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Cubs Notes: ZiPS projects Cubs prospects, Alcantara, Baez, Baker, and other notes

Cubs Notes: ZiPS projects Cubs prospects, Alcantara, Baez, Baker, and other notes
Arismendy Alcantara

Later today Mauricio will write a bit on the PECOTA projections and they are not overly optimistic about the Cubs players for 2014, but a different projection system, ZiPS from ESPN's Dan Szymborski, really likes Cubs prospects.  A lot.

What Szymborski did was run Keith Law's top 100 prospects through his ZiPS projection model and the results were rather surprising -- in a very good way for Cubs fans.  The short vision: the statistical projection model likes the Cubs top prospects better than Law does.

  • At the very top of the list is Javier Baez.  ZiPS ranks him #1 (Law had him 7th).  The comps are pretty exciting as well.  ZiPS likens him to Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Danny Tartabull, and Tony Batista.
  • Kris Bryant comes in at #9.  One comp for him is Edwin Encarnacion.  Ill take that.  Other comps include: Matt Williams, Ron Gant, and Danny Tartabull (again!).
  • Most surprising is Arismendy Alcantara, who ranks as the 13th best prospect in all of baseball according to ZiPS.  He ranks ahead of Houston mega prospect Carlos Correa for one.   He is also ahead of two of last year's 3 top picks: Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray.
  • According to the article, the projection system sees consistent .260 seasons with 15-20 HRs but there is potential for even more than that.   The model compares him to Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, and Michael Young.  Wow.  Between Baez's comps and Alcantara's, that's quite a DP combo.
  • Albert Almora gives the Cubs a 4th prospect in the top 25.  He ranks 24th overall.
  • CJ Edwards also showed better in the statistical projections, ranking 53 compared to 67 in Law's ranking.
  • The one Cubs prospect that Law likes better than ZiPS is Jorge Soler.  Soler ranks 40th overall while Law ranked him at #26.
  • And one more interesting note:  Dan Vogelbach gets a tiny bit of revenge.  He was unranked in Law's top 14 Cubs prospects list but ZiPS had him as one of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball (#94).
  • You can see the 2014 Cubs ZiPS projections here.

It should be noted that ranking prospects is always more than just statistical projection.  There are many factors to consider.   Statistics don't consider things like size, athletic ability, and mental makeup.

Speaking of mental makeup, here is one of his teammates told me about playing with Javier Baez,

"In my opinion he is a natural born leader. He shows that on and off the field. I can't speak for others but... I loved watching him go about his work. He is a guy that understands what needs to be done and does just that. I cannot think of one negative thing to say about him."

Jeff Baker signs with the Marlins

Utility man and lefty-smashing Jeff Baker signed with the Florida Marlins today.  I've always thought he was a useful player.  It's rare to find a player who can play multiple positions and mae consistent offensive contribution  from the short side of a platoon.  Baker will likely get many of the ABs they lost when they dealt Justin Ruggiano to the Cubs.

Emilio Bonafacio DFA'd.  Could Cubs have interest?

This is a bit old but haven't had time to squeeze it in.  Emilio Bonafacio is a nice little role player and the Royals had to DFA him to make room for in order to sign LHP Bruce Chen.  As a utility guy, he can give you speed, OBP, and defensive versatility off the bench.  His last full season as a starter was in 2011, when he hit .296/.360/.393 and put up a respectable 2.8 WAR season.

Could the Cubs take a gamble?  I'm guessing that Bonafacio would only come to Chicago if he was given the chance to start and I'm not sure the Cubs can commit to that, but with Darwin Barney coming off a poor season, maybe he sees a potential opportunity for playing time.

The Cubs still need to make room on their roster for RHP Jason Hammel and my guess is that with the addition of James McDonald as depth, the casualty will likely be RHP Brett Marshall.  With rosters filling up quickly, the Cubs may be able to sneak him through waivers.

Suk-Min Yoon to sign soon

27 year old Korean RHP Suk-Yin Moon is thought to be on the verge of signing.  The Cubs appeared to be on him early but with the Hammel signing, the guess is the Cubs interest has faded at this point.  Several teams are known to make an offer, including the Baltimore Orioles.

UPDATE: Yoon threw in front of Cubs personnel today, so they are indeed still interested.  However, Yoon is looking for a multi-year deal and isn't as close to signing as has been reported.

Fantasy Baseball Chat

Our own Mauricio Rubio held a fantasy baseball chat at Baseball Prospectus.  You can check it out here.

Big Spending Cubs?

