Archive for the ‘Minor League’ Category

Prospect Report: The Promoted

Friday, July 12th, 2013

For the rest of the season, Norm and I are likely going to veer away from the hot/not format a good bit, in large part because we’ve already hit on everyone interesting and we’ve gotten well into repeat territory on that front. On that note, we’re in the middle of the period of the season where we see a lot of promotions within the system. Below I am going to look at several players who were promoted since the middle of June. While we will ignore their numbers since promotion (too small of a sample size to be meaningful), we will look at their numbers in their prior level and attempt to determine if the move was made too soon, should have been made sooner, or the time was just right.

Javier Baez (SS, Age 20)
Assigned from High A Daytona to Double A Tennessee on June 28
High A Stats: 337 PAs, .274/.338/.535, 17 HRs, .310 BABIP, 6.2% BB rate, 23.1% K rate
Timing: Too early

Baez likely reestablished himself as the Cubs’ top prospect in June, but without one huge game and Jorge Soler getting hurt, it’s unclear if that would be the case. Baez’s walk rate (8.9%) and strikeout rate (19.8%) were significantly improved in June. This is particularly true in comparison to Baez’s April, where he only put up a 3.6% walk rate to go along with a concerning 27.7% strikeout rate. The problem was this was just one month. And a lot of Baez’s massive slugging improvement in June was his huge 4 home run game. I would have liked to see Baez continue his progress for one more month before making the jump from High A to Double A, which is well known to be the most difficult aside from a promotion to the Majors.

John Andreoli (OF, Age 23)
Assigned from High A Daytona to Double A Tennessee on June 28
High A Stats: 303 PAs, .318/.394/.405, 0 HR, .400 BABIP, 11.2% BB rate, 18.8% K rate

Timing: Should have happened sooner

Andreoli has never been a big name prospect, but he spent all of 2012 and the first half of 2013 getting on base in 40% of his plate appearances in the Florida State League. He does not hit for any power, but clearly draws walks and steals bases (55 SBs in 75 attempts last season, 23 in 26 attempts this season). Andreoli’s lack of power limits his potential, and definitely could stall out at the higher levels of the minors where better defenses will limit his BABIP somewhat. But the walks, speed and ability to play all over the outfield mean he could be a solid bench option. However, one of his best skills, the speed, is often one of the first things to leave a player as he ages. Andreoli is not going to add power, so there was no reason not to see if his combination of speed and patience could have succeeded at Double A a little earlier.

Pierce Johnson (RHP, Age 22)
Assigned from Low A Kane County to High A Daytona on June 20
Low A Stats: 13 GS, 69.2 IPs, 3.10 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 9.56 K/9, 2.84 BB/9
Timing: Should have happened sooner

Had we been told when the season started that Arodys Vizcaino would not pitch in a real game all season, no one would have been surprised to see Pierce Johnson establish himself as the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, which he quickly did. The problem was that he just wasn’t challenged at Low A, and no one should have expected him to be challenged at Low A. At the very back end of being 21 and at age 22, Johnson should be dominating a league where the majority of good players are the age of college sophomores. No one learned anything about Johnson from him striking out a bunch of 20 year olds. He would have been better off starting the season at High A, or at most getting a half dozen starts to get his feet wet in full season professional baseball at Kane County before being bumped up the ladder.


Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Three Up, Three Down – 1st Half Movers

Friday, June 21st, 2013


All Stats Through Thursday, June 20

Arismendy Alcantara, SS/2B
Age 21, AA
70 G, 295 PAs, .283/.361/.469
16 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 18/20 SB
10.2% BB rate, 21.0% K rate, .341 BABIP
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 15

Alcantara will likely be the Cubs #5 prospect going into next season and  has a chance to be in many of the guru’s Top 100 lists. Both Baseball American and Keith Law were the only national publications to put Alcantara in their Top 10′s and they appear to be right.
Double A is usually regarding as the biggest leap in competition from the previous level, and Arismendy has stepped up. He’s young for the league, he’s showing power (with a career high in HR’s already), showing speed (will likely shatter last years 25 SB’s), and he’s nearly doubled his walk rate (already equaling a career high) all while keeping his K rate under control. To top it off, he’s a switch hitter that’s better from the left side of the plate. He is the biggest success story outside the Top 3 of Baez, Almora, and Soler.

