Cubs Top Prospects: 1-10

As the year winds down and there’s little to hope for at the MLB level (even the draft position is all but decided at #4), it’s time to look back at the minor leagues.  We’re going to do the top 50 prospects but I’m not going to do them all at once.  We’ll start with the top 10, in part because it’ll be the longest in terms of analysis and I felt counting down would be anti-climactic.  We all have a pretty good idea who the top 8 prospects are — at least in some order.  It gets a little more difficult after that.

A brief explanation on criteria.  It’s always tough trying to balance between floor and ceiling.  In this top 10 it’s not as much of an issue as many of the players are a fair combination of both.  It gets trickier as you go on.  How do you rank Matt Szczur vs. Eloy Jimenez, for example?  I tend to lean slightly toward ceiling but much consideration is given to floor as well.

Also considered in the rankings are (in no particular order): statistics, scouting reports, tools, approach, position value, mental makeup, and age relative to level played.  Conversations I’ve had with scouts and Cubs staff also come into play in the final decisions, but in the end these are my personal rankings based on a combination of all the aforementioned factors.  As far as statistics are concerned, I always put more weight on that as players move up the ladder.  At the AA level and above, for example, statistics begin to stabilize and we can consider them as important as scouting.  At the lower levels, however, a bigger emphasis is put on intangibles like tools, approach, and mental makeup.  As I’ve mentioned in a few previous articles, I consider makeup important in the sense that I believe players who possess good makeup are more likely to make the most of their tools and turn them into usable baseball skills.  The 10 players on this list all have great makeup as it’s something the Cubs organization emphasizes in their evaluation.

Enough explanation.  Here are your top 10 prospects to kick off the series:

1, Javier Baez, SS, 20 Tennessee (AA):  

       While he may not yet be a finished product and his approach isn’t as good as it needs to be quite yet, it’s hard to deny the upside here.  After a slow start in Daytona, things seemed to click for Baez.  He caught fire in the pitcher-friendly FSL, earned a promotion to AA and then stepped it up even more.  The first thing that stands out with Baez is his bat speed, which some call the best in the minors and perhaps among the best in all of baseball.   The swing is violent yet Baez is able to maintain surprisingly good balance for the most part.   He also improved his approach, showing the ability to go the other way, work counts, and even an increased willingness to take walks (a solid 8.1% rate in AA).   Where Baez is underrated is his instincts for all facets of the game.  He plays up average speed and quickness into above average base running and defense.  He still needs to cut down on things like errors and strikeouts, but given his age, level, performance, and solid defense at a premium position, Baez gets the nod for the top spot.

2.      2, Kris Bryant, 3B, 21, Daytona (A+):  

       Bryant had a disastrous first game as a professional, going 0-5 with 5 Ks, but we may have learned as much about him then as we would all season.  Boise teammate Shawon Dunston, Jr. remarked at how Bryant acted like nothing happened,  bounced back the next day and hasn’t looked back since.  The makeup is off the charts while his main assets as a hitter are his power and his solid approach, though you wouldn’t know it by his 4% walk rate and 28% K rate In 62 PAs after a promotion to Daytona.  Bryant is more athletic than you would think for a 6’5” kid.  He runs the bases well, has a plus arm, and shows better range at 3B than you would think.  That said, his skills may ultimately play best in a corner OF spot – but the bat will play anywhere.  The Cubs will let that sort itself out in time and he’ll play 3B until either he shows he can’t or a long term solution at 3B beats him to Wrigley Field.  Whoever that is will have to do it quickly because Bryant could be up by the end of next season.

3.      3, Albert Almora, CF, 19, Kane County (A): 

       I got to see Almora a lot this season before he got hurt and had he played a full season, I would have considered him for the top spot on the strength of his premium position and his high floor.  Almora makes contact easily at the plate (11% K rate), showing excellent hand/eye coordination and a swing that stays in the zone a long time.  He is the best pure hitter in the system, in my opinion, racking up multi-hit games with regularity.  He has average size and the swing likely won’t generate a lot of power, but Almora makes such consistent hard contact that it’s reasonable to think that he’ll hit 15-20 HRs in time.    As far as his approach, it’s better than the 6.3% walk rate would indicate.  He doesn’t chase many bad pitches and I think he’ll draw more walks in time, but he’ll always be aggressive in the strike zone.   As for his defense, Almora plays CF as if he has a built-in GPS system.  He gets tremendous jumps/reads and takes efficient lines to the baseball.  He covers a lot more ground than you would think with his average speed.  Couple that with a strong, accurate arm and Almora has Gold Glove potential written all over him.

4.      4, Jorge Soler, RF, 21, Daytona (A+): He has become the forgotten prospect since suffering a stress fracture to his tibia at the all-star break.  With Baez exploding and Bryant making an instant impact, it’s easy to forget that many consider Soler one of the top 30 prospects in all of baseball.  Soler’s calling card is his power potential.  He has a tremendous athletic build, explosive hands, and the best bat speed other than Baez.  Right now the power is a bit raw and hasn’t shown up consistently, but considering how little baseball Soler has played in the last 2 years, that’s to be expected.  What really gives you encouragement is how advanced his approach is despite the layoff. Soler walked in 9% of his PAs while striking out just 16% of the time.  Soler has solid tools across the board with average to slightly above average speed, good range in the OF, and a rocket arm that will play in RF.

5.      5 C.J. Edwards, RHP, 21, Daytona (A+):

       Like the top 4 spots, you could probably put 5-7 in any order and make a good argument for it.  Edwards gets the nod because of his flat-out dominance this year, going 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA across both full season A ball levels.  He struck out 12.91 batters per 9 IP (36.3% K rate) in Daytona after posting a 32.4% K rate with the Rangers.  He has the potential for 3 plus pitches, including a fastball that touches 98 mph coming out of an effortless, athletic delivery.  The pitch also has tremendous late movement.  When he isn’t striking hitters out, he’s breaking bats and inducing weak contact overall – including just one HR allowed in his professional career.  Edwards has answered many of the questions regarding his secondary pitches and now the only real question that remains is his stamina.  He’s 6’2” but carries a small frame on which he carries just 155 pounds and tends to lose velocity as the game progresses.  The Cubs will likely work on that stamina this offseason while he’s in the instructional league.

6.      6. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, 21, Tennessee (AA):

        Alcantara popped onto the prospect scene last year when he was ranked as high as #10 by Baseball America.  He was even better this year in his first full season.  He’s a switch-hitter with a live body and quick twitch athleticism.  That gives him quick hands and wrists and allows him to generate surprising pop despite his slight build.  Alcantara hit a career high 15 HRs, which actually ranked 10th in the pitching rich Southern League.  He added 36 doubles and 4 triples to that total, posting a solid .180 ISO.  Where Alcantara also improved is in his plate discipline, walking 11% of the time and posting a .352 OBP.  Alcantara posted a .710 OPS as a RH hitter as opposed to .837 from the left side, though that mark as a righty made a steady climb toward the end of the season.  I don’t see anything terribly wrong with his RH swing or approach and I really think it’s just a matter of getting more reps from that side. On defense, Alcantara has infielder’s tools, which is to say quick feet, soft hands, good range, and a strong arm, but he struggled at SS rushing throws and was moved to 2B, where the game seemed to slow down for him a bit.

