Post-Trade Update: Cubs Top 20 Prospects

Post-Trade Update: Cubs Top 20 Prospects
Addison Russell

I made a midseason list earlier this month (1-6, 7-15, and fast risers), so I won't get into two much detail, but I feel I at least need to update the list considering the Cubs got two top prospects in return for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Addison Russell is among the top prospects in all of baseball and Bill McKinney is looking like he may have a legit corner OF bat, which is to say he has the potential to hit in the middle of a good lineup someday.

We also now officially have the entire draft class in tow, though two of the highest profile picks, 2nd rounder RHP Jake Stinnett and 6th round overslot RHP Dylan Cease have yet to pitch.  In Cease's case, he may not pitch until this time next season at the earliest.  They will not make this list in part due to that and because this is simply a loaded system.

Two prospects, Kyle Schwarber and Mark Zagunis, have hit the ground running, particularly Schwarber, who is already helping lead the 2nd half surge at Daytona.  Zagunis is showing a great line drive bat and an advanced approach at Boise, but questions about his long term position and power have him just missing the cut this time around.  That could change after this next offseason.

There are some slight changes from the last time, as I have some additional information and opinion as well as confirmation as to what I was hoping I was seeing earlier in the year.

I will just have brief explanations here since we already covered that ground and this is intended only to be an update.

1. Kris Bryant, 22, 3B, AAA, Iowa

Nothing has changed here.  He has dominated every league after a very small adjustment period.  His 3B defense has continued to improve and he is good enough to stay there if the Cubs move one of their 3 shortstops.  He has the highest floor in the system and ranks only behind Javier Baez and possibly Jorge Soler in terms of pure ceiling.  It looks like he will hit .280-.290 with plenty of walks and 35 HR power.

2. Javier Baez, 21, SS-2B, AAA, Iowa

He is the top player in the system in terms of ceiling, but there is  a bit more risk involved here.  After another slow start to a new league, Baez has adjusted nicely.  Over the last 2 months, covering 231 PAs, Baez has hit .299/.347/.564 with 12 HRs.  He has done a better job of understanding how pitchers are approaching him.  He's taking more pitches and working counts.  His walk rate is just below 8%, which is solid, but the biggest impact has been in his ability to wait for pitchers to make a mistake he can launch into the ozone.

3. Addison Russell, 20, SS, AA Tennessee

You can't judge Russell by his numbers this year, as he has battled hamstring injuries, has missed most of the season, and is still adjusting to a new organization as well as being among the youngest players in AA.  Russell excites scouts because of his great hands, both in the field and at the plate.  Compared to Barry Larkin by some for his well-rounded set of skills, he is the best defensive SS in the system and has the ability to hit for average and power, though not to the same level of power as the first two players on this list.  He may outgrow SS, so the Cubs will probably wait before committing to him there long term, but even if he doesn't stick, he has the bat to profile as an offensive 3B.

4. Arismendy Alcantara, 22, 2B-CF, Chicago

The Cubs haven't promised that Alcantara will stay in the majors, in large part because they prefer him to learn CF outside the big league spotlight.  He is a fast-twitched player with dynamite in his wrists despite a rather slender build.  He has easy extra-base power to all fields, the speed to steal bases, and the approach to get on base at a solid clip.  His athleticism should help him pick up CF and it shouldn't be long before he's a permanent fixture at the top of the Cubs lineup.

5. Albert Almora, 20, CF, A+, Daytona

Almora's ability to play top caliber defense at a premium position raises his floor to the point where I decided to rank him above a more talented player in Jorge Soler as well as a highly advanced bat like Kyle Schwarber.  Almora is a pretty good hitter in his own right,  Almora has dealt with personal issues as well as having to adjust to the FSL, a tough hitters league. despite limited experience in pro ball so far.  On top of that he has worked on cutting down his leg kick and like Starlin Castro, has worked on taming an aggressive approach.  After a rough adjustment period, he has hit a solid .294/.317/.429 with 5 HRs over his last 240 PAs.  He will have to continue to hone his approach, but the bat to ball skills (11.7% K rate) are there for Almora to hit .300 and he has enough pop to hit double digit HRs.  That may not be a star but, considering his ability to prevent runs about as well as he can produce them,  this is potentially a good player you can write into a playoff caliber lineup day in and day out.

6.  Jorge Soler, 22, OF, AA, Tennessee

He fell off the radar for some because of his frustrating inability to stay healthy but Soler is so gifted that he can step in and seemingly pick up where he left off.  He has explosive hands and bat speed and a surprisingly mature approach for a player who has missed so much development time.  Circumstances have dictated that Soler isn't going to follow the Cubs ideal development path but he may have enough talent to overcome that until he can rack up more experience on the fly.  That said, the Cubs will probably use every ounce of time they have left with him to maximize his development at the minor league level.  He's an extra base machine with 30+ HR power and a good overall approach to hitting,  Defensively he has the rifle arm to profile in RF.  But despite the tremendous ability, I still have to hedge my bets here until he shows he can sustain performance over the grind of a long season.

7. Kyle Schwarber, 21, OF-C, A+, Daytona

It's ridiculous that I have to rank Schwarber 7th but that is because the talent in this system makes it difficult to place him any higher,  Given he has the least experience and the most uncertain defensive value of the top 7, he draws the short straw here.  But this is not to say he isn't potentially a high level offensive player who will provide OBP and power in the middle of a playoff caliber lineup.    An advanced approach and power to all fields to go with underrated athleticism give him a pretty high floor and as one scout told me, even if he hits .280 with 25 HRs in LF, which he saw as very likely, he can be an inexpensive but valuable, productive asset in your lineup -- and there is a chance he can do much better than that.  I have no qualms if people want to shuffle 5-7 here, as they are all one tier down from the elite top 3, but this is how I see it at this point and I will need to see bigger samples from Almora, Soler, and Schwarber before I change this up.

