem to have playing for them :)

  • In reply to JB88:

    I think Hanneman will be on this list soon.

    When I listened to the WGN radio show that gave a call out to John, which by the way is totally deserved, I remember a story of I think it was McLoud talking to the San Diego coach. McLoud asked the SD coach what he thought about Hanneman and the coach said he was the 2nd best player in the conference behind Bryant. Since the SD coach didn't have to say anything nice about Hanneman, I think the opinion was honest. Since Hannerman has great instincts, speed, on base skills and left handed power, I don't see him not being an impact player. So far I really like this pick.

  • In reply to John57:

    That was a great quote by Bryant's coach, I agree. It's hard for me to give serious consideration to guys I don't know a lot about. Zastryzny, Frazier, Masek, and Skulina were guys I have been tracking all year. Sometimes guys get unfairly dismissed because of unfamiliarity. I hope Hanneman proves that's the case here! Right now didn't consider him because Cubs have similar players with a proven track record.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Your list is great. I have no problems with it. It is very enjoyable reading it. I just have a gut feeling that once Hanneman starts playing, he will force his way on your list. What he did this year for BYU after not playing baseball for 3 years is mind boggling. Keep up the fantastic work.

  • In reply to John57:

    Thanks. I hope Hanneman does force his way on to the list -- and soon! It is very impressive that he hit the ground running the way he did. Speaks to his instincts.

  • Just since I caught this one bleacher Report. The top 50 post draft has quite a few of our top guys up there. Baez sitting at #14, Soler at #19, Almora at #31 and Bryant at #37. Also not that it makes any difference, they had Appel at #17 and Gray at #20. Quite amazing with over 30 teams that you would think a team would be lucky/good to have 2 top 50 talents. Cubs have 4 of them and mostly solidly in there!

  • In reply to Cubs Future:

    It will be interesting to see where all these guys rank when those top 100 lists come out in the offseason.

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    Good list John, which highlights our prospects that are rising.

    Some are also falling.....Vitters was mentioned, but also Logan Watkins, Marco Hernandez, Gioskar Amaya, B-Jax, and I think the one that is falling the most is Dillon Maples. He popped-up on alot of top-10 lists a few months ago, now I think the "Other" list is about right. That FB velocity is not good, and if he can't throw strikes, he'll never make it.

    We still need starting pitching; this is our biggest organizational weakness still.

  • Great to heat the reports on Rob Z. I've also been hearing a lot of good things about Jacob Hanneman. Maybe not so mich of a reach after all

  • In reply to fsufrenzy911:

    Cubs like both of those guys more than most teams, especially Hanneman. I'm pretty sure Zastryzny would have gone 2nd round if Cubs hadn't picked him.

  • Also on Bleacher Report showed the Cubs as the 8th ranked system of course mainly because of top level talent, but still good stuff.

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    It's infinitely frustrating, given this system's need for high upside pitching, that Paniagua can't get into the country. He's 23, and possibly even a few years older, who knows, and he's missing a lot of development time.

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    Here's question I have. If Paniagua can't get into the states (There could be some interesting stuff coming soon to explain why), why isn't he at least pitching in the DSL? He's already in the DR, so at least build up arm strength.

  • I have never understood the seperation Szczur gets from Ha in these lists. Ha is equal to or better at every facet of the game except baserunning. He hits for better average, plate discipline, and power. In the field he is more polished and has a better arm. And he does it all at a younger age at the same level. The only downside regarding Ha has been his durability.

    Szczur gets so much credit for improving his plate discipline, when Ha actually improved his more, but never gets any attention. I don't see either as more than a 4th or 5th OFer, so it really doesn't make much of a difference, but the way he gets overlooked in favor of Szczur has always bugged me.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Szczur has a shot at being a second division starter to me and I really don't see that with Ha. Szczur's ceiling is a bit higher, but really there isn't a lot separating anyone after the top 6, in my opinion. I'd say there's a much bigger separation between 6 and 12 than there is between 12 and 30.

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    ESPN has an interesting article on the Royal's system; despite picking in the top 5 picks 8 times in the last 10 years, plus other picks, they have a terrible track record with top-100 prospects:

    Question for us: Why has this happened to the Royals? Bad luck, or did they do something wrong? What can we do to avoid this?