7.      7. Pierce Johnson, RHP, 22, Daytona (A+):

       Johnson started the year in Kane County and improved after a couple of tough starts.  He has a great, athletic pitcher’s build and while his stuff isn’t as electric as Edwards’, he has the ability at this point to take on a bigger load.  Johnson works with a fastball that can range anywhere from 91-96 mph, a power curve, and a much improved change-up, allowing him to handle lefties well.  If there is a negative with Johnson, it’s that he walked 3.88 batters per 9 IP after his promotion to Daytona, though he did go 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA at that level.  But he does need to throw more strikes as he moves up.  His stuff is good enough to miss bats, striking out 25% of batters at both levels this year (slightly over a K per inning).    Johnson should start at AA and if he performs well, he’ll be knocking on the door to the majors by season end – and certainly by 2015.  He projects as a #3 type starter at the MLB level.

D     8. Dan Vogelbach, 1B, 20, Daytona (A+):

       It was a mixed bag for the big 1B.  While some expected him to show prodigious power this year, we saw a different side to Vogelbach.  He spent the year working on his approach, learning to take the ball the other way and shortening his swing with 2 strikes.  It temporarily cost him some power (19 HRs, .165 ISO) but it’s an approach that will likely play better at the upper levels than his pull-happy tendencies of the prior season.  Vogelbach is a very patient hitter, walking in 12.9% of his PAs while striking out just 15.7% of the time – an incredible ratio for a power hitter.  Vogelbach should eventually hit 30+ HRs with well above average OBP skills.  Defense is the biggest question but Vogelbach works hard and has made some improvement.  With his bat, he only needs to make the routine plays to be a big asset.  Nobody is asking him to be Mark Grace with the glove.

         9.  Mike Olt, 3B, 25, Iowa (AAA):

        Olt is a hard player to rank.  He’s been a top 50 prospect in all of baseball but some vision issues caused him to really struggle this year.  The positive from that is that Olt was all but unobtainable last year and now the Cubs got him as part of  a 4 player package that included #5 prospect Edwards for 2 months of Matt Garza.  Nobody has any illusions that Olt is going to hit .300 but the hope is he can hit .260 with a healthy walk rate (13.1% at AAA), 25 HR power, and above average defense at the hot corner.  Conquering contact issues can be a big IF as we’ve seen with Brett Jackson but we should take some solace that Olt’s issues were physical and not mechanical, so the hope is that with an offseason of rest and time to heal, Olt can come back and be the player he was in 2012.  He’ll get a shot at the Cubs 3B job in the spring.

10    10. Paul Blackburn, RHP, 20, Boise (Short Season A):  I’m a huge fan of Blackburn and my enthusiasm is shared by at least a couple members of the Cubs organization.  Blackburn showed flashes of dominance this season.  He came out firing this year at Boise, hitting as high as 95 mph before developing what the Cubs called a dead arm midway through Boise’s season.   The good news is that he bounced back just as strong in the postseason.  Blackburn supplements his good fastball (which is more often at 91-93 mph) with good curveball and a solid change, though he’s still trying to develop consistency with both. Blackburn is polished with a good feel for pitching at such a young age.  He’s athletic and while he struggled at times with his control this past season, the Cubs seem to think he’ll develop above average command as he gains experience.  Blackburn will likely start at Kane County but he’s the kind of guy that could move quickly once it clicks for him.

Filed under: Top Prospects Lists


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    Thanks John! I was pretty pumped to see this in my email this morning! I was wondering where you were going to rank Edwards, glad to see I don't have to wait long to find out. Some guys just get guys out.

  • In reply to Andrue Weber:

    Thanks Andrue. I really wavered on 5-7 and where to rank Edwards but that fastball and that dominance was too much to ignore. The floor is a late inning bullpen stud but the ceiling is probably the highest among Cubs pitchers based on stuff.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Think it says alot about Johnson and Blackburn that they outrank a guy who won minor league pitcher of the year after a ridiculous statistical season. People definitely are more iffy on Hendricks based on his lack of dominant stuff, but great results so far...

  • In reply to ratay1:

    It does. When it comes to ranking there has to be some projection involved and while Hendricks has been dominant, his ceiling is probably that of a #4 guy in the big leagues while the floor would be a middle reliever. Guys like Hendricks have it tough because they have to keep proving themselves at every level.

  • John you and I don't always agree but I have to say I agree with you pretty much completely. I don't know If Blackburn is number 10 for me but he close enough for me not to disagree with it. I was surprised that you put Bryant at 2 I was almost positive you would have Almora there. It is nice to see that people aren't as down on Bryant's Defense as they once were, but I knew he would surprise people. That being said if Olt can recover from this past year I would rather have him at 3B and Bryant in RF. I have been really high on Olt for a long time and believe he can come back.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I was pretty close to putting Almora there ;) I have little doubt he will hit for average and play GG caliber defense in CF and probably hit for double digit HRs. That's a pretty good player. The floor with Almora is high because of that D and his easy ability to make contact. Ultimately felt Bryant could really impact with that bat and OBP. It was close.

    I'm figuring I'd be higher on Blackburn than others but I like the well-rounded skill set. I had a few in the mix for #10. Who do you you like there?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Great top 10, looking forward to seeing the full list...
    To me, Almora is the most important prospect. not the best or highest ceiling guy but if he can make it and reach his potential the whole team will benefit. I think a guy with high average and OBP skills is a must. If he can work the count, see a lot of pitches it will lead to high pitch counts and shorter outings for the opposing pitcher. Once that happens you can get to the middle relievers faster and that is where the power guys will clean up. Take advantage of the lesser pitchers and looking at the list, Almora can have the most impact on this aspect

  • In reply to DoubleM:

    I think Almora is possibly the safest bet on this list to make it because of CF defense, his ability to make consistent hard contact, and his all around skill set. The only obstacle for him so far has been staying on the field.

  • In reply to DoubleM:

    And thanks!!

  • In reply to KGallo:

    For me -- regarding the RF question -- it comes down to how much time separates Soler from Bryant? If Kris is in the bigs by next year and playing RF, will he have to move for a superior defender in Soler at the same position by the next season..? Is he the LF of the future? How much better does Olt's defense need to be to push Bryant into an OF role?

  • In reply to ratay1:

    I think it's close enough that if Bryant beats him to the bigs and plays RF that he'll stick there and Soler will play LF.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I know it's mixing threads, but should a trade be made for CarGo that doesn't include Olt, Bryant or Soler in return...then what?!? LOL

    Realize its a high-class problem, but nonetheless intriguing to think how they'd make it all fit...

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I agree 100% Kevin. I was convinced he would have Almora was #2 also! lol Great job John!

    A big thanks to you too Kevin for having such conviction about Bryant pre-draft. In the handful of times I've seen him play, it's obvious why you had that conviction and why he's 2nd only to Baez (for now).

    On a side note, with Blackburn's age & inexperience, plus the fact he added so much weight/muscle, is anyone really surprised or concerned that he hit that proverbial "wall" or "dead arm"? I'm not. I would expect him to shoot up some prospect lists with a solid season in KC & possibly a taste of Daytona next season.

