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Cubs Top 50 Prospects: 11-20

Cubs Top 50 Prospects: 11-20
Jeimer Candelario

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.

11.Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, 22, Iowa (AAA)

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.

12. Kyle Hendricks, RHP, 23, Iowa (AAA)

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.

13. Christian Villanueva, 3B, 22, Tennessee (AA)

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.

14. Jeimer Candelario, 3B, 19, Kane County (A)

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.

16, Rob Zastryzny, LHP, 21, Kane County (A)

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.

17. Duane Underwood, RHP, 19, Boise (short season A)

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.

19. Matt Szczur, CF, 24, Tennessee (AA)

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.

20. Dillon Maples, RHP, Boise (short season A)

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

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  • Interesting that you have Eloy that high. Looks like I will have to keep a closer eye on him next year and this Fall if I make it out to AZ. Only 16, wow!

  • In reply to Buzz:

    I went with upside there because and you'll notice a lot of high upside guys in this range. Hendricks and Szczur are the more sure things along with Cabrera (who is already in the majors)

  • Excluding the influx of new personnel into the system, Kyle Hendrick's rise on the prospect list looks quite impressive. Are there things/techniques that KH can tinker w/ to maybe put one or more of his pitches into the "plus" category at this point in his career. I know their very different pitchers, but TWood seems to have upped his game/effectiveness this year. Time will tell if that was an aberration or not, but for now, the improvement is at least in the 2013 history books.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I think they want to tinker a bit with his breaking pitch and they definitely want to improve his approach vs. LH hitters, who hit him pretty well last year.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    RE: Are there things/techniques that KH can tinker w/ to maybe put one or more of his pitches into the "plus" category at this point in his career?

    Hendricks developed a Cutter the off season before last as a "contact" pitch to induce weak grounders. That gave him a boost last year.

    This last off season Hendricks worked with pitching coach Jeff Fassero to combine his Curve & Slider (fringe average major league offerings at best) into a Slurve/Power Curve.

    That pitch was very good this year and IS now his “out” pitch. The Slurve has a very good chance of being a Plus offering.

    Also because of the huge change in speeds (13-15 mph) between his FB and Changeup, the Change plays up and gets a bunch of swing and misses.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Great to hear! Things like this are what makes prospect watching so very interesting to me.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Thanks for that Ghost Dawg. The good thing about Hendricks is that he learns quickly. He picked up that cutter almost immediately and while I personally would hesitate to say the breaking pitch is very good, it is improved and could eventually be an above average offering. Next thing he needs to do is develop a better approach vs. LHP, who hit him pretty hard (at least relative to RH hitters).

  • Love the prospect lists. Kind of surprised Jimenez makes the top 20 from you because I remember reading not long ago you did not know much about him. I cannot wait to hear some reports about him this fall and I hope he starts next year in the AZ Rookie League.

  • In reply to jswick23:

    Thanks. We still don't know too much about Jimenez and I think we won't until we see his tools show up more in games.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm looking forward to the next lists. The best Cubs news on the WEB is the Cubs Den and for those who don't get to see our prospects it is so encouraging to see the farm system grow.

    Eventually we're going to move some of these pieces,such as Vogelbach,Ha,Szczur and even Villanueva to make way for the more gifted players in front of them.Yes I'm counting on Baez,Olt and Alcantera.

    We will have enough valuable pieces to trade off for needed depth.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    And a testament to how far Jackson and Vitters have fallen as their career progressed (or didn't progress).

  • In reply to DaveP:

    That and how far the system has progressed.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    Thanks Riot! Agreed too that having this kind of depth will be a huge asset for the organization. It gives them some fallback options and some trade bait, if nothing else.

  • John I did not get a chance to comment on the 1-10 so i would Like to say that almora is turning into my favorite prospect. Maybe its because I like pure hitters more than power hitters, don't get me wrong I like baez,soler,and bryant but I would like to have hitters like almora and castro in that lineup to put the bat on the ball and spray line drives. One thing like about the system is there is depth after the impact talent. It use to be that the depth was there but no impact talent. Villanueva, and Candelario are two young guys that are guys that are just getting better.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Agreed. I think sometimes you need those guys who are going to put the bat on the ball consistently. That is definitely Almora.

