Talking prospects with Professor Parks: How Cubs top prospects compare with the some of the best in the game

We talk a lot about Cubs prospects here and we do our best to give you statistical analysis, scouts' takes and, of course, our own thoughts and opinions on each player.  One question I often get are where the Cubs prospects rank in the top 100.  My answer is always this: I'm not fully qualified to do that because I don't see as many prospects as the national writers.  So I asked one of the best in the business, Jason "Professor" Parks of Baseball Prospectus, if he could compare some of the top Cubs prospects with some of the elite prospects in the game.  I gave him some names to compare and he responded in his always entertaining style with some great, unbiased feedback..  It lends some great perspective on just where Cubs prospects stand overall.

I want to also note that I was ambitious with my comparisons because it was interesting to me to see where Cubs prospects don't quite measure up as well as some encouraging opinions on just how close they are -- and in some ways, how they can potentially be even better.

So with all that in mind, here are the comparison/contrasts I presented to Professor Parks:

1A and 1B: I was having trouble deciding whom to pair up with Sano. Baez because of their similar development pace, silly power, and top 10-ish prospect status and Bryant because they're both big, patient power hitting 3B who may need to move to RF. So, why choose? Let's do both.

Javier Baez/Kris Bryant vs. Miguel Sano

Parks: Baez has the highest ceiling of the trio, which is saying something considering Bryant’s recent draft placement and Sano’s monster power potential and present prospect status. Baez has the best bat speed in the minors, the kind that will eventually be compared to the best in the game, guys like Cano, et al. When discussing power, Sano is top of the food chain in the minors (along with Joey Gallo of the Rangers), but Baez has just as much raw power, as I’ve seen him go over the batter’s eye in dead center on a line, a shot that was basically 440 ft. The power utility is showing its face now, and if he can continue to temper his approach and keep himself in favorable positions, he can continue to bring his power into the game.

He’s never going to be an on-base machine, as he’s aggressive mentality will keep the bat moving and the ball in play. But he does have the potential to hit for a high average, which is a big separator between him and Sano. A good front office source just put a 6+ future on Baez’s bat, with 7 power, meaning he could be a .285+ hitter with 30+ bombs. That’s a monster. Sano is unlikely to find contact with such consistency, most likely developing into a low average/high power/high strikeout type. Bryant could end up a 6/6 type, which could put him in the same tier as Baez as far as offensive value is concerned, but I think Baez has a much better defensive skill-set and is likely to remain a left-side player, giving him the highest potential value of the group.

2. I know you dig on Almora about as much as I do and we may both be a little higher on him than most, so I'm throwing a lofty prospect comparison at you on this one-- the consensus best prospect in the game.

Albert Almora vs. Byron Buxton

Parks: Almora can show all five tools, with solid-average to plus projections across the board from a premium spot on the field. Add to the equation an intrinsic feel for the game, and his overall profile puts in the discussion for being a top ten prospect in the game. Buxton is by far the best prospect in baseball, with loud tools that can drown any and all in his class. He is a legit elite runner that hasn’t even learned how to steal bases yet. His arm is plus, his glove could be elite, and the combination makes him a potential gold glove winner in centerfield at the highest level. His bat is more advanced than expected, with easy plus bat speed and a knack for hard contact. He isn’t a free swinger, and knows how to identify pitches and shows an approach, so his attack at the plate isn’t one-dimensional. At the end of the day, Buxton could be a high-average hitter, with elite speed and solid-average power with top-shelf defense at a premium position. That’s one of the best players in the game, and that’s a moderate projection, as some in the industry have thrown 8 grades on his ceiling and compared his potential to that of hall of famer level players. One source suggested his floor was Torii Hunter and his ceiling was Willie Mays, and after a field sobriety test, it was determined that the scout was stone sober and dead serious. It’s lofty and borderline irresponsible to propagate, but his talent is on a different level than his contemporaries.

3. Here's a couple of tall, athletic future RF'ers for you who would have been at about the same pace had Soler not gotten hurt.

