Cubs Notes: Top SS Prospects

Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis at kicked off their annual rankings today with the top 10 shortstop prospects.  Unsurprisingly, Boston’s uber-prospect Xander Bogaerts led the way.  Bogaerts, you may remember, made his major league debut last season and starred for the Red Sox in the postseason, hitting .296/.412/.481.

Much more surprising is that the Cubs’ own Javier Baez slots in at #2.  Mid-season last year, Baez was considered the fourth best shortstop prospect in the game, behind Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor and Houston’s Carlos Correa.  His offensive explosion in the second half carried him past both of them.  (Correa is #3 and Lindor #4.)  The site has this to say about Baez:

Baez has lived up to his lofty expectations since the Cubs selected him eighth overall in 2011. [Baez was actually selected 9th overall.] He reached Double-A Tennessee two years later as a 20-year old and his 75 extra-base hits and 111 RBI led the Minor Leagues.

Baez generates incredible bat speed, resulting in big power. He also has the ability to hit for average if he is able to develop more plate discipline. But he is a good bad ball hitter and often finds a way to get his bat on the ball in spite of his aggressiveness.

Baez isn’t as advanced defensively. His average speed begets solid range and he has a good arm, but he still commits too many errors. Some scouts feel he is destined for a move to third or second base, which be eased by Starlin Castro’s presence in Chicago. No matter where he plays, Baez’s bat has the ability to make him a star.

The site ranks Baez as having a 70 future power tool and a 60 future hit tool — unbelievable production from a shortstop should he reach his ceiling.  They also point out that he was one of just six minor league players to have a 20-20 season last year.

At Cubs Den, we’ve been going on the assumption that Baez will begin the 2014 season in Iowa, having dominated AA last season.  That should be a very good experience for him, as AAA pitchers will work to exploit his aggressiveness and force him to adjust.  Assuming he can make the adjustment as swiftly as he’s made all the others, that puts him on track to be called up the majors mid-to-late next summer.  However, this could be delayed because of service time concerns.

The rest of the positional Top 10s will be rolled out a day at a time, leading up to the Top 100 reveal on January 23.  Baez seems to be in excellent position to be in the Top 5 when that list is released.  Other Top 10 lists of interest to Cubs fans will come on Wednesday (RHP, C.J. Edwards), Friday (1B, Dan Vogelbach), Tuesday, January 21st (3B, Kris Bryant and Mike Olt), and Wednesday, January 22nd (OF, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler).

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  • My dream is Baez gets called up mid next summer. John, I can't tell you how excited I am to read that you consider that a legit possibility.

    Other current dreams:

    1. We get Tanaka -- I know you think that's a legit possibility as well.
    2. Olt seizes 3B in spring training and plays well enough throughout 2014 to keep it. How do you feel about that, John?

    If all three of those dreams become a reality, the 2014 season will be incredibly fun and exciting.

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    In reply to Nondorf:

    This was actually Mike, not John. :) I'm not sure if he considers that a legit possibility or not.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    oooops. Sorry, thought this was a John post. But equally excited by Moody Mike's thoughts.

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    In reply to Nondorf:

    Heh, yeah, John is busy this afternoon so Cubs Den had to call up the backup from AAA to take this post. ;-)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Aren't the real prospects at AA? I thought AAA was more of a holding pen for the less talented replacements. Ohhhhh....makes more sense now.

    (I hope you know I'm kidding Mike)

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    I laughed -- so even if you weren't kidding no hard feelings. ;-)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Maybe so Mike but something tells me you might just stick this time. ;>)

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Like your list but add:
    3. Junior Lake Mashes the ball and plays decent OF.
    4. Cubs are in the mix at the all-star break and the start bringing up the the power.

  • I think that mid-summer may be pushing it, but Baez has that 'I will not be denied' mentality. I think Bryant may beat Javy to Chicago. Either way it's an exciting time.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    I agree it's an extremely (insanely?) aggressive timeline. The only reason I think it's feasible is because Baez has now established a pattern in AA, high A, and, to a lesser extent, A ball. He comes in and is over-matched by the pitching talent. Fans panic while Javy is listening to his coaches and making adjustments. Within half a season, he's dominating the level to the extent that the front office has no choice but to bump him up a level. If that pattern holds in AAA, the only place to bump him is the majors.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, that is what I have said a number of times on Cubs Den. I see Baez initially struggling, adjusting, and then dominating. I am no expert but I see him getting up in the June/July time frame. BTW I see Olt coming up around the same time as Baez. Those two will be a nice lift mid season.