8. Jen-Ho Tseng, 19, RHP, A, Kane County

It's really impossible for me to think of a reason not to rank Tseng at the top of the list when it comes to Cubs pitching prospects.  He is excelling as a 19 year old in a full season league.  He has shown fastball (90-94) command and has flashed one of the best breaking balls in the system.  Add a feel for pitching, makeup, and poise on the mound and you have the whole package.  Once the Cubs feel confident that he is physically mature enough to handle a MLB load, he will be in the major league rotation as long as he is healthy.  That could be as soon as 2 years from now.

9. CJ Edwards, 22, RHP, AA,Tennessee

Edwards will return to the mound sometime next week as the Cubs are understandably being cautious with shoulder inflammation.  Only time -- and lots of it -- can help bring that down.  When healthy, Edwards pitches in the 92-94 range with great life and a curveball that is more consistent at this point than Tseng's.   He has perhaps the best one-two punch of any starter in the system right now and the only question with him is whether he can handle the load to be a starter at the big league level.  It may be unfair to knock a player down because of injury but I think considering his ability to handle a load was one of Edward's ability to handle the day to day grind, then it is warranted here.  If healthy, you could make the argument he has more raw ability than Tseng.

10. Bill McKinney, 19, OF, A+, Daytona

The fact that he is not just holding his own, but his ability to control the strike zone in a pitcher's league at age 19 speaks volume as to McKinney's natural feel for hitting.  He doesn't have one outstanding tool, but as a hitter he is above average across the board in terms of the ability to hit for average, power, and get on base it all plays together to make an everyday bat at a corner position.  He is a solid athlete and should defend well, but his fringe average arm may relegate him to LF.

11. Pierce Johnson, 23, RHP, Tennessee

When I last saw Johnson, he appeared to be working on fastball command (92-94) and his cut fastball, which he throws in the high 80s.  I didn't see much of the power curveball I saw in 2013 but there appears to be an emphasis on fastball command in the organization right now, perhaps taking a page from the Cardinals playbook.  When he is throwing his curve, Johnson has the stuff of a 2/3 starter but questions about his command may push him down to a #4 type starter in a good rotation.

12. Kyle Hendricks, 24, RHP, Chicago

Hendricks is back in the majors, probably for good this time so this will be his last appearance on any prospect list.  Hendricks works 90-91, touches 93 but his biggest assets are command and pitchability.  It helps plays up average stuff across the board, giving him a ceiling as a #4 starter who can work efficiently and eat up innings.

13. Arodys Vizcaino, 23, RHP, AAA

Vizcaino has stumbled of late as the grind of a full season may have caught up to him after missing 2 seasons.  We can probably chalk that up to a dead arm period for him, but when he is on Vizcaino is the pitcher with the best fastball (up to 98) and breaking ball (power curve) in the system.  Add solid command and a changeup he can use to keep hitters honest and he really is a starter who is only in the bullpen because of durability concern.  That gives him the potential to be a lights out closer.

14. Paul Blackburn, 20, RHP, A, Kane County

Blackburn is one of the more complete pitchers on the Cubs staff, but like Hendricks, lacks that pure velo and one wipeout pitch that would make him a top of the rotation candidate.  What he does do well is throw strikes and show an advanced feel for pitching.  He flashed mid 90s velo at Boise last year but that appears to be an outlier.  Blackburn figures to eventually pitch in the low 90s with a solid curve, and change with the command and feel to make it all play up.  He is a good bet to compete for a rotation spot, though his ceiling may be more of a #4 than a mid-rotation type.

15. Duane Underwood, 19, RHP, Kane County

Staying on the theme of the importance of fastball command, nobody has come further in this respect than Underwood.  He has some of the best arm speed in the system and pitches 92-94 early in the game before tapering off as the game progresses.  That is to be expected from a teenage pitcher in a full season league.  As one scout told me, "Think about this is if he was in college.  He would be throwing once a week with greater recovery time and would likely be showing more consistent velocity"  So we expect that consistency to come he matures.  The same thing goes for his curve as he begins to throw it more and more as he develops.  Right now the Cubs are focused on FB command, figuring they can shift to his breaking ball and change as that primary skill becomes proficient.

16. Eloy Jimenez, 17, OF, R, Arizona

A tremendous physical specimen at 6'4", 205 lbs., Jimenez could be the next big thing in this system 3 years from now as the first and 2nd waves hit Wrigley and he gains experience.  He is obviously far away, so a lot of things can go wrong between now and then, but his ceiling is tremendous and he is more polished than you might think.  The Cubs obviously thought enough of him to have him skip the DSL and come stateside.  And they aren't hiding him. He's hitting in the middle of the lineup at Rookie-Level Arizona.  What is impressive about Jimenez is that despite the great raw power, he isn't some huge hulking mass taking uppercuts from this heels.  His bat stays in the zone a long time, creating an ability to make consistent contact -- something that is in part illustrated by a 13.7% K rate.  That is especially impressive in a league where he is among the youngest players, often having to face recently drafted college pitchers.  He has also shown improving ability to take pitches and I expect that to improve with experience.

17. Dan Vogelbach, 21, 1B, A+ Daytona

Vogelbach has one of the best bats in the system, showing a good approach, a solid hit tool, and tremendous raw power.  He has lost a considerable amount of weight as he looks to improve his defense, but he lacks the athleticism to play anywhere else.  In other words, Vogelbach's bat is going to have to carry him, which hurts his ranking in a system this deep.  But Vogelbach should hit and if he continues to do so, then things will take care of themselves one way or the other.  He has shown the strong makeup to get every ounce out of his ability as well as the work ethic to shore up weaknesses.