Jorge Soler vs. Gregory Polanco

Parks: I’d take Polanco over Soler, but mostly because I’ve been able to put eyes on him during his career and I’m more familiar with his skill; I think he’s a better all-around athlete, has more projection in the body, and can match (if not exceed) Soler’s offensive potential. Soler’s season was frustrating on several levels, but when he was healthy and on-the-field, it was easy to dream on the future, as he looked the part of a prototypical corner player, with 25+ home run potential. Polanco is most likely a right fielder at the end of the day, but has the athleticism to play some centerfield, and that swing from the left-side has the potential to hit for average and power. They have similar profiles and similar ceilings, but I’ll take the left-handed power and more projectable body. It’s close.

4. Alcantara has started to get more national attention this year and it looks like he'll crack some top 100 lists, so how does he compare with another wiry, athletic switch-hitting SS/2B who has been on that national radar a bit longer.

Arismendy Alcantara vs. Alen Hanson

Parks: I’ve often felt that Hanson was overrated, despite the fact that he was putting the bat on the ball at an advanced level at a very young age. I still think he’s a promising player, but I don’t think he’s the first-division talent that his early production might have suggested. He can swing it, shows good pop for his size, and can run, so he can beat you in several ways. He’s a legit prospect and a future major leaguer, but not a high-impact type, in my opinion. Alcantara might not live on the same prospect tier as Hanson, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up having the better major league career. Despite owning left-side tools, Alcantara is a better fit for second base, where his throwing mechanics won’t be such an issue and his range can really shine. He has the potential to be a very good second baseman, a position that often gets overlooked next to its left-side counterpart, but requires similar athleticism and coordination to properly execute. At the plate, Alcantara isn’t a middle-of-the-order hitter that will impact a lineup with his power; rather, he’s a catalytic player, with very good speed, very quick hands capable of producing quality bat speed and more pop than you would expect given his size. He has a lot of swing and miss, and I don’t see a high-average player despite the speed. But he can really drive the ball, especially to the pull-side, and if a pitcher sleeps on his bat speed and tries to work him in, he can get the bat head around on the ball and hurt you. Like Hanson, he’s probably a second-division type at the highest level, but a very capable (and affordable) talent nonetheless, and if I ran an organization and I had to pick either Hanson or Alcantara, I’d take Alcantara.

5. We'll take a different route here for this last question. The Cubs pitching prospects lag a bit behind right now but they have some interesting arms at the A ball level and below: Pierce Johnson, C.J. Edwards, Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood, and a couple of guys drafted this year, Tyler Skulina and LHP Rob Zastryzny. There is also the injured, but still young and very talented Arodys Vizcaino and a pitchability/command guy having a great season in Kyle Hendricks at the upper levels. Do any of these guys have a shot at your top 101 list and whom among this group do you like best long term?

Parks: Johnson has a shot at the 101; Edwards should be in the discussion as well. I don’t love Edwards’ ceiling like some, but I’ve been around the kid since he was drafted and I want to be wrong about the projection. With Edwards, I see a short-burst reliever in the end, despite the easy delivery and loose arm. I don’t see a high-end secondary offering, and I question his physical ability to log 200+ a season at the highest level. The young arms have taken a frustrating journey so far, but the potential is still in place, so hopefully they can finish strong, take developmental steps forward this off-season, and put their names back on prospect lists in 2014. The talent is there.

Many thanks to Jason Parks for his insightful responses.  Please follow him @ProfessorParks on Twitter and read him at Baseball Prospectus, including this piece which includes a report on Javier Baez and Dillon Maples.

Filed under: Interviews, prospects


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  • Great article. Thank you.

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    You are welcome. This idea hit me over the head the other day and Professor Parks was gracious enough to do this for us. Really gives some interesting perspective.

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    Sky high on Baez, isn't he? Imagine those numbers coming from a premium defensive position or a gg third baseman.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes! And I think that's what makes him have even potentially more value than Sano -- which is saying a lot. I don't blame anyone for putting Sano ahead of Baez right now because his approach is much more advanced at this point, but Baez is closing that gap quickly.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    With Baez and his approach it's two steps forward, one step back. But the thing that is incredible is that really he's only had someone try to refine his awesome natural talent for the last two years. In that light, the change has been unbelievable. I get why Parks gave the numbers he did -- and they are entirely reasonable and probably even a little optimistic. But the sky is the limit with Javy. You can't say enough good about the work he's done over the last year.