  • Also, no B Jax or Vitters yet, just a testament to the great organizational infusion of talent and philosophy that the new FO has brought in.

    Since Jimenez and Torres are 16 still (I think) they might be on "talent wave" 3.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    We may not see those two for a while but they are two of the higher ceiling Cubs players right now.

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    Another good article John. I'm on the fence on whether to include the IFA guys before they play in the US, but Eloy was a big signing. I agree with alot of your other rankings here.

    I imagine the next group will have Neil Ramirez, Vitters, Casey Black, Ivan Pineyro, Ha, among others. Maybe B-Jax if you are feeling charitible.

    Down in this area, also reminds me of some lower-level, promising type players that failed this year: Gioskar Amaya, Marco Hernandez, Starlin Peralta, and Paniagua, among others.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Ii am as well because of that risk factor but we've never had the kind of high profile 16 year olds like Jimenez and Torres here to rank. Candelario made the top 30 right away, so there are exceptions, but in genera I agree. I don't like to rate these guys too highly as a rule.

  • Eloy Jimenez will turn 17 in late November. Starlin Castro and Manny Machado both debuted about a month after their 20th birthdays, and Jurickson Profar debuted about four months before his 20th birthday. Eloy could debut early in the 2017 season (or wash out in A ball).

  • In reply to cubsin:

    He could make it that soon, but those players are more exceptions than rules.

  • The variance of opinion always increases with lists like these dramatically, once you get past the genuine elite prospects in a system and move to more of the fringey or lottery ticket prospects. That said, Underwood has yet to show anything at all, Maples is in Boise--and not consistently worth watching yet. Zastryzny was just drafted, Jimenez is a teenaged baby, and Vizcaino hasn't pitched in two years. Sorry John, I appreciate ceiling and projectability, but I can't agree with any of those choices as top-20 given the complete lack of empirical evidence.

    Instead, I'd include Vitters, Pineyro, Black, Ramirez and either Rivero or Devoss.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Al though I agree with you that Black and Ramirez should be in the top 20. I disagree that Zastryzny shouldn't , his Command will be close if not equal to Hendrick and his stuff is better.
    I think Underwood and Maples are prefect where they are at because if you base them only on ceiling you are looking at top 10 but because they are still works in progress they are good where they are at.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    I see your point, and feel similarly about some of it. But with the exception of Eloy, I can see where John is coming from too. He did say in his original disclaimer on 1-10 that he tends to lean towards upside. That's why guys like Underwood & Maples beat out some of the names you mentioned. Though I do think guys like Rivero & Ramirez, who are close to being able to contribute warrant a spot in our top 20, No way I take either of them over Vizcaino. He has proven himself at AAA & MLB levels, and neither of them have. Underwood & Maples, fine... but Vizcaino is more proven, has better stuff, and is actually just as close if not closer to being on the MLB roster.

    Vitters IDK, I hope he figures it out. Getting kicked off the winter ball team and then showing up for ST overweight and struggling with injuries in a pivotal season is enough to remove him from prospect status all together. Add in the loss of value with the position change, and there's not much of an argument to include him here. He could be a platoon corner OF for us. Whats that worth prospect wise w/o the questions? he could also easily be playing in Japan next year... Let's hope for the best, but not much of case for top 20, IMO.

    Once you get past our top 12-15, it's mostly personal preference anyways. i.e., I'd rather have Ruby Silva vs. Szczur any day. The best part of all of this is that we have depth. The likes of which I don't remember ever seeing as a Cubs fan.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Thanks and everyone will have opinions. I decided to go just with higher ceiling here and Black and Ramirez were close and I have a hard time ranking a reliever this high. I know some non Cubs sources who aren't high on Pineyro at all, but top 20 is a stretch for him, in my opinion. I think Vitters dropped off of top 25 status last year, as did DeVoss, and I don't think they've done enough to play their way back on.

  • That's a good looking group right there!

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Not too bad. Many of those guys would have been top 10 a few years ago.

  • Absolutely unbelievable to see how far the Cubs farm system has come in the past couple of years since I have started following them. Both in the elite players and the depth of it. Plenty of players will fail, but we don't need everyone to succeed. Not to mention we get another draft of high picks to add to the farm. So whenever the front office decides to trade prospects, the farm will still be very good. Even after prospects are promoted, the farm will still be very good. Cubs future is looking bright as there is finally light at the end of the tunnel in the foreseeable future.

