Chicago Cubs 2014 Top 15 Prospects

Sep 3, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Alberto Cabrera (55) pitches against the Miami Marlins during the sixth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

We present to you our final Top 15 Prospect list, this time for the Chicago Cubs who have been building a minor league system filled with position players with huge upside. Thanks go out to Jacob R. Misener at Cubbies Crib for providing us with the list and his comments.

Triple-A: Iowa Cubs (Pacific Coast League)
Double-A: Tennessee Smokies (Southern League)
High-A: Daytona Cubs (Florida State League)
Class-A: Kane County Cougars (Midwest League)
Short-Season A: Boise Hawks (Northwest League)
Complex-Rookie: AZL Cubs (Arizona League)
Foreign-Rookie: DSL Cubs (Dominican Summer League), VSL Cubs (Venezuelan Summer League)

#15

Brett Jackson – OF
Date of Birth:
August 2, 1988
Height/Weight: 6’2″/220 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (31st overall) of the 2009 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says: “Jackson has widely fallen out of favor with Cubs management and fans alike due to his widely-noted struggles during his career and several reports indicate that this is his last shot to make a statement. Last season, he appeared at the big league level briefly, but spent the majority of the season splitting time between Double and Triple-A ball, where he hit just .210/.296/.330. This is a make-or-break season for Jackson, and all signs point to his tenure with the Cubs coming to a close relatively soon.”

Scouts still think that Jackson has major league potential as well as the ability to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases. He strikes out far too much but if he can get his contact hitting under control, he just might have a shot.

2014 Prognosis: Jackson will either be with the Cubs to break camp or in Triple-A Iowa.

#14

Alberto Cabrera – RHP
Date of Birth:
October 25, 1988
Height/Weight: 6’4″/210 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2005

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “The right-hander began the year with Double-A Tennessee and before the season was up, he was on the hill for the Cubs as a reliever. In the minors last season, he went a combined 10-6 with a 3.79 earned run average, making 33 appearances – 18 as a starter. In 133 innings, he allowed 128 hits while punching out 126 batters.”

Cabrera has struggled with injuries but has seemed to find his groove. He projects as a two-pitch pitcher with a very good fastball that touches 98 mph and a decent slider that could be another plus pitch for him.

2014 Prognosis: More from Jacob: “He could prove to be a nice middle relief man for Chicago as early as this season. If he struggles in Spring Training, he’ll likely get more time in the minors, probably with Triple-A Iowa.”

#13

Matt Szczur – OF
Date of Birth:
July 20, 1989
Height/Weight: 6’1″/195 lbs
Acquired: 5th round of the 2010 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “A former two-sport athlete at Villanova, Szczur was once one of the top talents in the Chicago organization. He has taken some time to mature, though, and continues to work his way toward the Friendly Confines. Last year in Double-A, he batted .281/.350/.367 while adding 27 doubles and 22 steals, as well. He could still prove to be a valuable asset moving forward for the Cubs.”

Szczur has great speed as well as a solid hit tool and he couples that with a great understanding of the strike zone which enables him to get on base a lot. He’s a decent defender although his speed makes up for the fact that he’s still working on his routes to the ball. He appears to have some more power than he’s shown (according to Bernie Pleskoff) but it hasn’t shown up in the games yet.

2014 Prognosis: Triple-A Iowa for Szczur.

#12

Jeimer Candelario – 3B
Date of Birth:
November 24, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’1″/180 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010; $500,000 signing bonus

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “Expect Candelario to be a solid utility infielder. His outstanding plate presence gives the Cubs a solid bat off the bench. While his defensive ability is expected to improve by leaps and bounds, there simply isn’t space in the everyday lineup for him, assuming Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez pan out as expected. There may also be teams around the MLB that are willing to trade for him, with him having spent time at both corner infield positions, as well as designated hitter.”

Candelario has an excellent approach from both sides of the plate and it shows in his excellent walk and strikeout totals in his first full-season with the Kane County Cougars. He shows the potential for a solid hit tool as well as at least average power while his arm is above average in the field. He doesn’t run well and might not have the range the Cubs might hope for at third base.

2014 Prognosis: With Bryant in the system above him, there’s no hurry for Candelario to move up quickly. He’ll likely play for Daytona in 2014.

#11

Dan Vogelbach – 1B
Date of Birth:
December 17, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’/250 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “For now, Vogelbach will continue to improve upon his defense and athleticism in the Chicago farm system where I ultimately think he will be used as a trade chip to an American League team that could use his bat as a designated hitter. Until then, scouts will continue to awe at the raw power Vogelbach possesses in hopes that he can adjust to upper-level pitching and begin to feel comfortable at first base.”