    To think, he was once considered a head case.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeah, I think a lot of the head case stuff is more of a case of not understanding Baez. He's a good kid and always has been but he's ultra competitive and like a lot of 18 year olds, maybe he was a little immature. He's really grown up, though. I'll never forget going to see him play for the first time. Showed up early to watch BP and infield drills and it was very apparent that a) he listened respectfully to his coaches and b) that his teammates really liked him. He was hard not to like before he even took the field -- though I imagine he'd be a lot harder to like if he was in the other dugout. Since then it's only gotten more evident that this kid is growing up quickly.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This all basically stemmed from a missed "take" sign on a 3-0 count. Javier even apologized and said he just missed it and meant no disrespect to anyone. In his defense, that was probably the first time he's ever been given a take sign, so...

  • Awesome article, and I would assume this was the article you were referring to last week when I brought up Sano compared against Baez.

    Interesting breakdown on Almora... to which I agree. I am jumping to numerous conclusions here (considering I haven't seen Almora play), but everytime I think of Almora I just picture him turning out to be somewhat of a Mark Grace (except CF, naturally). I see him as a long-time Cub, solid contributor and team leader. Throw in a couple all-star games but a player who is never going to WOW you, just a great type of player for every organization to have.

  • In reply to Burnsie25:

    That's pretty fair as to the type of career to hope for Almora. Might compete for a batting title or two, might win a couple of gold gloves, and hopefully just put up solid, dependable offense and defense for a decade plus.

    Hopefully he can accomplish it without all the drinking and smoking though.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Ha! We know Almora will take better care of his body than Grace did. Two opposite ends of the spectrum there.

  • In reply to Burnsie25:

    Probably ;)

    That's an interesting thought on Almora and I understand what you mean in what I know you meant as a loose comparison. There is some of that smooth defensive play, leadership ability, ability to hit for average but perhaps with some limited power.

    I'd love to get that kind of production from Almora considering he plays a premium defensive position in the field. If Almora performs like Grace offensively with his expected Gold Glove level defense in CF, he'll be a perennial all-star.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have been seeing a Bernie Williams type in Almora since His eam USA days .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    That's a good one.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Even better.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Love the Bernie Williams comp.

  • In reply to Burnsie25:

    I see Almora as a Derek Jeter type player.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    In other words, doesn't kill you with any one thing,but does everything well, and has exceptional feel for the game so he is just a winner.

    Just like they use to say about Jeter, they would plan against the big boppers but he would end up beating you and leading his team.

    In the same way, I could see other teams planning on not letting the big bats of Baez, Bryant, Soler, & Rizzo beat them but in the end it's the steady leadership of Almora that leads the Cubs to the long awaited promised land of World Series Championships.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Come on dawg, doesn't kill you with any one thing? Jeter is a career .318 hitter. That's killing the other team.

  • I know our pitching is far behind our positional impact, but I still had Pierce pegged in the 80's. I think he will make at least a few top 100 lists. Hopefully Edwards is able to stick as a starter and not destined for the pen, I think a lot of this depends on his physical development.

  • In reply to Nick Nesler:

    I still have concerns about Johnson's comand, and I can't get over my fear of any pitcher who has had past forearm injuries. I know it is probably somewhat irrational but I can't shake the fear we end up getting nothing from Johnson as a MLB pitcher despite his great stuff.

    I look forward to the first time I get to see Edwards pitch. I really wish Daytona broadcast their games. In this day and age, there is no reason every minor league team couldn't broadcast video.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I'm with you on the Daytona broadcast, wish I could see some as well. As far as Johnson goes he came back the same year he was injured to suggest that it was more of the minor variety and he has really shown no issues as a cub. And his command has only recently been shaky so it could be chalked up to workload. However he is at the A+ level and there is a high possibility that he never makes it to wrigley.

  • In reply to Nick Nesler:

    His control has eluded him recently. In the two games I watched him pitch for Kane County his command wasn't very good, he was thowing strikes, but a lot of them were up in the zone and he was making the catcher move his glove a lot.