Kyle Hendricks, RH SP
Age 23, AA
78.1 IP, 2.07 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 64/16 K/BB
20.4K%, 5.1BB%
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: NR

The biggest leap among pitchers belongs to unranked Kyle Hendricks. He won’t knock you out with his stuff (87-90 mph fastball), but he gets the job done with command and a good feel for 5 pitches, his best arguably being a changeup and a new pitch this year, a cutter. Hendricks doesn’t have ace potential, but I could see him ending up as another Travis Wood type. I have to think he’ll be in next year’s Top 10.

Pierce Johnson, RH SP
Age 22, High A
69.2 IP, 3.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 74/22 K/BB
25.0K%, 7.4BB%
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 7

I went with Johnson here because, honestly, there isn’t much else to get too excited about in the system this year outside of the Top 3 and the two mentioned above. He won’t be moving too far off the # 7 spot, but that’s more a testament to how great I think Alcantara has been and the addition to this year’s #1 draft pick, Kris Bryant. I can see Johnson as the 5th or 6th best in the Cubs system, and another with a chance at the Top 100.  This is becoming a Top 3 farm system in the game.
Johnson is showing a good strikeout rate, and limiting his walks…the two stats I look at most for minor league pitchers. He was promoted to Daytona this week, and he probably should have been there earlier being a guy with college experience, but so far so good. All he needs to do is stay healthy. Next year in AA will be the big test for him.


Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Age 22, DL
No stats
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 4

Vizcaino won’t be pitching for anyone until 2014 (we hope), and that’ll be the first time since 2011 that he’ll be throwing in meaningful action. He had Tommy John surgery in March of 2012 and the hope was that he’d begin his way back to a potential starting pitcher later this year. But he had to have arthroscopic surgery on that elbow to clear out a calcium buildup and those plans have been derailed. At this point we can only hope he can stay healthy in 2014, but I wouldn’t be able to take him over any of the other Cubs Top 10 or 15 prospects.

Brett Jackson, CF
Age 24, AAA
60 G, 239 PAs, .217/.295/.358
6 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 7/11 SB
8.8% BB rate, 31.8% K rate, .305 BABIP
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 5

I remember some fans keeping the hope alive after a strong 17 at bat spring training and Jackson’s “new swing”. Well, the results in AAA have been miserable and perhaps its best to just go back to the old swing. He may still provide value off the bench as a cheap 5th OF…maybe a 4th. He just strikes out too much to be an offensive asset.

Dillon Maples, RHP
Age 21, Single A Kane County
24.1 IP, 8.51 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 24/23 K/BB
19.4K%, 18.5BB%
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 9

An overslot signing from the 14th round of the 2011 draft, Maples is finally pitching in an advanced league after years of injury issues. Maybe “throwing” would be a better word than “pitching”. He’s only 21, so there is plenty of time for him to find success, but he’s walking as many as he’s striking out and he either hits a batter or throws a wild pitch about every other inning. While velocity was a strong point, supposedly hitting 96, he’s also had some issues there with inconsistency. He’s not hopeless, but he’s not a Top 15 guy in this system either.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Three Up, Three Down: Baez Heats Up Edition

Friday, June 14th, 2013


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.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Who Is Number 5?

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Last Thursday, the Cubs drafted University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, the consensus best position player available, with the second pick of the Rule 4 draft. When they did so, the Cubs turned their Big 3 position player prospects (Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora) into a Big 4. And every member of the Cubs’ Big 4 is very likely to be a Top 50 prospect in baseball heading into 2014, with some rumors that all four could end up in a significant number of Top 20s..

But what is in the system beyond Baez, Soler, Almora, and Bryant? Who are the candidates for the number five spot in the system? At this point, I think three prospects have established themselves in that “next tier” of Cubs prospects that are in the argument for that fifth spot in the system.

There were, however, some criteria I used to cut out certain players. First, the prospect must have played this season. That leaves the rehabbing Arodys Vizcaino out of the equation. Second, the prospect must have at least met reasonably optimistic expectations for 2013. Sorry Brett Jackson, that eliminates you. Last, the prospect cannot have come out of nowhere. That knocks Kyle Hendricks out of consideration.


