Archive for the ‘Minor League’ Category

The Fallen: Former Highly Ranked Prospects, Arodys Vizcaino Edition

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Over the past two seasons, the Cubs acquired two former top fifty prospects in a trade for a veteran starting pitcher. One is third baseman Mike Olt, who we discussed last week, and the Cubs received in the Matt Garza trade. The other is right handed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino, who the Cubs received in return for Paul Maholm in mid-2012.

The Heights: As a 20 year old in 2011, Vizcaino pitched across three levels of the minors, High A through Triple A, and had a cup of coffee in the Majors. At every level but High A, he was very young compared to his competition. He excelled in the minors, pitching for a 3.06 ERA over 97 minor league innings in 26 appearances, 17 of which were starts. He also made 17 relief appearances in the Majors, and at least did not embarrass himself with a 4.67 ERA. Prior to the 2012 season, he was Baseball America’s number 40 prospect in baseball. The highest ranking he achieved was the 14th best prospect in baseball, which came from Keith Law. With three solid or better offerings, headlined by a 92-96 mph fastball and including a solid curveball and change up, Vizcaino has the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter.

The Depths: Vizcaino’s depths are a bit different than the other Cubs’ fallen prospects because he has not played since 2011, and his issues solely relate to injuries. Many in baseball were always concerned about Vizcaino’s durability, even at the height of his minor league success, and Vizcaino injured his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training in 2012. Rehab setbacks kept him from pitching in 2013, although he participated in the instructional league over the fall, and reportedly is healthy and looks good. It is worth noting, though, that barring a significant injury that kept Vizcaino off the mound, it is unlikely that the team would say anything else.

Best Case Scenario: Vizcaino goes to Iowa to start the season and pitches well, likely out of the bullpen at the beginning of the season, but potentially getting some opportunities to start with some strict pitch counts later in the season. Either way, he pitches well, stays healthy, and moves up to the Majors at the end of the season, pitching well out of the bullpen. At that point, the Cubs must decide whether to try to stretch Vizcaino back out into a starter, or if they’ll try him in a late innings bullpen role.

Worst Case Scenario: Vizcaino hurts himself again and barely pitches, or doesn’t pitch at all. The next worst case scenario is that Vizcaino’s control suffers as he returns from elbow problems.

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The Fallen: The Former Highly Ranked Prospects, Mike Olt Edition

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

While four top current talents buoy the strongest Cubs’ system, the system also contains several formerly high ranked prospects who fell down the prospect rankings to some extent or another. Mike Olt, Arodys Vizcaino, Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson are the prime members of this group. Prior to the start of spring training games, we’ll look at the best case and worst case scenarios for the prospects, starting with third base prospect Mike Olt.

The Heights: Olt improved from back end of Top 100 prospect lists to a plus power, solid on base, plus defensive third baseman in 2012 when he hit .288/.398/.579, including 28 home runs, for the Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas Rangers’ Double A Affiliate. Following the 2012 season, a significant majority of prospect analysts viewed him as a Top 50 in baseball prospect, with Baseball America naming him the twenty-second best prospect in baseball. 

The Depths: Olt was beaned in the head while playing winter ball last offseason, and had some significant vision problems. He was also terrible, posting a .684 OPS during a season split between the Rangers’ and Cubs’ Triple A affiliates. Less than a year after the Rangers said he was nearly untouchable, they traded him to the Cubs as, at best, the second best prospect the Cubs received for Matt Garza.

Best Case Scenario: The vision issue was the sole significant cause of Olt’s 2013 struggles, and offseason surgery corrected that problem. With the vision issues behind him, he hits like he did in 2012, claims the Cubs’ starting third base spot at the start of the season, at least holding the position until Javier Baez or Kris Bryant are ready, and potentially causing some discussions regarding a logjam of very good players on the left side of the infield if he approaches the promise of his Double A campaign.

Worst Case Scenario: Olt has two potential worst case scenarios. The first is that the bad vision did not cause his problems in 2013, but instead because Triple A pitchers could take advantage of Olt’s swing and miss tendencies, or were caused by his vision problems and those problems aren’t fixed. He gets a shot at the Cubs’ third base spot to start the season, but fails miserably, completely destroying any trade value he still possesses.

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Putting the Cubs’ Farm System in Context

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

This is not a controversial statement: over the past two seasons, the Cubs have not been good. Wholly uncompetitive might be a better description, and, based upon their current roster and the strength at the top of the NL Central, the Cubs appear likely to remain uncompetitive for at least one more season. The farm system, however, is the one source that consistently provides positive news.

Quantifying the progress the farm system made, however, is somewhat difficult. We’ve heard about promising Cubs’ prospects before. From Felix Pie to Josh Vitters to Brett Jackson, we’ve been disappointed by players we’ve heard are top  prospects.

Minorleaguebaseball.com’s John Sickels provided support for just how promising these prospects are, however, when he posted his list of the Cubs’ to 21 prospects last week. Usually, these lists do not provide much context for how good a system is. Every team has 21 top prospects. With most of the prospect information sources, there is not a direct indicator of how one team’s top prospects stack up against another team’s until the top 100 prospects in baseball lists hit later in the postseason.

Sickels, however, grades the prospects in the organizational list. This year, Sickels gave two Cubs prospects A grades (Javier Baez and Kris Bryant), one an A- (Albert Almora), two B+ grades (Jorge Soler and C.J. Edwards) and four B grades (Arismendy Alcantara, Pierce Johnson, Jeimer Candelario and Dan Vogelbach).

So what does this mean? Well, my search shows John Sickels’ lists going back to 2005. Prior to Baez gaining an A- rating prior to last season, Sickels never rated a Cubs prospect higher than a B+. Felix Pie never received an A or A- grade. Neither did Vitters or Jackson. Baez, Bryant and Almora, at the least, are a different class of prospect than the players we’ve called “top prospects” over the last decade.

And it is not just that the Cubs are strong at the top of their system, but they are also very deep. From 2008 to 2011, the Cubs had three players who rated above a B- per season. This season the Cubs have nine. And the C+ type prospects, who are still legitimate prospects, go well into the 20s, if not further, for the Cubs.