Maybe they didn't spend a lot this offseason on the MLB club but the Cubs spent more IFA money than any team in baseball except for the Texas Rangers.  The Cubs blew past the limit by spending $8.22M.  The Rangers edged them out at $8.42.  The Los Angeles Dodgers were a distant 3rd at $4.48M.

 

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  • "Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Danny Tartabull, and Tony Batista". I am sure it is just me and that the more knowledgeable on here (meaning most) will set me straight but....Danny Tartabull?

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    Ha! I'm assuming that's from an offensive standpoint. Tartabull was a career 133 Rc+/.379 wOBA player. I'll take that kind of offense from the SS position (or even 3B) and solid defense.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    People forget how good Tartabull was. And he actually did start off as a 3B (a bad one, but an IF none the less).

    He was one of the best power hitters in the league in the late 80s early 90s. He just never played on any good teams and he retired relatively young and while he was still fairly productive.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I knew I was missing something...THX!

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Tartabull had major shoulder issues, which led to his early retirement, I beleive he was only 30 when he retired. Id love to see Baez with Aroids numbers without the Aroids.

  • I'm really keeping my fingers crossed with Alcantara I'm hoping that he can be the table-setter that the Cubs have lacked for so long.

    What do you think, John? Might we see him in the second half? And if we did, would that slide Baez over to 3B, Bryant to RF or LF, and Olt to the trading block?

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    I think Alcantara could be up by August. As for who gets displaced, we'll have to wait and see. If Olt, Castro, and Baez also have great seasons, the Cubs will cross that bridge then -- and that is going to be a great problem to have.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If Olt is doing well at 3B, we may see Baez at 2B and Bryant in RF. I wouldn't be surprised if the speedy and athletic Alcantara gets bumped to CF, at least until the other AA is ready to be called up. Nice problem to have, for sure.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    It's possible. I'd like Alcantara to stay in the infield if possible but the Cubs have a lot of middle of the field talent. Some guys may have to move. My feeling is that if everything pans out then they'll look to deal one of their players and get a missing piece.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    That's the lineup I think will happen as well. The outfield could get real crowded if that happens.

  • Good to see A.A. getting all the love lately. He's earned it. IDK what the projections are based on... I just don't see that kind of power (20+ HR's) production for him. Hopefully, I'm wrong...

    The quote from Javier's team mate doesn't surprise me one bit. IDK where Law got his information, but it's kind of a ridiculous accusation. This kids coaches & team mates will all rave about him publicly & privately.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'm not sure about 20 HRs either but he's deceptively strong. He has some lightning in those wrists. The HR he hit in the Futures Game was an absolute bomb. The ball jumps off his bat.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    My only concern is the Ks. I hope he can keep the K-rate down as he moves up; his % in AA was OK, but on the verge of being a problem. Other than that, there's alot to like.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    john, I am with you on Alcantera after I saw that homer
    in the futures game. That ball got out so fast and it was
    in the upper deck. His combo of speed,power and switch
    hitting COULD be big for the future.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    He really makes a lot of hard contact and he's stronger than he looks. I'd happily take 15 HRs and be thrilled if he hits 20.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd be happy with 8 or ten HR's too if he's splitting gaps and hitting 40+ doubles a year. the last thing we want is a guy like that trying to elevate the ball to match his power projections. Hit it where they ain't and run like hell.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    If he can hold up over 160 games then 20+ HRs is certainly possible. He is small, but he has power. I just don't think he can play that much and stay effective, especially with as many day games that the Cubs play. He is the position player equivalent of C.J. Edwards, then talent is there, but can the frame hold up over a long season to allow him to reach his full potential?

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I hope I'm wrong, and there is a lot to like with the kid... but I think 20HR's is a bit of a stretch. Even if he was swinging away all the time. Also, considering that he should be emphasizing some small-ball to his game to get on base for the boppers behind him in the line-up, 12-15 HR's might be his actual ceiling vs norm...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He is not a slap hitter, nor a small ball guy. He can have good OBPs without trying to hit the ball on the ground. That would be trying to fundamentally change the type of player he is. Lets not recreate the same problem they had last year with Castro. AA can be an extra base machine. I wouldn't expect 20 HR seasons every year from him, but he absolutely has the ability to do it, and not just in a fluke season.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I've seen him play, and don't take what I'm saying out of context. like I said, I hope I'm wrong... but I do not see 20HR's. Can he do it? Anything is possible... but remember, they said the same thing about Castro not that long ago too... Nothing wrong with 10-13HR avg ea year from a table setting Middle Infielder...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It might be a little early to decide they were wrong about Castro.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    HDaddy, the way the ball jumps off his bat as long as he
    makes enough contact I think 15 homers is likely. In certain
    years I think closer to 25 is probable. He is short but very
    stout, I dont think in the long run stamina will be an issue.
    Getting use to playing 160 games takes a few years. His
    biggest draw back I think will be his K-rate