  • In reply to Cubs Future:

    Exactly. We're talking about inventory here and the Cubs have plenty of it now. Some (probably most) won't make it, a few will, and still a few others will be traded.

  • Your profile on Sczcur sounds like one for Reed Johnson.

  • In reply to Jim Hickman:

    For me Sczcur isn't in my top 20 and Although I really like him Eloy isn't either.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I'm with Kevin on this. Szczur isn't even the best OF prospect in Tenn (Silva). And I have a hard time putting a guy on the list who hasn't taken a pro at bat.

    I would have a close to the bigs, potential late inning relievers like Rivero and Ramirez over either as well. And no one is knocking me off the Gioskar bandwagon simply because of one middling season in a pitcher's league. Guy can hit and play multiple positions.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Silva's approach is so awful that I need to see him succeed in AAA, much less the majors. The pitchers there are more experienced. AA pitchers are good in terms of talent, but Silva can hit a good fastball. Let's see how he does against pitchers with experience with pitchability who know how to set hitters up before we get too excited.

    Amaya can't really play anywhere but 2B which knocked him down a bit. I think he can be an average 2B in the bigs, but if he doesn't, there's not a lot of utility there.

    And I don't like relievers his high. Never have.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Want to add that I saw good pitchers face Silva in the fall league and they completely clowned him. I really like his tools -- just don't like the approach and I wonder if that will undermine his potential. Silva is more talented, but Szczur is the safer bet.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Fair enough points on Silva.

    Amaya can play 3B and LF. His bat may not be ideal there but it could be playable. I guess I just have more confidence in his bat than most people. I see 280/340/440 in his future.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I do want to say I like Silva, by the way. And the good news is he's aware his approach needs work. He's boom or bust, but if Lake can improve enough to make the bigs, no reason to think Silva can't. And Silva is a much more polished outfielder and hits from the left side. Lots to like but want to see that approach get better.

    I guess technically Amaya could probably play those positions but I think he can only start as a 2B. If he had the ability to play SS, I'd feel better about his future as a utility guy. But like I said, I think he can be an average starter there.

    Both of these guys are on the next list.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I see that point. But once we get out of the top 4-5, everyone has some major holes in their game. But IDK if Szczur is any safer. Is that because of his 10% BB %?

    Unless he shows he can hit the ball with something other than just slapping it, his OBP is likely to take a hit as more advanced pitchers just challenge and overpower him.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I think the likelihood that Szczur makes the majors is pretty high and I think it's likely he stays there in some role. Trying to mix some guys with lower ceilings but high probability in as well.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Jimenez really is a tough one. I probably wouldn't put him top 20 either, but I totally get it. If we were to list the the top 50 by ceiling, he's either number one or number two (behind Baez). If we were to list them by floor, he's dead last behind Gleyber Torres. (And that isn't a shot at him -- just the reality that he's a very raw 16 year old.)

    As John has said he tends to favor ceiling, I totally get this ranking, but he really is guy you just can't rank properly.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Jimenez is almost impossible to rank. I do know that guys like Elier Hernandez (to whom Jimenez is often compared) and the guys Texas signed two years ago (Guzman, Mazara) were also ranked similarly in two very strong systems at the time. It's a bit of a leap of faith for me (and it's the one case where I referred to other rankings) as I usually don't like upside that much -- especially with someone who has yet to show it in games, but Jimenez's natural hitting instincts seem like it was worth a bet. Same with Torres, who will be in the next group.

  • In reply to Jim Hickman:

    Yeah, that's a realistic goal for him, actually.

  • Black and Ramirez would have been in this group for me at the back end.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    They're in the next group for me. Black is a 7th inning reliever -- as a ceiling, according to everyone I talked to and I just can't rank him all that high. I think a guy who can play CF and be your 4th OF'er -- with a slight chance to start is more valuable than a middle reliever/7th inning guy.

