Today we come to our second installment of the top 35 prospects but we made a slight change. We are counting down, so we'll start with #30 today and count down to #26.
- Age: 24
- 6'1, 195
- Expected 2014 Level: Iowa (AAA)
- Key Stats: .281/.350/.367; 8.7% walk rate, 22 SBs
Szczur is an athletic player but his greatest "tool" might be his mental makeup. He's a grinder with athleticism and an idea at the plate. Once thought to be a candidate to be the Cubs CF of the future, he has fallen off a bit despite performing respectively at every level so far. It's a testament to the Cubs increased depth more than it is a reflection on Szczur. What Szczur can provide is an outfielder who can play CF, which gives him potential value as a 4th OF'er -- especially since he can play the position well. In the field he relies more on athleticism and all-out effort than pure instincts. I liken him a bit to Reed Johnson as a guy who's going to lay out and make the spectacular play in the field and give you a solid OBP at the plate. Szczur may be the better runner, though he did struggle with steals last year, getting caught 12 times in just 34 attempts. What will likely hold Szczur back from being a starter, however, is a lack of power. He doesn't use his lower half well and his bat sort of sweeps through the zone rather than exploding through it. It helps him make frequent contact but saps much of his power. He does, however, have some strength in his forearms so he may hit for enough extra base power to start for some teams. Unfortunately for him, the Cubs tremendous at CF may mean he will have to go somewhere else to do that.
- Age: 21
- 6'2", 190 lbs.
- Expected 2014 Level: Kane County (A)
- Key Stat: 11 games played in 2013
I'm still a believer in Trey Martin and I've talked to more than one industry source who considers him a sleeper candidate for this season. Martin is still a bit raw and the season ending injury after 11 games was a big setback in his development. Like Szczur, Martin is a good athlete but there is more fluidity to his game. He glides through CF and eats up ground with long strides. He has good size with room to fill out and develop average or better power. He's long-limbed and he can get a bit tied up with his swing, so I don't see him as a guy who's going to hit .300. He's going to need to work on his plate discipline if he's to put up a starter quality OBP. When I first saw him at instructs playing CF with that long, lean build my first thought was Torii Hunter at a similar age. But like Hunter at the time, Martin has a lot of work to do and room to grow. Hunter didn't put up a good minor league season until his age 22 year and Martin will be entering his age 21 season. He's going to require some patience and becoming a Hunter type player is an enormous longshot, but Martin does have the skills to be an MLB starting level center fielder. He just needs to stay healthy.
- Age 19
- 6'3", 185
- Expected 2014 Level: Boise (short-season A ball)
- Key Stats: 15.7% walk rate, .381 OBP, .270 BA in rookie level AZ
Malave just turned 19 and should be headed to Boise. He's no stranger to being young for his league. He has done it frequently in his amateur career and it has continued as a professional. As such, Malave is beginning to develop a mature approach at the plate, walking at a 15.7% rate. He has good size with room to grow and excellent natural strength, though you wouldn't know that by his zero HRs and .070 ISO in 2013. The raw power, however, is there and the hope is that the in-game power will develop in time. In the field, he was signed as a catcher and one scout at the time told me he thought he had the skills there. The Cubs, however, immediately moved him off the position and Malave played all over the infield last season. It's a testament to his good athleticism, something he will need to continue as a catcher as he fills out his big frame. The arm strength is more than enough and is his most present tool at this time. Malave potentially fits the Cubs mold of catching prospects as a guy who can control the running game and providing some pop at the plate to go with solid OBP skills.
- Age: 22
- 6'1, 200
- Expected 2014 Level: Tennessee (AA)
- Key Stats: 1.8 BB/9 IP (4.9%); 2.89 FIP, .040 HR rate/9 IP, 7.6 K rate (20.5%), and 4.22 strikeout to walk ratio
Acquired for Scott Hairston last season, Pineyro draws mixed reviews from the people I have spoken with but there is no doubting his performance after coming over to the Cubs (Daytona) midseason. Pineyro's age and frame don't offer a lot of projection so there is a lot of "what you see is what you get" here. He has a fastball that sits in the high 80s but can reach the low 90s at times. As his statistics suggest, Pineyro shows good command and excellent control. He supplements that with good poise and an advanced feel for pitching. His best pitch is a change-up which helps him offset the fringe velocity on his fastball but his breaking stuff lags behind right now. So while Pineyro may not have much left to offer in terms of size and velocity for the future, he can work on improving his breaking pitch as he faces greater challenges at the upper level. Realistically we are looking at a #5 starter or a middle reliever, but Pineyro's strong mental makeup make him a good bet to reach that ceiling.
26. Gleyber Torres, SS, R/R
- Age: 17
- 5'11", 185
- Expected 2014 Level: Arizona (Rookie Level)
- Key Stats: None
Signed for $1.7M as part of this year's IFA bonanza, Torres is the more polished of the Cubs marquee IFA position player signings. His Venezuelan winter league manager Osmin Melendez remarked at his maturity and attitude as well as his solid defense. Solid is probably the best way to put it. Torres isn't a prime athlete like many SS and is relatively filled out, so he isn't going to be spectacular defensively, but he has the tools to be an average to above average defender. He's also not a cinch to stay at SS, though the Cubs obviously believe he can. His best tool may be as a hitter where some scouts have compared him to former Pirates all-star Freddy Sanchez. In that winter league, Torres hit .302 (16 for 53) with 1 HR and showed a little discipline (5% walk rate) for a 16 year old kid. It's a testament to his advanced approach, sound swing, and maturity that the Cubs are strongly considering starting off the 17 year old at the Rookie AZ level. As far as 16 year old IFA's go, Torres was a good gamble for the Cubs as he looks like he has the mental makeup and the polished skills to move up this list quickly, but his ceiling isn't quite as high as signing classmate Eloy Jimenez, who we will talk about later on as we continue to count down to #1.