Also, while Joe noted that the Cubs’ farm system lacks top of the rotation talent, it is as much that the Cubs’ hitting prospects are so good that the average pitching group of prospects looks worse than it is. This is the strongest group of pitching prospects the Cubs have had since 2006, when the system included 2005 first round draft pick Mark Pawelek before he became a bust, along with a host of B and B- prospects including Rich Hill (who was quite good in 2007, despite what happened after), Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall and Sean Gallagher (who the A’s thought of highly enough for him to be the centerpiece of the Rich Harden deal in 2008). It’s not a great group of pitchers, but there are prospects who could solidly fill the 3-5 spots in a rotation and all the bullpen spots. The ace, however, will likely have to come from elsewhere, unless the Cubs are able to draft one in June.

A great farm system is no guarantee of eventual Major League success, but this is a strong, deep farm system, that could provide several pillars for the lineup for many years, along with pitching prospects that could at least fill some holes. The last time the Cubs had this much firepower in the farm system, Dallas Green was the GM. So while it may be a frustrating time to actually watch the Cubs on television, it is also an exciting time to be a fan of the organization.

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Talking Cubs Prospects With John Sickels of Minorleagueball.com

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

I think we’re all a little weary of the Cubs and their play recently and we’re all excited about the future so here’s another prospect interview with one of the hardest working guys covering baseball, John Sickels. As you’ll notice I recycled a couple questions to get a comparison with the recent Jim Callis interview as well as interviews coming in the near future.

John Sickels is a baseball writer and analyst at SB Nation. He is the author of the annual Baseball Prospect Book and is the Senior Editor at MinorLeagueBall.com.  You can also follow him on twitter @MinorLeagueBall.


Q: What do you look for when you are scouting a prospect [pitching & position]?

Sickels: I try to take a comprehensive approach. For pitchers, I look first at size, arm strength, mechanics, and consistency of mechanics. A guy with unusual mechanics doesn’t bother me that much as long as he repeats them well and his body is used to it. I look at his fastball, of course, how fast it is, but also how fast it plays. Oftentimes I don’t look at radar readings until after he’s thrown several pitches; I try to rate his fastball quality without looking at the gun or being prejudiced by the readings. My idea here is to get a read on how deceptive the fastball is, or how well it moves, and how well he locates it, before knowing what the radar says. All the standard questions apply from here of course: what kind of breaking stuff? Can he change speeds? Does his delivery change when he uses a different pitch? How fast does he work? Does he appear confident? How does he handle tough situations?

Statistically I look at all the normal things: K/IP, K/BB ratios, considered within league context, batting average against, statistical splits, ground ball and home run rates, etc.

For hitters, again, I try to look at everything: overall athleticism, arm strength, running speed, etc. Batting eye, plate discipline, etc…type of swing…does he go for line drives or is he an uppercut power type? Is he a fastball hitter or does he handle breaking stuff well? Is he too aggressive? Too passive? If he’s fast, how well does he USE that speed? And statistically I look at all the stuff you normally look at, the standard numbers, BB/K/PA ratios, home/road splits, line drive rates, etc.

Basically I look at everything I can.

Q:   Who are the top 5 Cubs prospects and in what order do you rank them? Which Cubs prospects are in the mix for next year’s top 100 [or 150 if you go that high again]?

Sickels: Well I won’t be doing an exact ranking for a few months yet. Once the season ends, I have a very specific process that I go through for every organization, examining and ranking each prospect, and skipping steps in the process tends to trip me up. I would say off the top of my head that the top 5 are Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant in some order, Baez first but after that I’m not certain yet. I’d be looking at CJ Edwards and Pierce Johnson and Arismendy Alcantara to round that out. The big international guys that were signed I need to study more before knowing where they will slot.

Q:  You are higher than most on Dan Vogelbach, what do you see in him to rank him that high?

Sickels:  The thing for me that stands out for DV is that he isn’t just some slugging masher. He has pure hitting skills, too, good plate discipline and feel for hitting to go with the strength. Obviously he has to keep his weight under control, but the guy can really hit.

Q:  For good and bad, which Cubs prospects have surprised you the most this year?

Sickels:  I thought Christian Villanueva and Gioskar Amaya would have better years. They haven’t been bad, but I thought they would be breakout guys and they weren’t. Alcantara ended up being the breakout guy.

Q:  CJ Edwards is off to a great start in the Cubs system. Do you think his frame (6’2”/155), even if he fills out a little, can sustain the rigors of a 162 game schedule based on his power approach?

Sickels:  It could be an issue but he’s a really good athlete and that gives him a chance to pull it off. As long as his workload is managed reasonably, I don’t think his injury risk is any higher than it would be for any other pitcher his age. Which is still pretty high, of course…young pitchers get hurt a lot even if they are handled wisely and even if they are good athletes. But I don’t think his risk is abnormally high.

Q:  The Cubs are still pretty weak in pitching within their system but there are some interesting names and potential rotation pieces in the farm. What are your thoughts on some of the other Cubs top pitching prospects and when should we start seeing them? Is there any pitching help for next season?

Sickels:  Pitching is still the weakness in the system but they are addressing it. Johnson has performed well, the trade for Edwards helps a lot, and they have been aggressive with international arms though of course we don’t know how those guys will pan out yet. I don’t see any super impact arms ready to help in 2014. Kyle Hendricks will get a shot but he is more of a control type. You could also see Alberto Cabrera make a return engagement. Eric Jokisch could get there, but like Hendricks he is more of a complementary arm than a future anchor. There should be more available in 2015 than 14.

Q: The knock on Christian Villanueva before the 2012 season was that he added a few pounds and lost a step in the process. Was that premeditated in order to boost strength and power numbers? His SB numbers have dropped significantly this season. As he progresses, could he regain the speed and possibly project to a 20/20 type guy?

Sickels:  I don’t know if it was premeditated or not. It could just be the natural maturing process but at this stage either way he’s not likely a 20 steal guy at the major league level now. I’d be more concerned about his strike zone judgment than his speed frankly.

Q: I recently wrote about Baez; his contact problems and plate approach are very worrisome for me and I have him ranked 4th behind Soler, Bryant, and Almora because of that. I think he’s either going to figure it all out and be a superstar or be a huge bust with no chance of anything in the middle. Since I wrote about him, he’s been crushing it. How do you feel about him? Can he succeed at the majors with his ultra aggressive approach that has worked thus far or will something have to give if he is going to become a major leaguer?