Vogelbach has impressed with his huge power but will also have to watch his weight. He’ll never be a good runner but he shows very advanced plate discipline. His defense is fringe average and, as a first baseman, is going to have to get to the majors with his bat, something he’s already showing the potential to do.

2014 Prognosis: Vogelback only had 50 at bats in the Florida State League so we could see him there for another couple of months before he moves up to Double-A Tennessee.

Mar 9, 2013; Peoria, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Mike Olt (9) chases a grounder by San Diego Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko (not pictured) before throwing him out at first during the second inning at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

#10

Neil Ramirez – RHP
Date of Birth:
May 25, 1989
Height/Weight: 6’4″/190 lbs
Acquired: Traded from the Texas Rangers in the Matt Garza deal; Drafted in the 1st round (44th overall) by the Rangers in 2007

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “Ramirez, also acquired in the Matt Garza trade, made 22 starts last season – just one of which came as a member of the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate in Tennessee. Keeping that in mind, he went 9-3 with a 3.68 ERA while posting a 1.133 WHIP. His control leaves something to be desired, as he walked almost four batters per nine last season. His erratic pitching did, however, entice hitters to chase pitches out of the zone, as he notched 11 punchouts per nine. He projects, at best, as a middle-of-the-rotation arm at the Major League level and is still a raw talent.”

Ramirez throws in the low-to-mid 90s with a good curveball but Marc Hulet thinks he lacks a third pitch despite the success that he had in Double-A last year. His health issues also could be a problem going forward.

2014 Prognosis: Ramirez likely has little left to prove in Double-A and should be in Iowa, at least.

#9

Arismendy Alcantara – SS/2B
Date of Birth:
October 29, 1991
Height/Weight: 5’10″/160 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009

2013 Stats:

Analysis: While he’s been very raw in the past, Alcantara has finally put together an excellent season, showing very good contact skills and really cashing in on his power with 36 doubles and 15 home runs. He also runs extremely well and has a great arm.

2014 Prognosis: Jacob says, “In all likelihood he will pair with Baez in the middle infield in Iowa to open the year. My gut feeling is we could see him as a late call up, or if the Cubs stumble again and make some midseason moves. Otherwise he’ll likely get a full season at Triple-A to refine his skills and work on his defense at second, which could use a little clean up, but all the tools are there. If everything comes together as hoped Alcantara could be the Opening Day starter at second in 2015.”

#8

Pierce Johnson – RHP
Date of Birth:
May 10, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’3″/170 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (43rd overall) of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “Simply put, Johnson is not ready for the majors. The right-hander is, however, a promising prospect. His low ERA and above average K/9 innings indicate that he has the potential to grow into a major league starter. Johnson’s lack of dominance at the low-A level mean that he will need to further develop his pitches and continue to work on his control. He does not have as high of a ceiling as Edwards, but could develop into a #3 or possibly even a #2 pitcher in the Cubs’ rotation someday.”

Johnson has a low-90s fastball with a good curveball, slider and a developing changeup. He needs to work on locating his fastball a bit but he should be a durable pitcher with good endurance.

2014 Prognosis: Johnson will be in Double-A at some point this season. If he starts in Daytona, he probably won’t be there long before he gets to Tennessee.

#7

Arodys Vizcaino – RHP
Date of Birth:
November 13, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’/190 lbs
Acquired: Traded from the Atlanta Braves in 2012 for Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm; International free agent out of the Dominican Republic by the New York Yankees; $800,000 signing bonus

2013 Stats: Did not play

Analysis: Jacob says, “All of his upside depends on whether or not Vizcaíno can stay healthy. If healthy, Vizcaíno seems to be every bit as exciting as CJ Edwards and could be ready to move up to the big league club between late 2014 (optimistic, but possible) and late 2015. If he cannot stay healthy, 2014 will likely be Vizcaíno’s last year as a top ten Cubs prospect.”

Vizcaino had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and hasn’t pitched since 2011 due to complications, requiring yet another surgery. If he comes back with the same velocity, he’ll still be in the mid-90s and touching 97 mph and has a potential plus curveball and a potential average changeup.

2014 Prognosis: He’ll probably come back from his rehab slowly but could be in Triple-A to start the year and possibly Chicago by the All-Star Break.

#6

Mike Olt – 3B
Date of Birth:
August 27, 1988
Height/Weight: 6’2″/210 lbs
Acquired: Traded from Texas in the Matt Garza deal in July of 2013; Drafted by the Rangers in the 1st round (49th overall) of the 2010 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “Once regarded as one of the top talents in all of professional baseball, a concussion and ensuing vision issues derailed Olt from the big-league fast track prior to his being traded to the Cubs as part of the Matt Garza trade last summer. With his vision issues reportedly behind him, he stands a very good chance at winning the team’s starting third base gig out of Spring Training this year.”