    Hoping when you re-write this in Jan., Mr. Tanaka is on it!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Hey, I might change my mind again by the next list ;)

  • I have considers about moving Baez to 3B and 2B during ST because of his footwork issues at SS. I think moving him to 2B is a good idea it will help him slow down the game little for him.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    It helped Alcantara a bit to move to 2B so it may well help Baez as well. I like Baez in the middle of the infield. He has an energetic style of play and he's so instinctual. I think the middle of the infield will keep him more involved in the action. I like him better at 2B than 3B but I think he could do well at either.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Villanueva is also an interesting guy, if he hits enough to force his way into the lineup, then you may have to consider moving Bryant to right since Villanueva's value is predicated on plus plus defense at third. The problem there is, if you have a lineup with Bryant, Baez, Castro, Castillo, and Rizzo in it, and you want Almora's defense in center on the team (I do), those last two slots almost have to be lefties. So the numbers game could keep Bryant at third and move Villanueva to another team.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think Villanueva is very much in play at 3B. Not all of the guys in front of him are sure to be there. Questions still out on Olt, Bryant may not stick, and Baez may fit better at 2B.

  • Pumped to see this! I had the same top 10 and almost the same order (5-7 were rearranged). Thanks John. Looking forward to reading all the way to 50!

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Thanks. Should be fun and could get a little crazy toward the bottom.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Great list! Was very excited to see that headline today, and I like starting with the top guys.

    Just like in the game, the farther on down the list you go, the less important the #s are (exact ranking) & the more important scouting reports are (your analysis).

  • I agree with the Top 8 as you mentioned John though we all might move guys up 1 or down 1.

    I am not sold on Olt. He is a bit old for his level and his floor is never playing in MLB. I think I might put Villanueva ahead of him.

    I would also put Hendricks in there at 10. Real interested I. Seeing what he does in ST next year.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Both of the guys mentioned were under consideration for that #10 spot. I tend to lean a little toward ceiling and Olt's offensive ceiling is greater than Villanueva's -- but you're right, there is bust potential with Olt.

  • Baez moves to 2b what happens to Alcantara? Does he move positions or is he just stuck, and have to be moved in a big trade later on? I hope Olt is our opening day starter at 3b next year.

  • In reply to SCCubsFan:

    The Cubs have had the foresight (even the last regime) to go after athletes who can play multiple positions. If Alcantara continues to hit, they'll find a spot for him. Could play OF or 2B.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well with Iowa still weaker on prospects hard to say. Front office will obviously put Baez first and foremost. Alcantara may play some SS if Baez is primarily 2B, but yes can see a lot of moving around and definitely Alcantara in the OF as if Baez sticks at 2B that would be really his only option with the Cubs (still weak in the outfield). I think if Alcantara plays primarily at SS all year, I think that would be an attempt to showcase him for a trade. But definitely good problems to have. Time will sort things out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Does AA's bat limit his attractiveness in the OF, sans CF, in your opinion?

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Yes. I would rather keep him in the infield.

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    The only question I have is at 1B. Will it be Rizzo, Vogelbach, or split time?

  • In reply to Dalton Starkey:

    It will be Rizzo barring continued struggles, but there's plenty of time to sort that out. Rizzo still a few years away from prime and Vogelbach about 3 years from bigs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    With Vogelbach's improved approached 2015 could be a real possibility. If he starts in A+ next year, he could mash his way to AAA, Tennessee for sure if the approach and power click early.

    I also expect him to have more doubles as he moves up and works on his body. He's probably a below average runner now but with coaching and turning some of that fat into muscle, some of his long singles should turn into doubles

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    I think the plan is for Vogelbach to get to Tennessee next year and then to AAA by 2015. He only makes the majors sooner than 2016 if Rizzo struggles and he's still crushing the ball. That may be an impetus to rush him a bit, but I think otherwise 2016 seems most realistic to me.

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    Vogelbach is a surprisingly good runner for his size. Where he struggles is in the first step or two, especially laterally. This won't make much of a difference in his doubles. He will never be a Jr lake and stretch a tweener into a double... It only matters on that rare occasion where a SS bobbles a grounder deep in the hole, he still has time to get Vogey... that's it.

    Watch him play, before you call him a poor runner. Better yet, put a stop watch on him. He'll surprise you.

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    In reply to Dalton Starkey:

    Vogelbach is a real question mark for me right now.

    Assume Vogelbach comes close to his ceiling of .330/.400+/.575+, with 35-40 HR. That's pretty valuable piece.

    If Rizzo is hitting .300/.380/.550, with 25-30 HR and gold glove defense, plus four to five years of major league experience, you have to figure everything he brings is more valuable than what Vogelbach can contribute. On the other hand, if Rizzo is .280/.350/.475, with 20-25 HR, Vogelbach could be a significant upgrade to the lineup.

    Even if Vogelbach doesn't hit his ceiling, you can play with both sets of numbers such that Vogelbach's bat is more valuable than Rizzo's bat+veteran presence+defense. But if he doesn't hit that insane ceiling, it is difficult to see Vogelbach more valuable than Rizzo, as John says.

    Of course, this may all be academic. If the Cubs find themselves in contention in 2015 with Rizzo as the first baseman, Vogelbach is an obvious trade piece even if it's the bad Rizzo above we wind up with.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's a good point. Even if Rizzo is hitting .250 with 28 HRs and the Cubs are winning, they may not want to shake things up no matter what. When you said this could all be academic, I was also hoping you'd mention the DH!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I usually make my lineups assuming no DH, since that's a complete wild card. But you're right, a DH in the NL really does change anything. With the ability to hit both Rizzo and Vogelbach in the same lineup, the pressing need to find two lefties in the outfield goes away.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'd like to see the DH soon. Long term to compete with AL rosters we need it. And yes, I love watching the pitcher (wood) mash, but counting on the pitcher spot to hit is asking for trouble.

  • The craziest part about CJ Edwards only allowing one home run is that he throws 98. Wouldn't you think hitters would at least get lucky from time to time and run into one? That's mind boggling.
    What are his other 2 plus pitches?

  • In reply to Denim Dan:

    *potential plus pitches...

  • In reply to Denim Dan:

    Want to not that while he has touched 98, most often throws 93-95 and slips into 91-92 range by the 5th inning. His other pitches include a big breaking curve, which is normally in the high 70s and changeup with some fade that's in the low to mid 80s -- so there's also nice variance with velocity with the 3 pitches.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So is this what you mean when they say stamina is an issue? It's a matter of innings pitched *in a game*, rather than through all season? I was always curious if the stamina issue was "he's a 5-inning pitcher" versus "he's a 150-inning pitcher".

    Is it at all reasonable to suggest he could be a very good 5-inning starter? Or do you really not want to do that in the big leagues, given the way it'd tax a bullpen?

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    I think he could be a good 6 inning starter but that sets him back in the rotation regardless of his stuff. Think Rich Harden, who had great stuff and the longer he was extended, the more the velo went down and the greater risk there was to getting hurt. Not saying that is Edwards fate, but don't forget how dominant Harden was as a minor league pitcher with a similar build.