Sickels:  Baez is tough. He is very aggressive as you point out and yes, I do have some concerns about his approach. But his bat speed is so good that Double-A pitchers have been unable to expose this weakness. My guess is that Triple-A will be more of a challenge, though of course the environment in Iowa and the Pacific Coast League will play to his strengths. If I had to draw a scenario for next year, I’d say that he gets off to a slow start at first in Triple-A, but that after a couple of weeks he starts blasting the ball as the weather warms up, and by late June it is clear that the PCL won’t challenge him further. He’ll get to the point where only major league pitchers will teach him what he needs to know. That’s probably 11 months from now, although who knows…if he has a great spring, maybe they will accelerate that.

Q:  Arismendy Alcantara was in the middle of a breakout year last season before injury. He’s been even better this year. What kind of future do you see for Alcantara at the majors?

Sickels: I think he has a 14 year career and some years as a regular, never quite an all star but solid and productive.

Q:   The organization is very strong on the left side of the infield. What position do you think the following players will end up at and what kind of defensive ability will they have there.

Sickels:

  • Starlin Castro -some other team
  • Javier Baez -I think he sticks at SS for 5 years but is 3B by the time he’s 30.
  • Arismendy Alcantara – second base, slightly above average
  • Kris Bryant – decent enough to stick at 3B until he gets old, above average if moved to 1B
  • Mike Olt - All facets of his game slipped this year, including his defense which was previously rated potential Gold Glove caliber. I don’t know what is wrong with him but something is. It isn’t just the strikeouts eating him up. The glove had declined too
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The 40 Man Roster Crunch

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Coming in to the offseason every year, one issue every team faces is who to keep on the 40 man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft? Many appear to think the Cubs are going to face a pretty rough roster crunch this winter for two reasons: (1) the Cubs have a large number of positions they platoon, increasing the number of fringe right handed hitters who can only hit left handed pitching on the active and 40 man rosters; and (2) the Cubs have a few formerly highly touted prospects in the high minors who haven’t shown they can make the jump to the Majors yet, but have 40 man roster spots. But a quick look at the roster shows that the Cubs will turn over at least a quarter of the 48 players currently on the 40 man roster and 60 day DL. Combine that with the lack of quality prospects who need protection from the Rule 5 draft in the upper minors, and the Cubs really shouldn’t have to work hard to protect anyone marginally important.

How the Rule 5 Draft Works

Arizona Phil at the Cubbie Reporter is the master of the Rule 5 draft in the Cubs’ blogosphere, so up front I have to credit him for compiling a lot of this info. For the complete list of all Cubs’ farmhands eligible for the Rule 5 draft and a detailed breakdown of all related rules, you should check out Arizona Phil’s Corner over there. He’s also a great resource during extended spring training.

Here’s how the eligibility for the Rule 5 draft is determined: A minor league player who was 18 or younger on the June 5th immediately prior to signing his first contract is eligible for selection starting with the 5th Rule 5 Draft after he signs, and a minor league player who was 19 years or older on the June 5th immediately prior to signing his first contract becomes eligible for selection starting with the 4th Rule 5 Draft that followed his signing. As a note, this means that most high ranking international prospects only get four years of minor league experience prior to being eligible for the Rule 5 draft, since they don’t play until the season after they sign.

The Current 40 Man Roster

The Cubs currently have 48 players on either the 40 man roster or the 60 day DL. Once the season ends, the 60 day DL ends until the start of the next season, so you cannot stash injured players there for the Rule 5 draft. I’m not going to run through every player, but you can see the complete list on the Cubs’ website. The following, though, are the players who are unlikely to be on the 40 man roster at the time of the Rule 5 draft and why.

Free Agents: Scott Baker (RHP), Kevin Gregg (RHP), Matt Guerrier (RHP), Dioner Navarro (C), Ryan Sweeney (OF)

Near Certain Non-TendersJ.C. Boscan (C), Donnie Murphy (IF), Cody Random (IF), Brian Bogusevic (OF), Cole Gillespie (OF), Darnell McDonald (OF), Thomas Neal (OF)

So before the Cubs will even need to make anything approaching a tough decision, they will be down to 36 players on the 40 man roster. If a few others do get non-tendered, look towards fringy relief pitchers, with Michael Bowden, Zach Putnam and Eduardo Sanchez as the most likely candidates.

Players Who May Need to Be Protected:

Back in the day, players used to be eligible for the Rule 5 draft a year earlier. This would result in some really talented players being occasionally available in the Rule 5 draft. These days, it’s rare that anyone that will make much of a difference will be picked in the Rule 5 draft. For example, the Cubs lost two players fans were a bit annoyed about in the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2012 season in infielder Marwin Gonzalez and utility man Ryan Flaherty. Gonzalez’s career OPS is .591, and Flaherty’s is .633. So if someone is left unprotected, particularly when they played in Double A or Triple A the year before, the odds of them being much of a Major Leaguer are slim.

Player the Cubs Need to Protect: Arismendy Alcantara is the sole member of the “needs to be protected” list. The switch hitting middle infielder has emerged as the fifth best prospect in the system and the Cubs’ likely next second baseman of the future, potentially as early as July 2014. If he wasn’t protected, the Astros would pick him up with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft and be more than happy to keep him on the MLB roster all year. 

Others that Would be at Risk of Being Drafted: Outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha posted solid numbers at Double A this season before struggling upon a promotion to Iowa. He will never hit for power, but is reportedly a very good defender and could be a solid 4th or 5th outfielder type. A team could stash him as a defensive replacement for a year. Left handed pitcher Eric Jokisch just threw a no hitter in Tennessee. As a command and control lefty, he’s never going to be a top prospect, but should be a Major Leaguer with a ceiling as a 4/5 starter. Joksich actually is likely the second highest priority for the Cubs to protect after Alcantara. Dallas Beeler and Dae Eun Rhee could both be drafted as Double A pitchers who have had some success, but neither have had good strikeout numbers in the Southern League. The command and control guys who typically have shots at MLB success still tend to put up at least solid strikeout rates throughout the minors (see Kyle Hendricks). They have also both dealt with injuries over the past year or two. While both are at risk of being taken, I wouldn’t shed any tears over either of them being picked.

Players Whose Names You Will Hear but are too Far Away to be Drafted: You’ll hear a lot about second baseman Gioskar Amaya leading up to the Rule 5 draft, and for a decent reason. He’s arguably one of the Cubs’ top ten prospects, and definitively one of their top fifteen. However, he hasn’t played above low A, and it’s really hard to keep a position player who can’t at least kind of fake it on the active roster all year. On top of that, there’s no reason for the Cubs to think Amaya will be anything more than a level a year type of prospect. That means that if the Cubs add Amaya to the 40 man now, he’ll get one year at Daytona, one year at Tennessee, and one year at Iowa, then be out of options. There’s a very small chance someone might take a flyer on Amaya in the Rule 5 draft, but the odds of them not returning him to the Cubs in spring training are even slimmer.