Arismendy Alcantara, SS
Age 21, Double A
61 G, 257 PAs, .286/.364/.482
10.1% BB rate, 20.2% K rate
9 HRs, 14 2Bs, 1 3B, 15 SB, 1 CS

Alcantara firmly established himself in the second tier of Cubs’ prospects last season, putting up solid numbers in High A while showing that he can probably stay at shortstop long term. Alcantara has only improved on that performance after moving up to Double A Tennessee this season. Not only is Alcantara young for the level, but at this rate he is in the process of putting up career highs in on base percentage and slugging. Oh, and he has already set his one season high for home runs. Especially considering his ability to play in the middle infield, Alcantara has turned himself from a back end of an organizational Top 10 type to someone who has a legitimate shot at being in some Top 100 prospects in baseball lists.


Dan Vogelbach, 1B
Age 20, Low A
60 G, 265 PAs, .277/.347/.472
10.2% BB rate, 17.0% K rate
11 HRs, 13 2Bs, 3 SB, 1 CS

The Dan Vogelbach story is well known: he has an advanced approach at the plate and 70 raw power. His issue is that it’s unclear if he could even be adequate defensively at first base, possibly leaving him without a position in the National League. But the potential in that bat is huge. The advanced approach has been on display since day one of his full season debut with Kane County, and the power has picked up with six home runs since May 27. While the defensive issues cannot be ignored, players who can get on base while limiting strike outs with 70 power are very rare.


Pierce Johnson, RHP
Age 22, Low A
12 GS, 62.2 IPs, 3.45 ERA
2.98 FIP, 9.91 K/9, 2.73 BB/9

With Arodys Vizcaino currently disqualified from contention for the fifth best prospect in the Cubs’ system, Pierce Johnson is currently the best pitching prospect in the Cubs system. While he does not have quite the ceiling of Dillon Maples, Paul Blackburn, or Duane Underwood, Johnson has a legitimate chance to be a very good 3 in the Majors, and has a much higher likelihood of meaningfully contributing the Majors than any of the three youngsters listed above. The biggest argument against Johnson is that he is a bit old for the level, and as an advanced college draftee should at least be at High A to face some better competition.

Personally, I would list these three players in the order I have them in here. As of today, Alcantara has established himself as the fifth best prospect in the system, and a potential elite prospect in all of baseball based upon his improved patience and power to go along with his ability to play up the middle. Plus, Alcantara has now succeeded in the upper minors.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

3 Up, 3 Down – The Front Office’s First Draft Review

Friday, June 7th, 2013

While The Front Office continues to add talent to the minor league system today in their 2nd run through of the MLB Rule 4 Draft, I thought I’d take a look at the regime’s first draft in 2012. While we can’t make a final decision on the successes and failures quite yet, let’s look at some notable performances thus far. I’ll ignore the first two picks, Albert Almora and Pierce Johnson, as they should be the most successful. And we’ll skip the 3 Down portion since most draft picks don’t amount to much anyway. And me and the wife just had our 2nd baby girl and frankly, I’m just tired. The only real “down” player would be 3rd round pick Josh Conway, who blew out his arm again. So let’s look at some successes outside the Top 50 selections of the 2012 draft:


Stephen Bruno, 2B/IF
7th Round, #224 overall
22 years old, currently in High A Daytona
Career stats: .361/.441/.492 in 370 plate appearances
23BB/63K,  27 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs

Bruno has hit. Simple as that. He hasn’t shown much power or patience and his strikeout rate is mediocre so I’m not too high on him as a prospect. But hard to argue that a 7th round 2B hitting over .360 with a .440 OBP isn’t a success. The jump to AA is always a tough one, so we’ll get a better grip on his potential in 2014.

Bijan Rademacher, RF
13th Round, #404 overall
22 years old, Single A Kane County
Career stats: .295/.351/.389 in 356 plate appearances
28BB/53K, 19 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs

Also getting a few innings on the mound, Rademacher has the arm for right field, but not the power. He’s making a lot of contact this season (only a 11.7% K rate, down from 17.2% in 2012) and has nearly as many walks as K’s (16 to 18). His power is nearly absent with only 6 extra base hits this year, but he could become a 4th/5th outfielder. Doesn’t sound like much, but wouldn’t it be better to have one in the system rather than spending millions on the Scott Hairston’s of the world?

