Posts Tagged ‘Pierce Johnson’

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.


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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.

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Three Up, Three Down

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

(Through games of 5/1, minimum of 50 PAs for hitters, 20 innings pitched for pitchers)

Three Up

Pierce Johnson, RHP
Age 21, Single A
5 GS, 24.2 IP, 2.92 ERA, 25 Ks, 7 BBs, 0 HRs, 2.39 FIP
9.12 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 0 HR/9

Of the pitchers in the Cubs system, if anyone was going to speed through the organization it was going to be Pierce Johnson. A 2012 draftee with good stuff who fell from a mid-first round grade in the 2012 draft to the sandwich round due to a forearm strain, Johnson has recovered from a rough first start (2.1 IP, 5 ER) to be excellent in his four starts since (22.1 IP, 2 ER). He’s as likely as anyone to get a quick promotion, especially as a college starter who just has not been challenged by Midwest League hitters in 4 of his 5 starts.

Logan Watkins, 2B/Utility
Age 23, Triple A
.279/.436/.465, .901 OPS, 9 XBH
21.8% BB, 24.5% K, .386 BABIP

We’ve discussed Watkins a fair bit heading into the season, but he has more than lived up to his reputation for getting on base in his first crack at the Pacific Coast League. He’s still fitting that role as someone who could either be a replacement for Darwin Barney should the Cubs decide to trade the second baseman, or be a left handed utility hitting utility player. Think a left handed Mark DeRosa, but with better defense and less power.

Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Age 23, Double A
5 GS, 26 IP, 3.12 ERA, 23 Ks, 8 BBs, 1 HR, 2.85 FIP
7.96 K/9, 2.77 BB/9, 0.35 HR/9

Hendricks was the lesser of the prospects who was traded from Texas for Ryan Dempster. While the larger piece in the Cubs received in that trade, Christian Villanueva, has struggled so far, Hendricks has been very good. Hendricks is a control and command pitcher, with five pitches he can throw for strikes. His fastball tops out around 90, so he’s not the sort of power pitcher with top of the rotation stuff, but he might have enough stuff to go along with the good control to be a solid back end of the rotation option in a year or two.

Three Down

Brett Jackson, OF
Age 24, Triple A
.219/.315/.406, .721 OPS, 6 XBH
9.5% BB, 32.4% K, .316 BABIP

Jackson’s been struggling through some foot injuries, so I’m not yet completely writing him off. But the strikeout rate hasn’t come down at all from last season, and he’s running out of time for that to happen.

Marco Hernandez, SS
Age 20, Single A
.240/.266/.320, .586 OPS, 5 XBH
2.5% BB, 17.7% K, .290 BABIP

Hernandez had a brief stint in Peoria last season before Javier Baez came up, and hit miserably. He’s hitting nearly as poorly this year. The two pluses Hernandez has are that he is still young and can handle shortstop defensively, but he’s going to have to start hitting soon or he won’t be a prospect anymore.

Taiwan Easterling, OF
Age 24, Advanced A
.213/.294/.311, .605 OPS, 4 XBH
10.3% BB, 29.4% K, .300 BABIP

Easterling is an outfielder with a bunch of physical gifts, but as a 24 year old in Advanced A he needs to start turning those gifts into on the field production very soon. Odds are this is the beginning of the end of Easterling’s marginal prospecthood.

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