  • In reply to Nick Nesler:

    He is a candidate. There is some mixed opinion on Edwards. Parks sees reliever. I've talked to someone in the industry who thinks he's a #3 too, so there's a range here and Parks certainly hasn't ruled out Edwards becoming more, but he does need to keep developing those secondaries to do that. He's definitely somebody to watch.

  • Great stuff!

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Thanks Kevin.

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    I hate to thrown the "injury prone" tag on Almora, but hasn't he had two "non contact" leg injuries not this year(not including hamate bone injury) that were a result of him running and/or swing the bat?

  • In reply to Jon81:

    Yeah, they've been freakish injuries and we know he keeps himself in phenomenal shape, so I don't see it being a long term problem.

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    Excellent stuff, John! Thanks for that.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    You're welcome. Great stuff from Parks. I think I've read it like 5 times already myself.

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    Great article!

    Prof. Parks confirmed for us, though, that we need more pitching. We're not there yet, not close.

    And Pirates and Cards are not only good now, but their farm systems are loaded.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Would you compare our system now to what the Royal's system was better a lot of their players either graduate or traded. Where it was more position side heavy then pitching

  • In reply to Paris:

    *before instead of better

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    In reply to Paris:

    That's scary part with prospects; they just don't all work out. KC Royals had the top ranked system in baseball, and before 2010 had an unprecedented 9 players in the BA Top 100, including 5 pitchers. What happened?
    8. Eric Hosmer: ML Player, inconsistent, having good year
    9. Mike Moustakas: Struggling; .662 OPS at 3B right now
    10. Wil Myers: Killing it.....for the Rays
    18. John Lamb, LHP: Arm trouble; mostly stuck at A+
    19. Mike Montgomery, LHP: Stuck at AAA; lack of command, injury
    51. Christian Colon, SS: .710 AAA
    68. Danny Duffy, LHP: 5.05 ERA in 146 ML innings
    69. Jake Odorizzi, RHP: Good performance in AAA this year
    83. Chris Dwyer, LHP: 3.52 ERA in AAA

    So, that's 5 pitchers in the BA Top 100, and at this point only two have made the majors, and only Duffy has spent significant time at a level that is approximately Chris Rusin.

    So far, this is a grim list for the Royals. Just goes to show that all prospects are suspects, and you can't count on any of them. The Cubs have had literally dozens of BA top 100 prospects in the last decade that didn't make it; too many to list here!

  • Bernie Williams to Almora way. Williams was a track guy who could hit a baseball, way overrated defensively, overhyped due to the New York media with low baseball instincts. Which given his natural high end speed could only steal about 15 bases or so per season, with the great 60% success rate.

    Almora is a great instinctual OFer with fluid, smooth routes without Williams' high end speed, thus who based on his natural talents can win Gold Gloves and not be given one per your offensive numbers and/or how far your team goes in the playoffs.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    I agree about Bernie on the field, but can Almora play the guitar and sing?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Classical guitar too, Bernie could pick it on and off the field.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    Bernie Williams make up was off the charts , He was a glue type player for the Yankees for alot of years, that is what make me think of Him and Almora in the same sentence. You are really downgrading a player in Williams who did all the things that a team needs to win that dont show up in the box score. Almora will do the same things for the Cubs. Almora is the closest thing to a cant miss prospect as the Cubs have . When I compare Williams and Almora it is no slight. I love Almora. After Buxton in that draft no player would I have taken before Almora .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    since i was maybe the first on here to bang Almora's drum i will throw out my next years draft pick early that i hope the Cubs snag.. Nola from LSU . outpitched Rodon and has impecabble command , mature and 3 plus pitches. Love that kid . Like him better than Beede .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I saw Nola pitch one game last year and was really impressed. However he struck me as a guy who is maybe 5'11". Don't see too many RHPs that size go high. I may be wrong on his height, as it was only one look, but he looked pretty small and it is really difficult to hold up for 200+ innings when you are that small and they tend to be homer prone as well. If he is bigger than I thought, he would be a guy I would be interested in seeing in the conversation as I did like his stuff and command.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    last i heard He was 6'1, someone maybe Kevin can verify . But He logged the workload last couple seasons, Outpitched the best in the SEC/ ACC including Rodon . Surgical precision with all pitches FB sits in 91-94 range . Kid could pitch in Hi A right now . maybe AA but thats a stretch before Jr year.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    For Williams and his 'make-up' sure I agree with that assessment, but not the overall skills that each bring and I was not viewing your Almora comments as any type of downgrade. I love the kid too. I played OF so when I see his routes and ease at which he plays, I can't wait to see him in Wrigley, not to mention his high contact rate.