Shortstop Marco Hernandez falls into the same boat, and isn’t much of a prospect anymore anyways. Right handed pitcher Juan Carlos Paniagua has barely played professional ball as he’s dealt with identity and contract issues.

In short, the Cubs should have no problems protecting their vital prospects without having to DFA anyone of significance currently on their 40 man roster.

Tuesday Night’s Game

I’m going to be honest here: the game is on the west coast and won’t end until well past my bedtime. With that said, I’m going to make an educated guess: Clayton Kershaw dominates the Cubs, Travis Wood pitches well, but either he lets a couple of runs through or the pen does. The Cubs score 1 run or less, the Dodgers score 3 to 4 runs. As of bedtime, though, Travis Wood has shut out the Dodgers through 3 innings while the Cubs pushed across an unearned run against Kershaw.

In other news, former Cub Marlon Byrd was traded along with catcher John Buck to the Pirates for prospects. Early reports have it as an overpay for the Pirates in terms of the prospects going back to the Mets, but the Pirates have been terrible in right field and are desperate to make the postseason this year. They’d have to blow a 9 game lead to not make the playoffs, but a deep playoff run could reinvigorate baseball in a town that is still attending games at only a mediocre rate. As strange as it sounds, in a tight race Marlon Byrd could be the difference between winning the NL Central or facing a play in game.

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A Look At the Under Armor Showcase

Monday, August 26th, 2013

by Rob Willer

Early Thoughts (Home-run Derby)-The day started off around 11:00 am where I met John Arguello of Cubs Den and Harry Pavlidis who contributes to a variety of things which include but are not limited to Baseball Prospectus, Washington Post and created Pitch/FX. We proceeded to the front row right next to the scout seats where the likes of Keith Law, Jim Hendry, Sahadev Sharma among many other great baseball minds. First up was the home-run derby and boy was that a show. The two stars of the day were Chase Vallot and Jacob Gatewood. Gatewood put up a very impressive six home-runs showing great bat speed as well as ability to drive the ball. Vallot followed Gatewood with an impressive performance of his own hitting 6 home-runs himself in the opening round. Projects more as a catcher but could end up at 1st base the ball really exploded off his bat. In the end, Gatewood won the derby by defeating Vallot in the final round setting the stage for the Under Armor Game.

Pitching Prospects-

Touki Toussaint- Touki Toussaint is a RHP with a 6-2 195 lb. frame from Coral Springs, FL who attends Coral Springs Christian Academy. Toussaint was sitting 93-95 on his fastball through the inning he pitched.  Topping out around 97 while mixing in a big breaking curveball which sat around 73-75. Toussaint showed great poise by retiring the heart of the American League Lineup.

Dylan Cease- He repeats his delivery very well and seems very mature with his age. Like Toussaint he was bringing some serious heat sitting in the 92-95 range topping out at 97. When seeing him live it really seemed like his motion was very easy and retired the side 1-2-3. He ended the first with a high fastball to retire Dazmond Cameron quickly the pitch had a lot of movement on it.

Cobi Johnson- Johnson pitches for Mitchell High School in Holiday,Florida. He stands at a 6 foot 4 and provides us with a fastball that sits in 87-90 works well downhill as he gets a lot of downward movement. He mixed in a curve that sat at 77-79 mph, retired three of the five batters he faced giving up a walk and a single in his one inning of work.

Sam Hentges- Hentges is from Minnesota where he pitches at Mounds View High School. What makes Hentges unique is he is a left-hander that stands at 6 foot six he projects to be a power arm in the future. For his fastball he had it in the range from 86-88 and maxed at 89 on the radar gun for the day. Relatively uneventful half of an inning although he did make quick work of Alexis Pantoja striking him out on a high fastball. Overall has a solid delivery and looks to be ready for the MLB Draft already with his body type and track record.

Tyler Kolek- Kolek was the surprise of the day already looking like Jonathon Broxton mixing in a fastball that regularly sat between 94 and 97 miles per hour. His stocky build provides him with an established reliever body type. He measures at 6 foot 5 and 250 pounds with a power fastball that hit 99 miles on the gun. Very easy motion and repeated it well throughout his inning of work. Kolek definitely caught many scouts eyes when he regularly reached back for his plus fastball.

Tuesday: We will continue the Under Armor Recap with some of the top high school hitters in the country.

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Interview With Jim Callis of Baseball America

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Jim Callis is the Executive Editor at Baseball America and you can follow him on twitter @JimCallisBA. In my opinion, he’s one of the most knowledgeable and more approachable guys in the industry and I am grateful he keeps giving me the opportunity to question him on all things related to the Cubs.

Q: Who are the top 5 Cubs prospects and in what order do you rank them? Which Cubs prospects are in the mix for next year’s top 100?

Callis: The top four prospects are pretty clear to me, though the order is debatable. I’d line them up like this: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler. At the time of the Matt Garza trade, I was willing to give Mike Olt a mulligan and put him at No. 5, but he has slumped even worse since the deal. Other candidates would be Dan Vogelbach, Arismendy Alcantara, Pierce Johnson and C.J. Edwards. I’ll go with Johnson.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk about the Cubs potentially being a top 3 system going into next year. I believe you had the Cubs ranked 12th going into the season, where would you have the system ranked now after their recent acquisitions?

Callis: Hard to say exactly, because we don’t rank all the systems until we break them all down for the Prospect Handbook. The Cubs are definitely on the upswing for a variety of reasons: a number of players have stepped forward; they’ve acquired more prospects via trades without graduating anyone significant to the majors; they’ve had a strong summer on the draft and international fronts. I think they definitely rank in the upper quartile of systems and could see them in the top three.

Q: The front office decided they loved the international talent in this year’s market and didn’t let the new CBA rules stop them from signing everyone they wanted. They exceeded their pool to the amount that they will receive the maximum punishment of a 100% tax and no signings over 250K in next year’s International free agent market. What do you think of that strategy and the talent they acquired? These guys are so far off, do they even sniff BA’s preseason top 31 Cubs prospects?

