Jim Callis, formerly of Baseball America, and currently of MLB.com appeared on the David Kaplan Show on Tuesday night (Listen to the whole interview here) and couldn’t say more good things about the Cubs system, specifically their bats. During the interview, Callis said that he can’t remember a minor league system having four high level position players all at once. Callis has been around a long time, and is an expert when it comes to minor league baseball, and Major League baseball prospects, so hearing that should get a lot of people excited.
Many Cubs fans have this notion that Javier Baez is the best all around player in the history of ever, while I like that enthusiasm, he is just as bad defensively as Castro. Fans thinking Baez will supplant Castro at short could be mistaken and Callis touched on that as well. He thinks Baez can be an okay short-stop but a great third baseman. The same thought was shared in regards to Bryant he can be an okay third baseman, or a great right fielder. Bottom line, guys are going switch positions and most likely play wherever allows their bat to get in the lineup.
When asked which Cubs prospect would be the one that Callis trades for pitching he responded with Jorge Soler. Some scouts feel that Soler has not given 100% effort during his time in the minor leagues. I think I can agree, but I can also see why they could be saying tha. Soler is being paid like a major league ballplayer, and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s becoming disinterested with the Minor League lifestyle, competition, etc. I don’t think that Soler is lazy but I understand what Callis is saying, the effort supposedly isn’t there and could translate to different levels so the Cubs could trade him for arms.
Finally, Kaplan asked Callis about when the Cubs will contend, and when will we stop hearing about the Cubs prospects and hear more about winning at the Major League level? Callis agreed that this upcoming season could be pretty ugly, but you never know when you have a young team. The middle to end of 2014 is when we will start seeing some of these prized prospects hit the North Side and by 2016 he feels the Cubs can become legit contenders. He doesn’t rule out 2015 necessarily and he thinks the 2015 team is when the Cubs start becoming an “interesting” ball club, that’s usually a good thing. Spring training can’t get here soon enough.
Last night MLB Network aired a special to unveil the MLB.com top 100 prospects for 2014, and the Cubs were all over that list. It was fun listening to the likes of Jim Callis, and Jonathan Mayo gush about how many good, young players the Cubs have waiting in the wings. A total of seven players graced the list, here is a breakdown of each player, and some analysis.
** Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools — 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average (MLB.com/Prospects rating scale)
#100 – Right handed pitcher, Pierce Johnson (22 years old)
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
Johnson was drafted in the supplemental round of the 2012 MLB Draft, 43rd overall by the Cubs. 2013 was Johnson’s first full professional season, and it was impressive. Johnson pitched over two levels and actually found more success with Daytona which was the higher level. Overall for 2013 Johnson went 11-6 with a 2.74 ERA while starting 21 games and appearing in 23. In 118.1 innings Johnson only allowed 109 hits, 5 home runs (5!), while walking 43 and striking out 124. I mentioned more success at Daytona, with the D-Cubs, Johnson worked 48.2 innings allowing only one home run with a sparkling 2.22 ERA.
#89 – 2B/SS, Arismendy Alcantara (22 years old)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
Alcantara seemingly came out of nowhere in 2013 but in reality the talent has always been there it was just a matter of everything coming together at once. With a brilliant 2013 season Alcantara cemented his status as the Cubs second baseman of the future, and will probably be seen on the North Side this upcoming season. Alcantara played all of 2013 with the Smokies at the double A level and really showcased his all around game. In just under 500 at bats Alcantara hit .271 with a .352 on base percentage and a .451 slugging percentage which was good for an .804 OPS. Couple those on base numbers with the 31 stolen bases he had and he becomes a legitimate threat at the top of the order. Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus says that Alcantara reminds him of Jose Reyes-lite, well, that works.
#49 – OF, Jorge Soler (21 years old)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 65 | Run: 50 | Arm: 65 | Field: 55 | Overall: 60
Now we start getting into the meat and potatoes of the Cubs prospects, first up Jorge Soler. I’ve seen Soler play in person a number of times, and he is an impressive specimen. He looks more like a football player than a baseball player, but he makes it work. Injuries derailed his 2013 season as he was only able to get 210 at bats with the Daytona Cubs. Soler produced for the Minor League team of the year as he cracked 8 home runs, and had 35 RBI’s. Those numbers are down a bit, again he is still adjusting to the professional game, and is only 21. Jason Parks chimed in on Soler as well saying that his is slow to adjust, is the most likely of Cubs prospects to “miss” which I think makes sense given his raw ability, still a high ceiling though.
