There are a few players here who could have made the top 10 list and at this point we start to see prospects with MLB ability but who may be missing a key piece of the puzzle or perhaps they don't have one single tool that stands out.
You can see the Top 10 here.
It's hard to believe that Vizcaino is still only 22 years old after shooting through the Ynnkees and Braves organization and establishing himself as a top 100 prospect, peaking as high as #12 on Keith Law's list two years ago. Since that lofty ranking, Vizcaino has had elbow troubles and has not pitched now in 2 years. In terms of stuff (93-96 mph FB, hammer curve, good change) and his command prior to the injury, he's a top 5 prospect but there are too many questions now about his health and whether he can hold up over a heavy workload. Vizcaino appeared to be coming back strong this summer when he had a setback and had to have his elbow cleaned out. There was no structural damage, however, and Vizcaino will pitch this fall in the instructional league. He'll probably start off as a reliever, though the Cubs could build him up as the season progresses. The question marks are enough to nudge him out of the top 10.
If you're a fan of old school stats than you will like Hendricks. The Ivy League product went 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA. His calling cards are his command, pitchability, and ability to change speeds. He throws strikes (1.85 walks/9 IP in AA) and can miss some bats (7.2 Ks/9 IP, 19.9% K rate at AA). He found AAA a little tougher as his K rate went down and his FIP rose about a half a point (2.65 to 3.18). What Hendricks lacks is a genuine out pitch and those type of pitchers tend to be bottom of the rotation guys. It's likely he'll be a pitch to contact guy at the MLB level so he'll have to continue to locate, keep the walks down, and keep the ball in the park. He could make his MLB debut my midseason next year.
The Cubs have quite a few 3B candidate but Villanueva currently projects as the best defender. Villanueva stepped it up on offense, specifically in the power department this year when he hit a career high 19 HRs which tied him for 5th in the league and 2nd behind Javier Baez on the team. He also led the league with 41 doubles, outpacing teammate Arismendy Alcantara by 5 in that department. It adds up to a .208 ISO and a .469 slugging percentage. Where Villanueva needs work is his approach at the plate. He walked 6.3% of the time while striking out in 21.6% of his PAs. Considering Villanueva hit just .261, the low walk total resulted in just a .317 OBP. He fits the Cubs profile in terms of defense and adding some slugging from the hot corner, but he'll have to work on his plate discipline. Villanueva's fate is directly tied to that of Bryant, Baez, Olt, and perhaps the player behind him on this list.
Candelario stood out to me right away at Kane County because he came to camp in the best shape I'd seen him and it showed immediately on defense. He has allayed many concerns about his ability to stick at 3B and while he is not going to be a plus defender, it's reasonable to think he can be average. Candelario's ticket to the majors, however, is his bat. He's a switch hitter with doubles power (3rd in the MWL with 35) though he started to develop some over the fence power as well with a career high 11 HRs. He also has an advanced approach, walking 68 times (5th in the MWL) even though he was one of the youngest players in the league. There's a lot to like with Candelario and the feeling is that the best is yet to come. I look forward to him working with Daytona hitting coach Mariano Duncan, who has done a tremendous job developing hitters. Like many young switch hitters, Candelario is more proficient vs. RHP right now, hitting 10 of his 11 HRs from the left side.
15. Alberto Cabrera, RHP, 24, Tennessee (AA)/Iowa AAA
Cabrera was part of a very productive rotation at Tennessee until getting promoted to Iowa, where he pitched out of the bullpen to lessen the innings jump after spending last season as a reliever. Cabrera was 9-3 with a 3.20 ERA, striking out 8.6 batters per 9 IP while walking just over 3. He works with a fastball that can hit anywhwhere from 90-96, though pitches most comfortably in the 92-94 range, which he can sustain late into games. Cabrera's best pitch may be his slider and it gives him two plus pitches to work with to go with a solid change. If there is a concern with Cabrera it's his command. He tends to fall behind and leave pitches up in the zone and sometimes gets hit harder than a guy with his stuff should. He will be out of options going into the spring so the Cubs will have to find a spot for him or they will likely lose him on waivers.
We probably have to go off of Zastryzny's college scouting reports which saw him pitch at an above average velo for a lefty (91-93 mph, peak 95) but his velo was mostly high 80s while pitching at Boise. It could have been fatigue or a dead arm but Zastryzny got by pretty well using his change-up as his main weapon. The jury is still out on Zastryzny as far as his ceiling. The Cubs believe he's the hard thrower they scouted prior to the draft and if so, he has a chance to be a #3 type starter. He also needs to refine his breaking pitches. He's an athletic pitcher and the Cubs think he'll develop good command with experience.
Underwood is still a young 19, having just turned that age 2 months ago. He's a raw pitcher still with a lot of talent but continues to be plagued by inconsistency. He had a 6 start stretch to end the year where he put up a 2.42 ERA, showing some of the promise that had some considering him as a 1st round pick in 2012. His velo varies and he needs to tighten up his breaking stuff. He has a good curve which can flatten out at times and is trying to develop a slider as an out pitch. His velo was most often in the 91-93 range this year, though he's capable of throwing harder in short stints. He has good size and throws with some downward plane. He also has a change which can be solid at times, but like everything else, it's inconsistent. There's a lot to work with here but a lot of work to do.
18. Eloy Jimenez, OF, 16, AZIL (instructs)
Jimenez is the highest profile amateur IFA the Cubs have ever signed. He's a long, rangy, athletic player with power potential but right now his swing lacks the lift you see with most HR hitters. He has strong hands/wrists and a swing that stays in the zone a long time which right now is more conducive to line drives than long balls, but scouts expect him to be a power hitter long term. In RF he shows above average speed and a plus arm. He's advanced enough to start the year in the AZ Rookie League. If there is a concern about Jimenez, it's that he looks like a polished hitter in workouts, but doesn't perform in games the way you'd hope yet. He makes this list because of his high ceiling, but high risk. He's at least 5 years away.
A fan favorite because of his off the charts makeup, including the now famous story where he donated bone marrow to a little Ukranian girl with leukemia that he never met. Szczur is athletic but he's more of a grinder than a smooth, fluid ballplayer. He'll make spectacular catches in CF and is a threat on the bases, though he needs to improve on his jumps on his steal attempts. At the plate he has a patient approach, walking in 8.7% of his ABs and posting a .350 OBP. Szczur lacks power with a less than idea swing that may not incorporate his legs enough. Because of that, he's been more of a singles hitter despite decent strength. He looks more like a 4th outfielder but he may be able to start for some teams and could provide an early CF solution for the Cubs.
I saw Dillon Maples at Kane County where he was 92-96 with his fastball and a curve that was unhittable but he didn't always know where he was going. The Cubs tried to move him along and add some polish to his game but Maples really struggled and we noted that he was pressing on the mound. The Cubs had him take a step back, both in terms of level (he was demoted to Boise) and in terms of his approach. They had him pitch aggressively with just his fastball and his curveball and the improvement was immediate. Maples went 5-2 with a 2.14 ERA and showed flashes of dominance, including 6.1 innings of shutout baseball (2 walks, 7 Ks) in the playoffs. The goal is for Maples to have some success and build some confidence before adding to his game. His move to two pitches doesn't necessarily mean they see him as a reliever.
Filed under: Top Prospects Lists