Callis: I just wrote a column on this for the latest edition of our magazine. The strategy makes sense to me because the Cubs liked this year’s pool better than next year’s and essentially got two years’ worth of talent up front this year. The penalties aren’t as tough as they would be for draft overspending–the Cubs can’t sign anyone for more than $250,000 next year but they’ll still have their entire draft pool and can trade their slots they can’t really use, which will have value. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez and shortstop Gleyber Torres were our top two prospects in our July 2 ratings, so I bet they both make the Top 30 in the Handbook.

Q: For good and bad, which Cubs prospects have surprised you the most this year?

Callis: We had Arismendy Alcantara ranked pretty high (No. 10) on our preseason list, so I won’t say that his year has been much of a surprise. Christian Villanueva has taken a step forward with his power, which is a positive development. Rock Shoulders has had a nice little breakout, Shawon Dunston Jr. has taken some positive steps. Kyle Hendricks and Erik Jokisch continue to prove themselves at every level they go to. On the downside, I thought Brett Jackson might turn things around this year and he hasn’t. Tim Saunders’ strong 2012 debut looks more like a mirage now. And Arodys Vizcaino hasn’t been able to get back on the mound yet.

Q: I think most fans have unrealistic expectations for prospects. I completed a study last year on the success rates of first round picks from 1990-2007 and there’s other studies out there using similar methods with Baseball America’s Top 100 rankings in previous years and the results are not good. What kind of percentage do you think the Cubs top prospects have at being at least an everyday player, and also, what percentage would you put on them reaching their ceiling? (specifically the ones you feel will be in the top 100)

Callis: I do think there’s a lot of truth in that first statement–prospects miss a lot more than fans realize. I think the good news, though, with the Cubs’ top guys (Bryant, Baez, Almora, Soler) is that they are rated so highly (upper third of the Top 100, at least) and were drafted so highly (the three draftees all were top-nine picks) that their success rate should be a lot higher than everyone in an entire Top 100 or an entire first round. I don’t see anything right now that makes me think they all won’t be good everyday players. But to inject a little realism, one of them probably will fall by the wayside.

Q: There’s 2 names I feel obliged to ask about, Matt Szczur and Junior Lake. Szczur’s putting up another solid season this year at AA, and Lake hit the ground running with the big league team after posting the best numbers of his minor league career at Iowa. You tempered your Szczur expectations a bit last year and Lake you believed was the perennial tease who was not going to be an everyday regular- has your opinion changed on them any this season? What kind of future should fans expect from these guys?

Callis: I haven’t changed my opinion much on those guys. I still like Szczur more than most but I still think he’s more of a second-division regular or, on a contender, a fourth outfielder. Especially on the Cubs, I don’t see how he cracks a projected outfield of Almora in center and Bryant and Soler on the corners. Lake is off to a nice start in the majors but he’s also hitting .400 on balls in play and has a 28-5 K-BB ratio. I see him as more of a tools than skills guy, and there’s also no place for him in Chicago’s future outfield. His best position might be third base, but the Cubs are loaded there. I think the best case for the Cubs is that Lake plays well enough to where they could deal him for a pitcher.

Q: I recently wrote an in-depth scouting report on Baez; his contact problems and plate approach are very worrisome for me and I have him ranked 4th behind Soler, Bryant, and Almora because of that. I think he’s either going to figure it out and be a superstar or be a huge bust with no chance of anything in the middle. However, he’s turned it around rather quickly at AA, as he did at Daytona earlier this season. How do you feel about him? Can he succeed at the majors with his ultra aggressive approach that has worked thus far or will something have to give if he is going to become a major leaguer?

Callis: The lack of plate discipline is a concern, but I’d look at him as more unique than worrisome. Yes, he swings at everything and strikes out, but he’s also 20 and has hit 31 homers this year and done just fine in Double-A. His walk rate is actually improving as he moves up. He has yet to get to a level where pitchers have stopped challenging him, and he makes such hard contact when he connects that I think he can have a higher BAPIP than most. Right now, he looks to me like a .270 hitter with 30-plus homers in the majors who might be able to play shortstop. I’d have a hard time ranking him behind anyone besides Bryant in the system.

Q: Which prospect has the highest power potential out of Baez, Bryant, Soler, Olt, & Vogelbach and which is most likely to reach it?

Callis: I like Olt’s power but I don’t think he belongs in the same group as the others. The other four all have elite power potential. All of those guys have 40-homer upside. I think Baez and Bryant are the most likely to get to that point.

Q: The Cubs are still pretty weak in the pitching department but there are some interesting names and potential rotation pieces in the farm. What order would you put these pitchers in – Pierce Johnson, CJ Edwards, Juan Carlos Paniagua, Kyle Hendricks, Arodys Vizcaino, & Barret Loux – and what kind of potential do they have? Are there any other pitchers in the system that you’re high on?

Callis: Johnson, Edwards, Vizcaino (if he’s healthy, a huge if), Paniagua, Hendricks, Loux. Pitching is the Cubs’ biggest need right now, and they need a lot more in their system. I do like some of the guys they’ve drafted the last couple of years, such as Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood, Trey Masek and Tyler Skulina.

Q: The organization is very strong on the left side of the infield. What position do you think the following players will end up at and what kind of defensive ability will they have there?

Callis:

* Starlin Castro – I think he’s far from their best option at shortstop, but he’s already established there and I don’t see him moving. To me, he’s a 45 defender on the 20-80 scouting scale.

* Javier Baez – Think he could be a 50 defender at shortstop but will wind up as a 55-60 defender at third base.

* Arismendy Alcantara – Erratic at shortstop so he’s probably a 45 in the long run there, see him as a 50-55 at second base.

* Kris Bryant – Think he could be a 50 defender at third base but if Baez goes there, Bryant becomes a 50-55 corner outfielder.

* Mike Olt – Can be a 60 defender at third base but hard to see where he fits in Chicago’s lineup of the future right now.

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Bullpen Fodder

Friday, August 16th, 2013

I started to write this as part of The Hypothetical 2014 Chicago Cubs but I think it deserved its own article since the bullpen is in such a state of flux. Bullpen arms have very little value to most analysts and fans – outside of the closer – which is a discussion for another day – but they are still a highly important piece to the contending puzzle. I haven’t cared about fixing the bullpen; mostly  because I didn’t expect us to compete so the more losses the better these last two years.

Next year is different. I do expect us to be solid so the bullpen is something that needs to be addressed.  But I also know bullpen arms are volatile, and performance year-to-year is unpredictable minus the handful of elite late inning arms scattered across the league. Many fans still think we should be spending money on veteran arms to sure up the bullpen for next season but I am not a big fan of spending money on the bullpen, yet I understand the thought behind it.