  • John what's your position on lineup balance as far as left and right hand hitters?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think some balance is ideal, which would favor a guy like Alcantara making it, but Cubs in general are RH heavy. May need to see that LH bat from outside the organization.

  • Don't look know, but the Cubs are only one-half game "ahead" of Minnesota for the 4th pick. Twins close at home with Detroit and Cleveland. Picking 5th is a real possibility.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Yes, thank you for mentioning that. I meant to write "no better" than #4 but Word Press having some issues and I didn't notice until afterward. I'll correct it once issues are resolved, which may not be until tonight :(

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Silver lining on the .5 game above the Twins. I believe the winner of the tiebreaker goes to the team with the worse record the previous year. That means the Cubs have a slightly larger cushion than .5 games. Yup, its the end of a bad season.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    That is indeed a silver lining for two consecutive bad years.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    Yes, a bad season, but not as bad as 2012 IMO, and that feeling has little to do with the slightly better record.

    Maybe a post and thread for a dreary winter day?

  • Great work as always, John.

    I would have gone with Vizcaino over Olt, but I assume you'll have Aroldys pretty high in the next list and the argument against him is pretty obvious. Like you said, Olt is a tough one to guage.

    I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say the next 5 in your list are Vizcaino, Candelerio, Hendricks, Zastryzny, Underwood in some order. After that, I think you could make an argument to put any of the next 30 or so players in any order. Even Zastryzny and Underwood could fall into that group.

    The Cubs pipeline is crazy deep. I think there are 40-50 guys with a decent chance to become MLB players. I am very curious how the rest of your list goes, and where you choose to stop, because I know at least in my eyes the 20-40 guys are all pretty in the same tier.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Thanks mjvz. Vizcaino will be featured high in the next list and was considered for the top 10 as well. I think injuries and the build pretty much assure he starts his career as a reliever and that was the ultimate determining factor for me. Chance he moves up into rotation later, but that is a big unknown. The ceiling is higher than any pitcher on this list when healthy -- including Edwards, Johnson, and Blackburn (who are probably #3s). Despite the great stuff, Vizcaino also likely a #3 because of his build and the uncertainty about whether he can carry a big load in the bigs.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I would think Maples would be in there, possibly over Zast?

    By the way, this might be the first time that we can put together a top 20 Cub prospects (adding Maples, Eloy, Silva, Villaneuava and then maybe another 2013 draft pitcher, like Skulina, Masek or Clifton) where I can realistically believe that any one of them could be a major league contributor. (Note I am not stating that all will reach their potential or all (or even most) will make the majors....rather that I believe that any one of them making the majors and being a good player would not be a surprise or something that could not be projected)

    Normally after the first 5 players or so, the rest of the list are players missing one or more major prospect components -- they can't stay healthy, are performing at levels below their age, project more as a 4th OF or middle reliever, etc. Right now if you told me that any of those players were going to be good contributors in the dailiy lineup or rotation, I would not say it was improbable., I have never felt so good about the Cubs future.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I will say it does get a little muddy -- even after the top 8 and certainly after the top 15 or 20, but I'm even more optimistic than you. I think there's more than 50 guys with at least a chance of making it. I once asked a scout whether a fringe prospect "had a chance". His reply was that everyone has at least a chance. I'm not sure about that, but he's been doing this a lot longer than I have!

  • Great read John! I look forward to the rest of your list. I want to pick your brain on a couple of things...

    Where do you think Almora hits in the lineup? Could he be a leadoff guy?

    Where in the rotation do you see Blackburn? Is his ceiling TOR?

    I think Alcantara ends up a utility guy or trade bait in the long run. I just don't see where he will fit in once all of the studs hit MLB.

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    Thank you. I like Almora in the #2 spot but that's where I like the team's best hitter. I see Blackburn as maybe a #2 but probably mid-rotation.

  • Great list, John! Looking forward to the next 40.

    I'm not sold yet on Blackburn or Alcantara, who both had some pretty long stretches of so-so play - but not enough to bump them more than a spot.

    I'd put Hendricks at 9 and Olt at 10.

    And that lefty hitter, I think it will be Choo. If we do nothing else this winter, I hope this happens.

    And for those wondering where everyone fits? If Castro fails to right the ship, his days could be numbered.

  • "Almora plays CF as if he has a built-in GPS system" - that's a fantastic line. Thanks for the great read.

    So how would you rank the Cubs' top ten compared to that of other teams? Maybe I'm too optimistic, but it seems like the Cubs have arguably the best top 10 prospects in baseball...

  • In reply to Tom Jacks:

    Ha! Thanks. I'd say they are in the top 2 especially when you count the top 8. Minnesota is serious competition with Buxton, Sano, and Butler among others. I'd give them the nod.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    They say Buxton is comparable to Mike Trout. That's high praise....he's the consensus #1 prospect.

    I bet we're deeper than Minny, but Buxton/Sano makes them uber strong at the top

  • I still think one or 2 of the top four will be moved. I think it will most likely be for pitching but it is also possible that they move them for a Another LHed bat. That is my opinion.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Very possible. I think they'll take some time to do more evaluation and learn about these guys and then I wouldnt' be surprised to see that happen -- even if it scares me to death.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I agree with you on kne of those guys being moved. Given the financial resources of the org, short-term issues aside, it makes sense to "de-risk" a bit by turning one of these studs into a estabilished, marquee player. If they can accelerate the timeline and lower their "prospect" risk, it's going to make sense. I'm guessing they're not going to be comfortable blending in , essentially , 4 rookies with a core that is still relatively young. At this point, a young vet(24-28) makes a lot of sense for this group.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Completely agree -- and I think it's probably Soler if Bryant and Baez make a successful debut next year. Any way you play with the lineup, it's difficult for all three of them to be in it.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Unless Castro is the trade.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Can, opened.

    Worms, everywhere.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'm not against trading Castro. it's just very doubtful he'll be traded and it's almost impossible to get fair value for him this offseason. I think a lot of times the trade Castro sentiment comes because of his poor season and an overly optimistic view on how many prospects will turn out, but that's often when some really bad trades are made. I think that's something that will be talked about more around media circles than in front offices. That's not to say the Cubs won't listen, because teams will call, but obtaining equal value under the current circumstances makes it an extreme longshot. teams will call the Cubs with the approach of trying to buy low -- and that won't happen.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Cross that bridge after next year.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I just thought it was funny since that particular topic seems to generate more emotional responses than any other.

    In the short term, I've come to accept that offensively/defensively we aren't going to do better than Baez-Castro-Bryant second to third. In the longer term, I love great defensive shortstops and want the best defender possible that role. I would hope for someone better than both options to play there. But that may not be Theo's plan.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    If any 2 of Olt, Alcantara, and Villanueva establish themselves as ML hitters, someone is getting traded or dealt. Because there isn't room for these guys, Castro, and Baez. And that assumes Bryant is moved to the OF.

    Complicating it is that Olt and Villnueva are really 3B-only players; plus defenders at that position, not enough bat to play 1B or LF

  • Awesome list. I'd flipped-flopped Vogie and Olt, giving Olt a bit more of a pass for this year. And I had Candelario taking the 10th spot just ahead of Blackburn.