Michael Heesch, LH SP
8th Round, #254 overall
23 years old, currently in Single A Kane County
Career stats: 79.2 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.218 WHIP
6.4 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 0.2 HR/9

Heesch is one of the few pitchers taken that is pitching in full season ball this year. He’s a bit old for Kane County, but shows good control and high groundball rates (52%) that may allow his lack of K’s to succeed as he climbs the ladder. He’s a big dude at 6’5″, 245 lbs and a left handed thrower. John Arguello over at Cubs Den has seen him in person around the 90-91 MPH range with good movement on all his pitches and thinks he has a shot at becoming a big leaguer. For an 8th rounder, that would be a success.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Day 1 – Draft Recap

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Did you sit through the MLB coverage of the draft last night? Two thoughts: 1) compared to the NFL and NBA drafts, the production value of MLB is, well, er, not as good; 2) Harold Reynolds can go away now, thank you.

Speaking of comparing drafts – Twitter exploded after the Cubs’ first pick with complaints about the Cubs not filling a need. Well, this is where we have to remind ourselves that, unlike players drafted into the NFL and NBA, players drafted by major league teams almost never make immediate impacts on the big league club. It’s about acquiring assets – many of whom will be traded and eventually play for other teams (or never make it to the big leagues at all). Smart teams don’t worry about who is already playing a certain position in their minor league system; they take the best player available – especially if it’s an early pick in the first round. As Jason McLeod said, the Cubs were never going to select a player based on need, and that is the right strategy in MLB.

#2 Kris Bryant

For several weeks now, many Cub fans in the blogosphere have debated whether the Cubs should select Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, or Kris Bryant with the second overall pick, with many (most) assuming that it would be one of the two pitchers. Before the draft, I felt that I would be happy with any of those three, although I guess I was rooting for Appel just a bit (I suppose the Stanford thing swayed me somewhat). With Appel going off the board to the Astros at #1 overall, the Cubs had their choice between Bryant and Gray. The Cubs elected to go with Bryant, the powerful third baseman out of the University of San Diego. Subsequently, ESPN’s Bruce Levine reported that Appel was #1 on the Cubs’ board, with Bryant at #2 (Jason McLeod said that Gray’s positive Adderall test didn’t cause them to pass on him, although we’ll never really know). Even though the Cubs may have preferred Appel if they had their choice, you can’t be disappointed that the Cubs selected the biggest power bat in the draft – at least the Cubs didn’t make the choice based on signability or other external factors.

In 62 games this season with San Diego, Bryant hit .329/.493/.820 (that’s an OPS of 1.313, folks) with 31 HR, 62 RBI, 66 BB, 44 K, 80 R, 7 SB. I’m going to pause here for a moment so you can read that line again. This is my favorite ridiculous Bryant stat: he personally out-homered 228 of the 296 teams in Division I baseball. The BB/K ratio is excellent. Although we can’t read too much into college stats (especially since he wasn’t playing in an elite conference), all the scouts seem to agree that his power is legit. Read this report from Mike Rosenbaum and allow yourself to drool a little:

“Epitome of a power hitter; presents plus-plus raw power to all fields; chance to boast elite power at maturity with improvements; loose hands and wrists; quick trigger and reaction time; outstanding bat speed; power should always be there even if average isn’t; showcases impressive barrel control through the strike zone; excellent hip rotation creates extension through the baseball; favorable point of contact off a firm front side; generates backspin carry to all fields; power will translate with wood.”

Some scouts have commented that he may hit around .260-.270 or lower in the majors, but, as we all know, if he can walk and hit for that kind of power, he’ll be a great player to have.

Jason McLeod said that Bryant has the attributes of a middle-of-the-order hitter in the major leagues that can play at a high level for many years. Although Bryant’s power would play at any corner spot, he’ll be even more valuable if he can stick at third base. He’s 6’5″ 215 lbs. with room to grow, so I’m skeptical that he’ll stick at third once he matures fully. However, the Cubs will play him at third to start, and he’ll be given an opportunity to stick there – let’s hope he does!

After the Cubs selected Bryant, I got the feeling that they would repeat last year’s strategy of drafting a high-profile position player with the first pick (Albert Almora last year) followed by a tidal wave of pitching selections. It looks like the wave got rolling with their second round pick.

