Some of the talk today centers around Cubs prospects, so let's get to that along with a recap of the Fall League game today and a look around what's happening in the winter leagues.
Professor Parks and the BP top 101
Much of that buzz was created by Jason "Professor" Parks who is preparing his top 101 prospect list for Baseball Prospectus. According to Parks,
Presumably those 3 prospects are Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Albert Almora -- though not necessarily in that order. Parks said Almora may be the Cubs top prospect because he is a legit CF who can hit .300 with power at the highest level. He also said Javier Baez may have the highest upside of any prospect outside of Byron Buxton.
Bat is legit. Baez has the best bat speed in the minors; could be an elite hitter if everything clicks.
As for Jorge Soler, Parks did say he'd be in the top 50 while C.J. Edwards and Dan Vogelbach are also getting consideration for the top 101. Of Edwards, he says,
"Could be a #3 if the body can hold that many innings without issue. Easy arm action; good delivery"
One would also have to think that Pierce Johnson and Arismendy Alcantara are in the mix as well. Kyle Hendricks, however, will not be on the list. Parks called him a nice arm but said "he doesn't belong on any top 100 lists".
It'll be interesting to see which prospect prevails as the top Cubs prospect on BPs list. The cases for Bryant and Baez are obvious but it's less so for Almora, but we're looking at a possible elite level defender at a premium position who hits .300 with 15-20 HRs, perhaps more.
We've covered the AFL here and we briefly mentioned Alcantara and Jeimer Candelario getting some play in the Dominican Winter League, but they aren't the only ones. Here are a few names to follow...
- Willson Contreras is playing in the Venezuelan Winter League and has 2 hits in 6 ABs so far. Contreras is the Cubs top catching prospect heading into the offseason but he's bit of a wild card. He plays the game with a lot of passion and intensity but needs to reign that in as he matures. He has all the physical tools to be a top defender and the strong forearms/wrists to hit for at least average power. He's an athletic player who moves well behind the plate and has some leadership potential -- but he's a long way away.
- Christian Villanueva is in the Mexican League and hitting .296/.386/.557 with 2 HRs in 27 ABs. It's a small sample size but it's nice to see him continue the improved plate discipline he showed toward the end of the year. Villanueva is the best defensive 3B in the Cubs minors and has a chance to be a .270 hitter with 15-20 HRs on offense. If he can supplement that average with a few walks, he can be a viable sleeper candidate for the long term 3B job.
- I've been a big fan of Marcus Hatley and was pleased to see the Cubs re-sign the tall, athletic RHRP. There's some upside for him as a late bloomer with a mid 90s fastball and a hammer curve -- two potential out pitches. The issue is command but Hatley is very athletic and that gives him a shot to learn to repeat his delivery and improve his command. The results are encouraging so far. He has walked one batter in 6.2 innings while striking out 10. Watch for him in spring training. He could surprise the way Blake Parker did two springs ago.
- Hector Rondon is also making up some innings. As a Rule 5 pick he was brought along slowly but really appeared to hit his stride, hitting 97 on the gun and showing an improved breaking ball and more consistent command.
- When healthy, Marcos Mateo can hit 97 mph with a wipeout slider. That said, he's endured a number of injuries and I have no reports on his current stuff.
- Other solid arms in winter ball are Yoanner Negrin, Frank Batista, Yeiper Castillo, Eduardo Figueroa, and lefty Frank Del Valle.
Fall League Recap
- Kris Bryant got the start at DH and batted 3rd. He hit his 5th HR of the AFL season. He also walked. He's hitting .422 on the season.
- Jorge Soler went 1 for 3 with a walk.
Carrie Muskat talks prospects
- Muskat's mailbag included some news on some lesser known prospects. The most interesting bit to me was how coach Tim Cossins raved about some of the catching converts, including Ben Carhart, Cael Brockmeyer, Erick Castillo, and Mark Malave. Of the three, Carhart is the one with no catching experience, so it's impressive he's in that group. Looks like we can expect to see him at that position next year.
- Muskat also says, "Jeimer Candelario is a solid defender and will be playing for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League, a huge step for the 19-year-old third baseman. Daniel Lockhart, a 10th-round pick in 2011 and son of Cubs area scout Keith Lockhart, is a very smart and talented infielder. Outfielders to keep an eye on include Jeffrey Baez (no relation to Javier), Yasiel Balaguert, Trey Martin and 16-year-old Eloy Jimenez, who is my pick to click. Another teen, 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres, is very polished on the field."
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