Who are your 2014 Cubs spring training surprises and regular season breakout candidates?

Who are your 2014 Cubs spring training surprises and regular season breakout candidates?
Paul Blackburn

The spring is starting off with some optimism.  Mike Olt's vision is coming back, Dan Vogelbach lost 30 lbs and looks ready for a big season, Josh Vitters looks like he's in the best shape of his life, and Arodys Vizcaino is throwing 98 mph fastballs.

Every year we like to speculate on who is going to surprise and breakout and with the first spring game tomorrow, today I'll ask you who your candidates are.  The definition of a breakout player can vary, so I've decided to break this up into different categories.

The Spring Surprises

Every year it seems like a player comes out of nowhere and makes the team.  Sometimes it's only temporary like Joe Mather and Brent Lillibridge, sometimes you find yourself a nice role player, as with James Russell a few years back and more recently, Blake Parker went from non-roster fringe prospect to a solid 7th inning guy last year.   Welington Castillo had a great spring and went from question mark to full time starter last season.

The other kind of surprise is the prospect who shows he's more ready than the standard timetable might otherwise suggest.  Starlin Castro nearly made the team as a 19 year old phenom in the spring of 2010 and wound up getting the call that May.  Javier Baez and Jorge Soler proved they could compete with the big boys last year with Baez carrying it into the minor league season after a slow start.  Baez entered last spring as an A ball player and this year is locked into the AAA shortstop spot at Iowa with a chance to make the big league club by midseason.

My picks

Josh Vitters.  He's a longshot to make the team but you have to like the renewed commitment.  The Cubs may have an OF spot available and perhaps Vitters can be the RH compliment to Nate Schierholtz or Ryan Sweeney.

Albert Almora.  Almora didn't have too much trouble adjusting to more experienced pitching in the AFL after missing a couple of months at low A ball.  Almora has no shot at making the team but I think his combination of maturity, poise, and skill will give the Cubs a glimpse of what's to come -- perhaps as soon as 2015.

The Regular Season Breakout MLB Player

My pick

Ryan Sweeney.  He's been a prospect for so long but hasn't developed as hoped.  Despite good size, he has not been a power hitter but I think he started to show some improved pop during the times he was healthy last season.  I don't think he's going to be a 30 HR guy, but I can see him hitting 15 while also putting up solid OBP numbers and playing good defense.  I also liked the way he hung in tough vs. LHP and think he has a chance to be an everyday player rather than a platoon guy.

The Regular Season Breakout Prospect

We can further split this into two categories.

  1. Which new prospect will enter national top 100 lists
  2.  Which sleeper prospect will emerge as a possible top 15 Cubs prospect

My picks

I like Paul Blackburn for the first category.  I think he's underestimated right now on the national scene, but the Cubs know what they have here.  Blackburn put on a lot of muscle weight last season and I think this year he'll be more accustomed to pitching with his new frame.  If the command comes along with his improved stuff, he could move very quickly.

For the second category, I have a couple of names I like.  The first is pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng, whom we talked about in the first segment of our prospect list.  The second is Mark Malave.  I like the move back to catcher after showing he has the athleticism to handle the infield.  There are no questions about his arm strength.  Malave has always played younger than the rest of his league -- even in Venezuela, and he has shown the maturity to handle it.  He's disciplined at the plate (15.75 walk rate, .381 OBP) and has good natural strength to develop in-game power down the road.

Those are my guys...who are yours?

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  • Upside surprise: Juan Panigua (too much natural talent, just waiting to be properly coached), Jacob Hanneman (remember him?), Rubi Silva (future super sub).

    Breakout candidates: I like yours, I'll add Tyler Skulina.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Good picks. I really like Skulina.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    I like Rubi too. I think it finally "clicked" for him last year at AA. He may have passed B-Jax for that 4th/5th OF'r sub role from the LH side... Hopefully, one of them two sticks.

  • From what I've seen & heard about Baez's off-season, he has every intention of making the team out of ST. He won't, but I believe he will make a solid case for it...

    Vitters' has hopefully realized that he has a perfect opportunity here. Let's hope he takes advantage of it. I'd like to see B-Jax make one of our Lefty OF'rs expendable by mid-season too. But my pick for MLB impact coming from those we didn't see contributing in January is Olt & Vizcaino...

    Sweeney is a good candidate for MLB breakout season. One could also make a case for a number of our "rebound" candidates i.e., Castro/Rizzo/Shark, etc... McDonald & Sanchez have reportedly looked very, very good so far this ST too.