    Its funny how much I agree with what written on this site. After you'd mentioned the Rockies shopping Cargo, I actually thought I wonder if an Arrieta, Alcantara, Vogelbach package is enough to get him. I was marveling at how deep the team is, and although those are quality players, the Cubs system is so deep they're almost replaceable.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I could see a case made for those two switches. I'm a huge fan of Candelario.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Candelario was in the 7-10 range in most pre-season top-10s. I don't think he did anything to get moved down; it's just that the Cubs acquired players in front of him (Bryant, CJ, Olt), or had breakouts (Alcantara). Speaks to the depth in the system. Candelario is still a good prospect.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    My only problem with Candelario is I'm not sure his bat will provide the pop you generally want from the corners, but a switch hitter with excellent contact skills who has been consistently young for every level? Yes, please.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I have read doubts about his power potential, or ability to stay at 3B; he doesn't profile defensively anywhere but 3B/1B, so as a 1B it would put tons of pressure on his bat.

    But everyone is impressed with his approach at a young age, so we'll see

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I thought he was an ideal conversion project to Catcher. His switch hitting bat, would be a plus there. He has the physical tools to play the position. No idea about the mental parts. They tagged several others for that switch and I think this FO knows a lot more than me, so...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    There's always next year or the following one for that conversion given his age. I think the FO will gauge their latest 3 conversion projects first, but the IF may get a bit crowded.

  • In reply to Zonk:


  • John - when are you going to do a top-15 prospect piece on the Rangers system? I'm interested to learn more about their players that will eventually be Cubs.. :)

    Its kind of amazing the talent level we've been able to siphon out of TX!

    To me, there is almost this strange comparison between what we've gotten from them and what TX got from Teixeira. Edwards / Neftali Feliz. Olt - Andrus. And a bunch of pieces.

    I'm not comparing Olt to Andrus necessarily - but I'd assume the upside was similar for these guys...

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    LOL! Nicely played. Something tells me they won't be dealing with the Cubs again soon.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I have to think Daniels feels pretty poorly used after the last two trade deadlines. But, after this collapse, Theo may not be dealing with Daniels next year, anyway.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think he didn't expect the Dempster prospects to be as good as they've been -- though he did publicly say the Cubs did their homework and plucked two of their favorite sleepers in Villanueva and Hendricks.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    That's true but when you look at what the Rangers gave up for Garza and every other prospect-return package at the deadline, the only one that is even close is the Orioles package for Feldman. And even that wasn't as devastating because Feldman is nowhere near as good as Garza. Daniels just has to think dealing with Theo is more trouble than it's worth right now. I think he knows if he'd waited he could have had Peavy for far less -- maybe Sardinas and Ramirez.

    Add to that the way Garza has pitched and the absolute free-fall that team has been on. You like to think that guys are completely rational about such things, but some lingering trigger-shyness has to remain after this.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    In Daniel's defense, he's built a great farm system and pipeline of talent. He was able to do all those deals basically with organizational surplus, and not touching his top prospects, like Odor or Profar or Perez. That's pretty impressive.....

    Hopefully one day we can acquire all-star talent with our farm system leftovers.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Even with his struggles, Olt was ahead of Odor. And Grimm was their #5 prospect headed into last year. He has done a great job, and there is still a lot of talent there, but the price on Garza was staggeringly high. (Not that I'm complaining -- ecstatic to have all of them as Cubs. Just trying to imagine this from Daniels point of view.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:


    Hard to fault Daniel's though. He's put together a great lineup, solid pitching (Darvish signing has paid dividends), has (had?) a strong farm system and made some smart decisions (i.e. letting Hamilton walk).

    Difficult to say that their window has closed, given the relative youth of the club and the talent they currently have - but not getting it done in back to back WS appearances, then subsequently regressing the next two years (blowing a big divisional lead in the last 10 days and then not making the playoffs this year) will probably factor in heavily into what heads will roll. Hard to see Washington sticking around. I wonder if Girardi likes Texas? :)

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    In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I think at the very least Washington is looking for work. Not sure how much of this is on him, but someone has to take a fall for this. If you'd told me an unnamed team would do this, I'd assume it was the Pirates or the Cubs.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    HA! Cubs / Pirates-type situation indeed.

    Of course the Cardinals were the team that benefited from their WS collapse.

    I remember watching Game 6 and thought it was over after Hamilton hit that 2-run bomb (I think it was in the 10th). Of course, the Cardinals scrap back into it -- which was probably the results of a - single, walk, past ball, infield single, wild pitch, error -- type of a sequence...

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    The most intriguing part in this collapse and potential firing of Washington is Mike Maddux's situation. He was obviously their #1 choice, but didn't want to uproot his family. Well now, they may be forced to be uprooted, if so, does Theo/Jed make a play for him and show Dale the door? Things that make you go hmmmm.......

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I wonder what happens if he switches managers and Texas continues to come up short -- seems to me that, despite his success in building the organization, fingers might start getting pointed at him.

  • Thanks John. Very informative. Interesting that the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year Kyle Hendricks didn't merit cracking the top 10. But as we know, power arms make people salivate more than a 1.8 BB/9 innings, 1.058 WHIP and 2.00 ERA across Double and Triple A. But why? For every Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens who put up HOF numbers, there's one Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine or Bert Blyleven.) While some may consider this a possible outlier year for Hendricks until he gets more than 6 Triple A starts under his belt, consider that his walk rate and WHIP were both above his career averages of 1.5 and 1.041. That WHIP really impresses me, especially as it is the pitching corollary of OBP.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    He's close and it's a matter of ceiling and long term projection as a pro. I felt the pitchers I mentioned have profiles which are more in line with traditionally successful starters. I can tell you Hendricks was close, no doubting those stats, but ceiling is likely as a #4 guy and if he's not that, it relegates him to middle relief or the guy who rides the Iowa-Chicago shuttle.

    Hendricks doesn't compare favorably to any of the guys you mentioned. Maddux was an exception. There are many hard throwing top of the rotation guys per every Greg Maddux, who is a once in a lifetime talent. His command was off the charts and his stuff was better than Hendricks. Glavine had an incredible change-up. Bert Blyleven had one of the best curve balls in MLB history. Hendricks doesn't have an out pitch like that at this point. He needs to locate to get people out.