    As far as Nola, I have not seen him, but wanting him more than Beede? Shew, if he is only 5"11" it would be tough to overlook that since his margin for error is a lot lower. With Beede, that 6'4" frame is hard to look past. It will be nice to see how each performs next year and who we get in the hopeful top 5 pick. Maybe Cederoth?

  • Loved that story I heard about Almora when he broke his hand in high school. Following day he was taking grounders with his other hand. Will be a real leader in the clubhouse

  • John would a Alcantara vs Eddie Rosario be a good comparison too? They are both playing 2B. Hanson is a SS. But either way Hanson is rated the 43rd best prospect and Rosario is rated the 66th. Alcantara seems to be better than both and isn't rated in the top 100. What gives?

  • Hey John, any thought where Soler starts next year assuming he plays in the fall league and doesn't have any set backs. I'm thinking probably AA.

  • In reply to Peter Chicago:

    I believe that he'll start in AA after a stint in the fall league and some catch-up work this offseason.

  • Good stuff John. I'm curious, who do you & Prof. Parks think has the best arm out of Bryant & Soler?

    I have to admit, watching Bryant & VogelBOMB with back to back Jacks last night, was somewhat surreal. It's like you know you're seeing something special. I can't imagine what that would like with Bryant, Baez, and Soler all on the same line-up card. Which has a real chance of happening soon.

    Zonk is right though, our top pitching prospect is in high A ball and on the outside looking in at the top 100. While we've come a long ways in the past 18 months, we still have a ways to go to get those "Waves" coming in....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Clearly the plan is if the offense scores 10 runs a game, pitching is entirely secondary.

    You mention Vogelbach, I think Rizzo's season this year -- if it's a trend and not a blip -- has opened the door for him to be our future first baseman. If Vogelbach hits .300 with 30 HR and Rizzo is a .260 guy with 30 HR, it's going to be tough for Rizzo to make up the extra 40 points of BA with defense.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I like VogelBOMB! But he isn't even remotely close to taking looks at 1B away from Rizzo.

    But I think MLB ST could be really fun (almost worth a trip to AZ) if Bryant, Almora, & VogelBOMB are invited to join Baez & Soler....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Oh, he's a lifetime away. I'm talking long term. I think Vogelbach starts 2014 in A+, if he continues playing well, could earn the August promotion to Tennessee, making a trajectory of (late) 2015 or early 2016 the most optimistic timetable.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think our "Big 4" will get "fast tracked" because they're special talents. The other positional players like VogelBomb, etc are going to do their requisite 500 AB's at each level. Not that his swing isn't special too, but he needs a lot of work on the rest of his game. Huge strides defensively from him so far. He looks like more than a "step and a dive" as he was described last year...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That's a very good question. I haven't seen Bryant throw in person but Soler has a very good arm. I'd say it's about a 60 grade. Bryant is about the same from what I hear but I may not get to see him until this fall at the earliest. Didn't get Parks' grade on Bryant's arm but I just looked up and read that Law gave him a 55, though I imagine Kevin will beg to differ on that one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's why I asked. Assuming both "make it", you'd want the one with the best arm (everything else being equal) in RF. I've seen Soler throw runners out at 3B from RF, but Bryant hasn't logged any time in RF. His throws to 1B from 3B are on a zip-line though.

    I know his value is higher as a 3B, but there's a pretty good chance we have a MLB caliber 3B between Olt/Villanueva/Baez... and I think if any of those three are moved to the OF, it's likely to LF, no?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Baez is the only one of that group I'd consider moving to LF if an IF spot isn't available. As for who plays RF between Bryant and Soler, that's a tough call. I'll lean Soler but you can go either way on that and be just fine. Perhaps the first to make it up gets first crack at RF.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I've seen Parks say that he thinks Bryant will play RF and Soler LF because he thinks Bryant has the better arm.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    There you go. It's pretty close and not surprising that some will go one way and some go the other. Either way, if both make it, the Cubs are getting an above average arm in LF, which is a nice little bonus.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Why is that? Positional value aside.