18. Rob Zastryzny, 22, LHP, A+ Daytona

Don't worry about the numbers yet.  Like Underwood, this is about development first -- and again, that starts with fastball command.  Specifically, Zastryzny is looking to keep his 91-93 FB down in the zone.  It is good velocity and the 2nd round pick has been throwing strikes and missing bats all season.  He still has work to do, however, as he can get burned when he leaves his pitches up in the zone, but he has shown flashes of being a very effective LH starter.  His change is ahead of his breaking ball right now and he will likely start to develop that breaking ball more next season. When we say not to worry about numbers below the AA level, Zastryzny's development plan is a prime example as to why you should take them with a grain of salt.

19. Gleyber Torres, 17, SS, R, Arizona

One of the more polished hitters for his age, Torres shows a line drive stroke and an advanced approach that he has been able to sustain against older pitchers.  Torres doesn't have the upside that Jimenez does, but he has the potential to be a plus offensive player at a premium position.  Some question whether he has enough athleticism to stick at SS as he matures physically but for the time being, the fundamentally sound Torres is looking like a good bet to stay there.

20. Trevor Clifton, 19, RHP, A-, Boise

I may be aggressive with this ranking but I think Clifton has the best chance to enter that next echelon with Tseng, Edwards, and Johnson as well-rounded power pitchers.  Clifton is 91-93 right now but with his age and room to add on to his frame, that could increase in time.  He shows the ability to spin a breaking ball but as a scout told me, they have really cleaned up some of the delivery concerns that caused him to slip to the 13th round in last year's draft.  The Cubs scouted him well, including his willingness to work hard and take to coaching.  An optimistic ranking now, but a pitcher I think Cubs fans should keep an eye on.



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  • The ridiculous thing about our talent level is that McKinney comes in at #10 and was Oaklands #2 prospect. I can see him and a couple others ranked after him ending up on BA's top 100 list at the end of the season if they continue playing like they have....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think what is really ridiculous in it is that John probably has him to high. I do not think that he has the time in at +A ball to say he is a top 10 prospect over Johnson.

    I would also have Torres and Jimenez higher with Hendricks and Blackburn being a little lower on my list. Both of those guys should be right about Top15 just because of their approach and the polish they have shown as 17 year olds in Rookie ball.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    I disagree, I think John has him ranked about right.

    But right now, Torres and Jimenez are all about projection. Stats in Rookie ball mean nothing. While just playing at that level vs the DSL at age 17 is quite the accomplishment, McKinney's success at A+ at age 19 is pretty significant too. If either is having the same level success at age 19 in the FSL then great! Where would they be ranked then? probably higher than top 10 because they have louder tools, but McKinneys bat is special and he looks to be a CF miscast as a RF with a LF's arm. But his bat will profile in the Corner OF.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    A 19 year old handling an advanced pitchers league is pretty impressive. I could buy an argument to put Johnson at #10, but it wouldn't be ridiculous either way.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    He's only a year out of high school; he's 14 months removed from Plano H.S. Prom Night! Handling A+ at that age is impressive.....

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    So, McKinney too high because of not enough time at A+, but Jimenez and Torres should be higher while only being 17 in rookie ball.

    Got it.

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    In reply to Theo Epstein:

    LOL. No and at the same time Yes? I meant that because of tools in the kit and polish Torres and Jimenez should be higher than the end of the top 20. McKinney to me looks like a tweener. He just has not did anything yet that says ok his bat can play at a corner. Like Hoosier said for me his tools just do not speak loud enough to be above Johnson.

    I think it is real close mind you. It might be because MLB put him as our number 9 prospect with in a day of the trade and I thought that was too high.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    We need to be consistent here. Johnson's tools aren't particularly loud either. Neither are Torres'. I have a pretty good idea about how these guys based on my conversations. No way, no how do Torres tools justify a leap into the top 10. He's a polished hitter, much like McKinney, but he is having less success at a much lower level. And he has limited athleticism and may move to 2B,s o that makes him a tweener too, especially since he projects for less power than you want from your 2Bs. Johnson is a tweener in the sense that he has mid rtation stuff with bottom of the rotation command right now. They're all pretty much average tools across the board types for their respective positoons, but Johnson's age to level ratio is the best of the 3.


  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    Rich, I've seen McKinney, in person (DCubs), and he has a very advanced bat for a 19 yr old. And, way too early to call him a tweener. Theo & Jed made a very good call in having him included in the trade with Oakland. The kid can hit and has the potential (and bidy type) to add the power needed to play/stay as a corner OFer. Don't understand why you're down on him.

  • damn, we are loaded.

  • OMG @ all that talent!

  • What is Tseng's ceiling? Could he end up as a TOR starter, or is a 3 or 4 type guy more realistic?

  • In reply to MendyMania:

    I think 3 is a realistic outcome, but I wouldn't place that on him yet. He is still just 19 and has a lot of room to get better.

  • In reply to MendyMania:

    There are a few scouts that see a TOR arm. His FB, Slider, and Knuckle-Curve are all plus or potentially plus offerings and while his Change-up is still a work in progress, it can be considered a MLB avg pitch with a little more refinement.

    The biggest obstacle he has to overcome is the stamina/workload questions.

  • No Corey Black?

  • In reply to Sweet Swing:

    He is a reliever to me and unless you are filthy like Vizcaino, then RPs generally don't make the top 20.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, any updates on Ivan Pinyero?

  • In reply to SalukiHawk:

    Haven't heard anything lately. Could be a lost season for him. He's a finesse guy so maybe he won't get affected to much by the injury. The bad news is that it is a forearm strain, which is often a precursor to the torn UCL and TJS. Cubs have been very conservative with pitcher injuries, and understandably so. We will have to see how he comes out of this.

  • A murder's row if they all succeed. Should be fun to watch. There will be someone who doesn't make it. There will be someone or two that gets traded.