#42 – RHP, C.J. Edwards (22 years old)
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 60
Oh, hello CJ Edwards. That’s right, after an amazing 2013 season, Edwards has vaulted past Jorge Soler on this list. Baseball Prospectus also had Edwards ranked as the #3 player in the Cubs organization, ahead of Soler, and Albert Almora. Edwards wasn’t even with the Cubs at this time last year, he was one of four, yes four players acquired from Texas in the Matt Garza deal. The 2013 season saw Edwards give up one home run, one, just one…. take that Pierce Johnson. For 2013 Edwards tossed 116.1 innings combined at the high A level for Texas and Chicago, he only gave up 76 hits. He finished with a 8-2 record and a 1.86 ERA while walking 41 and striking out 155, goodnight! Jason Parks doesn’t see Edwards with a huge ceiling but Jim Callis said that Edwards could be the top of the rotation guy the Cubs need.
#18 – OF, Albert Almora (19 years old)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 65 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 65 | Field: 75 | Overall: 60
When it’s all said and done Albert Almora might the favorite player of a lot of fans. While Almora doesn’t have any tools that jump off the page at you (except for his glove I guess) he plays well above them, that’s exactly what Jim Callis said last night. Almora is a baseball player, run through the wall, do whatever it takes to win, baseball player. Because of his 100% all the time playing style he suffered a number of injuries in 2013 which kind of disjointed his season. Almora spent all of 2013 at Kane County but only got 249 at bats due to said injuries, but he made the most of them. He hit .329 with 17 doubles, four triples, three homers, and 23 RBI’s. His slash numbers were even more impressive, he had a .379 on base percentage, and a .466 slugging percentage which was good for an .842 OPS. I think Almora will become more patient at the plate as he gets older but right now he’s fine, he walked 17 times last year and only struck out 30 times, expect to see Almora on the North Side in 2016.
#9 – 3B, Kris Bryant (22 years old)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 70 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 65
Kris Bryant seems to be on the fast track, one reason is that he is far more advanced than the other Cubs prospects on this list, the other is he mashes the baseball. Bryant made it to three different levels in just 36 games, that’s ridiculous, he also hit at every level. Then he went on to the Arizona Fall League and destroyed the ball in earning accolades such as the MVP award. Bryant had 128 at bats in 2013 not counting the Arizona Fall League and his a combined .336 with 9 home runs, and 32 RBI’s, extrapolate that, good Lord. Walking is something that Bryant hasn’t done a lot of right now, but it’s hard to argue with the .390 on base percentage, .719 slugging percentage and 1.106 OPS. The numbers are eye-popping, and the Cubs aren’t shy about moving Bryant wherever he deserves to go, and many believe that could be as early as 2015. Given Bryant’s defensive ability and bat it’s not out of the question that he moves to right field to keep 3B open for Baez, either way the Cubs will find a spot for that bat.
#7 – SS, Javier Baez (21 years old)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 70 | Run: 50 | Arm: 65 | Field: 50 | Overall: 65
If you’re not excited about Javier Baez, first off, where have you been, secondly, it’s about time you are. Baez destroy minor league baseball last year at both high A and double A. There wasn’t a more feared hitter in baseball, in 517 at bats Baez crushed 37 home runs, and had 111 RBI’s with a total of 75 extra-base hits. He has been burdened with high expectations and all he has done is create new ones which are even higher. Surveying the top prospect lists for 2014 the number seven ranking is going to be the “worst” for Baez. Jason Parks slots him at number four but said there really isn’t a good reason why he shouldn’t be number one, that’s in all of baseball. Many people are expecting Baez to make his Cubs debut this upcoming season, the plan right now is for him to start in triple A as Iowa’s shortstop. Moving forward, given Baez’s defensive issues he might move to 3B but again, that really has a lot to do with how other players develop as well.
Prospects are just that, a young player that has expectation or is projected to have some sort of impact at the Major League level. There really is no such thing as a sure thing in this game, and that goes for Cubs prospects as well. As good as these players are there is no guarantee that any or all of them will make it to the Cubs, and be an impact player like they are projected. That said, Cubs fans have had little to get excited about recently and this is definitely a list that you can not only get excited about but truly believe that there is some hope in the near future.
It’s not the end of the World, but it’s never good to report news of an injury to a top prospect. Javier Baez was removed from Saturday’s AFL game, and reports are that he will miss the remainder of the AFL season now with a possible broken left thumb, the tip of the thumb specifically. It’s been a long 2012 for Baez as he destroyed MWL pitching with the Peoria Chiefs, then struggled with the transition to the Daytona Cubs, then produced at a ridiculous rate for the Solar Sox in the AFL but saw his average drop off. In the grand scheme of things Baez will not miss much baseball, the only thing he will miss out on is some development time with the Solar Sox in Mesa. He should be all set to go in 2013, odds are that he will start the 2013 campaign with the Daytona Cubs.