  • Even I know it wont happen I keep having this thought that Barney+ others/Cash get flipped to Toronto for Rasmus. Cubs then pick up Bonafacio for 2nd base and lead off hitter with a Lake / Sweeney platoon in left field. Call me crazy but it's an idea that keeps crossing my mind.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Rbirby:

    Great idea for the Cubs, but I don't think even Rob Ford would agree to that trade....Rasmus was a 5-win player last year, why would the ship him out for our spare parts?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    No idea but he was offered up in several trade talks this off season already from a few online sources I read.

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    In reply to Rbirby:

    Dawin Mendoza might get you a Rasmus baseball card, but not Rasmus himself.

  • fb_avatar

    Bonifacio doesn't give us anything we don't have in bucketfuls between Barney, Murphy, valbuena and all the outfielders. Low on-base, poor slugging, good glove. Line forms on the left.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SKMD:

    I agree....everyone looks at his 3-win season in 2011, but that was an outlier. The real Bonifacio isn't that good. We can probably get much of the same from Ryan Roberts, only alot cheaper....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Aside from some of the foot speed - Roberts would probably be just as useful as would Bonifacio IMO.

    And we already got Roberts under contract.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Roberts has the potential for more power and OBP. I'll take Roberts over Bonifacio every day of the week.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I take it back. Roberts and Bonifacio both have had only one decent OBP year in their careers. Neither one figure to help much, but maybe I would take Bonifacio over him.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I can agree there. I don't think either would make a huge impact. Bonifacio is the better player, largely because of his speed, but for the Cubs it's probably not worth the cost.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Really? The Cubs could use a player like that,. but they don't need him and I'm fine with Roberts, but the Cubs got Roberts on a minor league deal off the scrap heap. He's a replacement level player. There are multiple teams interested in Bonafacio on an MLB deal, enough where the Royals may get something on a trade.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I went back and looked and Roberts is a couple years older than I thought he was. i was thinking 30 not 32. Chances are he is done being useful and is probably closer to Brent Lillibridge at this point than I thought.

    But I can also say, I don't hold out any hope for Bonifacio either. Bonifacio has had 1 season where he brought any kind of offensive value. Yes, he does bring defensive value and speed, but he is a fringe MLB player/replacement level guy himself. He isn't a starter. Would he be an improvement over Roberts (or whoever we have holding down the 25th roster spot) for the first couple of months? Probably. But how much? 1/2 a win...maybe. If we was a guy with a better track record coming off a bad year or two I could see taking a chance on him as a flip candidate at the deadline, but I see no way he gets enough playing time the first half of the year to provide any return value in a trade.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Id take Roberts, he at least has decent power and has a decent glove.Bony is a speedster who cant hit, basically Barney Rubble with more speed.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    If he repeats his 2011 season of .296/.360/.393, I don't know who wouldn't want him. He was close to that level at the end of last year with the Royals. Not to mention he is a guy who could easily put up 30+ SB.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    How many times are we going to say "if he can repeat his season from...."? From Bradley to Stewart to volstadt to vizcaino ad infinitum - are we to hang our future entirely on guys who had a flash of brilliance 2, 3, 4 years ago?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I would be perfectly happy if BARNEY could repeat his 2011 season.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Bonifacio has plus speed, a good approach, solid average OBP skills, and the ability to capably play multiple positions in the IF and OF. I can't think of one current Cubs player that has that combination right now.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    You can't steal 1st base, and I don't see how his approach has helped his OBP. His utility is a plus, yes, but at any given position he'd play on any given day, I don't see him as an upgrade over anyone else we'd run out there.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Lifetime OBP is .322, that's about average and better than most Cubs. He's faster than any Cub player and he can play just about anywhere. He's a useful player, which is why half the teams in the league have called on him.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    that .322 is inflated by his .360 in 2011, .330 in 2012 - take those out and I don't think his OBP tops .300; the last 2 years he's been Darwin Barney. I'm sure he's a fine role player, I just don't think yet another guy with middling skills is going to make an iota of difference to the Cubs, this is deck-chair rearrangement.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Those 2 seasons represent 40% of his career PAs, you can't just whisk that away.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    fair enough, but his best season was 3 years ago. You also can't whisk away his most recent seasons, which were pretty mediocre

  • In reply to SKMD:

    He's a utility player. I'm not sure how much you expect out of those kind of players, but if you can get one that can defend multiple positions, is a plus runner, takes a walk... then you have yourself a useful player. Again, that is why half the teams in baseball are reportedly interested. I'm not sure what you're arguing about...that he's not great? Of course he isn't. That he's not a starter or a long term solution? Of course he isn't.

