View From The Bleachers

August 9, 2013

The Waiting (for the Top Prospects) is the Hardest Part

Filed under: Featured,Minor League — Noah Eisner @ 2:00 pm

The Cubs have done little to hide their focus on building up their farm system since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the front office. For the most part, they have been successful, turning a system that was in the middle of the pack a year and a half ago into a unanimous top three system in baseball. But when can we expect these prospects to hit the Majors?

For the sake of simplicity, I am listing the top 8 prospects, who I view as the top two tiers of prospects. There is a fairly strong consensus on who the top 8 prospects in the system are, but beyond there it gets a bit fuzzy, and you have guys who are significantly less likely to contribute in a meaningful way to a MLB roster.

Also, it is likely that at least a couple of these players will bust at some point, whether that happens in the high minors or in the majors. Guessing who will bust and who won’t, though, would just be a guessing game, so the presumption behind this list is that this is what would happen if they at least reached the Majors intact.

Javier Baez (SS)
20 Years Old
Currently at Double A Tennessee

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between late 2014 and mid-2015.
Will be late 2014 if: (1) Baez continue to hits for a ton of power while getting his strikeouts under control; (2) the Cubs are competing for a playoff spot near the end of the season; and (3) Starlin Castro or Mike Olt struggle next season.
Will be mid-2015 if: Baez continues to struggle with strikeout issues and the Cubs need to find him a position because everyone else is playing well.
Predicted starting point in 2014: Double A.

Kris Bryant (3B)
21 Years Old
Currently at Short Season A Boise

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between early 2015 and mid-2016.
Will be early 2015 if: He isn’t seriously challenged in the minors until he hits Double A, and even then the hiccups are minimal. The concern with Bryant is strikeouts, so the question will be if he can limit them at the higher levels. The power should carry him through the low levels of the minors quickly.
Will be mid-2016 if: He gets stalled at High A or the strikeout problems become Brett Jackson like at the higher levels of the minors.
Predicted starting point in 2014: High A.

Albert Almora (OF)
19 Years Old
Currently at Low A Kane County

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between mid-2015 and mid-2016.
Will be mid-2015 if: He stays healthy, which has been a bit of an issue for him so far. Honestly, that is the only limitation I’m seeing on Almora, who I think will spend half of 2015 in Double A.
Will be mid-2016 if: Injuries derail his progress.
Predicted starting point in 2014: High A.

Jorge Soler (OF)
21 Years Old
Currently at High A Daytona

See everything I wrote for Almora? Push the dates up six months, and that’s Soler. The issue will just be if he can stay on the field. The shin issue he is dealing with right now is more of a freak thing than a chronic concern, though.
Predicted starting point in 2014: Double A.

Arismendy Alcantara (2B/SS)
21 Years Old
Currently at Double A Tennessee

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between mid-2014 and early 2015.
Will be mid-2014 if: Aside from Alcantara himself continuing to play well, (1) Castro or Barney need to miss significant time any time after about June 1; (2) Barney struggles offensively to the same extent as he has in 2013; or (3) Barney is traded.
Will be early 2015 if: (1) Castro and Barney both play well; and (2) Barney is not traded.
Predicted starting point in 2014: Triple A Iowa.

Pierce Johnson (RHP)
22 Years Old
Currently at High A Daytona
Expect to see him in the Majors: Between late 2014 and early 2016.
Will be late 2014 if: (1) Johnson is pitching well; (2) the Cubs are competing for a postseason spot; and (3) the Cubs think Johnson could help the bullpen.
Will be early 2016 if: This is really independent of what Johnson does. Of course if he hits a bump in the road, that will slow him down, but the Cubs may be solid enough in the mid to late part of the rotation to be in no rush to bring Johnson up, particularly if the bullpen improves as well.
Predicted starting point in 2014: Double A Tennessee.

CJ Edwards (RHP)
21 Years Old
Currently at High A Daytona

Edwards is on a very similar trajectory to Pierce Johnson, with one caveat, in that he’s much slighter than Johnson. That just means that scouts think there’s a bigger risk he won’t be able to hold up to a starter’s workload or could face an injury somewhere down the line. Edwards being pegged for the bullpen could actually speed up his ascent to the Majors, since he’ll become a two pitch guy at that point. However, he’d undoubtedly be more valuable as a starter.

Mike Olt (3B)
24 years old
Currently at Triple A Iowa

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between September 2013 and mid-2014.
Will be September 2013 if: He goes on a bit of a hot streak between now and the end of Iowa’s season.
Will be mid-2014 if: He doesn’t, and he doesn’t claim the starting spot in spring training. Or the Cubs just want to delay his arbitration clock.
Predicted starting point in 2014: This one is a coin toss between Iowa and Chicago, but I’ll guess Chicago.