    They had 9 players in the BA top 100 before 2010, and 5 in the top 20, #1 farm system in the majors.....and they haven't gotten much from that. Sad.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Exactly why I'm against losing on purpose -- and the Royals might have a bumbling GM at times, but not many people have criticized their scouting team. It's a tough business.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly! I'm against losing on purpose, as well. I wish more Cub fans felt that way.

  • I'm against losing on purpose as well. I think calling it that is just creating a straw man. I would describe it as not rushing a rebuild. I'm also against being barely competitive on purpose which would be the other way of describing trying to win too soon. Given the choice while in a rebuilding mode, I'd go with being patient and smart.

    I love what the Cubs are doing in their rebuild so far. It's unfolding almost exactly the way I would want it to.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think MLB needs to institute a lottery system similar to the NBA to curtail all the tanking that some organizations use. It won't happen until Selig is gone - I once read that he said tanking is a good way to improve a team. As commish, Selig needs to respect the game more than that alleged statement infers.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen, especially since Reinsdorf has such pull in both NBA and MLB.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Isn't baseball different though than Basketball? Basketball #1s are so clearly franchise-changing, especially with only 5 starters.

    An MLB #1 pick a) there is more of a crapshoot, and b) one player isn't going to turn a franchise around

    I don't think teams tank games on purpose for draft positioning.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    You think the Astro weren't losing on purpose (or not trying hard to win) the last couple of years?

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    In reply to SFToby:

    I think the players and manager were trying hard to win. But to lock in the first pick, you actually have to mis-manage games, or sit productive players, or both. I think the Astros are putting the best team they have out there, and's just not very good.

    Now, the GM is NOT pulling out all the stops to put the best team out, agreed....but I think there is a difference between that and tanking games

    And the Astros don't figure to have the #1 pick next draft.....the Marlins are stronger contenders, IMO

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That's a good point. There is a substantial difference between the two leagues in terms of the impact of top draft choices.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    But isn't Reinsdorf's "pull" directly related to his relationship with Selig? I would hope that the big market clubs have a greater say in selecting the next commissioner than tight-fisted clubs like Reinsdorf's.

  • In reply to JB88:

    I think he has more pull in MLB but believe he's also a factor in NBA. At least he used to be. Maybe not so much now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I guess my point is this: If Selig won't institute a lottery when he's commissioner and Reinsdorf's power base is built largely on his relationship with Selig, then it stands to reason that Reinsdorf wouldn't have a disproportionate ability to influence a draft lottery with a new commissioner. That's all I was trying to say.

  • In reply to JB88:

    That's a good point. I missed it last time ;)

  • With all the so called experts calling Zastryzny & Hanneman reaches, and we are now getting confirmation from the FO and other 3rd party sources that these were not "under slot' or "reach" picks, but actually BPA.... Can we finally get an consensus that we have the smartest & brightest in the business running our show? Remember the rule draft? Everyone except Cleveland was shocked by the Rondon pick. Maybe Lendy Castillo has lowered my expectations, but that Rondon pick has served us well so far. I think our FO are the experts expert...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I don't expect our FO to get it right all the time---that's just unrealistic IMO---but I do expect them to have tremendous information available to them, have a system in place, and I don't expect them to engage in too many moves that are "gut moves". That's really all I can ask for: process and intelligent selection.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That's how it goes for helium guys I think. If you see a guy enough times, you'll have him up there, but if you don't (which is the case with BA, BP, and other scouting sources) you'll have guys lower. I was surprised at Zastryzny, but I think FO got a good one here.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Eh? Hector Rondon has been really bad this year.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I don't think you can place all the blame on him. There's been some baptism by fire so speak which isn't really fair to him. He's a rule 5 guy. I don't think it'd be realistic to expect much more from any rule 5 guy this year. But long term, he still shows lots of promise.

  • Thank you for the great work John.

    One suggestions for future lists. Can you include your most recent previous ranking for each player?

    Something like:
    1. (3) Albert Almora, CF, (A)
    2. (Not Ranked) Kris Bryant, 3B

    It is interesting to see how dynamic the lists are throughout the year. Thanks again.

  • In reply to mcneilscot:

    Thanks for the suggestion. I think what I'll do going forward is set up a category at the top menu for prospect lists so that people can look up old lists I'll also put my criteria up there as well for those interested.