    As mentioned in the intro, there are a lot of things considered other than statistics, which can be somewhat misleading at the minor league level.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    My comparison wasn't Hendricks to HOFers. Not sure who would ever make that comparison. So you are arguing a straw man. My comparison was like to like: Clemens and Johnson to HOF non-power arms like Maddux, et al; and Hendricks to other Cubs minor league pitchers. My point is that "top prospect lists" almost always overvalue hard-throwers even though most major-league staffs have a mix. So if the goal of the list (and no denying yours is very useful) is to judge which players have the best chance of making it to the majors and contributing the most, then non-hardthrowers are always devalued. So a good question is why are power arms always considered to have such higher ceilings when their chances of making a starting staff (or to the HOF for that matter -- the ultimate "high ceiling") are not greater than the non-hard-thrower? Also consider that hard-throwers have a much greater likelihood of suffering arm injuries that lower their value and their chances of making the majors, or experience command issues that relegate them to the bullpen and far fewer innings (i.e., value) than a command-style No. 4 starter or even a "lowly" swing man. It's an interesting bias to examine. It reflects my opinion that the marketplace undervalues the likes of Hendricks and Rusin, and there is an opportunity there for Theo/Jed to exploit. In terms of your list, It also seems an odd omission when the organization's named top minor league pitcher of the year rates behind a pitcher who in just two years at Rookie and low A ball managed just 22 appearances, and achieved only a 3.38 ERA and a 1.500 WHIP (Blackburn). You may be over-projecting Blackburn and under-projecting Hendricks.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    I think that comparison is far too general (hard tossers vs. soft tossers) and that was the point I was trying to make with those comparisons. All of those pitchers had a go-to out pitch. Hendricks really doesn't. His stuff is rather average across the board. More specific delineations should be made. This would include how many plus pitches, the level of command, makeup/pitchability, stamina. Some soft tossers can still have plus pitches and they get check marks in each category. The plus pitch category is the only concern I have with Hendricks.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Soft-tosser? The terminology I prefer is strikeout pitcher to command-style pitcher. But anyways, it's hardly "too general" when your list features strikeout pitchers over command-style and appears to overvalue Ks/9 innings as a tool of major-league projection over WHIP. Of course, there is no perfect way of evaluating prospects, but I do see a consistent bias in most lists of evaluators who love a blazing fastball above all... and thus the over-prepondance of strikeout pitchers on such list.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Pitchers who miss bats at the minor league level are more likely to have success at the MLB level. You may not like it, but historical trends show it to be true and that is why it is valued by professionals who have done this for a very long time.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Love to see actual stats on that vague "historical trend." But examining major league starting staffs suggests otherwise. For instance, half of the Cubs starts this year were by pitchers with Ks/9 innings of 7.0. (Hendricks' minor league K per 9 innings has been 7.4 for those who are impressed by such numbers... although I am more impressed by getting outs without runs scoring.) Even the best staffs in baseball feature many non-strikeout pitchers as starters. The Braves had 40% of games started this year by pitchers with less than 7.0 K/9, and the Dodgers if you include Ryu and his 7.2 Ks/9 had 51% of their games started by less than traditional strikeout pitchers.

    P.S. -- The major league average is 7.5 ks/9. So if there is a trend toward strikeout pitchers, it seems fairly minor.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    I was referring to the ability to miss bats at the minor level. It projects for better success at the MLB level, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will continue to miss bats at a high rate in the big leagues. A swing and miss pitch at the minors often can still become an out-pitch at the MLB level -- though it could be through weak contact, not necessarily Ks.

    But like I said, if you don't like it, create your own player evaluation system. Maybe your way will topple years of scouting and statistical evaluation baseball. You can be a revolutionary!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Also interesting that you consider his "stuff" to be "rather average." This probably demonstrates the bias error more than anything. His "rather average" stuff won him pitcher of the year honors. When "stuff" doesn't translate to results, and "average stuff" year-in and year-out achieves extremely low WHIPs and a pitcher of the year award, one can start to sense the evaluative flaw. (Personally, I feel "command" should always be considered part of "stuff.")

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    If you want to change the definition of stuff, that's up to you for your own personal lists. And if you want to rely heavily on minor league results and awards, that's up to you too. Good luck with that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Oh, is there a definition of this "stuff" you keep referring to? Please share. =)

    Also, why does the George Carlin's routine come to mind about what we call our stuff, other people call s***. LOL

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Stuff is used to describe the quality of pitches in terms of movement, break, velocity. It's commonly used as a short cut. Command is evaluated separately.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    It's worth noting that the minor league Ks/9 inning rates of a few pitchers: Greg Maddux (5.7), Tom Glavine (7.0), Bert Blyleven (8.0), or some of the top 8 N.L. CY Young vote earners: R.A. Dickey (5.9), Johnny Cueto (2012: 7.0), and Kyle Lohse (6.9). However you slice it, there seems to be nearly as many non-strikeout pitchers excelling and taking up major league roster spots as pitchers with strikeout stuff. Thus, I continue to maintain, the market over-values the minor league prospect with strikeout "stuff." It strikes me there is an opportunity to leverage there for Theo/Jed if they shift to valuing WHIP. They already do this with OBP and walk and K rate on the offensive side. Some say they did just that in getting Hendricks and Christian Villaneuva for Dempster last year; however, these players didn't knock the socks off any evaluators a strikeout pitcher or HR hitter. In fact, because of Dempster's no-trade clause and the Braves deal falling through, Jed/Theo were perceived as having limited bargaining chips and got the most they could in subprime prospects like Hendricks and Villaneuva. Now one earned pitcher of the year and the other is expected to compete with Mike Olt for 3B in spring training.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Lesser walks are desirable and separate from the ability to miss bats. But allowing less hits at the MLB correlates with the ability to miss bats at the minor league level. WHIP is a result oriented stat and that isn't particularly useful when projecting prospects.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Once again, love to see the stats on that. I agree that what you say is what the scouts and organizations say, but as my endless stats suggest, there is an over-valuing of strikeout related stats that do not correlate to provable greater major league success. Also your "results oriented stat" line doesn't apply with WHIP. Shouldn't the ability to "miss bats" directly correlate to fewer hits allowed? And of course, giving up walks is completely in the pitcher's control because there is no involvement of fielders. Thus WHIP is a tremendously useful stat for projecting success, especially in the high minors. In my opinion Ks/9 are not good for comparing apples and oranges pitchers (say a Maddux versus a Clemens, or a Drew Hall versus a Jamie Moyer). But WHIP is probably the best stat for putting strikeout pitchers and command pitchers on as level a comparative playing field as possible. But there is no arguing against a good bias. But I think we would agree that if someone proposed a fictional Paul Blackburn for Kyle Hendricks trade, 32 out of 32 GMs would want the Hendricks end of that trade.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No kicking and screaming here. Only snarky comments I've seen have been from your end, but no worries, they didn't detract from my enjoyment of this exchange. Keep up the great work.

  • Great list John, when I was mentally doing my own prior to yours, my listing was exactly the same, 1-8, but I had to give Hendricks his props and put him at 9, and I really like Villanueva, had him at 10. Olt's season was just SOOO bad, I want to rank him higher, but wow....

    Is Arodys Vizcaino a permanent asterisk on such lists at this point?

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    Good list John, I think everyone will have those top 8 up there through Vogelbach, and Olt/Blackburn, if they are not 9-10, are certainly in the next group.

    I foresee the Cubs have 6-8 players in the BA top 100; Pierce and Vogelbach on the bubble....but that's a good number, with 3-4 likely in top 25.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think a few people will be willing to give Olt more of a pass. He was really well regarded prior to the season. I would expect Olt will sneak into the back half of a couple lists. I think some will like him more than Vogie, and maybe even Pierce or Alcantara.

  • Great list, John. I think you nailed the Top 4 pretty well. In my heart I LOVE Baez, and after the year he had, he's earned #1, but in my head, I have a bit more faith in Bryant's ceiling/floor combo.
    Sometime after the first week of November, re-rank the Top 4, I think the AFL will change some minds.

  • Great List John !