Looking at the Cubs’ bullpen performance this year, they rank 2nd worst only trailing the Astros in terms of fWAR and SIERA and they’re 5th worst via ERA. They’ve blown the most saves this year, have struck out the lowest number of hitters while walking the 9th most. Any way you look at it, the bullpen as a whole has been atrocious. If the Cubs even had a league average bullpen, they’d have about 10 more wins.  This is definitely an area the Cubs could improve their record drastically with an overhaul.

Dumping Carlos Marmol and Shawn Camp at the end of June were major steps in the right direction but they only accounted for 6 of the 24 blown saves. These two combined were worth -1.5 fWAR, had an ERA of 6.54, and drew the most ire from Cubs fans.  The bullpen has improved since, especially due to the production of Pedro Strop and Matt Guerrier, who have been excellent for the Cubs since being acquired. Unfortunately Guerrier is having surgery on his throwing elbow due to a flexor mass buildup and is now lost for the rest of the season. The bullpen’s ERA has went from 4.37 to 4.16 since the end of June but even with that noticeable progress, that doesn’t improve the team – a 4.16 bullpen ERA is still 5th worst in baseball, a 4.37 bullpen ERA is only one spot worse, not much of a difference.

Kevin Gregg, the replacement closer after Marmol was dumped has accounted for 4 of the blown saves, but his save conversion rate of 86% is actually about 10% above league average over the past decade. He’s been a stabilizing force for the bullpen, and if it wasn’t for a swoon in early July, he would’ve been traded. He’s still an option to be traded by the waiver deadline but the team that still needs bullpen help the most is the Orioles, and they’re they team that waived him earlier in the year.

The pitcher who has been most valuable in terms of fWAR, James Russell, has accounted for 7 of the team’s blown saves. His numbers are actually very good, which made me think he was misused before I even looked deeper at the numbers. Russell is an excellent LOOGY, allowing a .165/.216/.244 triple slash line against left-handed hitters in 26IP. However against righties, he’s giving up .309/.395/.567 and has actually faced 17 innings worth of right-handed hitters – that’s about 17 innings too many. In fact, his only blown save against a left-handed batter was on 7/1 against Jason Kubel.  As long as Russell is used in the correct situations, he’s been dominant.

Some of these mistakes weren’t entirely on Sveum; during a season you’re going to have to use bullpen in matchups that aren’t favorable and in a couple of the cases, Russell was used to try to rest the bullpen; like the first game of the doubleheader vs Milwaukee on 6/30. Cubs up 5-2, with 1 out and 2 on in the 7th, Sveum tried to keep Russell in there to escape with a lead, but Russell gave up a game tying 3 run homer to right-handed pinch hitter Khris Davis. Another reason to defend Sveum’s use of the bullpen is the lack of talent on the bullpen roster, and we’ve heard that from our front office many times this season. For instance, rule 5 pick Hector Rondon has been the worst pitcher still on the roster. Rondon isn’t a bad pitcher, he’s just not ready for the majors; he should be sitting in AAA right now refining his command and developing his repertoire after only pitching 7 innings the past 2 seasons for the Indians, instead Sveum is stuck with him on the 25-man so he has to use him. It’s also been a revolving door with the rest of the bullpen spots. We lost Fujikawa early, we’ve claimed nearly every arm that has been sent to waivers, and we’ve used a bunch of young guys from our farm trying to piece it together for the season.

Nevertheless, I am not letting Sveum entirely off the hook, maybe this is something that improves with more experience, but the area he needs to work on the most is how to handle the bullpen. He’s late with the hook with his starting pitchers (this could easily be related to a lack of trust of a terrible bullpen though), he gives very little slack to young bullpen arms and trusts veterans to figure it out too long even when it’s clear they’re struggling.  Overall, I think Sveum is an solid enough manager with some areas he’s excellent in but bullpen management is critical for a contending team, so he must improve if the Cubs are going to win under him.

Looking at next year, after looking at this free agent market, there’s not much there either for relief pitchers. I like 3 names, Jason Frasor, Jesse Crain and Joe Smith – all 3 guys have contender experience in the AL, with an excellent track record, so all 3 should be highly sought after by contenders. I don’t think the Cubs will spend a big amount on a top tier free agent reliever so it looks like internal options may be our only choice.

Internally, barring any unforeseen trades, Villanueva looks to be the swing man, Russell as a LOOGY and Strop as the late innings righty are locks. I would assume Fujikawa is the closer if/when he is healthy.  Those 4 should be very good in their respective roles, but after that is where it will be interesting. I don’t expect the Cubs to tender an offer to Gregg. The team will also lose Guerrier who is in the last year of his deal, and with his injury I don’t think the Cubs will be interested in bringing him back. We’ve had a lot of auditions this year and we’ll have more these last 6 plus weeks. Many younger arms with potential like Putnam, Bowden, Dolis, Rusin, Raley, Rodriguez and Parker will be in the mix for next season and if they don’t make it, some will have to be outrighted off the 40-man completely since we’ve hit a point where we have too many prospects that need to be protected and we’ve also got quite a few guys out of options, so expect to see the Cubs make long-term decisions on a lot of players in the near future.

One important name for instance is Jake Arrieta who will have to be on the 25-man one way or another. I expect him to get a rotation spot, but if he struggles the rest of this year (he’s being called up today), he may end up a late inning reliever next season.  A side note on Arrieta, the Cubs gained an extra year of control and avoided super two status by waiting to call him up until August.

As I mentioned last week, I have Arodys Vizcaino penciled into the BP, and after listening to Jason McLeod yesterday on the Keith Law’s podcast, I feel a little more confident expecting Vizcaino to be ready. The short take, Vizcaino was throwing especially well in Spring Training before his setback, and the Cubs expect him to throw multiple innings each outing in the Arizona Fall league to rebuild arm strength and get back into the routine of pitching to be ready to pitch for next season.

That leaves 2 spots. I like Bowden but he’s really struggled lately and could be on the chopping block, again. Raley and Rusin both still have options and are lefties so unless something happens with Russell, I expect them to be at AAA. Rusin pitching well enough to stay in the rotation mix and is probably our best internal option if there is an injury so I’d be shocked if he’s not starting at AAA next year. Dolis has the stuff, but I think he’s the first guy outrighted off the 40-man due to his health. Putnam is probably outrighted as well since he’s returning from an elbow injury. Blake Parker has pitched extremely well and is deserving of a spot right now but that can change by next Spring and he also has options left.  Rodriguez could also be outrighted if he continues to struggle.