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    Another thing on the position player vs. pitcher issue in our minors:
    Baez -- 9th overall pick (in a stacked draft class)
    Almora -- 6th overall pick
    Soler -- $30 million contract

    Johnson -- 43rd overall pick
    Paniagua -- $1.5 million contract (huge under international signing rules)
    Underwood -- 67th overall pick

    Paniagua is indeed disappointing for how much he cost, but for the most part we're comparing guys drafted in the 40s and above to the absolute best-of-the-best position players. Of course they're going to look a little ragged by that comparison.

    But Johnson is already above a similarly positioned Vogelbach. Underwood and Jeimer Candelario are pretty comparable, and while Candelario is certainly slightly ahead, it's just slightly (by John's list). I feel we're doing about as well as could be expected on the pitching front.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Love your outlook and approach. When are these so called know it alls going to learn what pitching is? do you want a guy that throws 97 and can't hit the broad sign of a barn? Last time I looked Jared Weaver didn't hit 90 mph. Last year when he pitched his no-hitter he never hit 90 mph! He is deceptive and has movement on his pitches. It's called pitching not throwing. Maybe you should give a class to some of these people and explain what pitching is. Getting Outs!!!!

  • Glad to see I am not the only one with major concerns about Maples. The number of people I see put him in their top 20 or even top 10 kills me. He has done absolutely nothing since entering pro ball. I understand he can throw 95, but if you can't get on the mound, and when you do you can't throw it over the plate, you are nothing but fringe/sleeper territory.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    The control and delivery were worries enough but now that he's pitching high 80s low 90s I think there are just too many question marks to rank him that high.

  • John, what's your take on John Andreoli? I've never seen him play but expect to see him play when I see the DCubs at the end of the month. He's a yr younger than Szczur & neither hits for much power even though they aren't little guys. Yet, Andreoli's numbers, on paper, have been better than Szczur's. Granted, Szczur was a higher draft pick but why doesn't Andreoli get any consideration?

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    Because he can't play CF. Szczur at least has a chance of playing above average CF, and at least plays it at an acceptable level now.

    Andreoli is a corner guy that doesn't hit for power. Big difference.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Yeah, it looks like he's played a number of games in CF but most of his time is in the corner OF positions now. Again, I haven't seen Andreoli live but his D must be really bad. How else do you explain a guy that can't play CF but yet stole 55 bases at A+ ball last yr? Szczur never came close to stealing 50 bases at A+ ball. But, I agree if he has no chance at playing CF & w/ no power the best he could expect if he even made it to the majors would be as a bench player - 4th or 5th OFer.

  • I remember when Brett Jackson was a consensus top five prospect for the organization. I don't think he has necessarily fallen that far, as his skill set is still more or less the same, but others have simply leap-frogged him.

    I'm okay with that. We're getting deeper and more talented. Nice.

  • In reply to PtownTom:

    There is no doubt the system was pretty barren when he first came in, so it was hard not to rank him high, but actually his production decreased at every level as he moved up in the minors. While his skill set may not have changed much, it was becoming apparent, even before he made his MLB debut that it may not translate against MLB pitching.

  • Jason Parks ‏@ProfessorParks 42m
    The #Cubs could have four prospects ranked in the top 20 in the game when the Baseball Prospectus mid-season top 50 is released. #could

  • In reply to North Side Irish:


  • In reply to North Side Irish:


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    I love this site and all the work that goes into it. Being a Cubs fan right now is at least 50 percent about what's going on with prospects and player development. In that regard, John, I wonder if you have any thoughts on why - and this is good for Cubs Den, of course - the major media outlets pay such stunningly little attention to the minor leagues, draft, etc. You can argue that it's because the casual fan doesn't care, but to that I say how can they care if Pat and Moreland, Len and J.D., or Kaplan and the Sports Talk guys, or the Tribune give it so little attention.

    Lord knows they have plenty of time on their hands to discuss this stuff, but when they do, it's at such a basic level that it seems like a waste of time.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    I think its really about the info the fans get and what they have time to read about. That is why the die hards and the educated fans come here and get this stuff. Also the media does as well they just write about what sells and can't blame them there. Mooney does do a lot with some of the prospects, however. Maybe we are changing the landscape a bit?

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I hope so, Tom. Maybe it's because so many of these guys will never make it. But it's so important to the Cubs' future to see how the organization is improving its player development, which for me is one of the big disappointments of past regimes - even more so than poor drafts. It appears that Theo & Co. are starting to get some results in this area.

  • Wayne Randazzo ‏@WayneRandazzo 6m
    Sorry to hear about the passing of longtime @peoriachiefs owner Pete Vonachen today. A MiLB legend and certainly well known to #Cubs fans.