    I liked how you listed the tier grouping as well.

    Any word why Edwards was scratched from the AFL ?

    Also do you still plan on doing an Org. Starter & Relief Pitchers lists ? I know that could be crazy with like 40 or 50 pitchers total.

    Thanks again for all your hard work !!

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    Thanks. Edwards wasn't going to the AFL, that was Vizcaino. They just want to control his workload as this is going to be his first live action in over a year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's not was listed here ???

    9/19 UPDATE: Carrie Muskat posted the updated 2013 Cubs AZ Instructional League roster yesterday at MLBBlogs Network, and that roster shows that RHP C. J. Edwards and OF Kevin Encarnacion have been deleted from last week's AZIL preliminary roster, and 16-year old OF Eloy Jimenez (the top-rated international prospect from 2013) has been added.

    Do you still plan on doing an Org. Starter & Relief Pitchers lists ?

    Thanks Again

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    Oh..instructs. I thought you referred to Fall League. With Edwards it's probably about keeping his work load lower.

    I covered a lot of pitchers in a previous article and decided not to repeat information. We'll cover the best pitchers on this top 50 list.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Cool ...thanks again !!

  • John,

    Great article--this is fun stuff. I also love to read the comments--so many great comments contributed. This site truly is the best spot for discussing the Cubs.

    BTW, do you think Jermaine Dye is an appropriate comp for what we can hope Soler will become? Do you think Soler's good-not-great MiLB numbers are a concern in any way? Does it become a concern at some point if he doesn't put up big numbers next year or the year after?

    On another note, you and one of the commenters were discussing the number of guys in the system who have a shot at an MLB career, and the scout who said, "everybody has a shot"--which is a beautiful perspective to have.

    The best example of the truth of the scout's statement--as it relates to former Cub farmhands--would be Rich Amaral. Do you remember him? He was a 2Bman in the Cubs' system at about the same time as Mark Grace, Dwight Smith, et al. Amaral played at the AA level for two years as a 24-25 year old and posted OPSs of 615 and 659 in those years. Yet, he went on to have a pretty nice career as a "super-utility" guy with Seattle in the 90's, playing in 727 MLB games with a career OBP of 344--not bad for a guy like that. His best season was 1996, when he posted a .392 OBP in 1996 in nearly 400 MLB PA.

    Amaral took four years to make it out of AA ball, and at AAA looked like the prototypical "quadruple A guy" with no future, but he's a guy who just kept plugging away and making himself into a better player, until he was finally able to realize his MLB dream in his thirties.

    Amaral is a great example of a what can happen when a guy just relentlessly makes incremental progress from season to season in different aspects of this game. A lot of guys believe the labels that are put on them, but someone who refuses to accept those labels and continues to work his butt off might be able to transform himself into something beyond what anyone could have envisioned. It's rare, but still nice to see that it CAN happen.

  • I like the list but where is Arodys Vizcaino? He is a top 100 in Baseball prospect. I understand he was injured which will make him drop some but the potential is still there. Based on National ranking I would rank the prospect list like this...

    1. Javier Baez
    2. Kris Bryant
    3. Albert Almora
    4. Jorge Soler
    5. C.J. Edwards
    6. Mike Olt
    7. Arsimendy Alcantara
    8. Arodys Vizcaino
    9. Pierce Johnson
    10. Dan Voglebach

    Out of the top 8 players, 6 have been ranked nationally in the top 100 and C.J Edwards & Alcantara had pop up performances this year to put them in the same range. I would think that ALL the players on this list are Top #150 in Baseball.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    A few points I probably need to clear up here: 1) I do not use other lists to make my list, which is one reason why I try to do mine early and 2) Vizcaino hasn't pitched in a year and things have changed since that national ranking 3) Some increased doubts as to whether he can remain a starter, which hurts his ranking 4) Vizcaino will be featured prominently on the next list, so he's not really that far off from what you have him.

  • John,
    I will defer to your expertise in all matters regarding prospects with one notable exception. You, like all other baseball pundits, place far too much emphasis on pitchers' strike out statistics. SOs are just a statistic of no particular significance except for the instances with base runners and no outs. Otherwise they are just outs that pitchers take pride in. I think it is a mistake, because it causes so many sore arms. Kerry Wood comes to mind first. His obsession with SOs destroyed his career with a load of help from Dusty.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    The thing that strikeouts indicate, especially as a player comes up thru the minors is how hard it is for a hitter to put good wood on the ball. I agree that strikeouts tend to ultimately lead to more pitches, which can lead to arm issues. But K's are one of the best way to determine a pitcher's stuff. There are guys like Tim Hudson who don't need the strikeouts to succeed, but it's nice to see a player like Edwards miss lots of bats too coming up thru the system.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    Thank you, Bloomie. I appreciate that.

    Let me see if I can explain this. Baseball truism: strikeouts at the minor league level are a key indicator of MLB success. As you are aware, the competition gets better and the margin for error becomes smaller as you move up the ladder. We cannot assume things remain static as you move up. A guy with a very high K rate in the minors may well have a high (but somewhat lower) K rate in the majors.

    But let's forget about K's and lets talk about it in terms of "missed bats". I think you would agree that missing bats in general is better than putting the ball in play. If you throw strikes and miss bats, you are probably a front line pitcher. As a matter of rule, when you put the ball in play there is a chance it can drop for a hit. Thus, more missed bats means = less balls in play, which equal less opportunity for one to drop.

    Step further: Guys who miss bats at the minor league level may not miss them at the MLB level for the simple reason that the movement, break, location and velo that creates swings and misses at the minor league level may not be quite good enough to miss bats at the MLB level..... However, those skills that helped you miss bats at the minor league level, coupled with that decreased margin for error and increase in hitter skill level, may instead mean hitters may still make contact, but they don't quite square it up to make hard contact. Let's call it "almost missed bats". Whereas a pitcher who survives pitching to contact against lower skilled hitters ( a guy who almost misses bats) may find they may wind up pitching to more hard contact when they face more skilled hitters. "Almost missed" bats can become "didn't miss the bat at all" when there is less margin for error.

    To put it more succinctly, Ks means more missed bats and more missed bats is an indicator of the quality of a pitcher's stuff, ability to change speeds, and location.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not trying to argue against Ks/9 innings (or even missed bats being a useful statistic) as completely useless. I'm saying that it is over-valued and over-factored... relative terms to be certain, but hey, all evaluative criteria are relative. And a great case in point is a pitcher (Hendricks) who posts a 2.00 ERA this year and "only" 7.7 Ks/9 innings being described as not being able to miss bats and having "rather average stuff." Huh? And he does this for not one year, but multiple years. It reminds me of back during Maddux and Jamie Moyer's early years with the Cubs and how everyone by comparison were far more infatuated with the arrival of Drew Hall and Mike Harkey. Of course, at some point people remember that even with prospects, there is a difference between pitchers and throwers. Hendricks has proven he's a heckuva pitcher at least through Triple A so far. Only those relatively over enamored with raw strikeout "stuff" would rate him as a lesser prospect than Paul Blackburn (how many people said "who?" when they read that name).