    For Prospect breakouts, Jen-Ho is my #1. Me thinks he's going to fly through the lower minors. I like Blackburn too, but I think Tseng beats him to AA. For position players, I think a big surge into top prospect rankings is within reach for Soler & VogelBOMB both.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Good picks. I was thinking about Sanchez. I like the potential Oliver Perez reinvention of himself out of the pen.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If he throws strikes. Sanchez problem has always been control.

  • Regular season breakout guy: I'm hoping it's Mike Olt

    Off topic but, anyone see Trea Turner's play last night? Pretty nice

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QWyH3-CtdA

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Nice play. Thank for the video!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No problem, John

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Dude's a keeper. I've got a buddy that is a scout with the Dodgers and he told me recently that Trea was his #1 overall and Rondon was his #2.

    FWIW, this isn't the Dodgers board, his personal.... He scouts Amateurs professionally though, so...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Good thing we pick before the Dodgers then ; )
    Turner and Beede are the two I like the most and I'm hoping for one or the other. Also hoping neither go to the other Chicago team

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    In reply to Javier Bryant:

    All the while, he's hitting .419 with 4 walks and 1 strikeout in 37 PAs while going 7-for-9 in steals.

    I want a pitcher, but it would be real hard not to get excited about adding that guy to our growing collection of impact offensive talent.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think they have to take him if they think he's the best player available at 4.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Agree with both of you guys.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Wow. How about that BABIP.

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    I'm guessing that was not a home game, based on the announcer. Great great play for a HSer.

  • Turner is a college junior.

  • I'll take Ruggiano as a breakout, with a slightly better year than Schierholtz last year.

    And I'll take Gleybor Torres as my breakout after he wows people in the US.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    A Ruggiano breakout would be a nice development for the Cubs. Gleyber is pretty polished for a young kid -- wouldn't be surprised to impress right off the bat.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    nice picks...

  • I have no reason to beleive, but right now I think Ruggliano can be this years version of Schieholtz. I also beleive Vizcaiano can be huge or Hector Rondon, if healthy.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    If you look at his historical splits vs LHP and 2014 projections, you have a great statistical basis for believing that about Ruggiano...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Hoosier. it would be great if Ruggliano could become what we thought wed be getting last year from Hairston. My thought is getting out of Miami might be just what he needed.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I think we'll like him better than Hairston. We still flipped Hairston for Pinyero, who is a legitimate top 30 prospect in our system. I saw in person and I like him as a #4 SP type.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    The Hairston deal may be the best this FO has puled off. Hairston was having a TERRIBLE year and they still found a way to get something for him.

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    I had Vitters as the 5th outfielder a week ago, so I'll stick with him as my spring surprise.

    Regular season breakout: Mike Olt

    For the minors.
    Prospect most likely to enter Top 100, I'll go Jeimer Candelario
    Most likely to enter Cubs Top 15: Carlos Penalver

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    ILFarmer
    I like your picks of Vitters, Olt, and Candelario, and maybe Black making the top 100 also. I like Soler to make the top 15.

  • I mentioned this in a post a couple of weeks ago but I see Mike Olt as a key and a guy to watch for a big spring.

  • Justin Grimm, whether it be as a back of the rotation starter or a lockdown reliever.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Grimm was on my short list too.

  • Very interesting... I'll give it a shot too...

    Spring Training Surprises: Emilio Bonifacio and Chris Coghlan.

    Reg Season Breakout: Hector Rondon (I just loved seeing his fastball go from 91-93 mph to 96-98 mph, and I like the Ryan Sweeney pick to, but I'll stick to Rondon).

    Prospect most likely to enter Top 100: My bet is on Jeimer Candelario and Paul Blackburn.

    Prospect most likely to enter Top 15: Daury Torrez and Erick Leal (who reportedly added a few ticks to his fastball).

  • In reply to Caps:

    I like the Rondon pick.

    I'm thinking with all these great choices -- isn't it nice to have all these guys who seem to have a shot at breaking out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, I don't think all these waiver wire pickups were signed just because they know them... They are trying to catch lightning in a bottle, but they picked some guys with a real chance, like Ryan Kalish, Coghlan, Bonifacio, Jonathan Sanchez (as a reliever), Ryan Roberts and the list goes on... They were all promising players and got derailed by injury or something else, not necessarily meaning they lost their ability to play... Not expecting big things, but hoping some of them turn into Brian Bogusevic.

  • I agree with a lot of these choices, especially Sweeney. For my breakout candidate, ill take Kyle Hendricks. I could see him eatablishing himself as a solid back of the rotation guy.

    For my prospect breakout; besides Tseng, what about Corey Black. It would be nice if he established himself as a SP prospect. He will pry end up in the pen, but his stuff is great.
    Another prospect I really like is Zeke DeVoss.