    An old friend of Harry Caray's and a big part of the Cubs former minor league affiliate...

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Sorry to hear that. My condolences to the Vonachen family and friends.

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    Thanks for the list John. Did Matt Szczur get promoted when I wasn't looking? You have him listed as AAA. Thought he was with the Smokies?

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Thanks! Typo. Looks like the old hand got a little jittery and put down an extra A. Or maybe it was a rare moment of clairvoyance. Either way, will fix.

  • What a difference a couple of seasons make. This list has shifted dramatically. That top 5 in pretty exciting, esp that Soler is #3. I could see him at #1.

  • John, thanks again for putting together a tough list. I'm sure you realize this, but you're not going to make everyone happy. We all have our favorites, and naturally would put them in different places, but you do the research, watch the players, and talk to scouts before you put YOURS together, so I'll defer to your experience.

    By the way, I agree with you that Almora has moved ahead of Baez for the time being. My hope is that changes a bit between now and the end of the season as, hopefully, Baez continues to improve his performance in Daytona.

    And since everyone else will do it too, here are my top 4:
    1. Soler
    2. Almora
    3. Bryant (I'm really looking forward to how he does against pro pitching this summer)
    4. Baez (I'm really hoping that he continues to improve on his performance of late and jump back up the lists)

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Your welcome and totally agreed that not everyone is going to be happy when you make a list, but these things are meant to be subjective to some degree and people do have different criteria. It's always going to create some debate and I think that is a good thing as long as it's respectful as it almost always is here at this site. Lot of good points made by those who disagreed with some rankings.

  • Would our offensive numbers really be any worse if, after July 30th, we just brought up our top prospects and went with a line up of:

    LF Baez
    CF Almora
    RF Soler
    3B Bryant
    SS Castro
    2B Alcantara
    1B Rizzo
    C Castillo

    How likely is that it would "ruin" any of these MiLB guys to just bring em up this year? Wouldn't speed their development to just throw them into the deep end and let them swim, knowing that they're gonna really struggle for now, but ultimately they'll learn and adjust. If Castro could succeed at 20, why can't these other top prospects?

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I'm of the opinion that that type of jump to the big leagues does not ultimately stunt the growth of most guys. Occasionally a guys confidence might get ruined, but most athletes at this level do not lack for confidence.

    The real reason this is not a good idea is that it starts their arbitration/FA clocks. So these guys struggle their first couple of years as they figure things out, and then as soon as they become big time contributors, you have to start paying them as big time contributors. Where as if you bring them along slowly, they come to the big leagues more ready to contribute right away and you hopefully get big contributions prior to their arb years. Essentially you get free production.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Confidence is one thing. And an important thing too. Even though great athletes rarely lack for confidence, ruining what confidence they have in their abilities never helps them learn. But it's more about building a foundation step by step and how that helps you succeed over just being thrown in the deep end and hoping you figure out how to not just keep your head above water, but also fulfill your potential of becoming a world class swimmer.

    I liken it to being a freshman in high school who has just aced algebra, skipping geometry, skipping trigonometry and going straight to AP calculus. You don't necessarily need confidence to learn calculus, but you kind of need geometry and trig to even understand calculus.

    You can't come out of the womb running. It'd be great if you could. Save a lot of time. But you will likely never run if your body doesn't first have a foundation of crawling and walking.

    Learning to get major league hitters out or hit major league pitching without first having had success doing the same against lesser competition is really tough. And without the foundational lessons learned at the lower levels, you may never figure out what it is you need to learn much less learn it.

    In short, which this wasn't, you improve your chances of realizing your potential if you build your foundation over time.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I don't agree with the analogy at all. MLB and A ball are still the same game, one is just played at a faster pace (better fastballs, breaking balls, more hard hit balls you have to field on defense). That is not the same as math, with each discipline essentially a different language, with new and more complex concepts built on top of simpler ones.

    I am not saying throwing these guys into the deep end is the best way to go. But I also don't think it is necessarily as bad as some people make it out to be. I think the guys that have the ability, will eventually figure it out one way or the other. But as I said, I still wouldn't consider it, because with the financial ramifications, there is really no upside to doing it.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    The only guys I think it would hurt are the guys that are not physically built for it yet. The guys that are still filling out their frame, still adding strength, they may not be able to handle the speed of MLB or wouldn't be able to survive the rigors of a 162 game season.