#41 Rob Zastrynzny

With the 41st pick (the second in the second round), the Cubs selected Rob Zastrynzny from the University of Missouri. I really thought that the Cubs would go with Hunter Green out of Warren East H.S. in Kentucky with this pick (Holden did a great overview of him), so I was surprised to see Zastrynzny go here (by the way, Zastrynzny is going to make all of us use copy-and-paste a lot). At first, I was a little bummed – Baseball America had him ranked 76th, he was ranked 81st by Perfect Game (at Baseball Prospectus), and he wasn’t ranked in the top 100 by (Were the Cubs hoping to sign him way under slot in order to pay Bryant over slot, or were they trying to save money for later picks?) However, after reading the Baseball Prospectus (Perfect Game) write-up, I feel much better. Here’s a portion:

“…Zastryzny has seen his draft stock steadily rise through the course of the spring and could hear his name heard as early as the second round. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound southpaw was undrafted out of Corpus Christi, Texas high school despite going 17-1, 0.20 with 198 strikeouts his senior year. He stepped into the Missouri rotation early in his freshman year and has built his upper-80s fastball into a pitch that now tops out at 94 mph with excellent sinking and running life at times. Zastryzny’s best secondary pitch is a low-80s changeup that has very good arm speed and matches his fastball in life and in his ability to spot the ball low in the zone. His third pitch is a curveball that is a workable offering in setting up hitters, but it is not currently a swing-and-miss pitch.”

The key there is that he has increased his fastball velocity to 94 – Zastrynzny definitely seems like a prospect on the rise. A tall lefty who has a moving fastball at that velocity sounds intriguing. I’m legitimately excited about this pick now (as excited as an Illinois grad can be about a player from Mizzou), and I’m looking forward to following his progress. After all, none of the players chosen in the second round are sure things, so this is where the front office guys earn those big salaries.

It will be interesting to follow the rest of the Cubs’ draft starting today. I expect a torrent of pitching selections, with a few position players thrown in here and there (I wouldn’t be surprised to see a catcher selected sometime early on). Although we’ll never hear about most of these players again, it’s a fun time of year for those of use that follow prospects. Enjoy!

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

3 Up, 3 Down, Hot and Cold in May Edition

Friday, May 31st, 2013

It’s rare that any player will dominate an entire season of professional baseball with no hiccups. This can be especially true for prospects at the beginning of the season, when very young players are often first facing a more advanced level of baseball. On that note, this week we will look at three prospects who had a strong May, and three prospects who struggled this month.


Jorge Soler, OF
21 years old, High A Daytona
May stats (all stats through May 28): 94 ABs, .309/.374/.564, 5 HRs, 11 BBs, 18 Ks

Soler started the season hot, but the back end of his April was not as strong. After being suspended for extracurricular activity involving using a baseball bat in a threatening manner during a bench clearing brawl, Soler was benched after failing to run out a pop fly and had a low BABIP over the back half of the month. May has been much kinder to the young Cuban, hitting for average and power while drawing walks and limiting strikeouts. If Soler had not officially surpassed Javier Baez as the number one prospect in the Cubs system, he certainly did so in May.

Christian Villanueva, 3B
21 years old, Double A Tennessee
May stats: 94 ABs, .298/.356/.500, 2 HRs, 6 BBs, 22 Ks

Of the numerous legitimate third base prospects in the Cubs system, Villanueva probably has the lowest ceiling, but also has the highest likelihood of contributing as a regular in the show. He will never be more than average hitter at the hot corner, but he is excellent defensively there. After a rough April where he just could not get a batted ball to avoid finding a waiting glove, his May was much stronger. While the walk rate is nothing special and strikeout rate is a little higher than you would like, he showed more than enough offense to still be able to slot in as a slick fielding, average hitting third baseman in 2014 or 2015.

Gioskar Amaya, 2B
20 years old, Low A Kane County
May stats: 96 ABs, .292/.382/.448, 1 HR, 12 BBs, 26 Ks

Amaya’s story in April was different than Villanueva’s. His issue was not BABIP, but was instead overmatched by his first taste of full season pitching. That changed in May, when he quadrupled his walk total. While the strikeout numbers were still high, the combination of drawing walks and decent power, especially at a middle infield position, reestablishes Amaya’s fairly lofty preseason prospect status.


