Top 20 Prospects For The Chicago Cubs
Top 20 Prospects in the Chicago Cubs System
When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer joined the Chicago Cubs after the 2011 season, the entire organization was in shambles. The major league roster was full of overpriced and under performing players, and the minor leagues were full of unimpressive talent. Epstein and Hoyer made it obvious right away that they were going to rebuild this team through the minor league system.
In two short seasons, the Cubs have gone from having a below average minor league system to one of the best in all of baseball. They have been stockpiling a ton of talent through the draft, trades and international free agency.
The major league team has some nice young talent in shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Add in guys like Travis Wood and Junior Lake, who appear to be in the Cubs' future plans, and you have a solid young core of players at the major league level.
The major league roster is starting to take shape, but the overhaul of the minor leagues is the most impressive part of what the new Cubs' front office has accomplished. I think they now have the best collection of offensive talent in the minor leagues. The Cubs could definitely use some more arms, but they are stacked in elite young hitting prospects.
You always want to follow prospects cautiously. Not all of these guys will become major league stars. For every Mike Trout there are hundreds of prospects who flame-out and never reach the major leagues. That being said, this is the right way for the Cubs to rebuild. If a few of these guys work out and become All-Star caliber players, then the Cubs will be very competitive. Stay patient Cub fans; the future is looking very bright on the North Side. Here are the top 20 prospects for the Cubs.
20. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF
Jae-Hoon Ha is a great defensive outfielder. He has been solid with the bat throughout the minors, but the 22-year-old outfielder from Korea is definitely more valuable because of his glove. I think that Ha projects as a solid big league fourth outfielder. He can play all three outfield positions very well and could be an important part of the major league team as soon as next season.
19. Gioskar Amaya, 2B
Gioskar Amaya is a nice high-upside prospect currently playing in Low-A ball. The 20-year-old 2B is still a long ways away from the major league level, but he has shown some nice promise so far in the minors. Amaya does not have much power, but he is a good contact hitter and he has some speed. I think he has the potential to hit .300 and steal around 30 bases in the majors someday.
18. Alberto Cabrera, RHP
Alberto Cabrera was with the Cubs last season in the bullpen. Before the 2013 season, the Cubs decided to stretch Cabrera out and make him a starter. The transition has gone very well as Cabrera has been very good at Double-A and Triple-A this season. He is currently back in the bullpen, but that seems to be just to keep his innings down a little bit. Cabrera has great stuff and could be a candidate for a spot in the rotation in spring training. I like him as a starter and think he has some nice potential.
17. Christian Villanueva, 3B
Christian Villanueva was part of the package that the Cubs received from the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster last season. Villanueva is a great defensive third-baseman. His bat is a little weak but it has shown signs of improvement. Villanueva will never be a huge power hitter, but I think he has a chance to be a solid contact hitter. His elite defensive skills will carry him to the big leagues.
16. Tyler Skulina, RHP
The Cubs drafted Tyler Skulina in the fourth round of the 2013 amateur draft. Skulina is a very interesting starting pitching prospect. He has a low to mid 90s fastball and a curveball that is great. Skulina's curveball is considered to be near MLB ready. Skulina may be a guy that can move quickly through the minor leagues, and he has an upside of a middle of the rotation pitcher.
15. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Kyle Hendricks is another player that the Cubs received in the Dempster trade. Hendricks has been fantastic since joining the Cubs' system last season. This year in Double-A, Hendricks has a 10-3 record with a 1.85 ERA. While his numbers are fantastic, Hendricks does not have the pure stuff to be a top prospect. That being said, if he continues to dominate like this, he will become a very important piece for the major league team.
14. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Here is a very young prospect with a ton of upside. Jeimer Candelario is only 19-years-old, playing in Low-A. He has struggled at bit in the Midwest League this season but the raw talent is certainly there. Candelario is a solid contact hitter with a lot of power. Defensively, I wonder whether he can stick at 3B, but his bat will be what makes him a major leaguer if it happens.
13. Paul Blackburn, RHP
The Cubs drafted Paul Blackburn last season. The 19-year-old has been solid in his first two seasons of professional baseball. Blackburn has a mid-90s fastball and two good off-speed pitches in his change-up and curveball. Blackburn is still very young but he has a ton of upside. This is a guy that I think will rise through these prospect lists quickly. The stuff is there for Blackburn, so hopefully it all comes together.
12. Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP
Juan Carlos Paniagua was the hardest player for me to rank. The Cubs signed Paniagua last season and he instantly became one of their best pitching prospects. Paniagua has the stuff but he has struggled with injuries and visa problems his entire career. Hopefully, those things are behind him and he can focus on pitching because the talent is there.
11. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
Dan Vogelbach is an interesting talent at the Low-A level. Vogelbach has elite power and average skills across the board after that. He is a decent contact hitter and he is underrated defensively. Vogelbach seems like a future DH, but I think he could handle 1B at the major league level. The power is special, though, so he is a guy to keep an eye on.
10. Rob Zastryzny, LHP
Rob Zastryzny was the Cubs' second round pick in the draft this year and the first pitcher that they took. Zastryzny is a nice lefty that has some interesting potential. Zastryzny has a fastball that tops out in the low 90s, but he locates his pitches and changes speeds very well. His slider and change-up are solid and have some nice potential. Zastryzny just knows how to pitch, and I think he has a good chance of reaching his upside of a mid-rotation major league starter.
9. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
The Cubs acquired Arodys Vizcaino at the 2012 trade deadline. He has still yet to pitch for the Cubs after coming back from Tommy John surgery. Vizcaino was once considered one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. He had a very live arm before surgery, and I am very anxious to see him pitch again. The hope is that Vizcaino becomes a top of the rotation type starter, but many think he is headed to the bullpen.
8. C.J. Edwards, RHP
C.J. Edwards was one of the best prospects that the Cubs received from the Rangers for Matt Garza. Edwards has been fantastic in his two-year professional baseball career. He has a 13-5 record with a 1.63 ERA and 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Now pitching in High-A, Edwards may be ready for the upper levels of the minor leagues sometime next season. Edwards is a nice prospect that could become a No. 2 starter in the big leagues someday.
7. Pierce Johnson, RHP
Pierce Johnson and Edwards are 1 and 1A as far as Cubs' pitching prospects go. I rank Johnson slightly higher than Edwards based on project ability. Edwards has the better numbers, but Johnson simply looks the part of a major league starting pitcher. Johnson was drafted by the Cubs in 2012, 43rd overall. He is a guy that has top of the rotation potential. His fastball is already major-league caliber and his off-speed stuff is improving. Johnson is definitely a guy to keep an eye on as he could move very fast through the system.
6. Mike Olt, 3B
Mike Olt was another prospect the Cubs acquired from the Rangers for Garza. Olt was considered a top-50 prospect in all of baseball before this season started. Olt has struggled a ton this year and his stock has certainly dropped. He is not much of a contact hitter, but he has a ton of power. Also, Olt is surprisingly very good defensively at 3B. He has struggled this season, but hopefully this is just a bump in the road. Olt is a very talented player that has a very high ceiling.
5. Arismendy Alcantara, INF
Arismendy Alcantara is a guy that I love. He plays many different positions but he probably projects as a middle infielder at the major league level. Alcantara has always hit for a solid average and stolen a lot of bases, but this season he has added power to his game. He has a quick swing that generates a ton of power for a guy with such a small build. At only 21-years-old, he is performing very well at the Double-A level. If he keeps this up, I think we will see Alcantara in Chicago sometime next season.
4. Jorge Soler, OF
The Cubs signed Jorge Soler last season to a nine-year, $30 million contract. Soler was a highly-touted prospect from Cuba and he has performed quite well so far. Soler is an athletic outfielder that can play either corner position. He has good power and is a patient hitter. He seems like a guy that will hit .280 with 25 home runs and 15 steals at the major league level. I will take that. Soler has been out since late June with a stress fracture in his shin. The Cubs are being extremely cautious with Soler so I am not too worried about the injury. I think he will be back and 100 percent next season.
3. Albert Almora, OF
The Cubs selected Albert Almora with the 6th overall pick in the 2012 draft. The 19-year-old outfielder is considered to be an elite defensive prospect. In fact, many scouts have said that he could play center field in the majors right now. Offensively, Almora may not have a ton of power, but he is an elite contact hitter. I see a .310+ average and around 15 home runs in the major league future of Almora.
2. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF
The Cubs selected Kris Bryant with the 2nd overall pick in this year's draft. Bryant has elite power. He hit 31 home runs in college last season in only 62 games. Bryant is decent defensively and he is a fairly athletic guy, but the power is what makes him such an elite prospect. If can keep the strikeouts down, Bryant will be a huge piece to the future of this team.
1. Javier Baez, SS
Javier Baez is a prospect that was drafted by the old front office. They may have left the major league roster in disarray, but I am so glad that they drafted this guy. Baez is a boom-or-bust type of prospect. He has legitimate MVP potential if he puts it all together. Baez has incredible bat speed that generates an insane amount of power. The knock on him has always been his lack of walks and he strikes out too much. Well, ever since he has been promoted to Double-A, Baez has been much better at both of those things. His strikeouts are down and his walks are up. Baez just looks like a better hitter and his power has not suffered. He seems to be figuring it out. Watch out, the sky is the limit for this guy.