Olt struggled in a bit in Triple-A but still has demonstrated contact and power skills over the course of his career.

2014 Prognosis: As Jacob says, Olt is going to get a chance to compete for third base in the majors but probably won’t win that competition, heading back to Triple-A.

Mar 7, 2013; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez (70) doubles during the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at HoHoKam Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

#5

Jorge Soler – OF
Date of Birth:
February 25, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’4″/215 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of Cuba in 2012; signed a nine-year, $30 million major league contract

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “Soler has all the tools to be a very solid big league outfielder someday. He hits for average, has impressive power and plays a solid outfield. He also has quite the temper, at times, as well. But with all this being said, all signs indicate that he’s going to be a great outfielder and will complement Junior Lake and Albert Almora just fine.”

2014 Prognosis: Soler arrives in Double-A Tennessee with a vengeance.

#4

C.J. Edwards – RHP
Date of Birth:
September 3, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2″/155 lbs
Acquired: Traded from the Texas Rangers in the Matt Garza deal in July of 2013; drafted in the 48th round of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “In 116-plus innings of work, Edwards racked up 155 strikeouts and allowed just one home run in the entire season. His ability to keep the ball in the ballpark is what separated him from other prospects. He didn’t just keep the ball in the park, he simply missed bats – with great regularity. He allowed just 5.9 H/9 while averaging 3.78 K/BB – and both marks indicate how dominant he was this season.”

Edwards has a low-to-mid 90s fastball that plays up due to deception and has an excellent curveball and a work-in-progress changeup. He’s seen as having a solid floor as a back-end starter in the big leagues and could be more if he has the durability, command and solid third pitch.

2014 Prognosis: Edwards will likely return to High-A Daytona to start the year before moving up to Double-A Tennessee if he continues to impress.

#3

Kris Bryant – 3B
Date of Birth:
January 4, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’5″/215 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (2nd overall) of the 2013 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Bryant has not just opened eyes with his distinguished college career with the University of San Diego but he has proceeded to crush professional pitching wherever he went, whether it was the Northwest League, the Florida State League or the Arizona Fall League. Bryant will need to polish his approach but it’s not exactly what anyone would call bad but he has the potential to put up extraordinarily high OBPs due to the fear that his bat creates in opposing teams. His plus-plus power and plus arm at third base round out the package and, he could end up in right field due to the Cubs incredible infield depth coming through the system.

2014 Prognosis: He may return to the Florida State League, but Bryant may be ready for Double-A already. The Cubs, from what I’ve heard, are going to be aggressive with their prospects and Bryant seems to be mature enough to handle a more advanced assignment. If he starts in Tennessee, fans could see him in Chicago this September.

#2

Albert Almora – OF
Date of Birth:
April 16, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’2″/180 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (6th overall) of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “Last year, playing with Class-A Kane County, Almora played in 61 games after experiencing an injury early in the year, hitting .329/.376/.466 for the Cougars in 249 at-bats. He lacks the power that turns heads around players like Javier Baez, but his ability to get on base has not gone unnoticed. He was named the organization’s best hitter for average as well as the best defensive outfielder with the Cubs.”

Almora has shown tremendous maturity with his excellent season in the Midwest League as a 19 year old. Almora has tools to dream on with outstanding range and a good arm in center field as well as an above average hit tool, developing power, good speed and a well developed eye at the plate (although he could walk more).

2014 Prognosis: Look for Almora in Daytona for those Cubs fans in Florida.

#1

Javier Baez – SS
Date of Birth:
December 1, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (9th overall) of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Jacob says, “Baez, just 21 years old, is one of the most anticipated prospects in the game today. Despite his youth, the infielder put on an offensive show in 2013, crushing 37 home runs and driving in 111 runs while slashing .282/.341/.578 in 130 games. With the struggles of big league shortstop Starlin Castro becoming well-noted by Chicago media and fans alike, many believe he could break onto the scene in Chicago sooner rather than later.”

While making contact isn’t necessarily Baez’s best tool, scouts think that his propensity to strike out isn’t going to be a huge problem, especially considering his ability to hit the ball out of the park, steal bases and get on base at a very solid clip. A solid fielder, Baez is one of the most exciting prospects in the game.

2014 Prognosis: The Cubs have intimated that Baez will start 2014 in Iowa, making him almost a lock to be with the Cubs at some point in 2014.