    But guys like Soler and Baez are already at their physical peaks (or very close to it). There is nothing physical holding them back (except maybe some muscle memory). They would only need to adjust mentally to the new speed at which they would need to perform.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Good metaphor.

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    I would have to agree that it's starting to look like Arodys Vizcaino is not going to be one of the potential saviors for the starting rotation. And not do be a Debbie Downer, but the combination of Vizcaino's continued setbacks and losing out on Appel cast the Cubs' short- to mid-range outlook in a much more negative light for me.

    Losing out on Appel would have been less disappointing if Bryant were considered a potentially special player, but I certainly do not get that feeling. The one good thing is that it seems like he has a relatively high floor, which in a weak draft is probably about the best the Cubs could have hoped for after the Astros grabbed Appel (who I realize is no lock for stardom).

    Even if a lot goes right with these position player prospects, however, a potent lineup cannot survive even an average starting rotation and bullpen. On the other hand, you can win with a lights-out pitching staff and a mediocre lineup.

    So it seems to me like the Cubs have to hope that Samardzija can take the next step to become a true ace, that they can resign Garza and that he reaches his full potential and that Wood develops into a solid No. 3 guy - and that they can find that guy that we all hoped Appel or Gray could be ... somewhere.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    I don't see Vizcaino as a savior. I see him more like a Rich Harden type starter with great stuff but lacks the durability to be a #1 or possibly a bullpen guy.

    Would have been nice to get a bona fide ace but it seems now the Cubs believed only Appel was that guy.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Right. Poor choice of words on my part. I just meant that a few weeks ago Appel or Gray and Vizcaino seemed like two very possible key components in the Cubs rotation three years from now, but it's now very likely that those are two slots that will be filled elsewhere. It seems very likely to me that Vizcaino's future is as a reliever.

  • Nice list John, I like your approach mixing floor and ceilings in the equation. When you consider defense and premium position not hard to see why Almora is #1. I mean the guy can hit and I think he'll do so at the next level, gotta remember he's only 19 so the power can still come in later though admittedly he's still probably a 20hr guy at a peak.

    Sad to see Brett Jackson fall this much, but I think it's accurate. Right now he's a 4th OF, but you can never put it past someone to put it all together. I'm still hopeful.

    Like the aggressive ranking on Underwood. He might even move up some spots by the end of the season.

    As always, thanks for all the hard work John. Parks shout out was well deserved.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    Thanks. I've evolved a bit, used to be more of a ceiling guy, now I try to balance better. Underwood and Vizcaino were probably my most aggressive rankings all things considered. That's the old high ceiling guy in me making those choices!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Aggressive it is true....but they are high ceiling for two completely different reasons

  • In reply to Zonk:


  • John, watching Bryant's swing on video he seems to get his hands up pretty high, which I assume is why he garners some concern from scouts about getting a little long at times. Do you see the Cubs trying to tweak this a la Rizzo and Jackson?
    Love this list. I could sit and contemplate these lists for hours. Thanks!

  • I was surprised to see Bryant ahead of Soler but I think you presented your position well. I lean Soler because he's already pummeling professional pitchers, while Bryant hasn't yet made his professional debut.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Yes, I can definitely see that and I truly went back and forth with those two. If I do this again in a week, maybe I change my mind ;)

    I think any of the top 4 are potentially elite, impact level prospects. Baez can leapfrog them all with just a modicum of plate discipline and a return to his 2012 form defensively at SS.

  • J.J. Cooper from BA was at Kane County over the weekend and posted a write up about Vogelbach today. Also had a note on Almora...

  • Hi John,

    Curious on what is going on with Stephen Bruno. Out for over a month so far at Daytona. Didn't even get mention on your others considered list. I realize that he is much like Kyle Hendricks( not expected to do as well as he does) but his numbers keep showing well. Any chance everyone could be wrong on how he projects out? Small sample of numbers but they show well.

  • In reply to bobb:

    I think Bruno really does deserve a mention and maybe it's an oversight because he just hasn't played in so long, but it's also because I was more looking at guys I could make a good case for the top 20 and Bruno isn't quite that high. He's a a great hitter and more athletic than given credit for. He's a good ballplayer.

  • Bryant, Vitters, Villanueva, Lake, Candelario, Stewart, Ransom, Vallbuena.....

    Four of these guys will be gone by the end of the year through a trade or a release.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Stewart and Ransom will obviously be gone.