    I've heard some say that Olt could project to OF. I know him and especially Villanueva are plus defenders at 3B, but the whole "what if" they both work out sort of thing (not assuming we trade one which is prob more likely). Too much pressure on their bat in the OF?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yes, I think both of them add significant value through their 3B defense that makes up for some holes in their offense. That won't be the case in LF. Less defensive value and there and more burden on the bat -- which will make those hitting flaws stand out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So it's either 3B for the cubs or trade bait for them two?

  • One of the best articles I have read on Cubs prospects anywhere in recent years. Very exciting to see the progress of these kids. Keep up the great work!

  • In reply to GoHawks:

    Thank you.

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    Bryant and Gray are clearly having a competition on who can put up the most eye-popping numbers in their first season.

    Bryant for the year: ..344/.391/.688, 7 HR, 9 BB, 27K. (We knew those were going to be high.)
    Gray: 27.1 IP, 33K, 7BB .202 BAA.

    The "who was the right pick" debate looks like it's going to be going on for a while.

    (Just for completeness, Appel is doing fine, but not as jaw dropping:
    28 IF, 24 K, 6BB, .265 BAA.)

    Take a bow, Kevin Gallo.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That "debate" is likely to go on and on for years.... Injuries, etc will also play a huge role in it. There's a pretty good chance all 3 are in the MLB by 2015.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't know if two months after the draft is the time to be taking bows. Way too early to judge a draft at this point.

  • Interesting. Gives a nice insight John. Thanks.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    Thanks Hubbs.

  • Sano sounds a lot like Pedro Alvarez by Parks' description.

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    Will Baez make Cubs force the issue?

    This may be everyone wants to hear. Baez could force the issue with an unbelievable performance in Iowa (if he starts in Iowa next season). Let's assume this article has some validity. Where do you play him? The obvious position is probably 3B due to the platoon system we now have in place, imo.

    This one move could send ripples down the entire farm. Do we now just keep Baez as a 3B for the next decade or so? Or do we do as some suggest and "try him out" elsewhere? SS, 2B, OF. Where does Baez fit into the long term plans?

    I just don't like this idea of "try him out" reason of promotion that some seem to prefer. With the talk of Baez possibly getting a position change over the winter, wouldn't we want to get him totally adjusted defensively at said position? Sending him to Iowa before he works out his defensive issues at a new position is just asking for trouble, imo.

    Iowa is known to be a hitter's league. Should we expect a hitter with Baez' tools to perform well. And this one dimension of his game should override anything else that there are issues with? What's the rush? Are we going to the WS in 2014 with the addition of Baez bat based on AA's # after less than 40 games and less than 200 AB's?

    I just think this kid needs at least one more year of development in the higher levels at what could be a new position. Rushing him to the show is asking for another Castro type of development issue in 2 years when would would really be ready to make a push towards a WS......

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    Assigning him to Iowa with a new position seems by far the most likely to me. He'll play there to get the position down, and then decisions will be made towards the middle of the year on what to do with him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He's likely to get some work at several positions, including some time at SS. Not just a permanent position change.

  • Wow, great discussion and insight by Prof. Parks. Nice questions and setup, John.
    And the Prof is very UN-lay-down-the-LAW-like, if you get my drift. No ego involved in the assessments; that's refreshing.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks KH! Very objective point of view on this. Really enjoyed reading the responses.

  • Excellent work! You combined my favorite Cubs writer with my favorite national baseball writer to meld together an awesome read on prospects. I really enjoyed it. Parks liked Baez over Almora if you read closely on the Cubs Top10. He was overruled by the other members of his prospect team but there is an article about the construction of the Cubs list over at BP. Excellent work and I would suggest that article about the construction of the Cubs list to anyone interested in prospects.
    Thanks for article!

  • In reply to Tide23:

    Thank you Tide. Really enjoyed the responses as much as you guys did.

  • Since, Almora is a few years away, can you imagine a Sept 2015 outfield of Soler LF, Lake CF, and Bryant RF.
    Can anyone remember an entire outfield with those type of arms?

