Chicago baseball's top 25 under 25

Foreword

This is a look at the top 25 players in Chicago that are under the age of 25.

There are several different ways to approach a top 25 under 25 list. You can view these guys as trade commodities which greatly changes the list. I would jump Bryant over guys like Quintana and Reed at that point. The way I approached it was how much they'd contribute to a major league team right now. This is a bit easier than a straight prospect list. Sale would obviously contribute a lot because he is already contributing a lot.

There's three distinct tiers here. Current Major League Caliber talent, guys that are getting really close, and guys that are off in the distance.

It's important to note that this is a snapshot in time. These rankings are not static and I've labored over them for about 14 straight days now. In my mind I'm already flipping a few guys around.

  1. Chris Sale - Stock trend - Rising - This is an obvious no-brainer here. Sale has assuaged some of the break down fears I had about him entering the season. Sale leads the American League in Complete Games (4), has essentially a 5-1 K-BB ratio, and has yet to go down with a serious injury this season. Sale is an Ace In The Making. Providing the innings will be the biggest test for the slight left hander. He's proven an ability to go deep into games this year so it stands to reason that it's a test he can pass.
  2. Anthony Rizzo - Stock trend - Staying put - It's been an odd year for Rizzo as his season is the perfect avatar for the Cubs offense on the whole. Plenty of XBHs (52 on the season) but he's missing a whole lot of singles (.254 BABIP). Rizzo's LD rate is down 5% this year while his Infield Flyball rate is up slightly at 2% which explains some of his BABIP issues. I think most of that can be attributed to luck/defensive shifting and it should correct itself next year. Rizzo has a manageable K-BB ratio (<2-1) and a healthy walk rate so I expect a major step forward coming next year.
  3. Starlin Castro - Stock trend - Falling - Entering the 2013 season I entertained the idea of doing a top 25 under 25 for the entire league. Had I completed the list I would have put Castro in the top 15 with reasonable justification. That's no longer the case. Castro's going through a nightmare season where his failing bat has magnified his defensive deficiencies and mental lapses. He has natural bat on ball skills and has shown the utility is there to succeed. The Cubs tried to change his approach in the middle of 2012 and Castro clearly did not take to the new philosophy. He enjoyed a recent hot streak when the Cubs gave in and let him swing away but I think with his old approach apparently here to stay Castro will always be a streaky hitter. It's an open question whether he will be with the Cubs moving forward, and if he does stick around it's no longer set in stone that he'll be the shortstop. I believe in Starlin Castro but now's the time to start showing signs of life again.
  4. Avisail GarciaStock trend - Rising - "Little Miggy" didn't have a whole hell of a lot to prove in the minors as he tore up High A and AAA ball to the tune of a .379/.431/.561 slash line. Garcia was the young prize of the trading deadline, had he rookie eligibility I believe he would have been the top prospect dealt. There are some walk issues but I believe firmly in the bat and the upside. He's more athletic than he looks but the body is a slight concern. He can fake it in center for a few games before getting exposed and he takes questionable routes from time to time. Garcia is a player and if he approaches his ceiling at all he'll be a supremely fun one.
  5. Jose QuintanaStock trend - Staying put - Watching Quintana pitch isn't a sexual experience. Quintana is the dude with a decent job who always remembers to get milk when you ask him to, does what he says he'll do, but will never bring home diamonds for you. It's just not in his game, jack. Quintana gets by on the type of guile that is necessary when you don't have elite stuff. He's a smart pitcher with a fairly comprehensive bag of tricks. He'll battle through 6 innings of a shit start and save your bullpen a bit. I like him more than most for that. Quintana found some extra strikeouts this year as he's bumped the K Rate to around 20%. He's never going to be an Ace, but dependability is something of a commodity when it comes to starters.
  6. Addison ReedStock trend - Rising - Reed is an interesting reliever. His past two years have been identical so far with variation on the number of hits he's allowed. He's turning himself into a quality late inning reliever but he needs to chop down on the disaster outings. He's been better this year and I think he can become a very valuable arm.
  7. Javier BaezStock trend - Rising - Baez is talked about in scouting and talent evaluation circles as a mythical being at this point. The minors still allow for the type of story telling that is sometimes lost at the major league level with so much access to video. There's plenty of Baez stories out there, but the most important one revolves around his ability to adjust to advanced pitching. There's a lot in between Baez and the MLB future he seems destined for. There are still approach questions and his style of play raises the "flameout potential" red flag. But man. It's tough to not get excited about a kid who is meeting the second biggest challenge in baseball. He's coming fast, folks.
