It's been a while, but we now continue with our prospect depth chart series. We'll start off with CF today. One thing both this front office and the previous one have done is target the middle of the field players, and it shows up in the Cubs CF depth. It's hard to say there are a lot of likely starters on this list. That claim can only really be made of Albert Almora right now, but there is still time for some players to develop the complete skills to make them starters.
.286/.351/.529; .379 wOBA, 140 RC+, 1.3 WAR
.313/.356/.474; .363 wOBA, 128 RC+, 1.4 WAR
We talked about these players in a recent piece so I don't want to repeat too much info. Both Sweeney and Lake have shown some promise in CF. Neither are natural CF'ers but both have shown they can handle the position from an athletic standpoint. While Lake is the better athlete with more speed and the better arm, the is the less refined defender of the two. Sweeney is also the more polished player with the better approach (9% walk rate/15% K rate) at the plate, but Lake has all kinds of tools and the ability to make things happen. The Cubs may try to find room for both in the OF for 2014.
Albert Almora, 19, Kane County
.329/.376/.466, .383 wOBA, 137 RC+
Almora is the best pure hitter in the Cubs system, using a smooth swing that stays in the hitting zone, allowing him to make easy contact. He employs a leg kick but his tremendous coordination allows him to repeat it easily. His approach is solid. He is an aggressive hitter in the strike zone but doesn't wildly chase pitches. I think he'll draw his share of walks in time and I think he'll improve on that 6.3% walk rate, though I think is OBP will largely come from a .300+ batting average. He's not a big kid nor does he project to have big time power, but he does make hard contact and it's not hard to imagine him hitting 15-20 HRs as he matures physically and turns to turn on some pitches.
On defense, Almora is outstanding, one of the best defenders at any position in the minors. He makes up for his lack of top end speed with excellent instincts. He gets great jumps and takes efficient routes to the baseball. He has a good arm that plays up even more because of it's accuracy. Despite being a high school player, Almora is relatively low risk because of his present skill set.
Other prospects to watch
Rounding out the prospect list you have a combination of players who are toolsy, athletic, and in some cases, possess good instincts. There isn't a lot of power on this list at this point, but there are a number of players with useful skill sets that could come into play as extra outfielders, perhaps even legit prospect depth at CF if they take that next step..
Matt Szczur, 24 ,Tennessee
.281/.350/.367, .335 wOBA, 112 RC+
Szczur is an athletic player with off-the-charts makeup -- two traits which have helped him greatly improve his baseball skill since joining the Cubs system. Szczur possesses good speed which he uses to play an above average CF with a penchant for making the spectacular play. He's still somewhat unrefined as a base stealer, getting caught 12 times in 34 attempts. At the plate, Szczur has an unorthodox swing which doesn't use his lower half much. It costs him power (.086 ISOP), but it's level path and his excellent hand-eye coordination help him make consistent contact (13.1$ contact rate). Along with his good speed, it should help him hit for average. He also has a good approach but doesn't possess enough extra base power to keep MLB pitchers honest, so the expectation is he'll see a lot more strikes in the bigs, putting a bigger burden on his bat. I think he's a 4th OF'er unless he finds a way to generate more doubles/triples power.
John Andreoli, 23, Daytona/Tennessee
.305/.379/.402 (A/AA); .350 wOBA, 122 RC+
Andreoli provides an interesting comparison/contrast to Szczur. His swing is in some ways similar because he primarily uses his upper half, but he's a bigger player and can generate a bit more extra basepower (.109 ISO), though that's not really his game either. He's not the athlete Szczur is but he's a solid athlete and possesses better instincts on the bases. He was a more efficient basestealer (40 steals in 45 attempts across two levels). He's not quite as good in CF, however, and that limits his viability as a starter due to his lack of power. Like Szczur, he has a good approach at the plate but I expect that high walk rate to become harder to come by as he faces better pitching.
Jacob Hanneman ,21, Boise
.290/.313/.468; 364 wOBA, 125 RC*
Hanneman is another good athlete who runs very well and can play CF and projects to hit for average. He's a strong kid and may have a bit more pop than either Szczur or Andreoli, but he is also less refined when it comes to his approach. He's a raw player but his great instincts could allow him to quickly make up for that lost time.
Jae-Hoon Ha, 22, Tennessee/Iowa
.254/.318/.365 (AA/AAA); .293 wOBA, 69 RC+ (AAA only)
Ha is a solid athlete with average speed and a very good arm. Those natural tools are played up by excellent baseball instincts and it gives him the ability to play a well above average OF at all 3 positions. The question is the bat. Ha was a similar hitter with a similar approach to Andreoli/Szczur at the AA level but he struggled at AAA. Right now he profiles more as a 5th OF'er/defensive replacement.
Shawon Dunston, Jr., 20, Boise
.290/.378/.358; .358 wOBA, 121 RC+
Like his father, Dunston is a quick twitch athlete with fast hands, good speed, and a strong arm. Unlike his father, Dunston plays the OF and in what is a 180 degree turn, is a very patient hitter, walking in 12.6% of his plate appearances. He also makes good contact, striking out just 11.2% of the time. Dunston has a wiry build but those quick hands/wrists suggest he could develop some pop as he fills out.
Zeke DeVoss, 23, Daytona
.246/.393/.354; . 361 wOBA, 125 RC+
We should probably see something of a pattern by now with most of these players in that there is athleticism, speed, solid approaches -- and a lack of power. DeVoss may have the best approach of all (15.2% walk rate) and his defense is highlight film worthy. DeVoss is a tremendous athlete who is capable of spectacular catches. He covers a lot of ground and has enough arm for CF. He is a good baserunner and efficent as a base stealer, stealing 39 bases in 49 attempts. What's lacking here is his hit tool. Some think DeVoss should be a bit more selectively aggressive at the plate and perhaps lets too many hittable pitches go by. He has some wiry strength so it's not unreasonable to think he could have some extra base power despite his slight build (5'10, 175 lbs), but like many of these players, DeVoss projects more as a role player until he proves he can hit.
Trey Martin, 20, Kane County
Martin's year was sort of a wash because of injuries but he showed some exciting skills the previous season, particularly on defense. He's a good athlete with great speed. He has a lanky, long-limbed build which helps him eat up ground in CF with long strides -- some say he could play CF at a major league level right now -- but also presents an obstacle at the plate. His swing can get a bit long and he can get tied up inside by pitchers with good fastballs, so he'll have to make some adjustments as he moves up. Unlike many of the prospects here, he has the potential for 15 HR power.
Jeffrey Baez, 19, Arizona/Boise
.287/.357/.384, .353 wOBA, 111 RC+ (At AZ Rookie League)
Signed for $350K out of the Venezuela in 2010, Baez was perhaps the Cubs best position player at the AZ Rookie complex before getting the call to Boise for the stretch run and the playoffs. He is yet another athletic, toolsy CF with a solid approach. He has the frame to add some size/strength (6'0", 180 lbs) and develop some extra base power, but speed may be his greatest asset. In 49 games across two levels, Baez stole 26 bases in 29 attempts.
The Cubs also have a couple more athletic CF types at the lowest levels in 2012 11th round pick Rashad Crawford and 2013 9th round pick Charcer Burks. Burks had the better season and is considered something of a late riser and sleeper in this year's draft. He has quick wrists and solid bat speed at the plate with the kind of athleticism and speed you look for in CF.
Filed under: 2013 position-by-position depth charts