Three Up, Three Down: Baez Heats Up Edition
All Stats Through Wednesday, June 12
Javier Baez, SS
Age 20, High A
Season Stats: 59 G, 262 PAs, .285/.340/.557, 5.3% BB rate, 22.9% K rate, 17 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR
June Stats: 10 G, 42 PAs, .429/.524/1.000, 11.9% BB rate, 11.9% K rate, 5 2B, 5 HR
Ttwo weeks ago I came here and said that Jorge Soler had surpassed Javier Baez for the top prospect in the Cubs system. While Baez had shown some improvement in his strikeout rate from April to May (27.6% K rate in April compared to 22.0% in May), Baez has either been on an incredible hot streak in June or has improved his plate discipline. Now, the utterly insane slugging percentage is a result of his 4 for 4, 4 home run June 10th, but Baez has walked as much in the first 13 days of June as he did all May while being on pace for the lowest strikeout month of his professional career. Baez’s biggest challenge at this point may be that no one in the FSL is willing to challenge him in the zone. A month and a half ago Baez was a big concern. Now he looks pretty likely to get some significant time in Double A this year, and may have reclaimed that number one prospect in the system spot. If Baez keeps hitting and drawing walks while limiting the strikeouts, he’ll be in competition for the number one prospect in baseball this offseason.
Albert Almora, CF
Age 19, Low A
18 G, 82 PAs, .413/.451/.547
6.1% BB rate, 13.4% K rate, .469 BABIP
7 2B, 2 SB, 3 CS
Albert Almora’s full season debut was delayed by a hamate bone injury, but the Cubs’ top pick from 2012 sure looks worth the wait by getting on base in 45% of his first 82 plate appearances. He has not shown home run power yet, but most view him as a guy with an advanced approach who will grow into 20 home run power. Despite the fact that he has not hit a home run to this point, Almora has tallied seven doubles. I also am not concerned about the stolen base numbers. First, small sample size. Second, Almora had a minor hamstring tweak that caused him to miss a couple of games, which might be impacting his base stealing. Almora has done nothing to hurt his already very high stock, and is pretty likely to move up to Daytona by the end of July.
Chadd Krist, C
Age 23, High A
Low A Stats: 12 G, 48 PAs, .263/.417/.316, 16.7% BB rate, 14.6% K rate
High A Stats: 23 G, 93 PAs, .269/.387/.385, 14.0% BB rate, 18.3% K rate
One of the weak spots in the Cubs’ system has been catcher, with the Cubs both lacking depth and high ceiling talent. But Krist, the Cubs’ ninth round pick in 2012, has been a nice surprise. He has not hit for much power, but has shown a gift for getting on base. Krist is also reportedly solid defensively. The lack of power limits his ceiling, but a good defensive backstop who can get on base has real value.
Trey McNutt, RHP
Age 23, Double A
22 G, 26.1 IP, 4.44 ERA
7.18 K/9, 4.44 BB/9, 4.19 FIP
In 2010, McNutt shot through the Cubs’ minor league system from Low A to Double. He dominated at Peoria and Daytona, and was solid in a brief stint in Tennessee as well. After the Cubs traded Chris Archer the next offseason, McNutt became the Cubs’ top pitching prospect. But McNutt never found the same strikeout numbers, never improved his control, and hasn’t been able to find a repeatable motion. Last season, the Cubs converted McNutt to a reliever, but he still hasn’t been able to increase the strikeouts. McNutt is all but a non-prospect these days, another disappointing former top prospect from the Hendry era.
Lendy Castillo, RHP
Age 24, Low A
12 G, 5 GS, 44.2 IP, 7.05 ERA
8.87 K/9, 4.03 BB/9, 4.81 FIP
If Castillo’s name looks familiar but you cannot quite place it, that is because he was the Cubs’ Rule 5 draft pick prior to the 2012 season. He spent a few months of the season up with the Cubs in between stints doing the DL dance. Unfortunately, Castillo has struggled at Kane County in a situation where I’m sure the Cubs hoped he would move quickly up the system. The strikeouts are there, but the problem is that the walk numbers are just too high. The FIP tells us he has likely pitched better than his ERA shows, but even if the ERA matched the FIP these numbers would be a disappointment. You just expect a lot better than a 4.81 ERA or FIP from a 24 year old in Low A.
Elliot Soto, SS
Age 23, Double A
31 G, 97 PAs, .145/.253/.169, .188 BABIP
Among those who follow the farm system, Soto had gained some popularity as a Chicago area native and someone who had many of Darwin Barney’s most beloved traits. He’s a fantastic fielder up the middle with a light bat, but based on all reports is one of those guys with 80 want. Unfortunately, Soto has both had too many legit prospects (Baez, Arismendy Alcantara) demanding regular playing time at shortstop, combined with the fact that his bat might be severely overmatched in the higher minors. He’s a guy who is hard not to root for, but might just not have enough to make it to the Show.