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    In reply to John57:

    From your keyboard to God's eyes. That would be better than a mid-season trade if the team is borderline competitive.

  • In reply to John57:

    I think Olt will either be starting for the Cubs after spring
    training or might get released if he only hits around .200
    in spring training. There is no place to put him if he doesnt
    make the Cubs and if he isnt hitting they dont need him they
    have plenty of those guys.

    I see Cubs infield: Rizzo,Barney, Castro, Olt
    with Valbuena & Murphy off the bench.

    then Iowa you have: Rohan, alcantera,baez,villanueva
    with watkins,vailiaka, gonzalez & ibarra

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I could see it possible that he sticks with the Cubs out of ST. But I can't see them releasing him if he struggles in ST. They have been trying to acquire him for some time now. I would imagine they would be patient for a while.

  • One more prospect list: Kiley McDaniel from released his yesterday (sorry if this was covered already)...he's got eight Cubs in his Top 100, but more surprising was at the top. He's got Almora at #8 as the Cubs top prospect, followed by Bryant at #10, and Baez at #13.

    In his reaction article, he says about people saying he had Almora too high:

    "Most thought I had Almora a little high as a top 10 guy, but when pressed, almost every scout conceded he's a high-probability, quick-moving guy that conservatively has a ceiling of .280 with 15 homers and plus defense. Almora may not have the flashy raw tools of other prospects ranked this high, but those projected numbers are close to what Carlos Gomez did this year, posting an 8-win season."

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    Thanks, North Side. That's a nice indication of just how good Almora, Bryant, and Baez are.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Sweet. Good to see. McDaniel has always been a huge Almora fan. I believe he liked him more than Buxton at draft time.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    And the 8 Cub prospects did not include Mike Olt or Vizcaino who would have been on the list if not for injury. That is 10 top 100 level talents on the Cubs. Holy Cow!

  • In reply to John57:

    These weren't pulled hamstrings or broken pinkies. Both players' injuries come with significant concerns of permanent damage to their ability to perform. They aren't top-100 types anymore.

    But 8 is still awesome. We haven't had that since ... 2002?

  • In reply to Kyle:

    I read an interview of Olt. Olt claims that he is 100% now. I know sometimes players aren't truthful about their health. I guess we will have to wait to see if he is right. I think in 2012 he was the 16th best prospect when he was healthy, so he has that level talent. He just needs to be healthy. If he performs well in ST he may stick with the Cubs and not be eligible for the prospect list. That would be a good outcome to happen.

    Did we have 8 on the list in 2002? I was not aware of that.

  • In reply to John57:

    Ooops, my mistake. It was only 7:

    2. Prior
    6. Cruz
    40. Choi
    45. Kelton
    48. Hill
    68. Nic Jackson
    80. Zambrano

    I definitely prefer the current group, even without hindsight. Mostly because I think Baez is still underrated.

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    Thanks for sharing! Full list for those who don't want to look it up:

    8. Almora
    10. Bryant
    13. Baez
    44. CJ Edwards
    53. Soler
    80. Vogelbach
    85. Pierce Johnson
    88. Alcantara

    He obviously is a little more down on Soler than most; that's probably the lowest I've seen Jorge ranked anywhere. Also, most scouts rate Alcantara higher than Pierce or Dan V as well. But 8 in the top 100 ain't bad.

  • Baez is going to shred at AAA in the PCL. I expect Rizzo like production and bet we see him in July

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    Who will be the odd man out in the long term plans for the Cubs, Olt or Alcantara?

    I'm really thinking that Baez ends up at 3B and Alcantara at 2B. But if Olt just tears it up at 3B from Spring training throughout his 1st season than Alcantara may end up as trade bait.

    Great problem to have....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Just my uneducated $.02, but I think it's Olt. Assuming Baez and Bryant make it up in the next two years, then Olt's skillset will be a bit redundant, whereas the Cubs don't have any other leadoff type options similar to Alcantara. I think Baez replaces Olt's defense and power at 3B, but there is no other speed option to slot in for Alcantara.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Lol, looks like we are on the same page North Side.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    AA is a switch hitter who bats better LH, and has SB potential. Plus, there are 2-3 possible others at 3b. From what Ive seen and heard, AA is a keeper.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    To me Alcantara is possibly the most important prospect of all (assuming Bryant and Baez advance as expected). He provides things no one else really can and it is imperative for him to take 2nd base and the top of the order. Slotting him in as a lefty(switch) in the one or two hole with good OBP and speed (and a bit of pop) is exactly what we need going forward.

    Also Mike, I'm surprised you left 2b/Alcantara off the "others to watch list".

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    Don't forget Christian Villanueva too; he has a slick glove, so if he can repeat what he did at AA, he'll be an odd man out as well. If his bat plays, he can be a 2nd division starter at 3B for somebody.

    The thing with Olt and Villanueva, both of them will either make it at 3B, or not make it

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    No reason they can't all be on the same team, even if Baez takes over at 3B full time. Olt can platoon with Rizzo or play LF. He could also give Baez days off to let him play SS or 2B. Alcantara, while he has the upside to play 2B everyday, has genuine concerns regarding his size, especially with so much daytime baseball in the heat. He may not be a guy that can play 162 games a year. If he loses weight over the course of a season he could lose effectiveness. All three of these guys can play multiple positions and all three can play the OF if needed.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    best case scenario:
    barney gets hot, he is traded. olt hits decent .240-.260.
    you bring up alcantera to play 2B and Baez to play 3B
    you either trade or release Murphy depending on how he

    so by july your infield is: rizzo,alcantera,castro,baez
    with bench of: olt & valbuena.

    oh ya for good measure I put Bryant in LF by september.

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    Jon Heyman ‏@JonHeymanCBS 6m

    for those following closely the "Bobby" who sold docs to mlb (via 60 minutes), aka "Bobby from Boca" real name: Gary Jones

    It's not me. I swear! ROFL

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I heard on 60 Minutes that "Bobby" made a cool $125,000.

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    In reply to John57:

    Damn! Now I wish it was me! LOL

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    One thing to keep in mind: In addition to service time, another factor in how soon we see a prospect is whether they are on the 40-man already. 40-man slots are a precious commodity, and once you add someone, you can't remove them without exposing to waivers.

    Alcantara, Vizcaino, Olt, and Villanueva are the AAA-level prospects we are more likely to see in 2014, IMO, because they are on the roster already. (And I guess Szczur, depending on what you think of him as a prospect)

    Baez, Bryant, even Hendricks.....these AAA guys would require a roster move. And for the first two, you know service time, FA, and Super-Two status are going to factor as well (for Hendricks, probably not so much).

    Baez (and also Bryant) would have to demonstrate that AAA represents no real challenge for them in order to earn significant playing time at the ML-level this year

  • Danny Ecker ‏@DannyEcker 2m
    Say hello to Clark, the Cubs' first official mascot:

    I'm sure my daughter will love it...I'm sure most of the other people at the games will not.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I've been dreading this day. The picture gives the look of defeat / shame in the eyes of this stupid mascot.

    Reminds me of:

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    At a minimum, the hat needs to be turned around. Also, I agree with cowboy, the eyes need work.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    What's next? "The Wave?" Oh wait...

  • I wouldnt be surrpised if in 2-3 yrs Baez offensive production exceeds Boegarts. I see Boegarts as a Rico Petrocelli clone.

  • I think the indicator to watch for on both Bryant and Baez is when do they start playing games at positions other than they were drafted for.

    So for Baez, when he is at Iowa, if all of a sudden he starts games at 2B or 3B, it could mean that he has reached the final point of his development and that a promotion is immanent.

    For Bryant, is when does he start getting some reps in the OF ( assuming that Olt or Baez has taken over at 3B).

    Going to be fun to watch all of this sort itself out. The one thing that isn't talked about much at all is the unlikely scenario of a trade of any one of these guys.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    My guess the guy that is traded is Castro. A cost controlled, 2 time All Star SS will bring back much talent. Hopefully a TOR SP prospect or two.

  • In reply to John57:

    Agreed - but only IF he advances from the misearable hitting levels he had last season.

    IF he is hitting north of 0.280, and with a touch of power, and his defense is still what it is now,.....

    AND Olt and Baez are each hitting well, and maybe if Alcantara is breathing down all of their necks,.... Castro (as much as I lke the guy) is probably the most tradable and valuable piece that could be moved.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    So if Castro is hitting for a solid average and a "touch of power" and playing good defense, why are we all so eager to trade him?

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Because Baez is even better.

  • Jason Parks ‏@ProfessorParks 2m
    We've started the internal discussions on the #Cubs farm at BP. More than a week away, but the top ten looks locked and loaded. #want

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    A-Rod is suing the MLB owners AND the MLBPA. He's burning the bridges at both ends.

  • In reply to Ray:

    It'll be some fun when he shows up for Spring Training next month!

  • I would take Baez over Boegarts. Heck, I'd take Baez over anyone not named Buxton.