    I actually like Ramirez better of the two. I think he may be able to fit in an 8th inning role, maybe even closer.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think Blacks ability to get ground balls and he has swing and miss stuff. He is an 8th inning guy and even that he has a bigger impact as a 7th inning then a 4th OFer.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Maybe, but a few think Szczur can at least be a 2nd division starter, I don't know anybody who thinks Black has a chance to start.

  • Really surprised to see the 16 year old on this list. I assume he's some sort of super flashy specimen, but I doubt he's ever faced pitching as good as the worst pitcher in the MWL, let alone FSL. And no matter what his potential, I'd figure he'd actually have to show something against real pro players to be in top 20. Interested to see 21-30, but I bet everyone on that list and the next is gonna have rocks in his jaw being below Elroy.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Yeah, but Jimenez appears to be that prototypical "toolsy" kind of kid that can't be ignored. None of us are going to know much about a 16 year old that hasn't played here, but the FO knows enough to go all in for him. That alone tells me a lot.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Both big IFA signees will be in the top 30. This list is about projection too, not just current ability. There are AAA pitchers who would make the Cubs best prospects look silly -- doesn't mean those pitchers project better as MLB players.

  • Willson Contreras, our top catching prospect, seems headed for the mid- to high-20's.

    Clearly an organizational deficiency. I was excited to see them try Bruno behind the plate - too bad about his elbow, it might never happen now.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    I seem to have missed that bit about Bruno. Could you (or someone else) please fill me in? Thanks in advance.

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    In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    He had TJS this year

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    They did scrap the Bruno experiment and Contreras will be in the top 30, but too inconsistent to be a top 20 guy.

  • John,

    As always, thanks for the good work that you do. These lists are always somewhat controversial based on ceilings and floors of the players. I have a question however, about Eloy. Since he is only 16, do the Cubs feel any obligation to the education of this kid? If he were living in Iowa (where I'm in education) he'd be a sophomore in high school and still needs an education. How do these young kids in the states, get educated? Just wondering. Thanks again for the wonderful articles.

  • In reply to BobMiller146:

    I asked this question back when the IFA signings were happening. At the Cubs complex (DR?) they are set up for younger players to help get their GED. So it sounds like the organization does realize they need to help at minimum for the young players to get some education. Someone please correct me if I am in error.

  • In reply to BobMiller146:

    The Cubs have a Dominican Academy in which they are taught English, can earn their GED, and are taught basic life skills. It's one of the few of it's kind -- one of the better facilities in the majors.

  • What excites me is that the legitimacy of the list gets better and longer as time goes on. Our top 4-6 alone have rendered these guys to "second tier" status, not because they were/are second tier to start with.

  • Nice job John. I was surprised Amaya didn't crack your top 20. Also surprised you liked Hendricks over Cabrera. Although I was very happy to see Hendricks handle his promotion to AAA. I was worried he was a product of the Southern League.

    On another note. BA said Leal, Torres and Jeffrey Baez were the closest Cubs to making the Arizona League top 20.
    Leal was a better pitcher, but Torres had better stuff. Baez has a Kirby Puckett build and can do a bit of everything.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Hendricks holding his own in AAA was the difference for me. Love Cabrera's stuff more (and his upside) but had to give some credit for what Hendricks has been able to accomplish at the highest minor league levels.

    Baez can run for a portly kid too.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    And thank you.

  • John. Unlike my responders above, I think you are Dead On so far! Thank you for not including Jackson, Vitters, and McNutt. I think the ship has sailed with them. Would you project that they and maybe Cabrera get packaged in deals this Winter?

  • In reply to cubs25:

    I think Jackson and McNutt are closer to release candidates than they are trade candidates at this point

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    In reply to mjvz:

    Agreed........I think McNutt might get a mulligan, hard to give up on a big FB, but B-Jax should be given a fresh start elsewhere the minute we need his 40-man spot

  • In reply to cubs25:

    Cabrera is a candidate in a package deal or a deal where the Cubs perhaps get another out of options guy who might be a better fit. I think Vitters gets his last shot this spring. Jackson has little value right now and McNutt will be rehabbing.

  • Here's a suggestion for a future posting: an update on the Cubs once ballyhooed training academy in the D.R. What's its status and what have been some of the results so far if it is finally open.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Could definitely be a future piece, though it may be 2-3 years before we know the results. Hopefully it's as good as Texas, who has a similar facility.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks! A state of the facility, a who's who among the instructors, and what makes the Texas one so good would all be of interest. Good stuff.