  8. Kris BryantStock trend - Wait and see - Bryant's talent has already led to a few irresponsible articles on whether he should be starting at third for the Cubs in 2014. While his stock is on the uptick let's slow our role a little bit here. Bryant still has to show he can be an everyday 3B at the professional level. He still has to show the power utility to survive advanced pitching. Bryant has a lot of tests in store for his short term future, but the talent is all there for him to put it together and become a first division starter.  
  9. Albert AlmoraStock trend - Rising - Nobody is really talking about how good Almora is quite yet, but it's coming. Almora has a feel for baseball well beyond his years. Dude plays like a professional baseball player at a young age. That's rarer than you think. The glove can likely play MLB caliber defense in center right now and he's answering some of the questions about his hit tool to the tune of a .329/.376/.466 at Kane County. He's 19, he has a 17-30 BB-K ratio and he can play center field at a high level. I might have him ranked too low.
  10. Dayan ViciedoStock trend - Falling - I thought the big man would take a step forward this year after holding his own at the Major League level last year. Tank has obvious raw power and a quick bat but his utility showing has been poor thus far. He's slugging .404 right now. Viciedo isn't a good defender so his value is tied strictly into his bat and it's just not happening right now. I still believe in Dayan but his overall approach to Major League pitching likely needs an adjustment. With him it's not so much about the walks, he's just not swinging at good pitches.
  11. Jorge SolerStock trend - Staying put - Soler's season was sidetracked by a shin injury. His stock was on the rise before he got hurt but you can't be a mover if you ain't playin'. It'll be interesting to see if Soler gets an Arizona Fall League invite as that will also help his stock.
  12. Junior LakeStock trend - Rising, slightly - Now that the silly Yasiel Puig comps have gone away we can look at Lake as the player he is. He has the talent to run into those blistering hot streaks that he had when he was first called up but he's also slump prone. That's his M.O. Lake can do something that you've never seen on a baseball diamond before (in a good way) and then do something you've never seen on a baseball diamond before (in a bad way). He's miscast as a CFer IMO, but he's the best option currently on the team.
  13. Erik JohnsonStock trend - Rising - Johnson was a second round pick in 2011 and he's starting to put together an impressive minor league resume. The White Sox are fairly proficient at finding solid starting pitching and Johnson might be another arm they can roll out there in the near future. Johnson is missing a lot of minor league bats and his call might be coming very  soon.
  14. Arismendy AlcantaraStock trend - Rising - He's my boyfriend. I was turned on to Arismendy from a few different sources and now I have a full blown crush on the dude. I think Alcantara ends up being a solid contributor at secondbase with a decent bat and surprising pop. He has a quick swing, man. Watch this guy.
  15. Mike OltStock trend - Falling - Olt is just not hitting. Before Olt came over in the Matt Garza deal he was a top prospect in all of baseball. Vision issues have lead to his struggles in 2013 and it cost him a chance to get called up when Luis Valbuena went down with injury. I don't think Olt is an impact player at the major league level but if he can right his hitting issues he still has value as an everyday guy. There's a lot of work ahead here though.
  16. Tim AndersonStock trend - Wait and see - He put up gaudy college numbers but let's take a wait and see approach with Anderson as he faces his first real tests in pro baseball.
  17. Dan VogelbachStock trend - Staying put - Vogelbach has busted his ass to become a better defender, but that maybe puts him at a 4 defensively rather than a straight 2. The bat has played thus far, but it'll have to play at every level if he wants a shot.
  18. C.J. EdwardsStock trend - Rising - Dude has an incredible backstory and he's shoving early into his professional career. His fastball is a little flat but he has three quality pitches. If he adds good weight he might make it as a starter yet.
  19. Jeimer CandelarioStock trend - Rising - Switch hitting 3B with a high ass and a power stroke? Yes, please.
  20. Pierce JohnsonStock trend - Rising - Good arm who projects out with a 3 ceiling. Big test is coming, young man.
  21. Trayce ThompsonStock trend - Falling - Toolsy outfielder with approach issues. It's a theme in the White Sox org.
  22. Courtney HawkinsStock trend - Falling - The good(ish): He's slugging .428 as a 19 year old in A+ ball. The bad: He's hitting .190. The Ugly: 26-143 BB-KK ratio. I want to believe.
  23. Carlos SanchezStock trend - Staying put - Little guy with a slick glove, natural but unharnessed speed, and gap power. He's not hitting as well as I had hoped and his baserunning IQ still needs work. Glove can play in my opinion. The rest is a work in progress.
  24. Logan WatkinsStock trend - Falling - I'm glad he's getting his shot, it's just probably not gonna happen for him.
  25. Nestor MolinaStock trend - Falling - Makes me wish Andre Rienzo was a year younger. Molina is probably gonna wash out and join Brett Jackson and Vitters on the cast off list.

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