Top 35 Prospect Countdown: Looking at the 10th through 6th rated prospects

Top 35 Prospect Countdown: Looking at the 10th through 6th rated prospects
Pierce Johnson

After a bit of a hiatus, our top prospect countdown concludes with the final 10 over the next 2 days.  As I've said, I think you can make a good argument for the 11-15 prospects grabbing some of these spots, but there isn't a whole lot of doubt about who the Cubs top 7 prospects are at this point.

Today we have prospects 6-10 and tomorrow we'll wrap up the countdown with the top 5. As always we have video from Tim Sheridan of the great blog Boys of Spring.

In case you missed it, you can see the rest of the list here...

10. Paul Blackburn, RHP

  • 6'2", 185 lbs.
  • Age: 20
  • 2014 Level: Kane County (A)
  • 2013 Key Stats:  3.33 ERA (4.35 FIP), 7.43 K/9 IP; 5.67 BB/9 IP

If you go by the numbers there isn't a lot to get excited about Blackburn's last season, but it's always been about projection with the now 20 year old supplemental first round pick.  Blackburn was a skinny but athletic kid out of high school.  He had a polished delivery and showed an aptitude for pitching.  Last year Blackburn worked hard to put on about 30 lbs., so he's well above the listed weight of 185.  With the added strength came a bit more oomph in his fastball, reaching 95 early in the season before developing a tired arm.  I think some scouts saw Blackburn at the wrong time last year because he was really dominant at the beginning and end of the year, but struggled in between as he lost some velo and command.  What you have with Blackburn is an athletic, pitchability type guy who has the potential for average to above average stuff across the board.  Right now there isn't one particular thing that stands out, but he's a well-rounded pitcher who has a chance to be a #3 pitcher in a good rotation.

9. Dan Vogelbach, 1B, L/R

  • 6'0", 250 lbs.
  • Age: 21
  • 2014 Level: Daytona (High A)
  • 2013 Key Stats: 11.4% BB Rate/15.2% K rate; .364 OBP; 17 HRs, .450 slugging pct.

While Blackburn has put on weight, Vogelbach has done a remarkable job of shedding it.  The hope with Vogelbach is that it gives him more mobility on defense, something that is considered his weakness.  Vogelbach's game, however, is offense.  He has tremendous raw power and a surprisingly advanced approach for a young player.  He knows the strike zone well, will work counts and draw walks -- and he's improved his approach with 2 strikes.  I noticed Vogelbach working more to LF last year and an improved ability to stay alive with 2 strikes, sometimes fouling off good pitcher's pitches.  The weight loss isn't expected to affect his power numbers as Vogelbach will make up for the loss in mass with more flexibility/fluidity.  Even at his reported 220 lbs., Vogelbach is still as strong as a bull.

8. Mike Olt, 3B, R/R

  • 6'2", 210 lbs.
  • Age: 25
  • 2014 Level: Cubs (MLB)
  • 2013 Key Stats: .209 ISO, 13.1% BB rate, 33.2% K rate (with TX)

Olt suffered through a nightmarish 2013 after getting hit by a pitch in the offseason, suffering a concussion, and then getting those symptoms exacerbated by recurring eye allergies.   The Cubs think they have the vision issue straightened out and Olt responded with an excellent spring, beating the odds and making the Opening Day roster.   The ranking assumes he's healthy and when that is the case, Olt has big time power, a good approach at the plate, and above average defense.  He has a long swing and good vision or not, he's always going to strikeout and more than likely won't be better than a .270 hitter, but the other skills can more than make him an above average regular at the hot corner.

7. Pierce Johnson, RHP

  • 6'3", 175 lbs.
  • Age: 22
  • 2014 Level: Tennessee (AA)
  • Key 2013 Stats: 6-1, 2.22 ERA (2.95 FIP), 9.25/3.88 K/BB ratio at Daytona; 2.98 FIP,  9.56/.284  at Kane Cunty

Johnson was the supplemental 1st round pick the Cubs were given when they lost Aramis Ramirez.  The Cubs had him on their top 25 board and were surprised he was still available.  Johnson had some forearm issues that scared some teams off but for now it appears it as just a minor injury.  Johnson is a power pitcher who adds and subtracts to his fastball, mostly working in the low 90s but reaching 96 when needed.  He supplements that fastball with a plus power curve that is a swing and miss pitch and what projects to be at least a solid average change.  The stuff is worthy of a #2 starter but Johnson's command is just average, so he may just profile as a #3 when all is said and done.  Johnson has yet to pitch in 2014 due to a minor hamstring issue but he's working his way back and should be starting at Tennessee in the very near future.

>6. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, S/R

  • 5'10", 170 lbs.
  • Age: 22
  • 2014 Level: Iowa (AAA)
  • 2013 Key Stats:  10.9% walk rate; .352 OBP; .180 ISO; .803 OPS; 31 for 37 SBs

As you can see from the stat summary above, Alcantara is a dynamic, all-around offensive player with excellent speed, a solid approach, and surprising strength. He's a quick-twitched athlete and that manifests itself with his range, foot speed, and fast hands. Adding to his all-around skills, Alcantara is a capable switch-hitter who is more proficient from the left side right now, but that is due in part to having a lot more reps from the left side. He'll strike out a bit but not enough to be a huge issue -- but it may also mean he won't hit for a high average. Additionally, he's an aggressive hitter despite the good walk rates and while I see him drawing some walks at the big league level, I don't think he'll be an OBP machine. What I think he'll be is a guy who contributes in all facets of the game -- but without one dominant skill. Need a stolen base, a HR, a baserunner, a great play in the field? Alcantara will do it all but I don't think he'll do any one thing at a plus-plus level. I think what you'll have is an exciting, all-around player who can find a way to help you win in multiple ways.