Down on the farm, we have a couple intriguing options including Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm (recently acquired in the Matt Garza deal), Barret Loux (replacement for Jake Brigham, as part of the Geovany Soto deal), Kyle Hendricks (part of the Ryan Dempster trade) and Tony Zych (2011 4th round draft pick). Most of these guys are being groomed as starters but I’m a believer in the theory that it’s smarter to let a rookie pitcher start their career in the bullpen to get them acclimated to the majors and to also keep their innings down as long as it’s not an instance where the role keeps changing back and forth. If the Cubs don’t want to take that route, Zych is a definite BP arm, that is close to being ready for the majors. He has a 2.52 ERA in 50IP with 36 strikeouts to only 20 walks but with the 40-man issues the Cubs are facing, adding another player who doesn’t need to be there just complicates matters more. And then there’s service time/player control to consider and this option works best as a midseason call up, not to start a season.

So out of all the internal options right now, I’d lean towards Bowden and Parker getting those spots. Other than getting back Fujikawa, that’s basically the same bullpen minus the 3 worst pitchers this year while also losing Guerrier and Gregg, who were 2 of the best albeit in limited time and with major questions marks going into next year.  On paper it’s not a terrible BP, and like I said earlier, an average BP would have been worth roughly 10 more wins this year. But I thought this year’s BP was going to be solid and look how far off I was then.

Who do you guys want in the BP? Is removing the 3 worst performing pitchers plus hoping for some progression from young arms going to be enough of an improvement? Is adding Fujikawa and Vizcaino, two very high upside arms to the BP going to replace the production lost from Gregg and Guerrier?  Is free agency our best course of action? As always drop your thoughts and questions below.


  • The Cards took 2 of 3 from the Pirates, moving them within 2 games. The Reds beat Milwaukee, putting them only 2.5 games back. I think all 3 end up making the playoffs, but it’s going to be an exciting 6 weeks in the NLC even if the playoff teams are pretty much locked down. I really hope the Pirates don’t end up a wild card and then get bounced after 1 game.
  • The AL on the other hand is still wide open with Detroit, Boston, Texas, Oakland, Tampa, Baltimore, and Cleveland fighting over divisions and/or wild cards.
  • While the Yankees lost and see their playoff hopes drop each day, Alfonso Soriano did his part to win going 4-5 yesterday. He’s got 10 hits including 4 HR and a double with 14 RBI plus a walk in his last 15 plate appearances.  I don’t think he’s going to even make it past the first ballot, but he’s a fringy Hall of Famer for me. We’ll see what he does these last few years but there’s only 4 guys in the 400 HR + 300 SB club (A-Rod, Bonds, Mays, & Dawson) and he’s going to be joining that list soon. He at least deserves some serious consideration especially since he’s one of the few power hitters who we think did it clean this era.
  • Jayson Stark wrote yesterday that Miguel Cabrera is one of the greatest hitters ever, and I agree. He’s probably going to run away with another MVP, which I think he actually deserves this one over Trout. Last year I thought (and still do) that Trout was the MVP. But this year Trout has slipped a bit, while Cabrera has increased his offensive production across the board. The only real threat is if Chris Davis carries Baltimore to the playoffs.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Starting Pitcher

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Pierce Johnson

Bio: Johnson was born in Colorado and was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 15th round of the 2009 Amateur Draft. He bypassed the offer by the Rays and attended Missouri State University instead where he played the next three years. After his junior season Johnson established himself as one of the top college arms in the draft. Finally after 42 picks in the first round the Chicago Cubs selected Johnson 43rd in the 2012 Amateur Draft becoming their top pitching prospect. He measures at 6 foot 3 and 170 pounds which seems to be the pitcher’s build of today’s game. Overall he has had a great story bypassing the first draft after high school to attend college and get rewarded for his choice.

2012-2013 Season: Overall Johnson has pitched for four affiliates of the Chicago Cubs including Rookie Ball Cubs in the Arizona League, Boise Hawks (Short Season A Affiliate), Kane County (Low A) in the Midwest League and Daytona Cubs in the Florida St League. Over his 2012 season he combined to go 11 innings between both affiliates while allowing five runs (four earned) and striking out 14 in six games. Next he moved to Kane County at the start of the 2013 season where he started 13 games for the cougars. Johnson’s season stats include 69 and 2/3 innings pitched while registering a 3.10 earned run average. Some other stats of note are 74 strikeouts to 22 walks which is good for a 3.36 SO/BB ratio. The Cubs felt their second pick of the 2012 draft behind Albert Almora deserved another challenge so they called up Johnson to Daytona. The Daytona Cubs play in the Florida St. League which is regarded as pitchers friendly league where most dominate their opposition on a nightly basis. So far through seven starts in eight games he has completed 41 and 2/3 innings and put up a minuscule earned run average of 2.16. Johnson will most likely finish out the year at Daytona as they are headed for the playoffs which will be very important in Johnson’s development (playoff pressure). I believe if he keeps up this pitching we could see him start at Tennessee next year and have the chance for a mid to late season call-up to Iowa.

Sleeper Prospect: CJ Edwards

Bio: Edwards was one of the three pieces in the Matt Garza deal last month which also netted the Cubs 3rd Base Prospect Mike Olt and Starting Pitcher Justin Grimm. The most shocking thing about Edwards is that he was a 48th round draft pick by the Texas Rangers in 2011. He attended Mid Carolina High School in South Carolina and is considered to be one of the biggest steals in the draft after being drafted so late. Edwards got his start with the Rangers system at the age of 20 where he followed the same path as Johnson mentioned above. They both spent their first season in each system at Rookie Ball and then got called up to Short Season A Ball. Edwards combined to go 5-3 with a ridiculous low earned run average of 1.48. Some other key stats to know about his 2012 season include 85 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched and no home-runs allowed while having a KK/BB ratio of 3.40.