Ronald Torreyes, 2B
20 years old, Double A Tennessee
May stats: 93 ABs, .172/.248/.258, 1 HR, 8 BBs, 8 Ks

If we were being honest, Torreyes is more of a curiosity than a real prospect. He’s absolutely tiny, will almost certainly never hit for power, cannot play shortstop, and is not a stolen base threat. His one big skill is that he is a contact making machine. But without power or burner speed, the question is how that was going to play out at higher levels. May 2013 might be an indication that the answer to that question is “not well.”

Zeke DeVoss, 2B
22 years old, High A Daytona
May stats: 76 ABs, .211/.319/.211, 0 HR, 8 BB, 17 Ks

Zeke DeVoss is a prime example of why a player cannot just walk their way to the majors. While the ability to get on base is vitally important, at some point  you have to regularly hit the ball with some authority to be  a legitimate prospect. Not only did DeVoss only hit .211 over the month, but he did not have a single extra base hit.

Rock Shoulders, 1B
21 years old, Low A Kane County
May stats: 95 ABs, .200/.315/.453, 7 HRs, 16 BBs, 36 Ks

The greatest name in baseball actually did not have an awful month. Sure, the batting average was bad, but he continued to walk a bunch and hit for power. The big concern is the huge strikeout rate. A 21 year old who is striking out in 30% of his plate appearances in Low A just does not have a great likelihood of ever making it past Double A.

Here is the good news about this list. The three guys I have listed in the Three Up section are all without question Top 15 prospects in the system, and include its best prospect. Meanwhile, the three guys who were in the Three Down were fringe prospects who did not make most Top 20 organizational prospect lists.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Three Up, Three Down

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Well, I was hoping to be able to include Dillon Maples…the 2011 14th round pick that slipped because of his commit to play football/baseball at North Carolina, but he got roughed up last night for Kane County. The good news is that he’s already doubled his career innings pitched in just three starts.
And it’s a bit premature after only 11 plate appearances, but Albert Almora finally made his debut this week and is off to a 7-11 start with 3 doubles.

3 Up’s:

Jeimer Candelario, 3B, age 19, Single A Kane County
186 PAs, .267/.360/.385 with a .323 BABIP
16 2Bs, 1 HRs, 12.9% BB, 17.2% K

The number 10 prospect in the system entering the year, Candelario had questions about his work ethic as adjectives like “lackadaisical” were thrown around about him. But he came into camp in great shape and is putting a solid season as a 19 year old in A ball. He has a patient approach with good contact skills and should develop average power. The doubles are there now and the hope is some of those will turn into home runs. He may have to move to a corner outfield spot one day, but I’m pretty happy with his season thus far.

Willson Contreras, C, age 21, Single A Kane County
126 PAs, .264/.349/.473 with a .295 BABIP
4 2Bs, 2 3B, 5 HRs, 5 SB, 1 CS, 8.7% BB, 19.8% K

A converted 3B (although he played everywhere but SS and CF in 2012), Contreras is developing into the Cubs only true catching prospect. He’s hitting for power while learning on the job. Catchers take longer to develop than other positions, so he’s likely going to move one level at a time, but his year has been promising. I do hear some remarks on his attitude…he supposedly tripped a guy after he scored and he may have bumped the ump after last nights 14 inning loss…so you make the call; “Hot-headed” or “Ultra-competitive”?

Kyle Hendricks, RH SP, age 23, Double A
51.2 IP, 2.44 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 2 HR’s given up
7.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9

Hendricks is making his second appearance on the 3 Up list after tossing another 7 innings last night with 3 hits, 1 walk, and 7 K’s. The Cubs acquired him and Christian Villanueva from the Rangers for a half season of Ryan Dempster. I’m already chalking this up as another good trade by The Front Office. He’s not a ‘high ceiling’ type of prospect, but he is a back of rotation type which is a valuable asset as long as they are paid pre-arbitration salaries.