  • Black was awesome in Daytona... Makes you wonder if Epstoyer saw an adjustment that needed to be made and he made it....

  • I'm very interested to see what Black does this year as well.

  • I will take Grimm also. I was disappointed that they are not going to use him as a starter.

    And since no one ever seems to talk about him, I will take the other pitcher in the Garza trade, Niel Ramirez

  • After what Cub fans have been through the last decade can't wait
    for these surprises during the next 3 years. Just be sure they are
    fully developed

  • I'm pulling for VogelBOOM to climb into the top 100 and just keep on rising.

  • If his arm doen't fall off... Jake Arrietta.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    If this had been done a few weeks ago, he would have been my pick to finally put it all together and break out. I think Bosio worked a little magic with him. But now with this shoulder issue... who knows? If he is healthy, and can stay that way, he could finish the season as a legit TOR guy. The stuff if there, the command is not consistent enough and he really needs to learn how to pitch with runners on...

  • I've been on the Ruggiano breakout bandwagon for a while now. I think he provides the best production out of CF out of any of the options on the roster. Really interested to see how Renteria splits playing time among the various fourth outfielders the Cubs have.

  • I'm going to go with Blackburn for part a as well. But I'm going with dillon maples for part b. still really like his stuff.

  • Vizcaino has been my guy since they acquired him, I'm not backing off now that he is throwing smoke again.

    I mentioned it a couple of days ago, but I just have this sense we are going to see a BJax/Vitters platoon in LF before the season is through, and I think one of them will prove to be a capable backup OF moving forward.

    I think the potential Top 100 prospect breakthroughs have all been mentioned several times already. But I am going to cheat and say whoever we pick at #4 in the draft.

    For potential top 15 Cubs prospect emergence it is going to be really tough for anyone to break into it because the existing top 15 doesn't really have any guys that are poised to graduate from prospect status (with the exception of Vizcaino/Olt) and those guys figured to get replaced by the top picks in the draft this year or by trade acquisitions. So while I really don't see any surprise entries this year, I will mention that I'm still believing in Gioskar Amaya becoming a MLB player who will never rank very high on prospect lists becuase he is a second baseman.

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    Good names here, but I'll add another: Arodys Vizcaino. Initial reports are the stuff is back, he'll probably start in Iowa to knock the rust off, but if his arm stays attached, he could be a beast.

    You can make a case that Vitters is the odds-on favorite to win the 5th OF role. Why?
    1. The 4 we have, Sweeney, Lake, Ruggiano, Schierholz, are all defensively versatile; Vitters's lack of ability to play other than LF doesn't hurt him.
    2. He's on the 40-man roster; all other candidates require a roster move to add. He can also be sent down without a DFA, unlike some of the other candidates.
    3. He's a talented guy obviously, and Cubs really have to know this year if he's legit or not, because he's out of options after this year

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    Can I pick a group? We need pitching, and I pick two of the following to break out: Zastryzny, Masek, Skulina, Frazier, Wilson, Godfrey, Clifton.

  • Spring surprise - Vizcaino
    Regular season surprises - Olt, Arrieta, Alcantara
    New top 100 prospects - Blackburn, Vogelbach
    New top 15 prospects - Hannemann, Zastryzny, Penalver, Eloy Jimenez and Daury Torrez

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I like the Vogelbach choice... The excuse has always been about him being fat... Let's see how he adjusts to his new weight... Coach Desi Wilson says he has not lost any power.

    I also think Zastryny, Jimenez and Torrez are good bets to make the top 15.... And Hannemann would've been a top 15 about 3 years ago... That's how much the farm has improved.

  • This is a fun idea.
    A lot of good players thrown out already, but for my spring training surprise I'll go with Ryan Kalish. Former top prospect in a new home.

    Regular season breakout, I'll go with Jonathan Sanchez. Maybe Cubs trade Russell and Sanchez makes the most of his second chance.

    I'm going with Daury Torrez as the big surprise rising prospect of 2014. He is ripe to put up some good numbers and get some work in the lower levels, so I hope he can do it.
    I'm also very excited about Tseng. Someone said they expect him to dominate the lower levels and I would echo that. If so he could cause some noise nationally.

  • Spring breakout: Carlos pimentel. Tore up winter league.
    Season breakout: mike olt. Enough posted on him already.
    Minor league top 100: Dallas beeler. Looked really good in AFL even though numbers not necessarily. Had a lot of Texas leaguers and seeing eye singles that hurt him. Will be more in the bottom of 100 without the high ceiling but should be a pretty good 4 or 5 starter when perfecting his cutter that he just started throwing.
    Cubs top 15 prospect: Stephen Bruno. Dude rakes if can just find a position and stick to it.
    I went with more obscure picks cuz everyone was already saying the more talked about prospects

  • I really your picks John. I've always agreed with you on Blackburn and fully expect him to be part of some Top 100 lists going into next season.