  • In reply to djriz:

    Wow. Not on the Cubs, that's for sure.

  • In reply to djriz:

    The Upton/Upton/Heyward OF in Atlanta is similar

  • This is from a Jason Park chat he did on July 25th:

    Junkee (Wrigley): realistic 2015 Cubs starters? 1b Rizzo 2b Alcantara SS Castro 3b Baez LF Bryant CF Almora RF Soler? whos catching?

    Jason Parks: I'd put Olt at 3B and Baez on another team's roster, with Bryant in RF and Soler in LF. If that's the lineup, I could be catching and it wouldn't matter much.

    I found it curious then, and after reading this great piece, I wonder if he has changed his mind.

  • In reply to djriz:

    I really hope he isn't so easily swayed by just three weeks of Baez and/or Olt performance that he would completely flip on that. I mean Baez is still the same guy he has been since teh first month of the season and so has Olt.

    Not that flipping wouldn't be the proper stance, because Baez isn't going to be traded, and the thought should have never crossed anyone's mind since Baez is the guy with the highest upside and the greatest defensive versatility amongst our prospects. So why exactly would he be the one that is trade bait? Insanity. He isn't blocked by anyone because he can play anywhere, and he is going to make the team before any of the other big four get here, so he will be the incumbent at whatever position he will be playing.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Well, Baez's last three weeks has been quite incredible, and I suppose the "wow, look what he is doing at AA" thing actually could make him change his mind.
    I totally agree with you, though. I never thought Olt would be the reason they trade Baez. They may trade Baez because they get a haul, but they are NOT trading him because of Olt. If Olt reverts back to his 2012-self, great. We have enough open spots were each can start.

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    In reply to djriz:

    Wow. That really says a lot about his views on Olt being able to be a major contributor for the Cubs for a long time. I imagine that he is thinking of a Baez trade for some big time pitching.

    When did he make these remarks?

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    In a BaseballProspectus chat, on July 25th. Again, if you get a haul for Baez, fine, I just don't see trading Baez because of Olt is a smart move.

  • I'm curious, let's say hypothetically that Olt solidifies himself at 3B next year. Even if he doesn't, will they take away from his & Villanueva's development to give Baez any meaningful time at 3B in AAA? So then that presents the same quandary with Alcantara at 2B.

    I would think moving Baez to LF is the last resort to get his bat in the line-up because you remove a big chunk of his foreseen value by moving him out of the IF. Granted, he's still like having a Ryan Braun (w/o the roids) type of value out there, but thats still less than if he can stick in the IF.

    So what do they so far as playing time at 2B & 3B in AAA next year? Can Villanueva or Alcantara play anywhere else? Will they produce enough offense to justify moving them from their spots?

    Or, do we have some potential blockbuster type trades this offseason?... Can we get any type of impact pitching for either of these guys?

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'm really interested in what this FO will do this offseason. We have options that the Cubs seem to never had before. I think we will really have a good idea to which direction we are headed in. The 2014 season will be where this organization needs to show that we have truly turned the corner.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    No reason to put Baez in the OF. He has the hands and instincts of an infielder and that is the best place to extract value from him. Braun was the opposite, he couldn't play anywhere but LF at an acceptable level.

    Olt could play any of the 4 corners. Villanueva might be able to play LF but there wouldn't be any point, his only real value is as a plus defender at 3B with a little pop in his bat, he would be a dime a dozen athlete/hitter in a COF and so if it comes to the point where there is no room to play him at 3B then he should be traded. Alcantara could play any of the three OF spots, but he also loses value there as like Baez he has MI hands and there is a lot of vaue tied to that, but he could turn into a valuable super sub, and that may be his best role (at least to begin with) anyway because I'm not sure he can hold up as an effective everyday player at his size.

  • Callis:

    * Starlin Castro – I think he’s far from their best option at shortstop, but he’s already established there and I don’t see him moving. To me, he’s a 45 defender on the 20-80 scouting scale.

  • In reply to Paris:

    I'm confident Starlin will make the necessary adjustments to his game. If not, it's nice to have options that are near MLB ready. Personally, I always thought the difference in footwork between him and Baez would land Castro at 2B and Baez at Short. But this FO has already made it public they intend to move Javy. I wouldn't rule out a blockbuster trade involving one of them though...

