View From The Bleachers

September 5, 2012

Minors Reports – Top Position Prospects Recap

Filed under: Featured,Minor League — Norm @ 12:00 pm

All in all, it was a pretty good season for the position prospects in the Cubs organization. 8 of the top 9 had on-base percentages over .340 (Brett Jackson is the lone exception at .338), Javier Baez became one of the Top 25 prospects in all of baseball, Matt Szczur completely changed his approach, and Dan Vogelbach showed that he’s more than just power and his #4 pre-season ranking might not have been too aggressive after all.

It looks like the 2013 Cubs could have as many as four of these players in the opening day starting lineup; those being Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, Brett Jackson, and Josh Vitters. Jackson and Vitters are still pretty big question marks, in my opinion, but both Rizzo and Castillo look like they could be everyday contributors for a long time.

We’ve gotten a taste of Brett Jackson’s game. Strikeouts, walks, occasional hit. It’s the last part that will determine his future. I think if he can hit .220-.230, he’ll be a productive player. I’m just not sure he can hit .220.

The most important success story to the 2012 Cubs has to be Anthony Rizzo. His numbers in the big leagues are coming down and fans might be expecting a bit much from him because of his hot start, but I think the Cubs found their 1B of the future. I’m not sure he has any All Star years in him, but I think he’ll be a solid producer for the next 5 or 6 season.

Javier Baez killed the ball in Peoria, but struggled against more advanced pitchers in Daytona. He’ll be in most Top 25 lists in the 2013 rankings. His defense received good reviews and while the thinking is still that he’ll end up moving to 3B, there is a better chance to stick at shortstop than we thought in April. He has an aggressive approach, which is my one worry about him.

Dan Vogelbach is a full two levels behind Baez, so while his numbers were more impressive, the competition was not. I like the fact that he didn’t strike out too much, and was able to walk an above average amount of walks. Shows he’s got a good approach. He’s going to need to keep hitting at every level before he’s given much respect as a prospect, but I like what I see so far.

The biggest surprise to me was the year Matt Szczur had in High A Daytona. Yes, he was a bit old for the league, but the increase in walks was nice to see. I still think he’s a fourth outfielder, but he’s got an interesting skill set and a much higher ceiling than a Dave Sappelt (another guy I see as a fourth outfielder) because of his tools.

The most underrated player on this list is Welington Castillo. It’s not common to find a capable everyday catcher and I think the Cubs have one here. He has a good arm, he takes walks, he can hit some home runs.

A couple more surprises, Josh Vitters and Junior Lake. Neither player will give you much on defense, so the bats will have to hit for them to be productive. Neither player walks much, they swing a lot, and have pretty high ceilings, but the chances either of these guys reaching that ceiling is slim due to their approach. A year ago I wasn’t sure if either of these players would ever be a major leaguer, now, I’m thinking they are both at least utility players.

Although it was a step back from 2011, Jeimer Candelario’s season was pretty good for an 18 year old kid and will likely rise a little on next years list.
Marco Hernandez is probably the biggest disappointment on the season. The Cubs were aggressive with him by starting him in Peoria, but it didn’t work out.
Reggie Golden had a wasted year and will likely be back in Peoria (Kane County?) next year.
Ronald Torreyes started slow but turned it on in the second half, putting up an .811 OPS as one of the youngest players in the league….a personal favorite of mine.
Finally, Jedi’s favorite, Dave Sappelt. After two excellent seasons, he put up his worst in 2012. There was a dip in power, walk rate, and strikeout rate. His career will likely be a constant battle of trying to hang on to a reserve outfielder spot.


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  • Jedi

    I feel like I need to remind people that my ‘love’ for Dave Sappelt is 100% sarcastic.  In the same way that Buddy ‘loves’ – I love Dave Sappelt.

  • Jedi

    That should say, in the same way that Buddy ‘loves’ Casey Coleman…

  • jswanson

    I was going to make some sort of reference to Lizzie’s love of Geo, and realized that “Lizzie Loves Geo” would be a terrific sitcom name.  Someone get Mario Lopez on the phone…

  • Cubs Future

    One thing to point out is that Rizzo has been bouncing back from his slump as has made some adjustments and up to .291.  He is 12 for 35 in last 10 games, which is solidly over .300.  Obviously the power isn’t there at the moment, but 5 walks to 8 strikeouts isn’t bad either.  I’m just glad that he did get off to a hot start to take pressure off after last year’s disaster, but glad 1st base is set for awhile.  Jackson is on the cusp of truly breaking out to respectable levels.  I expect him to be opening day starter.  Castillo love how he has come on strong after injury to lock down catcher hopefully for awhile.  Vitters hopefully will have learned a lot to be able to try again next year.  Unfortunately a lot harder for him to be opening day starter, but hopefully mid season call up and actually do something.  Baez and Torreyes are the two that I am getting quite excited about.  If he does stick at SS, Castro could always be dealt with a reasonable contract but no need to rush Baez as he has to get better discipline.  And definitely not a bad problem to have Barney holding down the fort until Torreyes can come up.  The Cubs are starting to lock up some positions for at least a few years and developing some backup potential replacements if main ones traded or even to trade these prospects for a different position or further depth.  I just want to see some of these prospects plus new ones from this year move up and see if they can maintain/improve. 

  • Chuck

    I fail to see the upside of trading Castro unless the team trading for him lets the Cubs absolutely plunder the farm system for a few Grade A prospects and then some.  Castro is 22 and is already one of the top SS in baseball and should remain there for the next 6 to 10 years.  Those are the type of guys you want to build your team around not sell off.

  • Timothy Scarbrough

    I agree 100%. Unless we could trade him straight up for Andrew McCutchen or something equally ludicrous, I fail to see the value. 

  • Cubs Future

    I wasn’t meaning any time soon and just as a possibility down the road.  Yes that is the beauty of a player of his caliber that they could get a lot in return should they choose to trade him.  Baez may not be ready for a few years anyways as he needs to improve his plate discipline as well.  I think Castro is a good thing for the Cubs, but it was in reference to Baez sticking at SS.  It is either you trade one of them if they both are sticking at SS.  I really think Baez will end up at 3B, so that will be a non issue.  It is a good problem to have too many than not enough at a position.

  • Buddy

     I sure do!


    Does anyone else think that it would help Jackson and Vitters if they started 2013 in AAA? Sometimes in order to take a step forward, you have to take a step back.

  • Cubs Future

     I think definitely for Vitters, but I don’t think Jackson will change his ways by going to AAA.  He will improve by being on the big league club as he is close and will probably never be a .300 hitter, but has the makings to be a decent hitter with some speed and power.  I think the Cubs will give him a gameplan and he will put it into action and improve for next year.

  • Chuck

    It depends on what the other options are for that position and if they are truly lost at the plate.  If the player is just having a tough time and there isn’t any better option for that position, keep him up and let him work through it.  However, if the player seems to be regressing and/or really struggling then it may be a good idea to send him down to clear his head and get some confidence.  I would also consider sending the player down if there are better options at the MLB level and he might not get steady playing time.  Players need to be playing to improve.

  • Chuck

    If the Pirates offered McCutchen straight up for Castro, I would have to think long and hard about it and then take it.  While McCutchen is, clearly, the better player it is hard to find a SS as good as Castro at his young age.  It is much easier to find good hitting OFs.  But McCutchen is a stud. He can hit, hit for power, draws walks, has a bit of speed.

  • Lizzie

    Geo has to play himself. Not to be confused with playing with himself. I’ll be his leading lady. I think it’s got a good chance of being cut right after they cast it.

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