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– George w/ Mark’s Recap & Outlook
Congrats to both Logan Watkins and Nicholas Struck as they have been named Minor League Players of the Year for the Cubs organization. Logan is the actual “player” of the year, and Struck is the pitcher of the year, both guys had great seasons, and did so rather quietly. They should be known by now as they have some hardware backing their name now, he is more on their season via Carrie Muskat of Cubs.com.
Infielder Logan Watkins and right-handed pitcher Nick Struck were named the Cubs’ Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. The two will be honored Monday at Wrigley Field. Watkins, 23, hit .281 with 93 runs scored, 20 doubles, 11 triples, nine home runs and 52 RBIs in 133 games for Double-A Tennessee. He led the Southern League in runs scored, was second in triples and walks (76) and was fourth in on-base percentage (.383). Originally selected in the 21st round of the 2008 Draft, Watkins owns a .285 batting average in 475 career Minor League games.
Struck, 22, went 14-10 with a 3.18 ERA in 28 games (26 starts) for Tennessee. He led the Southern League in victories, ranked third with 155 2/3 innings pitched and fourth in ERA. He led the club with 123 strikeouts, walked 44, and limited opposing hitters to a .238 batting average. From May 29 through the end of the season, Struck went 10-5 with a 2.29 ERA in 18 games (16 starts). All told, Struck allowed three or fewer earned runs in 20 of his 26 starts while he issued two or fewer walks in 21 starts. Chicago’s 39th round selection in the 2009 Draft, Struck is 32-27 with a 3.50 ERA in 84 career Minor League games, including 73 starts. He has struck out 330 batters while walking 134, and has surrendered 28 home runs in 431 2/3 innings pitched
I just completed Logan Watkins’ player card, just after he won the award, so I guess I will have to edit that. Nicholas Struck should be up soon, congrats to both guys, great season!
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It has been speculated for about a month now, but today it became official, the Cubs have announced they have reached an agreement to move their single A affiliate from Peoria to Kane County. Opening day for the Cougars will be Thursday, April 4.
“We are extremely excited about our new relationship with the Chicago Cubs,” said Cougars General Manager Curtis Haug. “The close proximity between both organizations will be mutually beneficial in numerous ways. We believe that the Cubs organization and their philosophies about the minor leagues, including scouting, player development, and involvement in the community, are a fantastic fit for our franchise.”
The Kane County Cougars are excited to bring the Cubs affiliate to town and so are the Cubs as the comments from Jason McLeod below.
“We are excited at the opportunity to work with the Kane County franchise,” said Cubs Senior Vice President of Scouting/Player Development Jason McLeod. “The benefits of having one of our minor league clubs this close to Chicago are numerous and we look forward to starting this new relationship.”
Not only is it exciting for the Cubs and the Cougars, but for so many Cub fans who can see some of the young, exciting Cubs talent so close to the Chicagoland area. The new contract with Kane County will last for two years, running through the 2014 season.
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Graphics by George
As we heads towards the end of the season it starts to become a reality, there’s only a handful of Cubs games left this year. For most, this is a blessing as some fans can’t “bear”…. (get it?) to watch anymore given how bad the team has been and other sports have started. For this Cubs fan it’s not so great as I enjoy watching this team play, no matter how infuriating it is at times. With that said it’s time to start focusing on the off-season baseball that will take place, first up is the Cubs instructional league that starts today. This is an important step for many of these players as they are going to get more game experience, and another opportunity to impress the front office heading into next season. Below is a breakdown of everyone that will participate this year, the games begin on September 21. We will give you much more information on these players as our player cards come out, we will also do our best to give you results and box scores of these games, so stay tuned!
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MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has done an updated top 100 prospects lists as well as each organizations top 20. Mayo will probably come out with a list prior to the 2013 season, but here is where Cubs prospects stand as of now according to Mayo. To check out the entire top 100 list and to read a little more on these Cubs prospects.
1. Javier Baez – SS (#24)
When the Cubs picked Almora they new his bat was going to play and that is exactly what happened. The Cubs top pick from 2011 was outstanding in his time with Peoria this year hitting .333/.383/.596 with 12 home runs, 33 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. He struggled a bit when moving to Daytona, but overall it was very successful season for the young shortstop.
2. Albert Almora – OF (#52)
The Cubs top pick in this years draft didn’t sign right away, but when he did he didn’t disappoint. He started with the AZL Cubs and moved to Boise shortly after. Combined he played in 33 games hitting .321/.331/.464 with two home runs and 19 RBIs. He also hit 12 doubles.
3. Brett Jackson – OF (#74)
It has been an interesting year for Brett Jackson who has dropped a bit in the prospect watch. The good news first he has made it to the show and when he makes contact does some damage as he left Iowa with 22 doubles, 12 triples, and 15 home runs, to go along with 27 stolen bases. He also plays great defense, the bad news is he has really struggled making contact striking out over 200 times between his two stops.