    John, what's your opinion on lineup balance from each side of the plate and does that have any priority with this FO? In a game that celebrates 30% success as a hitter does handedness mean as much?

  • No love for Will Remillard? He's a defensive whiz behind the plate that seems like he'll hit enough to live at the bottom of a major league lineup.

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    In reply to Myles:

    Not yet Miles. In some teams tops 20 he would be a top 10 prospect but the Cubs just have way too much talent between where he is at and the front. He should be listed about 20-25 range.

  • In reply to Myles:

    I don't know if he's a defensive whiz. One of the better, if not the best defensive catcher in the Cubs system, but he was in my top 30, not top 20. Good ptoential with the bat. I've been on Remillard early and often, since well before the season started. so I know him well, but I think he is just outside this group for now. A strong finish could put him there going into next season. He is close, but not quite there yet.

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    I love that we're starting to see the cream of the 2012 crop of HS pitchers move up the lists.

    Then about the fast moving college arms in 2013... I love that we're starting to see the cream of the 2012 crop of HS pitchers move up the lists.

  • I think the 10-20 guys are better than our top ten when Theo took over. It is amazing how much talent they have acquired in under 3 years.

  • Indeed, potentially the guys from 23-30 are probably better than the guys who were 3-10 when Theo took over.

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    WOW! We ARE loaded....John, It would be fun to compare this list to the top 20 list when Theo and Jed first came aboard in the Fall of 2011.

  • In reply to Bob from Salem:

    It's kind of scary actually... lol

    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

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    from the BA link above:

    PROJECTED 2015
    Catcher Geovany Soto
    First Base Dan Vogelbach
    Second Base Zeke DeVoss
    Third Base Javier Baez
    Shortstop Starlin Castro
    Left Field Josh Vitters
    Center Field Matt Szczur
    Right Field Brett Jackson
    No. 1 Starter Matt Garza
    No. 2 Starter Andrew Cashner
    No. 3 Starter Trey McNutt
    No. 4 Starter Dillon Maples
    No. 5 Starter Dae-Eun Rhee
    Closer Carlos Marmol

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That's why we never do projected lineups here unless it is a year or two ahead :)

    Things can change in a hurry!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I bet that BA admits they are wild guesses, and that excercise is more for fun than anything else

  • In reply to Zonk:

    They do.

  • Just thinking about how much the new regime has improved our farm system. Jackson and Vitters don't even sniff this list.

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    I have a Cubby chubby ;-)

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    I agree with this list, and there are some notable absences:

    Jemeir Candelario: Pre-season 10-12 range on most lists
    Christian Villanueva: Ditto
    Corey Black: Was in most lists top-20.....tough call, has looked like a reliever until his last two starts, which were fabulous
    Armando Rivero: Tough to put a reliever too high, but he looks pretty ML-ready; high floor
    Stephen Bruno: Fading after hot start
    Dallas Beeler: Low ceiling, but high floor; I wondered if he would sneak into bottom of list

  • In reply to Zonk:

    These are all good players. I think Black is a reliever no matter what happens based on his profile, but I think he can really take off in that role. The fact that he has made it this far as a starter speaks to his ability.

  • Based on early returns, I don't think Theo, Jed, and Hason are at all remorseful about loading up in IFA last year knowing they'd have to take this year off.

    Jimenez seems like he could be a beast - I know he's young and has a long development path, but 17 yr olds shouldn't have 14% K rates in the AZ rookie league

  • In reply to JasonB:

    I am most impressed with that K rate too, I think. Coming from a power hitter like that, at that age and already in the states, that is really encouraging. But in the end it is his overall talent that has everyone excited. He is a baby monster right now, scary to think what he might be when he is full grown.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I suppose it's too early for me to throw a baby Miggy tag on him? :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    J. Soler

  • I honestly think this would have been my top 20, not in the same order but the same players. Might have thrown Paniagua in there but no qualms from me. God, this system is loaded

  • I can never figure out if it's really excellent or sort of pathetic that, on a gorgeous Saturday in July, there are over 30 comments to a post about the Cubs minor league system!! Present company included btw!! Wink

  • That is an exciting and explosive position player list. What ifs but if Soler could stay healthy, I don't think it would be too much to have him 2-4 spot???
    We haven't heard much from vogelbach this year. Last year a lot if ppl were thinking he can take over 1st cause rizzo was struggling.
    One thing that worries me are the pitchers on the list or fact that better projected arms are in A ball and Edwards is a concern He needs to be healthy!!!

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I wouldn't worry too much about the pitchers. The FO has made the calculation that hitters are a better gamble, and are probably not counting on any of these guys carrying a pitching staff. I think the pitchers that lead our next playoff team are going to be trade acquisitions and free agent signings. If any of these minor league starters develop it'll be a really nice bonus.

    Besides, we may not need pitching. Our 2016 lineup should average 12 runs a game.

  • In reply to djriz:

    We will need multiple young, cost controlled arms to fill out the BP and the 4-5 spots in the rotation. This is why they've attacked the shortage in volume.

    Some will, some won.t some will get hurt, some will get traded...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Oh, I agree. I'm just saying that if these guys become TOR guys, it's just gonna be a bonus. I have no problem with what the FO's plan is.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    A healthy Edwards would be a tremendous boost. Would like to see him finish strong and then get some more rest this offseason.

  • Not sure if this has been posted yet or not, but Dave Cameron of FanGraphs created a top-50 "trade value" player list, and there is only two Chicago Cubs on that list, one of whom is Kris Bryant, who is at #29, ahead of players like Pedroia, Wright, Cano, Fernandez, Teheran.

    The bigger surprise, however, is Anthony Rizzo, who is at #12, which is amongst the elite players in the MLB (the biggest surprise on the list is Salvador Perez at #7).

    Starlin Castro, who has a pretty friendly contract, is not on this list, and someone asked Dave why he doesn't have him ranked. His response?:

    "He projects as roughly a league average player and he’s guaranteed $40 million over the next five years. There’s just not that much value there."

    I strongly disagree with that statement. STRONGLY. Three-time all-star by the age of 24, hitting a decent .275 with a .325 OBP clip, on pace for a career year in regards to power, and is improving defensively does not warrant a "league average player" in value. $40 mil over the next five years is a bargain to me at that rate.

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    I agree with you in that I think he is clearly better than an average player but until he proves he can be well above average, than that contract does limit his value a little. I think Cameron sometimes can be conservative when it comes to projections on players. I guarantee you he didn't see this kind of year coming from Castro because none of the computer models projected it, so I take that with a grain of salt. I think we have to see how Castro continues to progress. He is 24 and obviously still learning, so I am not sure his projection has stabilized yet.

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    Good call. Cameron is wrong on Castro. Castro has matured dramatically over the last year and stardom is right around the corner.

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    That list seems pretty subjective to me. While it includes projected WAR, there's really no basis or calculation for the rankings. In addition, they used projected WARs, which don't even really make a whole lot a sense. Rizzo has a 3.2 WAR currently, but only has a projected 3.3 WAR. While he homered twice yesterday, there's still no way the projection should be that low. At the same time, even using these projections, Rizzo provides a better WAR/$ ratio than Tulowitski (both being signed through 2021), even though Tulowitski is ranked higher.

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    In reply to Average Samaritan:

    I like Cameron's work; his comment was not exactly correct, but I have no problem with Castro not appearing on this list. He grades out right now at about a 3-WAR player, give or take, and if you figure he doesn't regress a ton, that's about $9 mil a year for next 5 years, for 3 WAR. Not bad, but not an amazing bargain either.

    I have no problem with Castro not appearing on the list

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    I somewhat agree with Cameron regarding his assessment of Castro in not warranting inclusion on his list. The 3.0 projected annual WAR value of Starlin is not quite elite, but is definitely a bargain for 5/$40M. Being a 3-time all-star is nice but not really a measurable stat to base trade value from... it is definitely a selling point for some fans to be sure.

    Now Rizzo is another matter entirely. His contract is even better than Castro's and his current 3.2 WAR for 2014 screams elite talent. If Arrieta continues to pitch as he has this season I would think Cameron should include him on his list for 2015.

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    In reply to Average Samaritan:

    Also, if you guys haven't, check out the Anti-Trade Value article:

    Unfortunately, all these contracts are in the American League. I thought Ryan Howard or Carl Crawford would make the list, but there's too few years left on their deals I guess.....

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    Average, it is important to note that the list is using, I might argue heavily, future performance computer models. I think you are right on this one, and time will prove you right. It is best to look at that as just a fun list. Nobody can see the the future including computer models, as Cubs fans we know some of what went into a down year for Castro last year, but a cpu model treats it as a big data point.

    Also, defensive metrics have come a long way in the past few years, but they are far from perfect and IMO Castro's defense is underrated for the errors. His range factor is in the top 10 in baseball and he continues to improve. He is at worst a league avg defender at this point, at worst.

  • Two questions for you John.

    1 - If Soler had been healthy this whole season and done well enough to be promoted to Iowa like KB was, would be be ranked higher? Another way to ask the question would be is he held back in your rankings because of his injuries alone?

    2 - It appears I am the last remaining hope on Vizcaino becoming a starter in 2016. Some people talk about stretching Neil Ramirez out, heck even Rondon, but nobody talks any more about Vizcaino. Why? Yes, I know the elbow injuries, but guys come back from that all the time. Ramirez and now even Edwards are coming back from shoulder injuries which are now much more serious. So with a dearth of TOR type talent, why is this possibility no longer even a possibility?

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I think the extra development and a healthy year where he produced from beginning to end would have pushed him ahead of Almora for me and probably Alcantara too.

    I wouldn't count on Arodys starting anytime soon and probably not at all according to those I have talked to.

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    Sweet. It is a very impressive list. Pitchers are going to come down with mysterious illnesses before their scheduled starters vs. the Cubs! I can't wait until 2015. Completely tanking three seasons and trading away nearly every quality player has proven to be a great way to accumulate top-tier prospects. Now let's see them prove they can win a World Series. I might be in the minority, but I want to start paying attention the the big league squad, not the prospects!

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I think we are all looking forward to seeing these guys at the big league level and it will happen next year, probably very early in the season. We are almost there, just add some solid veterans this offseason, bring up Baez, Bryant in May to go with Alcantara and they will be on their way. Add Soler, Russell soon after. It's coming. I'd rather not wait. It will get better in a hurry, just not this season.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John - I think you are right. I see this team going from 90+ losses to 90+ wins quickly! The amount of talent is ridiculous.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    The biggest question is who is going to be in the starting rotation by Mid 2015?

    Assuming that some FA pitcher(s) are not brought in - it's looking like Arrieta, Wood, E. Jackson (yikes!), Hendricks and one from among Beeler, Strailey, Wada, or a reclamation project FA in 2015.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I don't see how you can assume no FA pitchers. This FO has signed FA pitchers, our depth is weak there, we have a TON of money to spend, and the FO is indicating the worst of the rebuild is behind us, so a protected pick this year would be a big reason to go after a FA arm. All arrows point to the Cubs being a major player in the FA pitching market, and even making a big splash.

  • In reply to bleedblue:

    bleedblue,.... Umm,... that's exactly the point i was getting at by making the statement that "assuming that some FA's pitchers are not brought in",.... That the rotation is looking very weak unless they do so was my point.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I get your point then. It reads as if we assume there are no moves, that seems almost impossible, but what you are saying is, what pitchers do we get to finish this puzzle? That makes sense, just didn't read it that way the first time around.

  • Great work as usual John.

    I know Zastryzny is a lefty, but right now, I'd probably rank Paniagua and Stinnett above him. I just haven't seen enough from him this year to warrant placement on the list.

  • In reply to cubsdude74:

    Stinnett hasn't pitched though. Arguably just based on potential I would put lots of the draft picks and other players over Rob Z. Perhaps I have seen bad games/clips, but he really doesn't seem more than someone with a #4 ceiling and a much lower floor to me.

    On the other hand, nobody pays me to scout players so my opinion is pretty useless (indeed, I have rarely been more excited about a player possibly being drafted by the Cubs than Bubba Starling, so that shows my (quite limited) ability to judge talent).

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    Pleasantly surprised with two guys that made your list.

    Jen-Ho Tseng at #8. Wow! That's really saying a lot about this 19 year old. I look forward to seeing him as he moves up to Daytona. I know many folks are high on him but to see him this high on a list was encouraging to say the least.

    Trevor Clifton pulling in at #20 on this list. This just made me giggle like a school girl. I love this kid and have be trying to listen to the radio broadcasts as well as watch his box scores. He just seems like a real bulldog out there and his future is so bright, imo. Love to see him continue his progress that he's shown so far.

    Then there was one "eh" moment.

    When I saw Vogelbach's name just lingering on the lips of so many. Just one year ago we were talking daily about his HR totals. How can you not love this guy and pull for him? He is the happiest guy on the field and worked so hard to lose all that weight over the winter. I'm sure so much weight loss affected him and he needed to get used to a leaner body. But he seems to just keep moving along. Looking forward to bigger numbers from him soon!

  • Great list. Just a super well informed list. As usual. We all know about the quality bats on the way. But, the thing that jumped out at me was how many young pitchers are on the list and, let's hope, on their way. We know that not all will make it, but even if just a few do so, things are looking even better. (Besides with 12 runs every game, how much pitching will we need?)

  • In reply to tboy:

    Thanks tboy!

  • This is the most loaded farm system in Cubs history. Only the late 50s to early 60s comes close with Santo, Williams, and Brock I the pipeline.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    I would have to agree -- though I admit I wasn't around for those.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    Don't forget Hubbs, Beckart and Kessinger. All top guys (for that era).

  • In reply to djriz:

    Beckert, I believe, was a Rule 5 draftee or came in a minor league trade. Kessinger and Holtzman came a couple of years later, as did Joe Niekro.

    The mid 80s class of Maddux, Moyer, Palmeiro, Grace, Dunston, and Girardi were OK too.

    This group, I think, will be better than both.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    I hope you are right. Both those groups have two HoF type players (depending on your opinion of Palmiero and PED's). Could this group top that?

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    I'm not sure that's true at all, at least about the late 50s - early 60s. Back in 62, the Cubs had only 5 affiliated teams in the minors. They had nothing at the AAA level. Their highest club was AA Salt Lake City. After that their teams were from the baseball meccas with names like Palatka, St. Cloud, and Wenatchee. When they did get an AAA team, it was located in Tacoma, WA, not enabling good communication with the team.

    And don't forget, the first draft was pretty recent, in 1965, and prior to that, the scouting system was pretty much limited to relationships with the owners of a lot of independent teams across the country. I think I read that there over 400 teams, and the players on those teams enjoyed being a local celebrity, because of the fact that there was no tv and the fans would recognize their home town players in grocery stores and gas stations because they'd seen them in person. If there was an owner who knew he had an exceptional player, he often times would make money by selling the players contract to a team in the majors. That is how Ernie Banks came to the Cubs from the KC Monarchs. He never played a day in the minors, from what I understand. Once the draft did go into effect, I doubt that Wrigley ever put too much thought into developing a scouting system, and that might be the main reason why the Cubs were such a miserable team for so many years. They probably did have a few scouts, but not like other teams.

  • John, i dont think u have Clifton too high at all. In fact, besides Edwards, imo only clifton and mejia have more than mid rotation upside. The two of them have a long way to go, but they would both be top 20 for me on that alone, especially over a guy like zastryzny who doesnt really have anything in his repertoire that is consistently plus.

  • John - been reading for a while and enjoy the site. However, a comment at the top of your article prompted me to create an account to ask a question: why would Dylan Cease not pitch until possibly this time next year?

  • In reply to chimstedt:

    Cease is very likely to have TJ surgery in the next few weeks. Hasn't pitched since March trying to rehab the elbow.

  • In reply to chimstedt:

    Thank you. He is likely to have TJ surgery this year.

  • The pipeline doesnt end there. Keep an eye on Paniagua, Skulina , Torrez, Remillard, Hannemann, and the kid in the VSL Galindez.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    All very good players.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    And the catcher in the DSL, Matos.

    Not to mention Bruno, who somehow despite being about a .300 hitting middle IF in AA might not even make a top 30.

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    In reply to Hagsag:

    And Frandy DeLaRosa! Don't sleep on Frandy.

  • I almost forgot to mention--its a treat reading posts like this, and i know a lot of work goes into it. Thanks for doing this stuff.

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    I appreciate your dedication to putting together such compelling pieces. I always enjoy prospect rankings and the like. Very bold placement of Tseng on your part, but you're right, the guy has been a complete stud at Kane County. Theo and Co have been very patient with their young pitching, though. Not putting pressure on the guys to climb the ranks.

    I read somewhere (forget which source, might have been MLBFarm) that Billy McKinney had an incredulously low BABIP - somewhere around .200 - in the California League, which lead to an unsustainable .240 batting average in his time there. Guy was hitting into a lot of bad luck, I assume. Good for the Cubs to pounce and get him in that deal. He's no throw-in. And he doesn't even make my Top 10! Cubs could have as many as 10 prospects in the Top 100 in all of baseball.