    He's a utility player and as far as those guys go, he's more useful than most.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    let's put it another way, that might make signing him make more sense - who would you trade to the royals for bonifacio?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I wouldn't trade for him given where the Cubs are now, not anything of value anyway.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    so you're essentially saying you prefer what you have over Bonifacio. So why would you want to sign him if he was released?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I'd rather have him than any current utility player on the Cubs, but it doesn't mean I'd bend over backwards to get him.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not arguing at all, at least I don't mean to be. You simply asked the question, "might the cubs be interested?" and my opinion is, it's a wash - he doesn't offer any upgrade over what they're loaded with. I haven't looked at the teams that are interested in him, but I imagine they're thinking of him as a 25th man, just filling in a gap that they have - where as the cubs have nothing but Bonifacio types. I may be wrong.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I think he's an upgrade over every utility IF'er they have. The only question really is whether a utility infielder is worth the cost for the Cubs.

  • I have a question on the comps.

    When they say a former player who is their former comp, does that mean the former players WHOLE career? A single season of that former player? The peak of their career?

    Makes it confusing as some of these players have had some great years but average careers.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    It's more of a range of what players could turn out to be according to similar players at the same stage. Baez's numbers bear similarities to those of A-Rod, Ripken, Tartabull, etc. at a similar point in their development. It points out that each player can still go in a number of directions based on how those historically similar players careers panned out.

  • I see that more and more people are making projection programs. You mention Steamer and ZiPS a lot. Do you prefer one for some reason or another, or are they all averaged together for discussion sake?

  • In reply to Buzz:

    I like those two. I mention them because they are 2 of the best early projection models. PECOTA is also excellent, arguably the best one. I think they all have their merits so sometimes it just depends on which is available at the time. Now that PECOTA is out, you'll see us using that one a lot.

  • Nice to see,.... and I must admit the idea of an infield with equivilents to the likes of a young Yount, Ripken, Gant, or A-rod (sans-roids) warms my hardened Cubbie heart.

    Yount was one of my favorite non-Cubs players and Ripken was one of the best. And who would NOT want a young version of A-Rod on their team?

    And yes I know,.... projections are at their heart best-case scenarios. But it's fun to think about.

  • fb_avatar

    Question about ZIPS and pecota - are these projected stats based on the player playing in the majors, or at their current level in the minors? Because I think it's really voodoo to predict NUMERICALLY what a AAA guy will do in the show.

  • fb_avatar

    john, sorry to get off topic but I haven't heard anything on kuji our relief pitcher that went down last year is he having any progress to returning

  • In reply to Bryan Bell:

    The last I heard the target date was sometime in May.

  • fb_avatar

    So they're saying that Javier Baez will only be as good as ARod and Cal Ripken, Jr.? Something is clearly wrong -- he's better than that.

    Alcantara is completely flying under the radar in a system as loaded as the Cubs, but he'd be a top 3 guy in most systems and the crown jewel in systems like Milwaukee and Anaheim. I tend to think he's a September call-up, but I think he'll stick around a lot longer than Vitters and Jackson did. (And if Olt is at third and Baez at second, life gets very interesting very quickly next off-season.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    The Cubs have plenty of positions on the field with average or below average players in the lineup everyday. If we are lucky enough for Olt and Baez to lock down 3B and 2B this season and even if Bryant locks down RF too, AA can easily transition to CF or LF. His bat will play there, especially CF. Unless we think Almora and Soler are going to lock down two OF spots out of ST next year there will be plenty of at bats available. Ryan Sweeney is not going to be standing in Alcanatara's way.

    The only way things get really interesting is if all of the big 4, AA, and Olt/Villanueva all pan out and become productive MLB players right away. And I think we all know the chances that happens are pretty slim. There is plenty of room and plenty of time to sort it all out. The one advantage teh Cubs have in all of this is that all of these guys are good athletes that are capable of playing multiple positions. They can make it work.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    He figures to be a guy with a .270 average, decent OBP, 15-20 HR, and 30 steals. That doesn't even kinda play in left and right is a stretch. It plays in center, but they are pushing Almora aggressively and every indication is that they expect him to be there sooner rather than later -- perhaps even 2015. So putting Alcantara in center only pushes the day of reckoning off a year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    But could build his value in the meantime if he's adequate in center. A guy that can switch hit, play center, 2nd or SS and put up the offensive numbers you mentioned is incredibly valuable.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Alcantera is great insurance if Olt or Almora dont
    progress. I think the odds are long on Olt but he is
    going to get his chance.