2013 Season: Before the trade Edwards pitched at A Ball Hickory where he turned an impressive 18 starts registering an 8-2 record. Edwards pitched 93 and 1/3 innings and struck out 122 batters with yet again you guessed it giving up a home-run. After the trade with Texas, Edwards reported to Daytona to join the High A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Due to the rain in July and August, Edwards only has gotten in three games where he has went 9 and 2/3 innings and struck out 17 batters while walking just 5. CJ Edwards features three pitches–a four-seam fastball that comes in anywhere from 90 -95 mph, a big curveball at 75-80, and a fading changeup at 82-86. Right now, he generates a lot of his strikeouts by changing hitters’ eye levels with high heat and low curves. Most scouts have said that Edward’s best pitch is his curveball as already at only 21 years old its a plus pitch. He should start the season next year at Double A Tennessee and be on the same path as Johnson mentioned above. Should be fun to watch this system develop and start to build depth. Other possible candidates include Dillon Maples, Ivan Pinyero and Kyle Hendricks.

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Cuban Invasion Continues, Bryant Promoted, Tseng Signed

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

In news that I think is only tangential to the Cubs, yet another Cuban über-prospect, 26-year-old Jose Abreu, has apparently escaped Cuba has plans to defect, and will subsequently break the bank of some MLB team. Check out his stats from the last three years:

2010-2011: .453/.597/.986 (37 HRs in 77 games)

2011-2012: .394/.542/.837

2012-2013: .382/.535/.735

Kids playing Wiffle Ball in the back yard think those numbers are ridiculous. Here’s a link to a Grantland story in which Jonah Keri says he “might be the best hitter in the world.”

He even compares Abreu to, gulp, Miguel Cabrera. Abreu is huge (6’2” 260 lbs.), and is, by all accounts, a 1B/DH-only type (his glove is apparently well below average). That’s the main reason that I don’t see the Cubs going all out for him (and going all out is going to be what it will take to sign him).  We have a good, young, 1B signed long-term, and I don’t think a team can afford to have a defensive liability at first base, even if he is a great hitter. If the FO had some insight that the NL was on the verge of adopting the DH, I think we’d have a different story. It would be an exiting move, though, and I wouldn’t be disappointed in the least if the Cubs made a serious run at the guy. Either way, with his numbers, and the recent success of fellow Cubans Puig and Cespedes, Abreu is going to demand HUGE dollars.

We’re in the deep doldrums period with the major league club right now, but there’s actually a few interesting things going on with the organization.

I was about to write a blurb about the rumors of the looming promotion of Kris Bryant. Well, as you’ve probably heard, Bryant was just promoted from Boise to Class High-A Daytona. Several writers had speculated that he would skip Low-A Kane County, and that turned out to be what occurred. Bryant was absolutely destroying the Northwest League, so I really like the move. However, I am concerned about the amount of rain-outs in Daytona. I really hope Bryant can get enough consistent at-bats to keep his rapid development rolling.

In news that has been rumored for a few weeks, the Cubs officially announced the signing of Taiwanese pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng ($1.625 million signing bonus). Tseng, a veteran of the World Baseball Classic, is 6’1”, 200 lbs. and features a 4-pitch mix with a 95-mph fastball. He was ranked 23rd on BAs international prospects list, making Tseng the 4th Cubs signee this year ranked in the top 23.

There’s not much to say here. Mat Latos dominated the Cubs, who were shutout for third straight game at home – the first time that has happened since 1924. Travis Wood pitched well again…but he might as well have given up 100 runs, since he got exactly zero run support. Also, Aroldis Chapman throws baseballs really fast.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Center Field

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Albert Almora

Bio: The Cubs number one pick in 2012, outfielder Albert Almora projects to be a Cubs star one day soon. Signed when he was only 18, he’s a couple of years away from full development, but he’s already got most scouts checking up on his progression from high school. Its crazy to think that Almora is only 19 years old but you wouldn’t notice it on the field for how well he shows leadership and poise. Almora was the Cubs’ first round draft pick going sixth overall in the 2012 draft becoming Theo Epstein’s first draft pick.

2012 Season: He’s a good athlete with off the charts instincts and mental makeup. Almora started off his Cubs career at Rookie Ball in 2012 where you guessed hit over .300. Almora hit .321/.331/.464 to be exact over 145 at bats across Rookie Ball and Short Season A Boise while scoring 27 runs. It seems the only thing in his development that hasn’t come is the power in relation to home-runs where he only had two homers on the season. For now we’ll take his production and ability to get on base over the home-runs and tendency to strikeout.

Projection: Almora has good pitch recognition skills, so that should eventually translate into an ability to grind out ABs and take walks. Most scouts have him pegged as hitting .300 as an everyday center-fielder in the major leagues. The projections of home-runs varies but in my mind I would say 15 home-runs would be a solid estimate when he finally gets the call to the big league club sometime in 2016.

2013 Season: Almora has played at Kane County for all of this year after recovering from his injury early on in the season. Through 61 games Almora has 82 hits in 249 at bats which is good for a .329 batting average. Some other key numbers to remember are his 17 doubles, four triples and his .842 OPS. Overall Almora has done everything the Cubs’ have asked since returning from injury. Recently Almora went on the seven day disabled list with a groin injury which is probably the only reason he is still at Kane County. In my mind I believe he gets the call-up to Daytona by the end of the month baring any setbacks from the groin injury.

Sleeper Prospect: Trey Martin

Bio: Trey Martin, 19, signed an over-slot contract in 2011 as a 13th round draft pick out of a Georgia high school. Martin played the 2011 campaign at Rookie Ball where he turned in a decent season .243/.289/.357 with only four extra base hits in 76 at bats. After playing the 2011 campaign at Rookie Ball he reported back there to start the 2012 season. Looking at his vast improvement at Rookie Ball in the 2012 season it looks like the Cubs did the right thing by sending him back there to start the season. He finished his Rookie Ball campaign with a line of .448/.515/.690 through seven games going 13 for 29 with six extra base hits. Finally Martin made the move to Boise Idaho to join the Boise Hawks where he would play the rest of the season (57 games) with a line of .270/.318/.377 including 12 extra base hits and six steals in 11 attempts.

2013 Season:  Martin batted .200 in 11 games with Class A Kane County this year, but the 13th-round pick in 2011 injured his left shoulder, and needed surgery. He began the year 20th on the top 20 in the MLB.com ratings of the Cubs system. Since Almora is due for a call-up very soon Martin should get the regular at bats in center unless the Cubs move Oliver Zapata there. Martin most definitely will start the season again at Kane County after playing in only 11 games this year. Hopefully his shoulder will heal in time for spring training and he can return to his pre-injury status of projecting to be a very solid major league outfielder with above average defense. Stay Tuned as the Outfield Projections conclude with Left Field tomorrow morning.

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