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    In reply to Paris:

    What I found even more interesting was this quote on Baez:
    * Javier Baez – Think he could be a 50 defender at shortstop but will wind up as a 55-60 defender at third base.

  • Bummer about Soler's injury. Aside from that, could we have asked for a better year from the minors? Baez taking, what seems to be a huge step forward. The Bryant pick and his seamless integration to the minors. Almora / Voggs coming along nicely. Alcantara putting up a really nice year - which for me, is just a bonus.

    Nice haul for Garza and Feldman (which is also a nice bonus).

    You could make a case that Vizcaino's injury is also a big bummer.

    But overall, just a great year. Andy likely another top 6 pick in the next draft...

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    Good read. I'm going to assume, as is human nature, that Parks is probably being a little kind regarding the Cubs' prospects given the forum he was in. At the very least, he danced around the players he is not that high on.

    Right now, I see Baez as the only likely big star out of the Cubs' top prospects, and that's only going to happen if he continues to work toward projecting as at least average at the MLB level when it comes to plate discipline.

    I do think Bryant has a good shot to be well above average and an outside chance to be a big star.

    I think Almora is a bit overrated, and the injuries aren't helping. I see him as an average to slightly above average CF.

    Soler, I think, also because of injuries, is looking like a bust. I am also starting to wonder, as I am with Almora, if he is injury-prone.

    Perhaps this will show my ignorance, but I thought the most depressing part of this interview was this comment.

    "The young arms have taken a frustrating journey so far."

    I was under the impression that the young arms were doing well this season. Perhaps this shows that Parks wasn't giving us a rose-colored view after all.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    I share some of your thoughts & feelings about our "big 4". I supposed I probably should have given his comments on the prospects a "grain of salt" given the forum.

    I think when you look at our "young arms" as a whole, we are much deeper. But we still don't really have any meaningful impact SP candidates above A ball. Vizcaino being the one exception, but he can't seem to get healthy. so "a frustrating journey so far." is about the best way to describe it. We're better because we're deeper. But we don't have anyone that's making Shark or E-Jax, etc nervous about their spot....

  • Love the post John. Thank you. And thank you professor Parks!

    My prediction is that the Cubs lineup will look much different at the end of 2014 than the beginning. We will lead the league in homers in 2015. 2016 we are at least a winning playoff team. After that? The sky's the limit.

  • once again John comes up with another stellar article. You , Lomax, Felzzys work is top notch . Best Cubs site there is. Thanks guys. Look forward to a Chicago trip someday for Scotch n beers!!

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    I just looked up split stats for Baez and Bryant. I was pleased to note that in AA so far, Baez hits MUCH better with runners on base (.367 AVG, 1.179 OPS) vs bases empty (.212, .766 OPS). Bryant so far at Daytona is hitting .455 with runners on (1.000 OPS). Almora hits about that same (.859 OPS with runners on, .828 bases empty).

    That's what we need, and what we've sorely lacked since '08: getting big hits with runners on. Hopefully, these guys can keep that up.

  • In reply to brober34:

    Can you look up those stats with 2 outs?... What about differentiators like game tying, game winning, etc...? There was sentiment on this board recently that Baez seemed to whiff more in his last AB's vs his early ones. But the last week or so, the kid hitting HR's in his last AB's.

    He just seems to always come through when the game is on the line...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I don't think anyone breaks down minor league stats that far. at least, not that I could find. I'm guessing some of those big hits are coming with 2 outs, based on the #'s.

  • Saw the Red Sox called up Xander Bogaerts. I'd be shocked if the Cubs don't do something similar at this time next year with Baez. 1). he needs more reps in the minors. 2). This is a business and they gain more control over his FA date by waiting.

    He would really really have to be lighting it up in winter ball & ST, which is always possible but...

  • Evaluating if Baez can be a major league ss will be key for the FO next year. If they think he can, Castro will be traded after 2014.

    Even if all our prospects get to the majors we will still be too right handed with Rizzo and AA being the only left handed bats. You know happens when we get too right handed, we sign Milton Bradley.

  • Great read. Love hearing the stuff on our guys and now he's got me really curious to follow Buxton. Sounds like a monster.

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