3 Down’s:

Barret Loux, RH SP, age 24, Triple A
28.1 IP, 7.31 ERA, 2.01 WHIP, 2 HR’s given up
8.6 K/9, 6.0 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9

Loux is a former #6 overall draft pick in 2010 by the D’Backs that didn’t sign due to an arm injury. Texas picked him up for a fraction of the cost and looked like a steal after going 14-1 in AA in 2012. He came to the Cubs in the Geovanny Soto trade and he suddenly can’t find the strike zone. He allowed under 3 BB/9 over the last two years, but has doubled that rate so far this year. It looked as if he could have been one of the first call ups when injury occurs to the Cubs rotation, but now it’s looking like he lost his form. He’s still striking out a good amount, which is the only positive on Loux’s season.

Nick Struck, RH SP, age 23, Triple A
35.2 IP, 6.06 ERA, 1.766 WHIP, 5 HR’s given up
4.8 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9

Similar to Loux in that he was looking like a possible fill in to the big league roster this year, Struck has stunk with career worsts in K’s, BB’s and HR’s. I was never high on him to begin with, but he always had success in the minors and now the PCL is tearing him up.

Logan Watkins, UT, age 23, Triple A
177 PAs, .233/.367/.418 with a .288 BABIP
7 2Bs, 4 3B, 4 HRs, 16.4% BB, 21.5% K

The heir apparent to Darwin Barney as second baseman is looking more like the future utility man. Watkins has been getting some time at 2B, SS, and CF down at Iowa and could provide a solid bench bat instead of the solid hitting 2B some envisioned.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Three Up, Three Down

Friday, May 17th, 2013

I’ve really wanted to have an opportunity to write about Dan Vogelbach since we started these pieces a few weeks ago. I was hoping he’d explode with just a massive week or two and he’d fit neatly into the Three Up segment. But, despite having a solid year, he hasn’t done anything to improve his prospect status. So in this edition of Three Up, Three Down, we’ll be looking at three players instead of six. Specifically, these are players who, on first glance, might look to be up. However, a deeper examination at least shows that they have done little to nothing to improve their prospect status since the start of the season. As a note, all statistics are through Thursday, May 15.

Daniel Vogelbach, 1B, age 20, Low A
158 PAs, .292/.363/.438
5 2Bs, 5 HRs, 17 BBs, 21 Ks
.366 wOBA, 126 wRC+

There is a lot of good with Dan Vogelbach’s full season debut to this point. Specifically, he is hitting for a high average, walking, and not striking out. Despite showing excellent plate discipline, there’s still a problem: due to Vogelbach’s limited defensive abilities, he needs to dominate on the offensive end. And that includes hitting for power. As Vogelbach is averaging an extra base hit about every 3 and a half games, he just isn’t doing that yet.

Now, it’s early, the Midwest League is a pitcher’s league, and the Midwest League in the nasty weather of a spring across the north central portion of the United States is particularly nasty on hitters, but Vogelbach was a guy some were pegging as a prospect who could jump into Top 100 lists and fly through the system. At this point, I’d be surprised to see him in Daytona before August, and he probably won’t do enough to be considered a truly big time prospect prior to next season.

Matt Szczur, OF, age 23, Double A
162 PAs, .301/.370/.385
4 2Bs, 1 3B, 2 HRs, 13 SB, 3 CS, 15 BBs, 21 Ks
.354 wOBA, 120 wRC+

Before Vogelbach was the darling of the non-elite Cubs prospects, Matt Szczur filled that role. As a person, Szczur has 80 character, and is a fantastic athlete who probably would have been a mid-round NFL pick out of Villanova as a slot receiver and punt returner.  In his second shot at Double A, Szczur has hit for average, walked a good amount and not struck out this season. The problem is that his notoriously slappy swing is hitting for no power, and as Szczur is approaching his 24th birthday in July (he’s actually older than Anthony Rizzo by a few weeks), his time to start adding power is limited.

Quite simply, it’s hard to be a slap hitting, singles only, right handed regular in the big leagues. Szczur’s inability to add any power means he’s almost certainly a fourth outfielder down the road, and not a big time prospect today.

Dustin Geiger, 3B/1B, age 21, High A
143 PAs, .286/.357/.397
5 2Bs, 3 HRs, 25 BBs, 13 Ks
.348 wOBA, 115 wRC+

I’ll admit, Geiger’s cheating a bit on this, as he’s never been considered a significant prospect. However, as a 21 year old in High A Ball, he’s not a nobody either. The unfortunate thing for Geiger is that, despite the healthy OBP, to play in the majors he’d need to hit for power. And he hasn’t done that yet.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: