Cubs Top Prospect Preview: All-star team, tools, story lines, and more

With a nod to the fun assignment I had for 2080 Baseball on my All Arizona Fall League team, I thought it might be fun to apply similar categories to the Cubs top prospects before we get to our Top 25 list in the next week or so.

 All Cubs Prospect Team

The all-prospect team was selected with player at a position where they could play.  For example, the jury is still out as to whether Ian Happ can play 2B, but he's there now and until it is determined he cannot play there, he will be considered for that spot.  As for my own opinion on that, Happ looked like he had a long way to go when I first saw him.  I had my doubts, but the kid worked hard and stayed late in instructs to work on his defense.  By the end of the fall, he had improved enough to where I think he at least has a chance to stick -- though I believe LF is his best position overall.

Similarly starting pitchers can be listed as such as long as they continue to be full time starters.  Dylan Cease is a good example of a pitcher who still projects as a starter and has a legitimate shot to stick there, though it also isn't hard to envision him as a high leverage reliever.  On the other hand, Carl Edwards, Jr. is already a bullpen arm but there are others who I think end up there long term.  The jury is out on pitchers such as Trevor Clifton and Brad Markey, who are still developing and may yet end up as starters.  Pierce Johnson could still develop the kind of command he'll need to stick as a starter.

The utility players have to project as just that.  They have to be role 4 players capable of playing multiple positions.  Selecting someone like Eddy Julio Martinez or DJ Wilson because they are the best OF prospects to miss this list is not what I had in mind here.  Both have the ceiling to be starters in CF.

There are 30 players on this all-star team doesn't necessarily mean the player is among the Top 25 prospects.  Conversely, exclusion from this all-star team doesn't mean a player won't make the Top 25.

  • Catcher: Willson Contreras
  • 1B: Kwang-Min Kwon
  • 2B: Ian Happ
  • 3B: Jeimer Candelario
  • SS: Gleyber Torres
  • LF: Billy McKinney
  • CF: Albert Almora
  • RF: Eloy Jimenez
  • DH: Dan Vogelbach
  • UT: Mark Zagunis (all OF)
  • UT: Victor Caratini (C, 1B, has played some 3B)
  • UT: Chesny Young (2B, SS, 3B, OF)
  • UT:  PJ Higgins (2B, SS, 3B, OF)
  • UT:  Rashad Crawford (All OF, especially CF)
  • SP: Duane Underwood
  • SP: Oscar De La Cruz
  • SP: Dylan Cease
  • SP: Carson Sands
  • SP: Justin Steele
  • Swing man: Rob Zastryzny
  • Swing man: Pedro Araujo
  • Swing man: Jen-Ho Tseng
  • Swing man: Ryan Williams
  • RP: Carl Edwards, Jr.
  • RP: Pierce Johnson
  • RP: Trevor Clifton
  • RP: Brad Markey
  • RP: Jake Stinnett
  • RP:  Dave Berg
  • RP: Daury Torrez
  • RP: Adbert Alzolay

Top potential MLB Contributors for 2016

  1. CJ Edwards
  2. Willson Contreras
  3. Albert Almora

Most Exciting Players

  1. DJ Wilson
  2. Willson Contreras
  3. Ian Happ

Most Exciting Pitchers

  1. Dylan Cease
  2. Oscar De La Cruz
  3. Duane Underwood

Most Exciting Individual Tools

  1. Raw Power: Eloy Jimenez
  2. Speed: DJ Wilson
  3. Fastball: Dylan Cease

Storylines to watch...

  1. Will another position player establish himself as a potential long term starter? Can Albert Almora be the long term CF solution? Is Willson Contreras the long term catching solution?
  2. Can Oscar De La Cruz take another step forward and become the top of the rotation pitching prospect the team currently lacks?
  3. Who will be the pop up prospect who makes the midseason leap into the Cubs Den top 10? Can DJ Wilson emerge as with an impressive set of tools that is unique to this organization?  Development of hit tool will be the key for him.  Is Eddy Julio Martinez the next big star prospect?  Will Bryan Hudson's size and raw stuff translate to performance on the mound?

Stock up with 2015 showing (previously not in top 25)

  1. Willson Contreras
  2. Oscar De La Cruz
  3. DJ Wilson

Dropped with 2015 performance (previously in top 25)

  1. Corey Black
  2. Dan Vogelbach
  3. Jake Stinnett

Top Overall Player

  1. Gleyber Torres

Top Overall Pitcher

  1. Duane Underwood

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  • Ah! Just what I needed. Sleet blowing sideways outside my office window and John comes to the rescue. Green grass, sun-drenched hat, and thoughts on BASEBALL!
    Thanks!

  • In reply to xhooper:

    Thanks!

    Took a bit of a holiday break (and baseball is slow this time of year anyway) but glad to be back.

  • In reply to xhooper:

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  • John, what are your expectations for the cubs the rest of this IFA signing period?

  • In reply to SpencerGoCubs:

    The Cubs are rumored to be in the lead for 16-year-old LHP Adrian Morejon who according to some is considered the best pitching prospect in this year's ever-expanding class, but he has yet to be declared a free-agent. He needs to become a free agent before June 15th in order for the Cubs to have a chance at him.

  • New to the site and really enjoying it.

  • In reply to Rosy:

    Thank you.

  • In reply to Rosy:

    Rosy, welcome!

  • I'm still interested in seeing what Stinnett can do as a reliever. He has been more hittable as a starter than I expected and his command is not very good, but with added velocity in a one inning stint I think he could be effective. I think there is still some untapped potential in there.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    He needs to get that velo back up and improve command. Stock is down, but not out. Definitely a top rebound candidate.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, he did have more starts working in the upper 88-91 range than I was expecting. He was supposed to have more velo than that. He did flash it at times though. He may simply not be suited for starting every five days, lots of guys aren't, but he is also still in just his third (?) full year as a starter after being a bullpen arm previously so he may still be building up the stamina.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Don't read too much into his stats as he was working on control/command in A ball and not focused on stats, etc. Several Pro Scouts (including KGallo) have compared him to Shark, with a #2 SP upside.

    He hasn't been pitching long, and only a couple years exclusively. However, moving him to RP so he moves through the system quickly (and could still convert back to SP ala Shark) might not be a bad idea.

    He is very intriguing and a strong 2016 will likely launch him into everyone's top 100 similar to Contreras in 2015.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yeah, I kind of touched on that in my response to John. I know I am more intrigued by him than John is at this point. There are a lot of intriguing parts to the package that I don't think have come together yet. I am still hopeful and probably on the high end when it comes to Stinnett.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Stock is down on Stinnett talking to experienced scouts at this point. Shark is a real stretch right now. Lack of consistent velo is concerning on a couple different levels. Lack of command also a big concern. Things can and do change, but there is no question the stock is down compared to what it was at this time last year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The stock is definitely down. I was told he was taking something off his Fb to focus on command/control. The loss of velocity isn't a physical issue. Unless you've heard something I have not.

    Most prospects never reach their ceiling, so a #2 SP was always a perfect case scenario, I guess. But I wouldn't be upset with a Grimm/Ramirez role for him from 2018 on...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Getting down to the high 80s is taking it down a lot, though. If it was, say in the 92 range, I'd feel better about it. When we see Cease take it down, for example, it is still 93-95. When we see Zastryzny take something off, it's to finesse a bit, to add some movement and deception. Stinnett seemed to take it way down with no real big gains in command or movement. We'll see. I hope he can dial it back up with improved command when the time comes.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That said, I just realized I didn't even have Stinnett on my RP list, which was not my intention. That was an oversight. But hopes have really faded on him as a starter.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank you for this list John...as always, your reporting is more reasoned, thoughtful and intelligent than any other source I have seen.

    On the Stinnett-Shark comparison, I have to believe you are correct that it is a stretch. One question that came to mind was if Shark had those same inconsistent velocity issues when he was in the lower minors. I didn't think so but wanted to check if you remembered anything comparable.

    Also, with respect to a similar pitcher, what are your thoughts on Norwood? After last year's production, I expected you might have him higher than Stinnett as a bullpen candidate.

    Thank you again for all this great reporting!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Kind of like the scouting report on the football player---not very big but he sure is slow. LOL

  • It's a shame, in my opinion, that Edwards & Johnson are projecting to be relief now by many. They were supposed to be the 2 pitchers to come thru the org as starters once upon a time ago when they 1st arrived on the scene.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    It is, but part of baseball. That possibility always existed with them even from the time they were acquired. Both have the stuff to be starters, but command and either build/stamina issues are things both pitchers need to overcome. Still value in good relievers, as we have seen a lot of lately.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I understand that's a part of the game... Some highly touted prospects become UT IFers or 4th, 5th OFers... I just think it's a shame that an organization thin on SPs in the system have their 2 highest level pitchers, closest to making the show & that were touted to be starters are now in the relief picture instead. Basically handing the torch to Underwood as the next starting prospect. And he's down a couple levels yet.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Underwood could move pretty quick.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I want to make clear, though, that Johnson as an RP is my opinion based on what I have seen and not necessarily that of the Cubs.

    The 5 on my all-prospect team are the top 5 starting prospects at this time. De La Cruz and Cease are your new high ceiling guys with Underwood projecting more as a #3.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If there is anything I lack in knowledge within baseball it is an understanding of pitching. It is so different from my shere. That and FO management issues, "value", etc I have learned so much from you and others here.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Sometimes highly rated prospects don't reach their potential.

    But it looks like Bryant will.

    And it looks like Rizzo will.

    And it looks like Russell will.

    And it looks like Schwarber will.

    And there is still realistic hope for Soler.

    And there is still realistic hope for Baez.

    All in all, a higher success rate than we really had a right to expect.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Russell? Not in the same grouping as Rizzo, Bryant, and Schwarber. He had a pretty abysmal offensive output.

    Soler would be right behind those three, then Baez and Russell at the same level, IMO.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Russell had all of 1087 PA's before coming up to stay. Not to mention he'll be all of 22 next month. I thought he did great considering those factors.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    True, but I think rbucato's point is that you can't really say Russell's numbers showed he will reach his potential in anywhere near a comparable manner as you can with Bryant or Rizzo. If Bryant, Rizzo and Schwarber reproduced their 2015 numbers annually, they would be top starters each year. If Russell reproduced his 2015 numbers annually, he wouldn't be a starter.

  • In reply to springs:

    Addison Russell was 5th among SS in fWAR in 2015 at 2.9, and that's in all of MLB. So I'm not sure I could disagree more strongly with the point that if he continues to duplicate his 2015 numbers he'd be out of a starting job. Only 8 teams in the game had a SS with an fWAR over 2. That said WAR is not the only consideration and you of course want to see improvement from Russell from a batting order fit standpoint if nothing else. 10 points in BA and a little more than that in OBP with 16-20 HR and he's close to the best in the game at his position. Say he slashes .260/.330/.400 and continues the stellar defense. Teams would kill for a SS like that.

  • In reply to springs:

    In response to TC154:

    Two points. First, the person stated that his 2015 results showed that Russell had/will reach his potential similar to Rizzo and Bryant. Russell hit .242/.307/.389 with 150 K in 475 AB. Bryant hit .275/.369/.488 and Rizzo hit .278/.387/.512. Russell doesn't belong in that comparison.

    Second, Russell's stats are rather weak. Sometimes it seems people take sabermetrics over every other stat. He was 5th among SS in fielding WAR (which is subjective and fielding stats are truly not a fully agreed valuation)...yet 17th in OPS. Are you saying that if Russell never hit .250 in his career or OPS .700 in his career (i.e., he repeated 2015) without material speed/SB, you would say he is a definite keeper? Russell has a huge upside but his offense in 2015 was (as you'd expect for someone that young) not near that ceiling. Throwing out fWAR as evidence that his offense isn't relevant seems to be fighting a point for no reason -- nobody is saying Russell isn't great, but they are saying his offense last year was not something you want to continue forever.

    # OPS Matters

  • In reply to springs:

    Springs, sure OPS matters. My low end projections for the kid had him with a slash of .260/.330/.400 with 16-20 HR. I wasn't saying he should continue to repeat 2015. Are you saying that a plus defensive SS with a .730 OPS putting up an fWAR between 3-4 isn't a starter? That's where the disconnect comes for me. First and foremost SS is a defensive position if the bat is average, and the OBP slightly below but with with decent SLG numbers that player is one of the best in the game. I don't know why he has to be compared with Bryant and the rest. Also even with all that said I think he's likely to be better than what I'm stating. I'm really kind of confused at the argument.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Russell is a defense first position and player. I don't doubt him at all.
    Russell hit .226 in 243 ABs before the break, 5 HR, 22 RBI
    Russell hit .259 in 232 ABs after the break w/ 8HR, 32 RBI

    For a guy with his experience, that shows some big improvement. He was tied for 3rd w/Fowler with 29 doubles. Bryant was second w/ 31.

    Russell is better at his position than Bryant is at his. Don't undersell him considering his age and experience. H can adjust!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Rizzo hit .255 after the All Star Break, 4 points behind Russell.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    .740 OPS versus an .840 OPS with a BABIP of .325 to Rizzo's .270.

    Not an apt comparison.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    My point was Russell should not be comped to Rizzo, Bryant, and Schwarber as a hitter. He is not in their league.

    Maybe you are ok with a .259 16 HR shortstop. I am not. I heard "Barry Larkin" comps and Russell today is nowhere near that. Not do I think he gets to those levels. And I am not convinced he sticks at SS long-term.

    Cubs first and I hope I am wrong. But I maintain he is not in Rizzo, Bryant, and Schwarber territory as on offensive threat.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I'm not sure I understand the Russell doubt. As I posted above he was the 5th best SS by WAR in all of MLB in his rookie year. We'll see what he puts up in his 2nd year. Steamer has him projected at slightly better offensive numbers and slightly worse defensive numbers for a 1.9 fWAR. I frankly think he'll be better than that as I think his defense will actually improve. I'm not sure what your beef would be with a .260/.330/.400 slash, 16-20 HR and producing somewhere in the are of 4 fWAR per year. Again those numbers would make him one of the best at his position in the game. Not every guy is a 6 WAR player with 35 HR particularly at SS which is primarily a defensive position.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    TC, WAR is not the all encompassing end all stat. It is a great place to start. I thought my point was pretty clear. He is NOT in the same class as a hitter as Rizzo, Bryant, and Schwarber. He strikes out way too much and does not draw enough walks. He hits with no power.

    That slash line you wrote would be a HUGE disappointment for a player ranked in the Top 5 in all of baseball right behind Correa and ahead of Lindor who significantly out-performed Russell.

    Again, I replied to DaveP who said it was clear Russell will hit his ceiling as a hitter. Do you or anyone else concur based on last season? I do not.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to rbrucato:

    Russell is 21, has a naturally patience approach, and was rushed through the minors. For all intents and purposes he skipped AAA. He has a full 7 years before he reaches his prime. The situation suggests that patience might be rewarded.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    rbrucato, it depends on where you think his ceiling is. His best season in the minors, with any sort of sample size was at A+ ball for the A's in 2013. In 504 PA he slashed .275/.377/.508 with a 12.1% BB rate and a 23% K rate. In the Cubs system in a smaller sample size he got the K rate down a little bit but stopped walking at all (4.4, 2.2). If he got his K rate back to that 23% and his BB rate to 10% or so you might see that OBP get back up north of .330 which is what I said in my example. As he gets older he may develop a bit more power. I was talking about a low end of his abilities at that .260/.330/.400 slash with 16-20 HR. Again if he's lights out defensively that's a great player. What would you be looking for .275/.340/.420, 24 HR? I absolutely agree that WAR is not the be all end all but it's a nice shorthand. That latter slash combined with his defense is probably a 4.5-5 fWAR SS. That's something like Brandon Crawford, who's about equal defensively to Russell, or Xander Bogearts who is a much better offensive player but not close to Crawford or Russell defensively. Probably my favorite SS in the game is Andrelton Simmons, given your Braves connections I know you know well, who's much less of an offensive player than Russell but was just traded for a top 100 pitching prospect close to MLB. I guess the conversation is what is the ceiling you think Russell should have and what are you looking for in a SS? For me I want defense, defense, defense and everything you can give me offensively is a bonus. Listen, I respect your opinion greatly as one of the best posters here so please just take the discussion in the spirit it is meant.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Mike, I am not arguing against any of those points. I stated in a reply to DaveP based on last year that I do not agree that it is certain Russell will hit his ceiling as a hitter.

    He has walked with certainty in two years. Was below average in AA, walked 1 time in 47 AAA PA's and then we saw his big league exposure. I hope he corrects that aspect of his game. Right now I believe it to be a hinderance to him reaching his ceiling.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    TC, did I offend you in the discussion? I don't believe I was out of line. I am enjoying the dialogue. I only singled you out because the reply function was disabled in future posts so I was trying to reply to you. Apology extended if you felt anything other than a civil discussion.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    And Russell is the YOUNGEST.

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    Meaningless to this discussion. You are trying to argue a point that is not related to anything I stated.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    No of course you didn't offend me. I enjoy these discussions as well.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Yes, as I stated in my second reply. "Some highly touted prospects become UT IFers or 4th, 5th OFers" Couldn't be me more clear.

    But I was talking about Edwards, when we got him in the trade, & Johnson, when drafted & thereafter, originally being touted as our next possible starting candidates from the minor league system. And again, in my opinion, it's a shame now that they are closer to getting to big leagues (Edwards already debuted) they are not necessarily going to be SPs. That's all I stated

    I understand that not every prospect hits his ceiling or gets above his floor. My post had nothing to do with any of that. To me, its a shame that these 2 aren't being projected as part of a starting rotation now or in the near future... when at 1 point they were our biggest chances of doing just that. That's all.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Watching Edwards with the Cubs at the end of the year was exciting with the movement on his pitches, but he will have to control that movement or I fear he will be too much like Carlos Marmol (great stuff but too many walks and pitching from behind).

  • In reply to Cphil:

    True, but he generates velo/movement with much, much less effort than Marmol did. Marmol locked in for a few years, though.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, I am hopeful, but that is my nature. If he can harness his stuff, ...unhittable.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Book isn't closed on Johnson, though I have always been pretty vocal regarding my doubts on that front. He should continue to get starts in Iowa this year. If he shows some improvement with his command and is able to avoid the nagging injuries it is worth continuing to give him starts in the second half. If he continues as he has, then they should move him to the pen and potentially have him available for that role down the stretch.

  • Lazaro Armenteros is the next Cuban star. If he is allowed to sign before July 2nd the Cubs can offer any amount. If he has to wait until the next signing period the Cubs have no chance. Lazaro is going to get big time money and he is only 16.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    Lazarito's talent and potential availability has been known for quite some time. We wrote about it this past summer. Guess the hype video and upcoming workout has people talking about him again, but as far as I know, there is nothing new on him. I do know the Cubs plan to purse all available Cubans/IFAs, which makes sense given their restrictions for the next period and loss of two high round draft picks this offseason.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Looking at his hitting, his stance makes 2014 Javy Baez look like a controlled balance swing :)

    I'd love the Cubs to get him and the other two 16 year old Cubans (speedy infielder and lefty pitcher), all of whom look like potential stars and could combine into a good core moving forward as top prospects when our current core hits free agency (when they'd be about 21 years old).

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to ucandoit:

    Yea, i really hope we can snag this man child. " Lazarito " could be like an Andruw Jones / Bryce Harper ( not saying he's going to be that great) and be up in the show at 19-20.

    Hope he's eligible to be signed real soon. Would be a real jolt to an already deep system.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    If they could add Ona and Lazarito it would sure make up for the loss of the two picks.

    Another reason I am glad they kept Soler is it shows we are a solid org for Cuban ballplayers. These guys talk.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    Is there a favorite teams list for signing any of the top Cubans?

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    Would love Armenteros (and Morejon, Ona, etc., the list is long) but FYI, the deadline is June 15th instead of July 2nd.

  • OT, but Peyton Manning is "sickened" by the Al Jazeera allegations that he, amongst others, used PEDs. I tend to treat it right now as just what it is, a rumor.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    It's just a report at this point...but given that Al Jazeera is a well-respected news source and given Manning's career-threatening injury and subsequent recovery, it is not an outlandish rumor. I am not dismissing it by any means, but I am with you. Will reserve judgment until more info is in. Guess is if Manning used anything, it was to aid in recovery process...but just a wild guess and to be honest, I don't follow football all that closely.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Baseball players were also mentioned, Teagarden, Ryan Howard, but Manning being the most high profile athlete.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Howard fits in with that recovery theory as well.

  • I am surprised to see Rob Zastryzny on here. He hasn't really displayed much in two and half years except for a good June in Daytona 2014 and every other start in the AFL.

    How close was Donnie Dewees to most exciting?

    Just think how different this list will look in one year as many young players get their first full year in. Adbert Alzolay might be a fast riser this year.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    Zastryzny was hitting 94 (sat 89-92) with an improved CB this fall. Change is already above average. Lot of scouts watching him this fall. He's probably a 5 and/or a BP guy, but that has value too, as we have seen already with current Cubs pitching staff.

    Dewees is a good hitter with good speed, just not quite as explosive and well-rounded as the other 3. He, EJM, and Almora (because of defense) also considered -- but haven't seen EJM, so hard for me to call him exciting :)

  • I really want to see more of Markey this year. I only saw him a few times, but he was really intriguing despite his size. Potential for above average fastball and breaking ball. Didn't get a feel for his other offspeed stuff, but if he has more or he can develop more he could be an interesting starter candidate. As is though, I think he has the potential to be an impact reliever.

    De La Cruz just oozes potential to me. Again, I only have a couple of viewings to go off of but I think there is still room for projection with him. Wouldn't shock me if he ends up with a mid 90s fastball with great plane and deception along with a good breaking ball and changeup.

    Those are the two guys that I saw last year that have flown under the radar for most people and can potentially move faster than might be expected.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Marley just attacks hitters. Nice sharp curve. Very good control

  • John, Did you enlist all the writers and tallied up the votes OT was this done by your own accord?

    These are really cool and fun to view. The biggest suprise was DJ Wilson as the most exciting. I don't know if it is good or bad that the most exciting player won't make a full season team out do spring.

    Awesome work.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I need to clarify that most exciting for me is just based on raw skill set, not performance or even necessarily top end potential. Wilson is not the player Almora is right now and may never be -- and neither are the player that Gleyber Torres can be. But Torres (and Almora for that matter) isn't an explosive player. They are well-polished ballplayers with average to slightly above average athleticism and outstanding baseball related skills. Torres is the best player in the Cubs system right now. He is an exciting player in that sense, but not the kind intended for this list.

    Happ has an exciting power/speed combo. Dewees has a good hit tool/speed combo. Eloy has his raw power. Wilson is just exciting in every category -- even has surprising pop -- and plays the game with so much energy. Contreras is that way as well.

    This was mostly my piece based on conversations with some in the industry. Michael will be helping out with some stuff, including the eventual top 25 as well as some day to day stuff.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Got it. Thanks for further clarification.

    These pieces are really fun because I think you give us more insight to the entire system and make known guys we do not know.

    Thanks!

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Thanks, that is exactly why I did that. Where else can you see PJ Higgins name pop up, for example? Kwon won't make the top 25, but fun to mention him at 1B as power/approach guy with ability to be a good defender at 1B -- but obviously much too far away to make a top prospect list.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Higgins was exactly the guy I was going to ask about, John. What more can you tell us about him?

  • In reply to lblegacy:

    Grinder type who is a good enough athlete to play just about any position on the field -- and I think the hit tool is good enough for him to make it to the majors as well. Nice little player who can be a useful MLBer in a role off the bench.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I would like to add that whenever I chip in it will be in regards to guys that I have seen. I have limited or no viewings of the younger players in the Mesa complex or short season leagues so I either have no opinion, or little more than a first impression based on a handful of looks on those guys.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Cool. That is good to know as well.

  • fb_avatar

    John, thank you for this. As I write now it is sleeting out and miserable--what a present to think about the future. As quick as they get better we'll see some of these players up in the bigs.
    Have you seen EJM at all? I thought he might be more exciting than Happ (although I haven't seen either) but either way it's going to be an exciting year in 2016 in both the ML and Minor leagues.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Have not seen EJM so it didn't feel right including him. I will see him this spring and maybe he makes the midseason list.

    Happ isn't a complete player but because he is a power/speed guy -- the two most exciting tools for most fans, I chose him over guys like Dewees, Almora, and Jimenez.

  • In most years one could safely pick the over on the Cubs using at least 35 players on the MLB roster during the season. Between DL, 26th for a doubleheader, the Iowa express (e.g. Parker, Schlitter), flame outs (Coke, Veras), mid-season acquisitions and September call-ups, but there doesn't seem to be as large a potential from this list. Maybe Edwards and Rosscup don't break camp, Contreras, Almora get late call-ups, but it is hard to get to ten absent injuries as I read this. Who do you think plays in 2016 but not on the opening day roster?

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    Are you talking about meaningful contributions or just getting into a couple of games?

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Guys typically on the shuttle between Iowa and Chicago are not impact players. They are the fringe guys on the 40 man roster (Acevedo, Beeler, Jokisch, Olmos, Patton, Rosscup, Alcantara, Villanueva, Vogelbach, Szczur), the guys that might have more long term value (Edwards, Johnson, Contreras, Candelerio) are usually left in the minors to continue their development rather than interrupt that plan for a couple of game audition. Once those guys get recalled it is usually for an extended look.

    Some guys not on the 40 man that may get an emergency call up would be Fife, Rucinski, Pena, Williams if they need a starter. Leathersich, Black, Zastryzny, Markey (among others) if they need a reliever (John wrote up a good summary on these guys a couple of days ago).

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    IDK, 40 man spots are becoming so precious right now... Given our "swing man" depth in the BP, I wouldn't be surprised to see Joe go with scheduled BP days again vs adding someone to the 40 man who isn't a potential major impact.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    True, I doubt the team will need a starter not on the 40 man this season unless Underwood takes a quantum leap or a massive amount of injuries take place. I wasn't really trying to gauge the likelihood of those guys appearing, more so just what the options would be if someone was needed.

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    In reply to charactercounts:

    Anyone on the 40-man who doesn't make the opening day roster has a really good chance to at least play some in the majors, just based on injuries. Especially pitchers.

    We have 21 pitchers on the 40-man right now, and there are probably 8 pitchers on the 40-man with options who may not make the opening day roster....all 8 of those guys could get a look. Of course, odds are one or two will make opening day due to ST injury.

  • just saw Yaisel Sierra is free to sign now.... 24yo Cuban with mid 90's heat and (as described by Ben Badler) the best pure stuff of any Cuban pitcher.... Yes, please!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'll take two please

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    If we can some how sign Sierra and either Lazarito or Ona, it really doesn't matter one bit that we lost a couple of picks and pool money.

    Any of those 3 are potential first round talents.

    Many scouts believe Sierra could contribute to an MLB team in 2015

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Sierra can sign a MLB contract and is not subject to the IFA fines imposed. Which means a $30MM contract is a $30MM cost, vs $60MM. He also projects as mid-Rotation SP who could help possibly this year or next.

    That makes him a far more likely signing, iMO. Then again, any MLB club can sign him and the Yankees are said to be high on him. Which makes him less likely. So who Knows?

    i'd love any/all three of them you mentioned. But I don't need any of them to feel good about giving up those picks. I've been waiting for 4 years to be in this position and it came a year earlier than I expected... so I'm happy lol

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Sierra is such a wildcard....he has great stuff, but I believe the issue is that he hasn't dominated as much as you'd expect. Looks like it is a good signing of #4 or reliever with upside of a #2 if things somehow click.

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    I think they are taking flyers on some RP like Rex Brothers
    And the lefty claimed from the Mariners system. Some of those guys might only be on the 25 man active for a short stint

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    Chapman to the Yankees !

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    If the Yankees do not plan on moving Betances back to the rotation, I would love to see what it would cost to get him and send him to Iowa. The guy is nasty and has the stuff, size, and ability to be a TOR arm.

    If they keep him in the pen, it probably means they are trading Andrew Miller for some salary relief( supposedly they want to get under the luxury tax prior to 2018 spending spree ) or they going w the Royal east bullpen.

    Betances, Miller, and Chapman plus the other pieces they have would mean they have the sickest, deepest, and most versatile pen maybe of all time.

    In the playoffs, they could shorten the games to 5-6 innings easily as the 3 big boys can get more then 3 outs at a time if needed.

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Per Jack Curry if YES, 4 minor leaguers not named Judge, Bird, Sanchez, Mateo, or Servino heading to Cincy,

    I don't know much more about the Yankees system besides those 5, so I really doubt they are giving up an top 100 prospects.

    Reds must believe their is a chance Chapman may be suspended for part of the 2015 season or do not want to deal w the bad publicity anymore

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Very Yankees move. He'll work well with them. Not a bad haul for Cincinnati, either, but you have to think it was held down by his legal issues. I think both teams did well considering the circumstances. Really like it from the Yankees viewpoint, though.

  • "Top potential MLB Contributors for 2015"

    You mean 2016 right?

  • In reply to ddevonb:

    Yes, thank you.

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    Do you think CJ Edwards makes the team from ST? Or does he start at AAA? I would assume he gets lots of appearances in the spring. Gotta like all the bullpen options the Cubs have this year.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    I think barring an injury or trade, then the numbers game works against him. Figure the starting 5 and then Rondon, Grimm, Strop, Wood, Warren, Cahill, and Richard seem like locks while Neil Ramirez is out of options, so if he is healthy, he should make it as well. One option is Richard, who still has options, they can keep Edwards and keep RIchard stretched out as a starter at Iowa. But given Richard's value last year to the pen, I doubt it.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    It's already pretty crowded and he has options... so I think he fine tunes his stuff at Iowa and will be back and forth filling in for injuries, etc... Unless he's consistently dominant in ST, I don't see this him breaking camp with the MLB team.

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    It's sad that a system that has produced no pitching to speak of is led by Duane Underwood and four guys that are years away at best.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Hendricks?

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I'm not nearly as high on Hendricks as everyone else. He's a back of the rotation starter. He's outstanding at that role, to be sure, but his value there is kind of limited. (His short outings, in my mind, limit the actual impact of his 3.4 WAR.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree he is a fifth starter, but he has been outstanding in that role. Teams are finally figuring out that limiting these types of starters to short outings are exactly how they should be deployed.Yes, he was not drafted by the Cubs, but most of his development has been under this regime. Hendricks is absolutely a success for this org. I think if you look around there will be other teams that have not developed a starter better than Hendricks in the last couple of years.

    The starting pitching has definitely been a weak spot in the minor league system, but it is hard to develop players to fill every organizational need. The team has been phenomenal on the position player side and fine with relief pitchers. They ahve had to go outside for starters. Not ideal, but it is what it is. Attrition is typical among starter prospects between injury and guys that are only ended up suited as bullpen arms.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Here's what it comes down to for me: if you had five Kyle Hendricks in your rotation, it would be catastrophic. The bullpen would be completely spent by June. Given that, he's useful only in a very specific role. And while that's great, it's not really something you can brag about when it comes to "developing pitching." He works because they have Arrieta, Lester, and (now) Lackey. He could actually be very effective given the rotation the Cubs are trotting out there but when you think of developing pitching, you think about guys who can be effective in any situation. That really isn't Hendricks.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Well said...It is impossible to be objectively critical of our minor league development overall, as we really went from a barren system to producing better than most any team. The development of top pitching is less certain than top hitting and once a team decides not to draft pitchers early, that limited certainty drops even further. But the lack of top pitching development doesn't mean that Hendricks success as a #5 merits any significant praise.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Which is why Cubs are acquiring arms from outside the org, but that is pretty commonplace. If they can get a starter or two and some bullpen guys, that is doing well -- especially if they can use surplus to pick up arms from outside org.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Except for the Cardinals who turn a $950,000 kid with spotty scouting into a top of the rotation starter. But your point is well taken.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    It is disappointing that they haven't produced more pitchers. But there is more than one way to skin a cat, and they have traded or acquired a ton of pitchers, including a Cy Young winner. Strop, Rondon, Hendricks, Grimm, Rameriz, Warren.

  • I wouldn't say produced no pitching to speak of. Yes, no front-line starter, but those are much harder to find coming out of a farm system unless you invest 1st round draft picks in them or trade for one. I think the Cubs have done very well with selecting position players in the 1st round since Theo/Jed took over, so I wouldn't take one of those picks back. Trading for one requires losing a highly valuable MLB player on a team. The cubs haven't had one of those outside of Samardzija or Garza. It turns out that they couldn't acquire a front-line starter from those teams, but I wouldn't take back those trades because they have greatly impacted this Cubs team.

    Now with that being said, the Cubs system has produced pitching. Hendricks, Grimm, Ramirez, and Carl Edwards to say the least. The cubs system was so awful before Theo/Jed that there really was no pitching or hitting to build around. Theo/Jed invested in hitters first because they had a far better track record of panning out coming out of the 1st round than pitchers. Pitching was, and still is being attacked in volume. Most of the players drafted outside of the 1st round acquire time to develop hence why our top pitching prospect is just reaching AA this year. I know it sucks, but that's the way baseball goes. If you look around baseball you will be hard pressed to find a system that is completely balanced with highly touted pitchers and hitters. Most are leaning towards one or the other.

  • In reply to JLynch2247:

    This was in response to Mike Moody's comment.

  • Just think if we never traded for Garza. We could have Chris Archer right now. Then again we wouldn't have CJ Edwards or Justin Grimm but I think I would rather have Archer.

  • In reply to Ozzie24:

    It's hard to play the "What if" game because if the cubs didn't trade Mark DeRosa we wouldn't have had Archer in the first place.

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    John: first time comment. Love the site! Now part of my daily routine. What's the word on AAA player John Andreoli ? Appears to have good speed and ability to get on base.

  • In reply to From the burg:

    Thanks.

    Andreoli is a fringy prospect. Not really that fast -- above average, but a very good base stealer. Good eye, but without much power, going to be hard to keep pitchers honest. Swing is a little stiff, doesn't use his lower body much so don't see him hitting much in the way of HRs. Hurts that on defense, he is a corner OFer and not a CFer. If teams liked him in CF, he could probably be an extra OFer.

    Keep in mind he has been exposed two years in a row in the Rule 5 draft and has yet to be selected by any team.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John. Really enjoy the prospect reports. Hard to find this info elsewhere.

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    But if we had Archer we probably wouldn't have been able to draft Bryant or Schwarber either.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Why couldn't we have Bryant or schwarber? Archer only appeared in 6 games in 2012 so that wouldn't have much of an effect on how we finished for Bryant's draft in 2013 and who knows if he woulda been up for 2013 if he was on the Cubs or how much of an impact he would have had and it didn't sound like teams were as high on schwarber as the Cubs so we could have still gotten him past the 4th pick. Just saying if we still had Archer this team would be deadly that's all.

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    Can't wait to see the progression of EJM! Not to mention how ready (or not) Almora is and if this OF the major league club needs his defense. Will be interesting to see if he pushes the envelope and moves Heyward out to RF. That's a scary good 2/3 OF defense.

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    In reply to kcoff89:

    Almora is part of the reason that we're probably rolling with Heyward in CF for now. If Almora hits in AAA next year, that could make the OF situation more interesting.

    I'm sure the FO isn't banking on Almora yet, but he's a factor in their calculations

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    In reply to Zonk:

    More so saying he fits the bill. Especially if he can keep his walk rate and K rate respectable we don't necessarily need a lead off guy in CF and two players with stellar defense could more than make up for his offense. Not saying he will come up and it will click but wow would that be a fun September call up and interesting story if he hits well in spring

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Of course you are right that they are not banking on Almora just yet, but what he did at AA was impressive. Most reports still have him as an elite defender at a premium position and by some measures he had his best offensive season at AA at age 21 (lowest K% and highest BB%). I find it hard to imagine a scenario where he is on the MLB roster out of Spring Training but I suppose if he hits well enough and fields well we will "make room" for him.

    Part of me says a platoon of Soler in LF with Schwarber with Schwarber also covering some catcher could give opposing managers ulcers.

  • John, I know he was in your top 25 last year so he wasn't included in the pop-up prospects, but I wanted to get a mention for my guy Jeimer Candelario. I predicted he'd break out in 2014. As usual I was a year early, but he definitely rose from the 20s to the 10-15 range for me with how he played in Tennessee last year.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I love Candelario. He is not the kind of tools guy who will stand out in this kind of list. Some felt he was ready to break out --- including the Cubs themselves -- in part because of the outstanding makeup. He made one of the biggest leaps forward this year.

  • With the Heyward signing buying time for Almora and making a Bryant move (still possible) less likely, Candelario is more blocked than ever, but I believe in depth in case of injury and for trade purposes. I'll be rooting for him to start off AA this year the same way he finished it last year.

    A 22-year-old, 3B who is solid defensively and gets on base at a .350-.375 clip with a great K/BB ratio and 10-15 HR power in AA/AAA would be a nice trade chip.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    We just need Schwarber to become a viable catcher...then Bryant to left, Candelario to 3b :)

    Truly if Schwarber could become a catcher (even if he split C and LF, with Contreras C about 1/2 the games and being a late inning sub), Maddon would have a new batch of mixing and matching options available.

  • In reply to springs:

    I have never wanted to see the DH in the NL until now. If it passes in 2016, then Schwarber becomes the new DH, Contreras plays C, Soler moves to left, Hayward to RF, and Almora to center next season.

  • In reply to springs:

    Completely agree. That was the overarching reason I wanted the Cubs to sign Heyward. Not necessarily to move Bryant to LF, though that is one of the options. It is the sheer number of options that the Heyward signing brings that intrigued me. That and he provides them with a CFer for 2016.

    Schwarber's ability to play catcher, Almora's ability to hit major league pitching, Contreras' ability to frame pitches, call a game and hit in AAA and the bigs, and Candelario's ability to make it are all still question marks. Heyward's signing gives the Cubs the flexibility to make room for any of those outcomes.

    If none of those things come to pass, there is little evidence to suggest Heyward can't play an above average CF for 2-3 years buying time for Soler and Schwarber to develop in the corners and EJM and possibly Dewees to develop in the minors for CF.

    If Candelario develops and proves worthy of playing time, it will be at 3B primarily (if not exclusively). In that case, Bryant would move to one of the corner OF spots. If Schwarber proves he can play catcher as well, Soler could move to LF and Bryant to RF, keeping Heyward at CF.

    If Almora develops, Heyward moves to RF and Soler goes to LF or gets traded if Schwarber proves unable to catch at the big league level.

    Contreras is likely able to be a back-up catcher without much more development, so he takes over for Ross in 2017 regardless. If he shows he can be more, Schwarber can DH in interleague games, catch some and play LF some allowing Maddon to play the match-ups.

    If all of them develop successfully (not likely but the Cubs have been doing well developing talent of late), they are stacked with options, depth and trade chips.

    Then there's the other big signing of Zobrist and the options that brings. Initially, Zobrist's own flexibility creates options in and of itself, but it also buys time for Baez to develop. Baez's defensive abilities are ahead of his bat right now, and the Zobrist signing allows Javy to learn on the job without being exposed while helping the team with his defense and power off the bench. Baez's ability to play above average SS gives the Cubs the best SS depth in the league in case Russell gets injured. Zobrist also buys time for Torres and Happ to develop at 2B.

    If Theo & Jed are anything, they're master planners. The signings of Heyward and Zobrist enhance the Cubs' chances to win a championship in the next 2 years while they're guaranteed to have Arrieta as well as provide the long term options discussed above.

    It's been a good off season...

  • The thing that excites me the most about this list is that with all of the players listed, there are still more that can make an argument to be included on the list. I have seen Jacob Hanneman play a bit, and he was by far the most exciting person on the field those days. He has a ton of speed, and knows how to use it on the bases and in the outfield. Obviously the cons are that he just did not look comfortable at the plate, but he still hit one long ball when I was there. I think he will be a player to watch this year. Stepping out on a limb, but if he has a good season with the bat, I would not be surprised to see him called up in September to take on the role of Quintin Berry. There is always room for speed in JM's brain...

  • In reply to CubsFaninNC:

    He does have very good speed. And I think Joe does love speed.

  • So many trade chips.. where do we begin.. our big league roster is so young and deep that it makes you think we don't really need any of those prospects except Wilson contreras. ..

  • In reply to Maddon4Mayor2015:

    We will likely need Torres to replace Zobrist at 2B. If Baez reaches close to his ceiling, he would be great at 3B, moving Bryant to LF if Heyward opts out and Soler keeps improving. Almora would be a welcome site in CF at some point if he can hit at a .270/.330 clip and play his GG defense. Anybody at Eugene or low A is a guess at this point. EJM could be a nice fit in CF if he develops.

    Candelario, Vogelbach, Zagunis, McKinney are all easily expendable. Problem is that none of them are close to a headliner to bring back something significant we need.

    The point is that we won't be able to resign everybody to a mega deal so having cheap controllable replacements available is going to be key to keeping this cog rolling.

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