    For my list I am going to stay away from players you already mentioned. This organization has so much depth, it's crazy.

    Spring Training:
    1. Chris Coghlan
    2. Kyle Hendricks (He will prove he can pitch with the big boys)

    Regular Season MLB:
    1.Justin Grimm, he will probably start in the bullpen, but at some point he will get a crack at the rotation and pitch really well.
    2. Welington Castillo, I know he kinda broke out last year, but expect his power numbers to increase.

    MiLB:
    Top 100:
    Jeimer Candelario

    Cubs Top 15:
    1. Dillon Maples
    2. Yasiel Balaguert

  • Spring Surprise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy6uLfermPU

    Love reading these picks.

  • I like a bunch of these picks, but going two different names. I like Schlitter to be of some assistance in Chicago. At Iowa, I'm going with Villanueva who carries himself like a professional. He is so close to tapping into that power that look for a breakout season.

  • These are all well-thought out picks. There really hasn't been any that has made me raise an eyebrow.

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    Yes, that was quite a play by Trea....I hope they draft a top-line pitcher.
    Great article John

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    Spring Surprise: Josh Vitters and Zac Rosscup

    Vitters will impress to become the 5th outfielder/corner infielder guy off the bench. The dude has power and looks in great shape. Rosscup will provide the Cubs with 3 lefties in the pen (Russell and Wright). Always love the guys make up and he will prove it coming out of ST.

    Regular Season Breakout Player: Mike Olt

    Not shy about saying Olt will prove to be legit. I am saying 20+ homers, .275 avg, and a .350 OBP while playing steller D at 3rd.

    New Prospect to top 100: Dan Vogelbach

    Dude has a chip on his shoulder for being left off again. His bat will prove he belongs on there. I will even go off to say top 75 by this time next season

    Top 15: Tie for me with Rob Zastryzny and Ivan Pineyro

    Rob is kind of cheating because some see him as top 15 already but some have him out of top 20. I think he will be near top 10. Pineyro will be top 15 talent next year for sure.

  • I don't think he's been mentioned yet but I like Duane Underwood to have a bit of a breakout year. Any idea whether he'll play in Boise or Kane County this year? I'm sure he'd be one of the youngest guys in Kane county, but it is also a more pitcher friendly environment, so maybe it'd be good for him.

  • Why not, everyone else is doing it!

    Spring Training breakout - be Olt, everyone is saying it but I think he can nail down 3rd and show us the reason we were trying to get him for the last couple of years

    MLB Breakout - Jeff Samardzija. I know he is already established but I think he is going to have a breakout performance in the first half. Either that gets him traded or signed, I think he wants to prove everyone wrong that says he isn't a #2 or #1. FWIW I don't think he is an ace but I think if consistent, he could be a great #2

    Top 100 is Christian Villanueva - they say he has added mass and looks to be in great physical shape. We already know he is a stud on D @ 3rd, now add an increase in power even more than what he already increased last year. Could be changing our thinking at 3rd base for the future.

    Additions to the Cubs top 15 - It will be tough because of how heavy we are at the top but I could see Tseng taking a huge leap with how much maturity/experience he has.

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    The only problem with picking turner in the draft if he's available is, you have to plan on playing him - if you have a surplus of middle infielders you can't plan on trading one of them for a TOR pitcher. Young pitchers are just worth so much more than position players. A trade for Price, for example. "Starts with" Baez, and...and....What for example would we have to give up to get a pitcher on the order of a Bradley, a Gray, an Appel? A helluva lot more than Trey Turner. This team needs solid pitchers, not more middle infielders.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    They also shouldn't take a pitcher they're not high on just because they "need" one. Position players have a far better track record of making it at the top of the draft then pitchers. If they think Turner and *random pitcher* are even, fine take the pitcher, but if they like Turner more I'm all for taking him, as opposed to going with a pitcher just because.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    By the time he's ready, the situation might be different at the MLB level, perhaps by then Castro's contract will be close to expiring, making him a trade candidate.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I think you would be surprised. There are more TOR pitching prospects out there than there are power hitting prospects. Take a look around the Top 100 lists, there are only a handful of guys with 30+ HR power:Tavares, Sano, Bogaerts, Correa and then Baez, Bryant, Soler. Yes, that's right, the Cubs basically have half of the legit power hitting prospects in all of baseball in their system.