  • The player in this group that I like watching is Christian Villanueva. He doesn't play 3B he owns it. His lateral movement is quick and he picks hot smashes ard charges topped bouncers. I get the feeling that he could play anywhere in the infield if he took a notion.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    No doubt. He's the best defensive 3B in the system. Only Valbuena rivals his ability in the entire organization.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    It will be all about how much contact he makes. His glove is his carry tool, and he's shown adequate power, at least power that can play with his glove.

    Crossing my fingers he can find enough contact to make it. If he can just sustain last year's numbers into the majors, that would be a starting 3B.

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    The race for a third straight #1 draft pick in 1 number: 0.0

    http://houston.cbslocal.com/2013/09/24/astros-break-another-record-a-0-0-tv-rating/

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Wow. I just don't like what they're doing. Maybe it pays off and I understand you can't cater to the fans when building, but to completely disregard them for 3 straight years is just wrong. I have a hard time rooting for them. 4th largest city in the US and they're not even putting in the effort of a small market team.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    BTW, Houston's TV contract with CSN Houston pays them $80 mil a year, or approx. $500K per game.

    Even if 10,000 people actually watched the game on Sunday, that would be around $50 per viewer! Ouch!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    J Luhnow is excellent. Impressive stockpiling of impact talent. In the Cubs' committed rebuild, the fans of the parent club are "completely disregarded" for '12, '13 and--fair to project--most of '14. Sorry, I like and respect you, but I see homer bias on this one.

  • Astro's caught a raw deal when they were forced to move to the home run Derby league. I feel for their fans. Imagine how Cubs fans would have felt.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. However, that doesn't explain why they haven't even tried to put a competitive team on the field. If you can't compete, you can at least try to get some good ground ball guys who keep the ball in the park and build up the defense. You can do that pretty cheaply.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agree, it's past time for Stros to move on.

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    Outside of the top 10, Candelario has the most upside of any position player currently in the system, in my opinion. Pictures can be deceiving, and until I saw him in person at South Bend, I thought he was fat, He was not only in very good shape, but he also looked closer to 6-3 than his listed 6-1 to me. I agree that he can be an average defender at 3rd base, and it's not hard to imagine him being above average at 1st base or left field.

    I also think the power is going to come. The shot he hit at South Bend was no cheapy. It landed in the middle of the parking lot. Had he hit it in Wrigley, it would have cleared the ball park an hit one of the buildings on the opposite side of Sheffield.

    2014 could be a breakout year for Candelario if he can start to hit for average. If that happens, he is going to rocket up the rankings. The question then becomes what to do with him. He could be trade bait, but he could also be insurance against a number of players ahead of him who might not work out.

    Another thing of note about Candelario is that he might be the most involved of any Cubs minor leaguer off the field in the community, both at home in the DR and in the US wherever he has played. That speaks well of his character, and from what I've read, he genuinely seems to enjoy doing those kinds of things.

    The Cubs' front office makes no bones that it puts a premium on high character/high makeup types, and if it looks like he can maximize his potential as a player, I think they'll be hesitant to deal him.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I think he has one of the best approaches in the Cubs system and a chance to be one of it's best pure bats. I do think 3B is a key for him. Not sure he'll have enough athleticism for the OF but that would be nice if it developed as an option.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John, who is to say 1st base won't be an option for Candelario? Saying this doesn't mean I've turned on Rizzo, but what if Rizzo turns out to be not much more than he is now. which is Adam LaRoche? I love Vogelbach's bat, but he has DH written all over him, and even if the NL were to adopt the DH in the next few years, I might still prefer Candelario just because he has the potential to play 3 positions, 1b, 3b and Lf. However, in terms of a strictly non-DH world, Candelario could end up being the best of both worlds at 1B.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I didn't say it wouldn't be an option. I just think 3B is best for him considering his lack of present power. Right now he has size and strength for power but his swing is built more for line drives and gappers. He has the strength to hit HRs, but they'd have to add some lift to his swing, and then in that case you have to sacrifice some of his good contact skills. Right now the power isn't there to hold value as a prospect if he's at 1B -- and all prospects lose value the minute they switch to 1B anyway. So just really saying I prefer he stays at 3B, though that may not be possible long run because of how the roster may shake out.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I realize that. I'm just looking ahead to how this all might work out. It rarely seems to ever go the way we think it will, if for no other reason than it's the Cubs we're talking about.