4. Arodys Vizcaino – RHP (#76)
Vizcaino was considered one the Braves best young pitchers and was deemed untouchable last year. Things changed a bit this year as he missed the entire season after elbow surgery in March. The Cubs are very pleased to have acquired Vizcaino, but it remains to be seen how he will recover from surgery. Lets hope it is as a starter, but at the least he is a power arm out of the pen which the Cubs need badly as well.
5. Jorge Soler – OF (#77)
Jorge Soler did quite well in getting accustomed to baseball in America. He is still very raw, but at 20 the Cubs feel very strongly he will be a big contributor to the big club in the future. He spent time with the AZL Cubs and moved to Peoria where he finished the year. He combined to hit .299/.398/.463 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in just 34 games.
6. Matt Szczur – OF
The speedy outfielder had a nice season in Daytona hitting .295/.394/.407 with 38 stolen bases, but struggled a bit in 35 games with Tennessee.
7. Trey McNutt – RHP
McNutt did not have the year he was looking to have going 9-8 with 4.26 ERA. He struggled a bit and was moved to the bullpen, but maybe it will be better for him and the Cubs.
8. Junior Lake -SS
Lake played the entire year in Tennessee and did a pretty good job going .279/.341/.432 with 10 home runs, 50 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. He is still very raw and will continue to work on his game.
9. Pierce Johnson – RHP
The Cubs took Johnson with the 43rd overall pick in this years draft and he did quite well making six starts, two with the AZL Cubs and four with Boise.
10. Josh Vitters – 3B
The former first round pick, number 3 overall finally put it all together this year in Iowa hitting .304/.356/.513 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs. The PCL All Star got the call up, but has struggled so far with the Cubs, but at only 23 the future is still very bright for Vitters.
11. Dillon Maples – RHP
It took a while for Maples to make his first appearance, but when he did he showed signs of what he could be. He was a bit inconsistent in his six appearances, but he will have more opportunities next season to show what he has. He has tremendous upside.
12. Robert Whitenack – RHP
Coming off of Tommy John surgery Whitenack struggled pitching for Daytona going 1-6 with a 5.96 ERA. Although the numbers don’t look good, remember he is coming off of major surgery and has good upside.
13. Dan Vogelbach – 1B
Not many Cubs prospects did as much damage as Vogelbach did this year. The big first baseman played in 61 games this season between the AZL Cubs and Boise Hawks. He hit .322/.410/.641 with 17 home runs and 62 RBIs.
14. Ben Wells – RHP
A 2010 draft pick the 19-year-old Wells missed most of the season with a right elbow strain. He made a few appearances at the end of the year, but will look to stay healthy in 2013.
15. Paul Blackburn – RHP
Another 2012 draft pick Paul Blackburn was chosen 56th overall out of high school. He made nine appearances for the AZL Cubs going 2-0 with a 3.48 ERA.
16. Jeimer Candelario – 3B
Candelario played the entire season at Boise and at only 18 the corner infielder showed he can hit a little bit. The switch hitting Candelario hit .281/.345/.396 with six home runs and 47 RBIs.
17. Gioskar Amaya – 2B/SS
Amaya played his season in Boise and put up some good numbers. He his .298/.381/.496. The 19-year old filled up the stat sheet with six doubles, 12 triples, and eight home runs. He also drove in 33 and stole 15 bases.
18. Tony Zych – RHP
Zych shared time between Daytona and Tennessee out of the bullpen. He combined to going 5-4 with a 3.67 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 61.1 innings.
19. Alberto Cabrera – RHP
Cabrera, who moved to the bullpen this year started in Double-A, but quickly moved to Triple-A before finally ending up with the big club. His minor league numbers were really good going 4-1 with 3.11 ERA with 74 strikeouts to only 14 walks. He has struggled since coming to the Cubs, but we’ll see where he factors in going forward.
20. Marcus Hatley – RHP
Hatley pitched well in Tennessee out of the bullpen going 3-1 with a 3.40 with 46 strikeouts in 45 innings. He then got the call to Iowa where he struggled in his time there.
It is good to see the Cubs have five players who are inside the top 80 in MLB. You can also see the emphasis the Cubs placed on pitching, drafting Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn in this years draft as well as bringing in Arodys Vizcaino in the Paul Maholm deal. Looking a little further into things is the talent Theo Epstein and company brought in this year. They obviously brought in the three pitchers above as well as Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. three of those five are inside the Cubs top five and Pierce Johnson makes it four in the top 10. The exciting thing is there are more who they brought in who I would guess are close to cracking this top 20 and who may even show up in the top 20 before the 2013 season gets underway. Keep checking back this offseason as we will talk more in-depth about these prospects as well as many more.
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