    Meanwhile there are 15+ prospects with legit TOR stuff and that doesn't even count the Fernandez, Harvey, Wheeler, Salazar and plethora of other young arms that debuted last year. There really is a shortage of power hitting prospects at this point while there are probably more top pitching prospects than there have been in my lifetime.

    Pitchers are going to be more easy to acquire than guys like Bryant and Baez in the coming years.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Oh that's a helpful distinction. It's not just any position player that you can trade for a TOR pitcher, but a power hitter.

    I like the idea of Trea Turner, but part of that is best player so you're more assured of an impact player you can either play or trade. We need that top tier pitching and if that means trading high position player picks when they're ready then I'm on board.

    Do you think turner is as valuable as a power guy being a premium position player & lead off guy?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    It appears that the FO prefers to go with a safe, projectable bat early in the draft and fill the later rounds with arms. I don't know if that is what I would do, but I don't have two world series rings, nor a few million dollars on my paycheck.

    The problem with your comparison is that you are talking about what it would take to get a former Cy Young award winner, who is still controllable and in his prime. I would hope that it would take someone like Baez.

    I think it would take a lot to get Appel, Gray or Bradley because they are high ceiling players, who could be the future of their franchises. It would take a ton to get Baez, Bryant and Almora from the Cubs... like a Cy Young winner.

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I'm just saying pitchers are like currency, you can always buy something with them; if pitchers are dollars or sterling, position players are drachma.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Yes, but in choosing a pitcher or position player in the draft, you're more likely to hit on a position player. Then you trade a Bryant, Baez, or Almora for one of the pitchers who isn't a prospect, but is more of a sure thing. The risk is less that you waste a draft pick.

    I agree that pitching is the gold, but it's how you get it.

  • Also hard not to like Candelario as a breakout guy. His approach at the plate is already very good, so as he grows into his power, he could be an excellent hitter.

  • So Hendricks has retired 8 batters in 2 innings apparently because he's retiring them so easily that they're giving him extra outs to match his pitch count.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Or maybe he's that good.

  • ST surprise: Vizcaino
    Regular season: Not sure if this quantifies as a breakout but, I think Hammel has a strong showing this season. Also think Cabrera finally puts it all together this season and has a strong season in the pen.

    Top 100 prospect breakout: Blackburn, Candelario

    Top 15: Leal, and Gleyber Torres. Heard from Badler that he'll be skipping DSL and will be starting in the AZ complex.

  • I hope this isn't a duplicate post for me. I like many of the picks, but I have two different names. I like Schlitter to be of some assistance in Chicago after a good spring. At Iowa, I like Cristian Villanueva. He carries himself like a professional and is so close to tapping into that power, that I look foe a breakout season.

  • I know its just a intraquad game but what worries me about baez is his swing and miss problem. People making lineups with him,rizzo,olt,and bryant better be ready for alot of k's.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Waaaaaaaaaay too early to begin on this line of thought.

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    In reply to seankl:

    Which team is this?
    Starting catcher: 124 strikeouts
    Starting first baseman: 187 Strikeouts
    Starting shortstop: 124 strikeouts

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    listen I'm not saying the kid can't be good I'm just saying that the strikeouts are not good even at th minor league level. I love the bat speed and all that good stuff so I hope you guys don't jump on me for saying baez has things to work on.

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    In reply to seankl:

    You're missing my point: that was the Red Sox. As a team, they had very high strikeout guys, but those were offset by walks and power. Your post wasn't just about Baez, it was about Rizzo, Olt, Bryant, and Baez. Olt, Bryant, and Rizzo all make up for their strikeouts with walks -- they have very high OBPs -- and power. Baez also tends to have a very high average because his bat speed is so fast and he catches up with a lot of pitches. These guys need to be sprinkled with guys like Castro, Almora, and Trea Turner who have a stonger hit tool, but there's not reason the team can't win a lot of games with those four in the middle of the lineup striking out a lot.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    And if Rizzo settles into being a .270/.340/.450 hitter (quite possible), I still think there are scenarios in which we trade him to start Vogelbach, which will cut down on the strikeouts from first.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Why did'nt you say that in the first place lol. I can live with k's IF they give me the power and obp. Rizzo walks but the obp was not where it needs to be.

  • Great stuff John as always.

