Top 35 Cubs Prospects Countdown: 26-30

Top 35 Cubs Prospects Countdown: 26-30
Ivan Pineyro

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.

For the first in the series, click here.  Remember to check out the video of Boys of Spring and the podcast with Brian Bedo of MiCubs at the bottom of the page.

30. Matt Szczur, CF, R/R

  • 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.

29. Trey Martin, CF, R/R

  • 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.

28. Mark Malave, C/IF

  • 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.

27. Ivan Pineyro, RHP

  • 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.

Podcast with Brian Bedo of MiCubs


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  • Excellent job John and Brian.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Thank 44. Don't forget about Tim on the video as well. His stuff will continue to get better as he gets more original footage on bigger name prospects.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Goog job Tim!

  • Hard to believe that 2 or 3 years ago we could not name 35 prospects

  • In reply to emartinezjr:


  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed. It's a sign of the improving times for the organization.

    If a guy like Szczur is only coming out like the #30 guy in the organization,.... a guy that will likely end up 'somewhere' as at least a good defensive 4th OF,.... then you know there is no shortage of talent working it's way up.

    Still need that TOR guy to step up,... and some of the youngsters may be that TOR guy in a few years (especially like what I have read about Tseng) mayalready be somewhere in the system,.... but man it is fun to speculate about where some of these guys might top out.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Very true. Or at least they wouldn't be guys with realistic shots of making it. I could have probably gone to 50 or more with guys who have a realistic shot of making it in some kind of role.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Would Alcala have made a 50 list?

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    Possibly. He's an interesting hitter but want to get a clearer picture against better pitching and where he's going to end up defensively before I rank him. Difficult to evaluate a guy on DSL stats alone and I don't have good scouting info on him.

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    I remember the chorus of fans saying "We better not have to give up Trey McNutt or Chris carpenter as compensation for Theo."

    Trey McNutt. Brett Jackson. DJ LeMaheiu. That was about the best we had in our farm system. Now a guy like Dan Vocalburp can't even crack our top ten.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    It is a different system to be sure. Incredible that there were guys I wanted to add but just could not. I used to have the opposite problem.

  • You've broken your pattern by including Torres (and Jiminez) into your prospect rankings... kudos!

    I like Szczur, not sure why he's still getting turned around on balls directly at him. It's almost as if he's guessing at times. He's too fast and athletic to get his feet consistently crossed up like that. I wish he could spend an entire winter with Dave McKay one on one.

    I hope Malave doesn't out grow the catcher position. I like what I've heard about his skills there.

    Pinyero's 90mph FB plays up. When I saw him in Daytona last year, he could elevate it at 93 and blow it by hitters and the get whiffs on his 89mph 2-seamer at the knees.... I think his ceiling is a #4 with some refined command. But his floor could be Carlos Villanueva. But even if all we get is one year of middle relief from him, what a steal for Scott Hairston...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Szczur is just not a natural ballplayer. He doesn't get good reads defensively, and his swing is just a mess that robs him of any power. He doesn't use his lower half, often hits off his front foot, has no loft to his swing and essentially is just swinging with his wrists.

    He is a good enough athlete to overcome some of his defensive shortcomings, and he has worked to become a more patient hitter that hopefully allows him to compensate for his lack of power by getting on base enough. He has a chance as a 4th/5th OF but I don't see any starter potential in him.

    Looking forward to seeing Pineyro on MiLB.TV this year in Tennessee.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I agree, with your assessment. That's in line with Johns. He has always been more athlete than ballplayer. I guess my point is that as long as he's been in the system he should have shown more development to those parts of his game. Because he's had good coaching and those are correctable issues.

    I get he has a lack of instincts, but as an outsider looking in, I'm starting to question his "coachability"....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Szczur is very coachable. Some guys just don't have top instincts. It may be due in part to splitting so much time with football early on. It's hard to catch up. But as a grinder type he can still be an effective ballplayer.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not disagreeing with you. Just don't get why his footwork is still below so many High Schooler's I see...

  • I was hoping Matt would be ranked higher. I think he is one of those guys that will always compete at every level he reaches. It seems like he quietly moves through the system. I believe he can be a solid 4th outfielder and provide a manager with some late inning options with his defense, speed or ability to get a bunt down.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    You could definitely make a case for putting him higher. At this point, I believe he's a sure bet to make the majors and I think he's a solid bet to hold a decent role as either a 4th OF'er or maybe even as a starter on some teams. He's only lower because I leaned more toward upside and because there has been such a big infusion of talent the last 2 years.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This is phenomenal. The guy you rank as 30th you believe is a sure bet to make the majors.

    Could this have ever before been true in the history of the Cubs? I would think it fairly rare for any organization.

  • O/T (until we get to top of the prospect rankings) But Professor Parks had some positive thoughts from watching Baez/Almora/Bryant play yesterday.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yes, we'll link that for the game preview today.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Can you check the spam folder? I commented on this 10-15 mins before I linked the Parks article and it still isn't showing up. Thanks!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I just released it. Thanks for letting me know.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Sounds like Almora may have filled out his frame a little in the offseason. maybe even gotten taller too (not impossible for a 19 year old). His swing and bat control is already a thing of beauty. Even adding a little strength could mean a big difference for him and turn some of those doubles into HRs. Encouraging to hear.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I picked up on that when Parks mentioned it too. Which is a good thing as the 20HR's every year that gets tossed around with his name is mostly projection.

  • I was surprised to see Pineyro on the top 35 list. I thought you might find his ceiling too low, John

  • In reply to NathanE:

    I think his ceiling is relatively low (bottom of the rotation type), but I think he's a good bet to reach taht.