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Noah Eisner is a Chicago attorney living in the western suburbs with his wife and son (and impending daughter). When he isn’t practicing law or entertaining a toddler, Noah follows Cubs baseball with a focus on the farm system and sabermetric analysis. His Cubs-related ramblings can be followed on Twitter @Noah_Eisner.

  • Eddie Von White

    I couldn’t get past the McDonald’s image.

  • PLCB3

    Exactly how I feel. If the NAACP sees it, we might have some problems

  • Jerry in Wisconsin

    Between this article and the last one the Cubs have some interesting decisions to make this off season. The biggest will be determining who will be in the starting rotation for 2015 when they will clearly be a playoff team, and how to go about acquiring those pitchers. The rest of the team will fall into place after the dust settles on the pitching.

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    I wouldn’t hang my hat on the farm alone getting us to October…the Cards and Pirates have both better farms and real-deal major league rosters to begin with.

  • Noah_I

    The Cards’ farm system isn’t up with ours at this point, although that’s largely because of the number of players they have graduated into the Majors this season. The Pirates are essentially equivalent to ours, although I have a feeling the Cubs will be ranked at number 2 (Twins are 1) with the Pirates at 3 or 4.

    With that said, yes, both the Cards and Pirates are ahead of the Cubs at the Majors by a healthy margin.

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    In summation, both teams have a shit load of young talent, much of which is big-league proven. In order to compete, Iowa alone might not be the place to look.

  • Noah_I

    I completely agree with that statement. With that said, the Cubs don’t necessarily need to blow big money on bringing in free agents or huge trade pieces. Both the Cardinals and Pirates brought their big veterans in as bargains, with the sole exception of the Cardinals’ acquisition of Matt Holliday. While I would wholly onboard with a David Price acquisition, for example, that is not what will be necessary to get to the playoffs. A Price acquisition, to me, would be to have that 1-1 to give you the best shot in the playoffs.

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    We are singing the same song. I’m just having good team envy…remember when the NL Central was a weak division? Doesn’t seem like that long ago…

  • Noah_I

    There was an argument the NL Central was weak as recently as 2 years ago, when the Brewers and Cardinals made the playoffs, but the Cardinals needed a crazy run plus the Braves collapsing to sneak into the playoffs. No other team finished above .500. It certainly was a weak division from the decline of the Astros after 2005 through 2010.

    Now the NL Central is the second toughest division in baseball, after only the AL East.

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    I just hope you are correct in the farm strength. As so long as Fat Dan is considered one of our studs, I’ll take those power rankings with a Dan-sized grain of salt.

  • Noah_I

    I don’t consider Vogelbach one of our studs, though. Vogelbach to me is in the third tier of Cubs’ prospects, who have some significant flaw. For Vogelbach it’s what position he would play and if his power will be plus plus in the higher levels. For Gioskar Amaya and Paul Blackburn it’s just being far away and having some unpredictability to how they will progress. For Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva it is lack of a high ceiling. You could really make an argument that any of those 5 guys, along with probably a few others, should be the number 9 prospect in the system.

    I think another thing we’re on the same page with is that we don’t care really how the Cubs use their farm system strength as long as it’s translating into Major League success in the relatively near future. If it’s the prospects making it to the Major Leagues and excelling, that’s great. If it’s the Cubs’ trading some of those prospects for established Major League stars who continue to excel, equally great.

  • PLCB3

    By the time Tubby Dan makes it to the majors, the NL will have adopted the DH

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    I found your idea of Slim Dan playing 3B much more palatable than the notion of a DH in the NL.

  • PLCB3

    That was before we drafted Kobe’s son and traded Garza for Olt. I do think though that the NL will eventually adopt the DH

  • Doug S.

    Is that Dan on the left wearing a wig?

  • Seymour Butts

    The photo may not have been taken in America. Looks like an airport Mickey D’s. The bench they are sitting on would not be OSHA approved and is likely straining at it’s glue joints as it is. The lady on the right has a pillow strapped to her already cushioned rear. It may be some kind of fanny pack, and too large to get thru TSA.
    The NAACP would not have a beef, unless they have a branch in Guatemala.

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    Poor photoshopping on the clock too.

  • Eddie Von White

    How sweet it is!! DarBar and DroStro come through! Cubs win! Cubs win!

  • Doc Raker

    The Cubs will go for the sweep in St Louis, how nice. While watching the Cubs game via the St Louis broadcast, in my never ending quest not to ever listen to Len Casper, I got to hear the Cardinal broadcasters talk about the Cardinals offensive slump and losing streak, it was so heart warming. Pirates on top of the NLC by 4 games, let’s hope the Cubs can help make that 5 today.

  • Sherm

    If the NAACP had beef? They’d be sitting in front of that, too.

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