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    Even if the SPs don't pan out in the rotation the bullpen should be strong for a long time. I cant wait for the waves to continue to hit Iowa. Also Chicago is going to get crowded next season or Iowa will just be the Cubs 1B team.

  • Excellent list, John. It's surreal that a guy like Olt is only our No. 8 prospect -- and yet he stands an excellent shot at becoming an every day 3B with a long career in the majors, slow start notwithstanding.

    I guess the only suspense for the final installment of this series is the order. My guess is that Edwards' good start in Tenn, plus Soler's injury has helped you sort out 4 and 5. I know you're crazy about Almora, so maybe he has a chance to beat Bryant out of the No. 2 slot, but I think Bryant's combo of power and OB skills give him the edge. I predict you'll go with:

    5. Soler
    4. Edwards
    3. Almora
    2. Bryant
    1. Baez

  • In reply to Taft:

    Thanks. Olt had enough questions where I didn't want to put him any higher -- but it's easy to forget he was at Kris Bryant level as far as rankings just 2 years ago. I believe BA had him at 22.

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    I get the argument that they still have to perform but to acquire two guys with top 10 potential in a system as strong as the Cubs' for 2 months of Matt Garza is a big win. Hopefully we add some TOR guys with this draft and we're in real good shape in 2015.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'm with Mr. Moody on this one - the one place where organically I don't see the answer yet from our farm is with legitimate TOR prospects. However there is nobody on John's 6-15 that I wouldn't mind packaging up for a multi-player trade for a TOR guy. I still think Shark could be a legitimate #2 guy in the NL, and I think we'll have plenty of options both organic and FA for #3-5, but right now only path I can see to get our hands on a legitimate #1 would be through a very expensive trade or FA process.

    Who knows, maybe Mr. Edwards or Vizcaino will prove me wrong in the meantime?

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    In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    I saw Edwards for the first time last night. Even with a bit of a bumpy outing (though his defense did him no favors) you could the stuff was there. I don't know how anyone can hit his good breaking pitch. With him it's going to be 100% about stamina.

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    Olt still listed as a prospect?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    yes, prior to this year, he only had 40 MLB PA's in his career.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    If they're still eligible for Rookie status, then they are still a "prospect"... Per MLB Rules:

    Determining rookie status:
    A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).

    Olt had accumulated 40 PA's (33 AB's) over 16 games in Sept of 2012 with the Rangers...

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Yes, per MLB rules and my own criteria.

  • Great piece again guys! Boy, now that Dan Vogelbach has lost a bunch of his baby fat, one can observe the size of his muscles. What a monster with sweet swing. He runs pretty good as well. Blackburn is really intriguing too and Alcantera is combination of talent any organization wish that they had.

  • The thing that popped into my head when I read about Alcantara is that he seems like a more polished and consistent Junior Lake who is smaller and plays IF not OF.

  • O/T, but per AZ Phils recap from yesterday... can't be good, right?

    RHRP Kyuji Fujikawa saw his first game action since undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery (TJS) last May. The veteran closer started the game on Field #6, and was only able to retire one batter (F-8) before leaving the game in the middle of an AB (3-2 count) on the fourth hitter he faced. (He allowed a single and surrendered a walk to the other two hitters). Fujikawa called the trainer, the pitching coach, and his translator out to the mound after his 18th pitch of the inning (a wild pitch), and then after a short discussion, he left the game.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    yeesh. um, no, can't be good.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Welp, it seemed like a good signing at the time.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I was hoping that between Arietta and Fuji coming back soon we'd be able to dispense with Veras somehow.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I think it may be more like Arrieta and Vizcaino.

  • Drooling over prospects just never gets old. Can't wait for graduation so the ranks can be replenished. There are some good things happening at all levels of the minors right now. The question I like to think about is who will be the next guy to take a leap forward. Some guys like Balaguert, Rademacher, Hanneman.....Malave is one I have been thinking of. If he can settle in at catcher he seems to have a nice approach at the plate and has already shown his versatility around the infield defensively. Bruno has started slow this season in Tennessee but seems to be able to hit in his sleep so I'm not worried about him yet. Also a very versatile type who looks to me to have a floor of super sub with a good stick. But......what do I know anyway. Im just having fun with this.

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    I think Baez's regression in terms of his patience is a real issue. I know he has a history of starting slow at each new level, but can he combine his aggressive approach with just the right amount of plate discipline? I'm not so sure, and if he can't, he's going to be streaky along the lines of Soriano.

    Right now, my top five would be 1. Bryant; 2. Baez; 3. Almora; 4. Edwards; 5. Soler.

    I'm liking Almora more and more, I just wish I could envision a higher ceiling. The injuries are really off-putting with Soler. He's pretty much off my radar at the moment.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Of course you could be right about Baez, but he has seemed to be able to adjust well after starting like this in both A+, and AA. Not sure regression is the proper word to use here since he has no baseline to regress from at AAA.

  • Baez just needs his time in AAA. One can't cheat on experience and maturity. Pay me now or pay me later.

  • My top 5 are Almora, Bryant, Baez, Edwards and then Solar although I would put AA ahead of him.

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