  • I think it is important to have szczur and guys like him to be on the bench so you dont have to spend starter money for bench players. Also getting that TOR starter sometimes can be gotten in more ways than people think. Sometimes luck in the later rounds of the draft, trades for other peoples prospects that might not be viewed as one or a two. The pitchers we have now in the minors might be that pitcher. It might click for blackburn,pierce johnson,underwood, and some under the radar international signing.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Agreed. I think if Szczur can hit a little bit he's going to stay in this league a long time.

  • Another great job. Loved the video, again.
    Other than Szczur, a lot of names I've heard but not seen.

  • In reply to couch:

    Thanks Couch!

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    Great stuff John! Thanks!

  • In reply to Andrue Weber:

    You're welcome and thankS!

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    Theo on the Score: "I'm shaking my head at the notion that we should make baseball decisions on giving fans a cookie. We're making the whole meal."

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Love it!

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Great answer !!!!

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Well said.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's an awesome response.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    I said this one twitter: it was the interview response of hanging a breaking ball to Baez.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    *interview equivalent

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Some fans aren't impressed with job Theo has done. I don't understand it because I think hes been great. It really is a good time to be a Cub fans.
    Can't say enough about these scouting reports and videos.

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    Cubs hire Ted Lilly as special assistant.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Good hire. Too bad we didn't let Lilly pitch in post season.

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    In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    We did. In 2007, he got lit up like a Times Square Christmas tree. Seven hits, four walks and six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. He also gave up six runs in 4 post season innings for the A's a few years prior to that. Combined, that probably weighed heavily into Lou's decision to use Dempster, Zambrano and Harden.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Wasn't that the game he slammed his glove down on the mound after giving up a HR?

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I was thinking 2008, when he was one of our best pitchers.

  • I was surprised that Matt Szczur was not called up last Sept. for a taste of the big leagues and as a reward for always giving 110% on the field. He was already on the 40 man roster. And we did run out of RH batters a couple of times.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I think he'll get the call this year - - if not sooner.

  • Welcome back, Ted Lilly. Seems like the perfect guy to be working with fellow finesse pitchers like Rusin, Raley, Jokisch, Zast...

  • Big fan of Martin. He could probably play a passable MLB caliber defense in CF right now. Down the road he could become a top level defender in CF.

    His athleticism, gangly build, and awkward/jerky swing remind me of a young Hunter Pence. Pence had a better feel for hitting (and a much higher ceiling at the plate), but Martin has better defensive instincts. Martin is a grinder, and while raw offensively, I think he is a guy that will manage to do just enough to fall into an ugly but effective category. He might become a Leonys Martin type that can save you runs with his defense and hopefully put up a 250/300/375 at the plate.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Interesting comps. I think he has a more fluid athleticism than Pence, who is strong and fast but a bit awkward in his movements. I can see him becoming a Leonys Martin type, hoping he can do better than that but there is a lot of work to do. Big year for him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He is more fluid than Pence in the field (Martin really does glide out there), but at the plate and on the basepaths I can't help but be reminded of Pence every time I see Martin. Gangly is the only way I can describe it. Pence is without doubt the physically stronger guy and Martin will never be able to match his power output in my mind.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I can see that. Martin still has some room to grow. Interesting guy. Could be an MLB starter or fizz out before AA.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If you were putting a toolsy, low-A CF on this list, I would have guessed at Shawon Dunston Jr. ahead of Trey Martin. Marc Hulett over at Fangraphs though had Martin on his top 15 before last year's down season, so some folks like him

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Dunston is definitely more refined at the plate at this point, but Martin has the higher ceiling and already has a MLB caliber skill going for him with his range in CF.

    Dunston has a nice approach, and is a good athlete, but his ceiling is probably a an average defensive CF with not enough offense to ideally profile in a corner if he doesn't cut it defensively. So he has a chance to be a starting CF, but everything has to go right. Whereas Martin, even if he struggles at the plate could still be a valuable starter because of his defense, and if he does figure out how to be even average offensively he would profile as an above average starting CF.

    Both guys are longshots in my mind, but I like Martin's ceiling better.

  • Good stuff guys! Too bad we cannot add Archie Bradley to the list. Saw him last night, 94-96, good sharp CB and generates a lot of power from a strong base and leg drive.

    Hey Hoosier, didn't you call a game where you were going to offer some observations on a SP? Or did I miss it?

  • In reply to Buzz:

    The pitcher (Foley) did not start.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    He didn't pitch. He through a 30-pitch BP, I caught part of it. Some nice run on his FB.

    I heard he was hitting 97 in his outing last week. He is starting in Districts on Friday and I am going to try to catch that game.

    He played DH last night. He's an impressive athlete. He handles the bat very well. They tried pitching around him, he went 1-2 with 2 BB's.

  • In that video, Torres has excellent extension at the plate, nice swing plane, and terrific balance. All from a 17 yo kid. I see why he was so highly regarded, and a SS to boot. You get all excited about that, then you show his smiling picture....with braces! Now THAT'S funny and a reminder of how far away some of these teenagers are from the bigs.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Agreed, good observations!

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    When I see the way the ball explodes out of Pineyro's hands from that vantage point, and then I realize he's considered a "soft-tosser" compared to some of the Cubs other pitching prospects, it makes me wonder how anyone can ever hit a major league fastball

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    I agree, when I saw him in Daytona last year; "soft tosser" wasn't how I would describe him. I get that he's not a prototypical power pitcher. But he's more than just smoke and mirrors too.

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