  • In reply to Luke Slabaugh:

    could be 12 in top 100, and seven in top 50 (depending on who is still considered a prospect) - the top seven are obvious, but then tseng, edwards, mckinney, johnson, and hendricks.

    i doubt all make the list, but still all are at least note-worthy. i'd say phase 1 is complete; now phase 2 shouldn't take more than a season, maybe even just one off-season; and phase glorious!

  • Where would this list of prospects rank on most teams top 15?
    Armando Rivero
    Steve Bruno
    Christian Villanueva
    Andrew McKirihan
    Logan Watkins
    Gioskar Amaya
    Cael Brockmeyer
    Jefferson Meija
    Jordan Hankins
    Carson Sands
    Kevonte Mitchell
    Jeimer Candelario
    Mark Zagunis
    Dylan Cease
    Ivan Pineyro

    All very good prospects that cannot even get a sniff of John's Top 20. Unbelievably talented farm system.

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    I like Corey black over underwood, and I like Torrez but not sure where on a list.

  • Thanks for the update John. Also, look at the balance with each level represented. 2 MLB, 3 AAA, 4 AA, 4 A+, 4 A, 1 A- and 2 AZL. Those are the waves making their way through the system.

  • John, where would you rank Aiken once the Cubs draft him number 1 next year?

  • In reply to Joshnk24:

    Haha! Considering Bryant, Baez, Alcantara will all be in the majors, I will say #2.

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    In reply to Joshnk24:

    Whatever happens, I'm pretty sure he won't be going #2 to the Astros.....

  • In reply to Joshnk24:

    Is there a rule against the Astros drafting him again?

  • In reply to Joshnk24:

    I'm willing to bet everything that this FO never takes a pitcher in the first round again. They want to develop pitchers themselves and teach them to pound low in the zone and not give up bases. They are attacking this in massive quantities. They also seem to be willing to spend money on proven FA's without injury history (see Jackson, Edwin) while also building up a huge amount of high velocity relievers. BTW, as much as Edwin has struggled, he is still throwing 95-96 and receiving a tad bit of bad luck. With all of the injuries to pitchers young and old these days, this is the only real way to build an organization right now, IMHO.

  • In reply to MashBrotherMania:

    I could see our FO taking a pitcher when we are picking out of the top ten. But they will take the BPA according to their rating system. They said last year that Aiken was #1 so they would have picked him if he was available at #4.

  • Will the farm rank #1 in 2016 and after Baez, Braynt, Soler move to th big leagues? Have to think with the pitching developing were still at the top.

  • In reply to justwintoday:

    If so, that would be incredible. We'd still have Almora, Schwarber, Russell, Jimenez and the 2015 draft pick. WOW. Amazing.

  • Something I noticed of the top 20 prospects is their listed age averages out to be about 20.65 years old. All that talent in such young players. :)

  • In reply to John57:

    Nice observation indeed!

  • What's so impressive about the list, aside from the star power in the top 10, is the immense depth. You can probably make the argument on another 5-10 guys to fit into the 16-20 range.

    For example, Jeffrey Baez has 7 HRs and 14 SBs with an .822 OPS in 34 games at Boise and he is not in this top 20 with that kind of potential speed/power combination (caveat that he is raw and a long way away).

    The past few years have been difficult but, at the same time, it has been fascinating watching the front office build for the future and we are getting closer to having our patience rewarded.

  • In reply to Eric:

    I strongly considered Baez, Zagunis, Amaya, Hannemann, Torrez, Black, as well as overslots from this draft. It's crazy deep.

  • Get ready for some post 4th of July fireworks again tonight. Bryant and Baez go up against former Cub meatbag Justin Germano, while Russell (already with a single) and Soler face a mediocre lefty... Soler with a OPS of 1.596 against left-handers. Daytona and KC are also facing organizational pitching chaff tonight.

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    In reply to Paulson:

    The Round Rock announcers are on it. Germano is going to give "free swinging home run hitters" Baez and Bryant problems.

    This should be fun.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ha... if Germano gets any of his soft tosses over the plate he will get creamed.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    And there you have it- Germano serves up three homers in the 2nd inning to the AAA Cubs. Still cannot believe he pitched for us in 2012.

  • Would like to see Maholm and Hammel in 2015. Both free agents. We do not need the 1 starter opening day. Plenty of mid tier solutions for starting pitching in 2015.

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    In reply to justwintoday:

    Maholm would come cheap but I think there are better options. As for Hammel, NEVER, EVER sign a journeyman coming off a career year. You will ALWAYS over pay and it will almost ALWAYS come back to bite you on the rear.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I like Hammel. I would be willing to sign him for a couple years. He did say he liked it here and wanted to come back. He also provides veteran leadership. I don't know about Maholm. But I trust in Theo's ability to pick up a starter or two out of the dumpster who will pitch decent. Plus this year he might get a higher quality FA pitcher too. Depends what falls into his lap.

  • Corey Black should be on this list. I would trade Travis Wood for a small bag of Dorito's and a Red Bull.

  • In reply to MashBrotherMania:

    I think he's a reliever.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Is that because of his size or what? I had heard his velocity was 94-95 but recently I have been hearing low-90s. If he can sit 95ish, Stroman is doing pretty well while being of short stature. Travis Wood could move to the pen and be a LOOGY, his splits they just showed for this year are off the charts.

  • In reply to MashBrotherMania:

    If you are trying to tell me he will be a starter because a couple of other short guys made it I can give you list that is much, much higher for the guys who didn't make it, the list who became MLB starters is smaller, and the list of guys who stayed starters for more than 3 years is even smaller. As for the velo, I was told it was more like 89-92 and it comes with max effort. Command has also been a little short of what you want as a starter. The size is a factor too, he doesn't sustain the velo he has as well as you would like. You cannot compare him to Stroman, who is a much stronger individual and has better command and much less effort to his delivery, not to mention a wipeout slider. They aren't close to being the same pitcher.