    Spring Surprise
    For me it's not really a surprise to see the #2 overall pick raking, but I think Bryant will make it extremely difficult for the Cubs to send him back to the minors
    Regular Season Breakout
    Emilio Bonafacio has really had a couple of injury plagued seasons, but when this guy got regular ABs in 2011 he was one of the top fantasy 2B/SS/3B/OF in the league. Think Mark DeRosa impact with less power and more speed at the top of the order. Very excited by the acquisition
    Regular Season Breakout Prospects

    1.The new "Z" man Rob Zatryzny will be the next Cub in the top 100
    2 Stephen Bruno will be the newest addition to the Cubs top 15. I really can't wait to see what this guy can do if he's healthy for a complete season. Looks like Pedroia "light"

  • Even as a reader of this blog, I am too ignorant (my fault, not the blog's) to have answers to such questions.

    I do fervently hope for Olt and Arrieta and Castro to all breakout (or re-breakout) this season. That would be splendid!

    I do love reading all the above comments. Surely, with all this depth the Cubs are going to be rocking and rolling soon!

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    I'm with you Richard! I looked up the BA top ten prospects and the thing that jumps out is the high impact depth we've created. From 2012 to 2013, only Javier Baez, Vogelbach and B.Jackson stayed. It's interesting to see how far we've come... If this article came out two years ago, the choices would be limited and somewhat depressing...

    2014
    1. Javier Baez, ss
    2. Kris Bryan, 3b
    3. C.J. Edwards
    4. Albert Almora
    5. Jorge Soler, of
    6. Pierce Johnson, rhp
    7. Arismendy Alcantara
    8. Jeimer Candelario, 3b
    9. Dan Vogelbach
    10. Arodys Vizcaino, rhp

    2013
    1. Javier Baez, ss
    2. Albert Almora, of
    3. Jorge Soler, of
    4. Arodys Vizcaino, rhp
    5. Brett Jackson, of
    6. Pierce Johnson, rhp
    7. Dan Vogelbach, 1b
    8. Jeimer Candelario, 3b
    9. Kyuji Fujikawa, rhp
    10. Arismendy Alcantara, ss

    2012
    1. Brett Jackson, of
    2. Javier Baez, ss
    3. Matt Szczur, of
    4. Trey McNutt, rhp
    5. Dillon Maples, rhp
    6. Wellington Castillo, c
    7. Rafael Dolis, rhp
    8. Junior Lake, ss
    9. Josh Vitters, 3b/1b
    10. Dan Vogelbach, 1b

    2011
    1. Chris Archer, rhp
    2. Brett Jackson, of
    3. Trey McNutt, rhp
    4. Hak-Ju Lee, ss
    5. Josh Vitters, 3b
    6. Chris Carpenter, rhp
    7. Matt Szczur, of
    8. Hayden Simpson, rhp
    9. Rafael Dolis, rhp
    10. Brandon Guyer, of

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    Bryant takes a walk in his first at bat and had to lay off a good pitch to do so. I love that, even in a situation as exciting and pressure-packed as this has to be for him, he can stick to his approach.

  • Where are the reports coming from Is the game on the internet

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    In reply to DaveP:

    The Twitters

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    In reply to DaveP:

    Christian Villanueva and Welington Castillo have also homered today.

  • Thanks

  • Spring surprise: Olt
    Regular season surprise: Samardzija (starts to pitch like a #2 -- I think he knows this year will either get him paid and/or to a winning team, or not)
    Minors Top 15: Jiminez (I think he'll show some fancy things)

    Regardless of surprises, I think this year will be genuinely more enjoyable to watch than last year. Why? Because we'll likely get to see some of the kids play now. I'm very interested to see what happens with Olt, Vizcaino, and Grimm, and very curious to see when Baez and Bryant come up, not to mention a full season of Lake plus Rizzo and Castro Performance Watch.

    Last year felt like "OK, let's just keep going... we'll get there..." and this year feels much more like the start of the fountain bearing fruit. Maybe a year early, but at least with some real glimpses.

  • Er, foundation, not fountain, ha.

  • I think the responses to this post show how much depth there is in this organization right now and when you consider the upcoming draft, the Cubs are in a real good position.

    I won't bother posting my thoughts because with the exception of two guys (Maples and Rosscup) I think all players suggested have a true chance of making it happen this Spring/Summer.

    BTW, Baseball Perspectus came out with their Top 30 systems and the Cubs were #2. The commented that even though a few players will be elevated to the parent club this season, they are the odds on favorite to be #1 with the upcoming draft further solidifying the system.

    Bright days ahead for sure.

  • Are we gonna have a GAME SUMMARY today? :)

  • Lets hope that the starters in AAA and AA will get enough playing
    time and AB's or innings

  • Vogelbach will surprise even the most optimistic, He'll double his home runs this season and may even get to AAA by August. He will also be a much better first baseman than people predicted. His low strikeout rate will continue and by August the FO will have to decide where he fits.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    Now that he's skinny, I can't believe he couldn't play LF.