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    7.7 Ks isn't bad at all, actually, especially at the levels he played at this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    My point exactly, and thus the quote marks around "only." And it must be truly outstanding for a pitcher with "rather average stuff." How does he miss all those bats? =)

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    You can do a lot with good command and 4 average pitches at the minor league level. MLB is less forgiving. I hope he does well, but pitchers without at least one out pitch generally become bottom of the rotation starters -- which isn't a bad thing. I'd be thrilled if Hendricks turned out to be a #4. The decent K rate gives you some hope.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    wow, that was really good.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:


  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No,, John, , I disagree., baseball ,is played wit, teams of 9., I'm a believer in, getting everyone involved. Hitting bats does that. as a measure of pitchers', stuff ,I follow that , but that sinker can, get two ,outs sometimes a SO, almost never does.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    I don't have anything against a good sinker. Some are good enough to induce weak contact and create DP opportunities. What I'm saying is that a guy with a sinker that's good enough to induce weak contact in the majors, will often draw more swings and misses with it in the minors.

  • Hey John or anyone else, Did the Cubs ever announce who is replacing Baez in the AFL

  • In reply to Peter Chicago:

    I don't think they've made that announcement yet.

  • I think there could also be a "fallen angels" section of any teams prospects list, Cubs included. Guys that were once top-100 or nearly so, that have fallen off to non-prospect status or nearly so due to injuries, poor performance, whatevs. For the Cubs, that list would be Vizcaino, Olt, Jackson, Vitters and McNutt, and probably in that order. I also believe as recently as two years ago, Rafael Dolis was on everyone's top-10 Cubs list, he looks finished due to another arm injury. You could even make a case for Dillon Maples on such a list, though I wouldn't since he's never pitched above rookie ball.

  • John-- And it should go without saying, I enjoyed the discussion. Keep up the great work.

  • As a BA subscriber since the early 90's I've always loved the prospect stuff the most of any aspect of being a baseball fan. Love me a good article. I'm stoked that you're gonna do top 50! I got ambushed with it this morning since I didn't think it would start this soon! Thanks for all the hard work all year with the minor league recaps. Its one of the two or three things I look at every single day. Seriously, man, really good stuff.

    Two little surprises for me. Surprised in a good way with CJ in the 5 spot. Will be much higher than 5 with another year like that across two more levels. Also a little surprised Hendricks didn't get the nod over Blackburn for the 10 spot, even though I know you really like PB as do I. After watching Medlen dominate the other day 88-92 with great back and forth to all the lefties I started thinking that's a pretty good comp. Threw 6 or 7 breaking balls all day and they were all good ones. I love that they want him to work on beating lefties! I think I remember reading that KH can throw his change at 74 or 5 while sitting 90. Is that true? If so that would be the biggest back and forth differential on the staff.

    Also, one more question for you. Other than the level they're pitching at obviously, how would you compare the 21 year old CJ Edwards to the 21 yo Doc Gooden in terms of stuff? Anything north of 95 with a lot of life is pretty rare for a right hander. Both 6'2 and wiry. I guess it comes down to the secondaries so how far behind is CJ on those? If Edwin Jackson can debut on his 20th birthday...CJ's more of a sleeper than I thought after hearing McLeod talk about him in the booth the other day. Fifteen pounds and a healthy season, couple of injuries in the bigs, 21/22 not being as young as it once was for pitchers...Its not easy to command a fastball with as much life as his apparently has and you could detect the excitement in JMc's voice. I'm not ruling 2014 out completely for CJ's debut. Oh pleeeeease stay healthy!!

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks. I've been trying to leave hints but it's hard for me to leave promises as to when I can actually get it done ;) I decided to have some fun with it. I first had Alcantara there and then I had Johnson because his greater build gives him a better shot to stick as a starter, but decided to go with the great stuff and dominating numbers.

    His arsenal is not as good as a young Gooden, who could overpower hitters consistently with a high fastball that seemed to rise (of course, physically impossible) and a knee buckling curve. Not to mention that Gooden had the better build. I think the hope is that he can be a #3 type starter in the bigs. I see him more like Rich Harden in terms of stuff and build, though I hope that the Cubs can make sure he gets stronger and is able to stay healthy. That's no knock on Edwards. Harden was considered a heck of a prospect. I just hope the results are a bit better.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Harden, Ben Sheets, Kerry Wood - all should have gone to the bullpen at the first sign of recurring trouble. Sadly, I have the feeling Andrew Cashner is heading down that same road. I know the Padres are trying to get max value out of the kid, but he won't be able to contribute at all with his arm in a sling. If it were me running the Padres, Cashner would be anchoring the bullpen.

  • I usually look at BA against as the best indicator of a pitchers ability in the minors. Generally, if they are hitting him in the minors, they will hit him more in the majors. Weak grounders or pop ups are also good and may take less pitches than a strike out. I'll take a lower BA against versus a higher strike out total every time.

  • In reply to cubman:

    Soft contact can become harder contact as you move up and hitters are better, which is why I still prefer missed bats because as you move up, maybe that hard sinker becomes more of a groundball pitch than a strikeout pitch.

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    Still find is so peculiar that Olt didn't get the September call, yet the job is his to win in Spring Training. Figured even a few at bats at September could've been useful for him? Was the thinking he just needed a complete breather?

  • In reply to Stomper90:

    Yes. They wanted him to just get some rest, clear his head, and come back fresh in the spring. FO types don't put as much stock in September ABs/Innings as we do anyway.

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    John, each minor league affiliate has about 35 players on it's reserve list. We have 5 minor league affiliates in the US, and at least 2 internationally. I think a ranking of the top 245 prospects is in order, from 1 to 245. Feel free to break that into a 20-part series to make it easier on you.

  • In reply to Zonk:


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    Here's my guess for your rankings 11-20:
    11. Arodys Vizcaino
    12. Jeimer Candelario
    13. Rob Zastrynymy
    14. Kyle Hendricks
    15. Christian Villanueva
    16. Alberto Cabrera
    17. Matt Szczur
    18. Duane Underwood
    19. Gioskar Amaya
    20. Zach Rosscup

    To reach even further, I'll try 21-30
    21. Neil Ramirez
    22. Tyler Skulina
    23. Dillon Maples
    24. Rubi Silva
    25. Jae-Hoon Ha
    26. Shawon Dunston
    27. Juan Carlos Paniagua
    28. Dustin Geiger
    29. Wilson Contreras
    30. Daury Torrez

    Anywhere close?

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    Not bad! The young new international signings might need to be on there somewhere.

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    In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    I might slide Underwood up a little. He still has significant struggles with his command, but I love his upside.

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    Very true, I completely forgot about them!

  • John.... That is a nice top ten list. Still a lot of good names off list. Couple things that jump out at me. Olt is pretty high for not performing lately. I know u are going on projection but he worries me. Any time you deal with eyes that is tough and he made baby steps as a high prospect. Think he is to high for this.

    I would like to think Hendricks is higher or in top ten..

    I think Edwards will be fine. Who cares if he isn't 6'2 and 195 lbs. stay healthy and he will do good things.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Olt worries me too but he's a top 5 prospect when healthy, so didn't want to drop him too far yet. Hendricks isn't too far off but a lack of a true out pitch limits his ceiling.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    And thank you.

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