    Daydreaming but if Candelario and Alcantera have
    success and you go out and get someone like Carlos
    Gonzalez you could trade Castro (though i think Castro
    will rebound this year) You would have a solid lineup
    of 2B-Alcantera SS-Baez 3B-Candelario LF-Gonzalez
    CF-Almora RF-Bryant.

    Its nice to have all these prospect options because we will
    need them.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    If you are going to trade Castro I would want the best pitcher I could get. CarGo is good but we need pitching more than an outfielder. Just my 2 cents.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Wow. If that doesn't even kinda play in left I really for sorry for whoever the Cubs end up playing out there because they are apparently going to have a hell of a high bar set for him by one of the writers on this blog.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Sweeney becomes your bench player, which is a role he should be filling anyway. You know the Cubs will be improved when Luis V, Sweeney and Murphy become a part of your bench.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's why this year will be so interesting and fun to watch. The progress or regression shown by a great number of players at both the major and minor league level will tell us a lot about the state of the rebuild.

    Between Arrieta, Olt, Strop, Castro, Rizzo, Castillo, Lake and Sweeney at the major league level and Baez, Bryant, Alcantara, Villanueva, Hendricks and even Vitters at the minor league level, the Cubs have 14 players whose performance this season will directly impact the Cubs chances of going from cellar dweller to playoff contender by 2015.

    And that doesn't even touch on the next wave of guys that could make an impact by 2016. Soler, Almora, Johnson, Edwards, Black, Bruno, Vogelbach, Zastryzny, Skulina, etc.

    It's been a painful two years. And after losing out on Tanaka, this may be a third. But it's hard to deny that change and hopefully vast improvement is on the way and this year will tell us a lot as to how far off it is.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Quedub:

    I agree, this is the year we'll finally start to see the talent break though, and next year should be a lot of fun with complete seasons from Baez, Bryant, some of the others, and maybe even Almora breaking through mid-season.

  • So a mini-update: The Cubs were among the teams watching Suk-Min Yoon throw. The Cubs showed interest early, then seemed to cool a bit, but it looks like they haven't closed the door. They have said they'd consider signing a 2nd pitcher.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I could see the Cubs signing another pitcher before Spring Training.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Can never have too many arms.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. There are always unforeseen circumstances during the season, might as well have depth.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Ray:

    I remember the 1985 season. At one point, all five of the original starting rotation went on the DL. Sut, Trout, Sanderson, Eck and Ruthven.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    and ryno tore up his ankle running past 1st base.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SKMD:

    Wasn't that '87?

  • I heard rumors that the Cubs were talking to Arroyo. Is that true? Yoon would make more sense to me seeing as he could start off in the bullpen like Villenueva and then jump into the rotation after Hammel and Shark are traded.

  • In reply to Mick:

    I think they're feeling out where he's at. My guess is they're offering him a landing place if he can't get the kind of deal he wants.

  • I love that V-Bomb got some love. I think that he will have a big year and even Law will have to put him on his list next offseason.

  • In reply to Lee Smith HOF:

    I'm going to guess Law will never put him on any list. If Vogelbach makes it, he'll go down with the ship.

  • I just hope Vogelbach progresses just in case Rizzo does not bounce back. If Rizzo does have a good season and Vogelbach has a great minor league season, it's all just gravy, more to trade for a TOR arm.

  • In reply to Lee Smith HOF:

    I hope I'm wrong, but am not sure if Rizzo is any better than what we saw him do last year. Somewhere between 20-30 Hrs (which is respectable), 70-90 Rbi's (which is ok), but a .230-.250 BA & .310-.330 obp. Serviceable bat, bordering on taking the next step, but just missing. Obviously above avg. defense. Again, I hope I'm wrong about the bat & will gladly eat my words. I like Vogelbach as that insurance in the pipeline.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Eventually, he should put up better numbers than last year.

    Based on his tearing up AAA, he should have the potential to get much better. Maybe not this year…but hopefully soon.

  • John, could you see Alcantara getting some time in CF if he gets the call mid season & the infield is looking crowded?

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I'd rather see him at 2B, where his defense and bat can be great assets-- but if he gets pushed to CF because Olt, Castro, and Baez are all playing well, then I'll take it.

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