    He couldn't possibly be worse than Soriano was when he first moved out there. Dude couldn't catch a routine flyball!

  • I also am pulling for Vitters. You don't get taken 3rd overall if you're not talented and it appeared he was coachable last year with his improved approach.

    I also agree with Zonk in that Zastrusny climbs up the ladder - the FO saw something in him. I also think Balaguert will continue to progress.

  • In reply to Gator:

    I would also love to see both Cael Brockmeyer and Danny Lockhart get some love - The FO trusted them enough to allow them to be emergency call ups last year to higher levels.

  • In reply to Gator:

    I don't think those emergency call ups say anything about the player.

  • going off the board a bit for my surprise, but I could see a regular season surprise of a major name star (with his major contract) being traded to the Cubs for less that heavy package of players. I could see a Kemp or Jose Bautista deal where their team needs to shed payroll and the Cubs being in a position to take advantage. Flexibility and assets.

  • fb_avatar

    the list of 3 years of prospects is great

    But - look at 2011 - one 1 guy Archer is solid today
    thats scary - how many guys will drop off from current list ?

    I know you guys will disagree but probably 4-6 of them.

    so who doesnt make it ?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to deport soriano com:

    I just watched an interview with John Hart and he said these guys are legitimate and that he's not seen this kind of system depth in a number of years. He loves Soler too, who is everybody's pick to fail. He was even surprisingly high on 3 of the Cubs arms, Johnson, Edwards and Blackburn, higher than I thought, and said there is a wave of good young arms that will rise hard and fast this year.

    But, he also said you do not win big league championships at AA. I trust the development team that is in place.

    This is the same guy who developed Cleveland's system when they basically went through what the Cubs are going through now two decades ago.

    I am taking the year off from watching the major league team and will get my baseball fix just enjoying baseball as a sport, meaning other teams somewhat and minor league baseball a great deal.

    Plus, let me point out, even though there is bound to be some attrition, there are always guys that put everything together and push up the charts. I think Jacob Hanneman is going to be the Ellsbury-type that Theo Epstein loves. He is my pick to jump into the team's top ten this year. Skalina and Blackburn are the others.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Canter:

    come watch my son's team play ;). He's 13, on an A travel team, just at the point where it gets to be good, fun, fundamental baseball. I paid my dues cringing over the past 6 years, now I'd rather see his team than the Cubs.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to deport soriano com:

    Two points:
    1) If someone could tell you right now who isn't going to make it, they wouldn't be posting here because they'd be millionaires from their record 8 straight World Series wins.
    2) Comparing our prospects now to 2011 really isn't fair because we had a very weak system back then and a very strong one today. Some will still fail but, based on the record of top 100 prospects and Theo and Jed's record at other organizations, it won't be as bad as we've come to expect.

  • For surprises although not a huge one since they gave him a $3.1M bonus I like Armando Rivera. I'm not a pitching expert but when I sat first row near the Kane county bullpen I was pretty impressed with his stuff. Big dude, great arm and his stuff seemed to have some explosiveness to it.
    How about a new category for forgotten older player. Brian Schlitter quietly put together a really solid year last year. Arm seems to have returned and perhaps he has improved his breaking ball and control. Got to love the upper 90's fastball. Hopefully his age of 27 won't be held against him. Believe he had 18 consecutive saves at Iowa last season. With all the quality arms we've recently acquired I just hope he gets a fair shot.

  • If you guys are right about Mike Olt being the breakout player, can we please put together a slugging montage of him, with Jimmy Cliff's "I Can See Clearly Now" as the soundtrack?

    It's gonna be a bright (bright!) bright (bright!) sunshine-y day!

    That just might be inspiring enough to give my tear ducts a workout...

  • everytime i hear Renteria talk, I like him more and more. guy is infectious

  • I agree that Ryan Sweeney is going to have a good season.He's a big guy and at 29 he's ready to put it all together. On the minor league side I'm really reaching here, the forgotten Reggie Golden finally figures it out, Dunston Jr, will be exciting, and Trey Martin will be making some noise.Let's hope.

  • In reply to kevie:

    Oh and Grezkey too?

  • what has happened to Nick Struck?

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    My picks

    1 category

    Kyle Hendricks
    Kris Bryant

    2 category

    Anthony Rizzo - monster year from Rizzo offense and defense

    3 category
    1st Dillon Maples
    2nd Jacob Hanneman
    Shawon Dunston Jr.

  • For the spring standout I will take: Kyle Hendricks - don't think he will make the team out of spring, but I think he will quiet many of the skeptics that his stuff is fringy at best and be a big leaguer before summer.