  • I am ecstatic that the Cubs HAVE prospects. However, based on what we have seen this season, I don't think the Cubs have the systems and protocol in place to take advantage of them at the MLB level. The vaunted Cardinals keep their prospects playing, shuttling them between MLB and AAA as they are needed, i.e. Wacha, Wong. The Cubs bring players up and they are given a tryout. If they succeed, they keep playing until they cool off, then they get put into a platoon situation or buried on the bench. If they don't succeed on their tryout, they become mop-up players. The Cubs call these players assets. Then they must treat them like assets, so they increase in value. The MLB team should be part of the portfolio, not a used car lot.

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    In reply to Cleme:

    Not entirely sure who you're complaining about. When Anthony Rizzo came up, Bryan LaHair was quickly moved out of the first base picture -- to some criticism at the time. Junior Lake has gotten pretty significant playing time, and Jake Arrieta has been getting consistent starts. It's also hard to see our biggies coming up next year -- Baez and Bryant, hopefully -- as getting anything other than constant starts.

  • In reply to Cleme:

    Cleme, IMO, the difference between the organizations is that the Cardinals had/have legitimate prospects at the AAA level - the Cubs have been very limited in terms of legitimate prospects at AAA. For example, most recently we found out BJax & Vitters weren't the real deals & both are in jeopardy of losing their spots on the 40 man roster. (Although I hope Vitters shines in his new role in the OF!) Over the yrs there have been many highly touted Cub prospects that were highly overrated. On the other hand, Rusin & Lake (more recently) have a chance at making it at the ML level & the Cubs have given them both plenty of opportunities. We'll see the shuttling between Iowa & Wrigley become more prominent when our legitimate prospects (now in A &AA ball) get to Iowa.

  • Just an observation, hence the lack of specifics, because I didn't want to point fingers at Dale, etc. I just would like to feel confident that as we move down the prospect list, the systems are in place to develop the core prospects into everyday contributors and the realistic small amount of non-core prospects into contributing role players. In addition, if the fringe players are exposed at the major league level (purposely not naming any names on the current roster) their trade value diminishes to insignificance. For a hindsight point of reference, I'm thinking of a Bobby Hill vs. a Felix Pie.

  • In reply to Cleme:

    Look at Junior Lake in that context. He's a fringy, toolsy utility/platoon player. yet because of organizational need, he was called up and got reg PT. When he seized the opportunity, they quickly moved Sori to create more playing time for him. So whether you conider Jr part of the future "core" or not, it's hard to argue with the PT they've given a guy who was originally slated to spend all of 2013 in AAA and still has a lot of rough edges to his game.

    When we start talking Baez, Bryant, etc... can't imagine them being anything other every day players.

  • In reply to Cleme:

    I'm hoping that the players that come up from this point forward will be more MLB ready than the most recent prospects to come up. I like the coaching/development people they have down there right now and what I'm hoping is that these guys won't need to be taught nearly as much as the current guys as MLB'ers.

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    With regards to Jimenez, et al, I just want to point out that Junior Lake and Starlin Castro were both signed as 16 year olds by the Cubs and Pedro Strop was signed at 17 (by Colorado). Not really sure what my point was, just felt it needed to be said.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    The point is that Castro, for example, was on no one's radar--no one's--until his age 18 year. There's just too much "who knows" regarding teenaged IFAs and to rank them along with prospects currently playing A and AA ball in the minors seems silly. At least, that's my argument. Doesn't mean Jimenez et al. might not be the real deal, they might. But for every 16 year old IFA like Castro, or Zambrano, or Miguel Cabrera, there are literally dozens that never amount to anything, each of whom was just as highly thought of as a 16 year old as were the Castros of the world. It really is a lottery ticket.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    I talked to one top scout who said people knew right away that the Cubs got a steal in Starlin Castro. He said you could tell he was an MLB ballplayer even at age 16-17. Lake got more mixed reviews but the Cubs obviously liked him -- he got 500K, big money back then. They were on the radar and had I been writing the blog back then, I definitely would have mentioned them.