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    Regarding the discussion above...
    I have the gut feeling Olt will take the 3B and run with it, Baez will supplant Darwin Mendoza at 2B and Bryant will be pushed to RF.` Soler will wind up in LF only because Bryant will be called up first. AA (Alcantara) might end up in CF (possibly sharing time with Lake) at least until the arrival of the other AA (Almora)

  • I'm honestly very worried about Baez. He struck out 28.8% of the time at AA last year and walked less than 10%. Maybe he is the exception to the rule but there aren't very many players who succeed at the major league level with those rates. Additionally, he is likely to see more K's in the majors. Frankly, I feel like many fans are wanting to rush the process. People need to remember he's only had around 970 minor league plate appearances. That's incredibly low. To put it into perspective, Trout is probably a once in a generation player and he still had 1300.

    My hope is they leave him in AAA until later in the summer, give him a taste of MLB pitching late in the year and plan to start him in the minors next year unless he just dominates spring training. If nothing else, it's worth him spending the time in the minors to work on his defense where he had 41 errors last year. If he is able to stay at SS that is a big deal with his offensive production. So, I'd rather they spent the time to develop him there rather than just calling him up and plugging him in at 3B or 2B because they need excitement to draw fans or whatever other excuse you want to use.

    If he gets his walk rate up to around 10% and his K% under 25% next year as well as looks better defensively, maybe you say he's ready but I frankly think that's a lot to expect.

  • In reply to beckdawg:

    When Baez moved up to AA last summer, his walk rate went from 6.5% to 8%. That is pretty impressive for moving up a level.

    His K rate went from 24% to 29% as he went up a level. This you might expect and certainly is a concern. If you figure 600 PA's, you are looking at 180 K's over the course of a season.

    As has been discussed quite a bit, his approach is going to be the deciding factor as to when he gets called up.

  • In reply to beckdawg:

    I'm not going to deny that the strikeouts are a big red flag. But everything else about him is an even huger green flag. Youngest player in a pitcher-friendly league and led the league in OPS while playing shortstop? That's just insane.

    So far, he's shown that his walk rates improve and Ks decline as he stays at a level longer. That's enough to assuage my fears over his strikeouts for the moment. They could have easily kept him at A+ all year and he'd still have been at an age-appropriate level and likely had a lot fewer Ks.

    I do think he'll probably need a full season at AAA.

  • Not to bag on Epstoyer but I feel like people forget that it was Tim Wilken who drafted Baez. No doubt, Epstoyer's people have aided on his development but the much maligned Wilken appears to have gotten that one right.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Wilken wasn't the problem. It was the lack of resources devoted to scouting and signing draftees by the Tribune Co./Sam Zell. Wilken wanted to draft Baez but Hendry, still in a Tribune Co. mindset, said no because he would be too expensive. Ricketts told Wilken to go ahead and draft Baez.

  • Anyone need season tickets?

  • fb_avatar

    Some loser asked Ben Badler if he expected Candelario to have a big year. Here's the response:

    @BenBadler Yes. Like the swing and the approach, and power's coming RT @mqmoody with the #Cubs, do you like Jeimer Candelario to have a big year?

  • Since the Cubs unveiled a new mascot, does anyone know if they will be unveiling new uniforms at the Cubs convention?

  • John,

    Please tell me how I'm supposed to feel about the Mascot. I am embarrassed and disgusted by it. Then again, admittedly, I do not deal with change very well. I am badly in need of a balanced and rational perspective on this.

    On top of it, hat on backwards and a skateboard? Gag. Will he have baggy, low-hanging pants with crack showing? This is embarrasing. Can racing pizza-slice heads be next?


  • At least at present, the mascot isn't there to entertain the fans. No dancing on the dugout. No race cars on the field. No tossing of t-shirts or hot dogs into the stands. He seems to be more of a public relations person, greeting kids at the gate, attending public relations events at schools, etc.

    I have no problem with it, as it has been explained.

  • My hope and expectation is that Renteria will be just the ticket for Castro. He exudes enthusiasm, along with expectations, and knows Castro's talent. What I think Castro needs right now is positive coaching and confidence, that which I think Renteria will provide him. If Castro can bring the game we all think he has in him, then we really do have a complicated, but good situation to resolve when the prospects get here. Seeing how that plays out will be exciting.

  • Hmmm, I wonder if the new mascot should have been Godzilla with the Cub cap slanted any way he wants.A fire breathing mascot spitting out the Cards,Reds and all other opponents,LOL.

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