    Reg Season Breakout - I don't know if this technically qualifies, but whatever...I am expecting a big bounce back year for Castro. He's too naturally good to be anywhere near as horrific as he was last year.

    Prospect - Vogelbach mashes again and begins to get some top 100 love and Scott Hairston...I mean Ivan Pineyro has another solid season and starts pushing to the mid teens-top 10 range.

  • I am really looking forward to seeing Hendricks and Rivero.
    in chicago this year. I really think these 2 will surprise us, as
    to how good they are.

  • ST breakout: Junior Lake, I think he gets off to a fast start in Spring Training, not sure if he carries it very long into the regular season

    Regular Season: Edwin Jackson has a huge year that makes up for the down 2013. Becomes a flip candidate.

    Propect: Vogelbomb. No eyebrows? what about Vogelbomb in the top 30?

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Oh and Keith Law will crawl into a hole for all of 2015.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I almost said Edwin Jackson.

  • My .02... spring surprises of Kyle Hendricks and Ryan Kalish. I've been saying forever that those eye-popping stats Hendricks is putting up are no fluke. Guy has Mad Dog's knack for pitching and is smart as hell. I'll take that over a straight-down-the-middle Kyle Farnsworth FB any day of the week. Sounds like Kalish is healthy, with some reps he should beat out Vitters for #5 OF.

    Season breakout candidate- Jason Hammel. The guy wants to stick around and has something to prove this year- much like Feldman last season.

    New prospect to make top 100... Trea Turner. None of the pitchers last year are locks to make it; though I do like Zas or Skulina I don't think they'll make the list in 2015. Turner looks like he's going to be available when the Cubs pick & he's probably a top 50 prospect as it stands now.

    Cubs top 15 breakout candidate...Stephen Bruno. The only reason he's not there now is because of injury. Like Kyle Hendricks, great results do matter IMO, and the only better pure hitter in the organization might be Almora. Top notch contact skills and high OBP = a future in the majors and I think Bruno can a utility infielder for the Cubs in late 2015.

  • Great thread. Agree 100% on Sweeney, will be a top 15 cf this year.
    Renteria will be a godsend for starlin, will be back in all star game. Really like the hammel signing, very underrated.
    I have heard some great things about the pitcher Frazier, real steal where they got him in the draft.

  • My regular season breakout according is Junior Lake. Newest top 100 prospect Jacob Hannemann and Dunston. My Spring training standout will be Jackson.

  • I only saw 1 mention on the intra squad game today in Mesa so I thought I would add my 2 cents. Yes it was a beautiful, sunny 80 degrees today. Hendricks started for 1 squad and he looked good. I think he had 3 or 4 strikeouts. He doesn't have a long windup and I was a little surprised that he was popping the glove so loud. Jokish started for the 2nd squad. He looked pretty good also--not as good as Hendricks. He was popping the glove also. Ruggiano, Villanueva and Castillo hit homers. There may have been 1 more but I stepped out of the park for about 5 minutes. By the way--entry was free. Baez was pressing. He batted twice. I believe Bryant got on base both times he came up. Alcantara looked good. He walked his 1st time up and if I remember correctly he was batting from the left side and hit one down the left field line that I believe Kalish made an outstanding diving catch on(Alcantara was robbed). The out did drive in a run from 3rd, so Alcantara did his job. Would like to see a lot of this picking up the runner from 3rd his year compared to what we saw last year. Soler looked good. Most of the position players got into the game today. I did not see Almora. On the pitching side---as noted earlier for two innings each, Hendricks and Jokish looked good. Hatley is not ready for MLB. He keeps too many pitches "up". He has good heat and he is a tall man, but he rarely uses the throwing plane he has. As I thought of him, he reminded me of Curt Shilling when he used to throw his rising fastball to strike people out. Not saying Hatley will be the next Shilling--But his high fastball reminded me of Shilling. It was the 1st game action and you cold see that its been a long layoff for Viscaino. He walked a few guys and was having location problems his whole inning. I also had expected to hear the catcher's mitt popping from him as someone here or on the Cubs.com site said he was throwing 98 MPH. We did not see that today. Lastly, I do not remember which pitcher it was, but he must have thrown a great curve as Darnell McDonald I believe was pulling his head away from the pitch to keep from getting hit and it landed right where the catcher asked for it. The ump did not call it a strike, but from where we were sitting--

  • I had trouble posting this yesterday, but two different names that I was trying to add are Schlitter and Christian Villanueva. Schlitter will be of some assistance in Chicago. At Iowa, Villanueva carries himself like a professional and is oh so close to tapping into his power. I look for a continuation of his second half at Tennessee and breakout in home runs at AAA.

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