    I just don't see a starter here and that does not change after two decent starts. He has walked close to 5 batters per 9 IP at the AA level and his K rate continues to fall as he moves up. FIP of 3.70 is more indicative of his performance this year.

    And there is no chance Wood becomes a LOOGY to accommodate Black.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think you misunderstood my post. I was saying that if he threw harder I didn't think it was necessary that he move from SP. I am thinking the same as you if that is where his velocity is at and if he can't maintain velo. I definitely did not say anything about Wood being a LOOGY to accommodate Black. I do believe Wood is our worst SP and should move to the pen. Just look at his splits.

  • Also, I don't know if anyone else was watching the game last night with Brenly broadcasting but he mentioned that Jackson used to throw the 2-seamer a lot more. I am assuming that this was when he played for the Cardinals. Is there a reason that he is shying away from that pitch this year? It seems that he could be getting a lot more weak contact/groundball outs with the 2 seamer than what he has been throwing (meatballs).

  • Man, if only these mlb games would last 4 innings, we would have won 2 in the row... Sucks when you have relivers for starting pitchers

  • Let's assume that Alcantara, Bryant, Baez, Vizcaino and Hendricks are with the big league club and not on mid-season prospect lists a year from now. We can't know how players will have progressed/performed between now and then, so the order will likely change, but here's who would be left.

    1. Russell (Top 5)
    2. Soler (Top 30)
    3. Almora (Top 40)
    4. Schwarber (Top 50)
    5. Edwards (Top 100)
    6. Tseng (Top 100)
    7. McKinney (Top 100)
    8. Johnson
    9. Underwood
    10. Blackburn
    11. Jimenez
    12. Vogelbach
    13. Clifton
    14. Torres
    15. Stinnett
    16. Sands
    17. Zastryzny
    18. Torrez
    19. Black
    20. Zagunis
    21. Hernandez
    22. Skulina
    23. Mejia
    24. Remillard
    25. Steele
    26. Baez
    27. Norwood
    28. Matos
    29. Galindo
    30. Moreno

    Again, the order is unimportant, but the Cubs have guys worth following 30 deep. And that doesn't include the player taken in what should be a higher top 10 pick in the 2015 draft or Dylan Cease who won't throw a competitive pitch until 2016.

    There's still 7 guys worthy of top 100 consideration (and you could argue more), so there's serious top end depth as well as young talent with a chance peppered throughout the rest of the list.

    Now here's the fun part. With that type of minor league system still intact, here's the likely big league roster mid-season next year.

    C - Castillo
    1B - Rizzo
    2B - Baez
    SS - Castro
    3B - Bryant
    LF - Lake/Trade/FA
    CF - Alcantara
    RF - Ruggiano/Coghlan (with a Soler call-up on the horizon)

    Rotation - Arrieta, FA, Wood, Jackson, Hendricks.

    Bullpen - Vizcaino, Strop, Rondon, Ramirez, Grimm, Rivero, Rosscup, Russell.

    Bench - Lopez/FA, Valbuena, Olt, Kalish, etc.

    It needs starting pitching/improvement from Wood, but that team could, COULD, make things interesting.

  • Funny how everyone puts rosscup in all future WS winning bullpens... Wonder what he did to earn that

  • In reply to Csanad:

    He's been consistently striking out double digits per 9 innings the last couple years so it's not a stretch to see him take over one of the lefty bullpen roles, but it's not a lock either. Projections are just that, projections.

    As far as WS winning bullpens, I don't know what you're talking about. But hey, if cynicism and sarcasm are your thing, go for it. I choose kindness and decency.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Sorry, run out of koolaid tonight. Watching the mlb cubs does that to you.

    Rosscup has been unimpressive in his major lg appearences. I think a lot of people here make the mistake of constructing lineups solely with homegrown prospects and arms.

  • In reply to Csanad:

    I think people do it for fun but I am sure there will be veterans sprinkled in. Few lineups in recent history are homegrown 100%. Not all prospects pan out.

  • In reply to Csanad:

    I was not impressed with Rosscup when I saw him in JAX last year. Even though his stats were impressive in the one outing, (1IP, 2K's, 0 ER, 1 H, etc) it looked terrible in person as it took him approx 25-30 pitches to get through his inning and there were several really loud outs that were inches/feet away from being HR's.

    I think he'll be okay as a Loogy. But even more so than Russell, he makes me very uncomfortable to watch him do anything else.

  • John great list, I want to know how Wladimir Galindo is doing. He is my sleeper from last years free agent signings.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Galindo hs done well. Showing some power, not striking out too much and he will take an occasional walk. Hopefully he can stay at 3B but he is so far away right now it's hard to know that for certain.

  • I think Cael Brockmeyer is my favorite prospect now. Not saying he deserves to make this list or will even pan out, but I still think he is my favorite. He doesn't have quite the name of Rock Shoulders, but it does sound pretty badass and the dude is huge for a catcher. Just thought everyone should know.

    Jeffery Baez is no. 2.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I will say that is a unique two as far as favorites go! Brockmeyer can hit and Baez looks like a very exciting ballplayer right now.

  • I see Tseng is listed at 6'1", 210 lbs. At 19, he's probably going to add some strength with a good regimen, so I'm wondering if he has some projection for that fastball, say 94+. With his K/BB ratio now, we may well have a gem here.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    I don't know how much more he is going to fill out. He's not particularly lanky, but I agree he can still project for more as he becomes physically mature. Right now he is 92-93, sometimes 94, 95 then drops off to 89-90 as game goes on.

    I think eventually he will be able to maintain 92-94 for longer and if he has that, he is going to be very good considering the rest of his stuff.

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    How bummed are you with Jeimer Candelario's setback this season?

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