  • Reds released an interesting 23 yr old arm. Is it someone we should take a chance on?

  • In reply to plymkr:

    Good arm, good size but that guy can't hit the side of a barn right now. I liked the Bard gamble, but Lotzkar may not be worth the roster spot.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Big Fastball? Bad command of his secondaries? Hey, he'll fit right in around here.

    He's a guy we might have grabbed for the raw arm brigade last year, but not now

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That's my thinking. I think they've shored up that area enough where they don't need to take as many flyers. Bard was an obvious exception.

  • In reply to plymkr:

    I know the 40-man roster will be a problem, but we should still
    try to sign young players released who have some potential

  • Has anyone seen the documentary on Netflix called 'Pelotero'? They follow several Dominican kids as the international signing day approaches. Two of the kids are a 16 YO Miguel Angel Sano and Gary Sanchez. Good stuff. Sano's lived up to his hype thus far. Sanchez too I suppose. Hopefully Jimenez and Torres get there!

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    In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks for the suggestion Ben. I'll watch for it. On the subject, I saw another documentary a few years back that followed several minor league prospects. One was the very likable Marco Scutero. The film is call "Player to be Named Later"
    Another baseball flick that is a must-see is "Sugar" which details the transition of a young Dominican player as he assimilates himself in his new country. Half the movie is in English with Spanish subtitles, and half is in Spanish with English subtitles, yet it is not a distraction and the movie was as to follow and understand. I thought the director and writer did an excellent job in making it as realistic as any fictional film could be. In my book, Sugar gets two thumbs up.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Awesome, Mike! I'll check those out.

  • Great List John !

    Should we stay up late again tonight for 21-30 ? If so I might need to squeeze in a nap. haha

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    LOL...I'm not sure yet. Will start it tonight and hopefully finish, but depends on how much time I'll have (and how the insomnia goes)

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    Nice list. "Jimenez is the highest profile amateur IFA the Cubs have ever signed." -- Is that not counting Soler?

    And do you think Jimenez has any shot of making it to Boise next year?

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    I believe you can count Soler as a former pro baller in Cuba.

  • John, Is Baez, or an other infielder, good enough to make the Cubs
    concider trading Castro in a monster of a trade?

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    It wouldn't make sense to trade Castro after this down year.

    And really, we aren't deep enough to consider trading guys when there's no reason to trade them.

    If we are somehow able to draft Trea Turner AND he has an even better season that Bryant had this year, AND if Castro returns to .280-.300 AVG/ 200 hit form, then MAYBE it would sensible to bat around the IDEA of trading Castro.

    But for now it's just bizarre for there to be SO MUCH talk about trading a really very young elite-talent that we JUST signed to a long-term extension.

  • Good article, only one thing to add--

    Hendricks: no evaluation is complete without citing his awesome 1.86 GO/AO ratio across AA and AAA this past year.

  • Good job on the list John- these prospect rankings are tough to do as everyone's going to have a different opinion on who belongs where but you're consistent in your methodology. I'm going to be interested in comparing how last years consensus top 20 compare to this season. It's my guess that the impact talent at the top has become considerably greater in numbers and ranking.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Thank you. The impact and the depth are both much improved.

  • John..........Nice work. Still have good names left. Only thing I question is Vizcaino was that high. I don't think he has a thrown a pitch for the cubs organization, and it makes me nervous to rank a guy that high who has his set backs. You do alot of your rankings on projection. We can't project he is gonna be a huge impact for us. I hope he is. I had a coach tell me once that potential is talent sitting on its a**. When will he try to throw again?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I try to project a lot here because the name of the game is impact. Role players are easier to find -- but I have no qualms with those who think certain players should be ranked higher. I think at this point it becomes a matter of projectability and that is obviously difficult to do. There will be players higher on the list who may never see the majors while there will be guys low on the list who will carve out a niche for themselves in the bigs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Should I read into the fact that you think he will be healthy? It makes your job harder when these stud pitchers get hurt and u have to rank them. I would just rank him as ??? I have always referred to him as playing with house money.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I think he'll be healthy enough to be a reliever at least. If he starts -- huge bonus

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