    Bryant can't be moved, if if we wanted to trade him, which they wouldn't. No reason to move Candelerio or Villanueva.

    Valbuena isn't going anywhere until they acquire a new 3B at the MLB level, and he may not be gone even then, because the guy can play 2B and SS in an emergency so would make a very good utility IF.

    Vitters may go, but he is young enough that his time is really up, unless they get into a roster crunch and need to free up a 40 man spot. And Lake is essentially becoming an OF or utility guy at this point, so he really shouldn't even be a part of the list.

  • Great list John.

    I'm going to see Gerrit Cole in his debut tomorrow with a bunch of Pirate fans. I've read the various scouting reports but would appreciate any suggestions on what to look for during his start. We've got good seats so I should be able to get a decent feel for his stuff.

  • In reply to jjshook:

    Cole throws everything hard, even his slider has been known to touch 90. I'd be interested in two things to see if he can be a MLB ace -- a better change, because he throws that too sometimes too. He needs better velocity difference between his hard stuff and his change-up.

  • By July 31st, the Cubs will gain a few more prospects that could be added to the Top 100 list.

  • cut vizcaino some slack, he is 12 months past tj surgery. Cubs have a golden arm and are protecting it correctly.
    talked to some folks in Iowa, junior lake is looking off the charts good at the plate, coaches are stunned at the bat speed and improved pitch recognition. About 100 more ab,s and ready for the show.

  • +1 regarding Vizcaino. Questioning whether he can start long term is a legit concern, but as long as he gets healthy he will make an impact at the MLB level.

    Lake is one of if not the best physical specimens in the system, maybe even better than Soler. If he really is figuring out the mental side of the game at the plate he can no doubt make an impact at the MLB level. He still needs to learn to slow the game down on defense in order to become a starter. I really think they should just get it over with and convert him to CF full time. He is a better athlete than Jackson or Szczur so he should be given a chance to see if he can adjust to the position.

  • Looking over this list of top 20......lets be realistic here......

    #2 has not played for our system yet...or yet has signed
    #7 is still injured with arm issues
    #10....See #2 note
    #11 has not pitch a game yet and being baby along...
    #12 just got back from an injury and is only a back up type of a player
    #18 has been in the minors too long for where he was drafted at.
    #20 has Visa issues and not pitched yet.

    there is only one catcher of the players listed above........maybe Theo needs to expand a bit in seeking catchers in the next draft just in case of injury!

    lets not drink too much Blue Kool Aid over these players....remember, they are only kids, not the next coming of Jesus Christ.

  • Hey John, love the lists. The prospect lists are my favorite thing on the blog, and I read and enjoy it all. I know that college baseball is a completely different animal that professional baseball, but if you were to draw a comparison of the level of talent Byrant was competing against/in with San Deigo, what would you compare it to? Daytona? Boise? Lower?

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Thanks. Lists are fun for me -- but mostly because they generate such great discussion and debate. Something about lists really brings out people's opinions.

    It's different. Bryant has probably already faced pitchers as good as some of the ones he'll see in Kane County and even Daytona -- but there will be guys at those level who are simply more advanced than anything he's seen so far. Hard to narrow it down to one level. I think Kane is a good place to get his feet under him after some time in AZ.

  • John, of the big 4 (Almora, Baez, Bryant, and Soler) which will we see in Wrigley first and when? Do you think Soler will have the same success as Puig?

  • John, baez did not like your rankings today he has hit 2 homers.

  • Hopefully we don't have to hear about people saying they would rather him have 2 walks instead. Baez wants #1 back!

  • Baez is up to three home runs! Somebody wasn't very happy with the either the Bryant pick or being knocked down on all these prospect rankings...

  • I commented a lot on this thread today. I held my tongue though on the first thing that popped into my head when reading it, because I really didn't want to spend any time on the who is the best of the Big 4. But what I thought was the same thing I always think when I see any Javy Baez doubters and that is: Javy Baez will crush all non-believers. I probably should just let his bat do all the talking but I just can't help it.

    Javy Baez will crush all non-believers!!!

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Well, it's not like there's a huge gap between 1 and 4. In fact, I pretty much said you can make a case for any of them and that Baez has the highest ceiling of all of them.

  • How does Kyle Hendricks compare to Barret Loux? Hendricks's numbers are spectacular but it looks like their numbers are eerily similar at the AA level. I hope I am wrong but the 2016 rotation is going to need studs!

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