5 Prospects Who Will Contribute for Chicago Cubs in 2014
Chicago Cubs Prospects Who Will Contribute In The Bigs In 2014
While the product at the MLB level leaves plenty to be desired, since Theo Epstein joined the Chicago Cubs three years ago, the minor league system has risen quickly up the ranks. Through midseason trades, incredible drafting, a strong presence in international free agency and great player development, Epstein and his staff have taken a once-bare system and turned it into one of the most talented in the game.
While the Cubs had some nice prospects on board when Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer arrived, there simply was not any depth. Some Cubs fans are skeptical of this rebuild because they say "You cannot count on prospects," and they use past busts like Corey Patterson, Felix Pie and more recently Brett Jackson as examples. Well, they are partially right. The prospect game is a bit of a crapshoot, and top-level prospects flame out all of the time. That being said, the most efficient way to build a major league team is through the farm system, and the only way to protect yourself against busts is by having depth.
Sure, top prospect Javier Baez looks great, but there is always a chance that he does not get his plate discipline under control, and never reaches his potential. If this happens, the Cubs have Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and many others waiting to come up and help fill the lack of production. This is the best and deepest minor league system in baseball, and I find it very unlikely that each of the Cubs' talented prospects will become a bust.
I think this season is when we will start seeing the first wave of elite prospect talent make the big leagues. These guys are not saviors, and even with a few of them on board, this team is still very unlikely to compete. That being said, it is only a matter of time before this young talent starts to bring wins to Wrigley Field. Here are five Cubs prospects who will make an impact in the big leagues in 2014.
5. Arismendy Alcantara
An athletic middle infielder with many tools, Arismendy Alcantara is all but guaranteed to be starting at 2B for the triple-A Iowa Cubs to start the season. While it is incredibly unlikely that the 22-year-old Alcantara makes the Cubs out of Spring Training, if he continues to impress with his incredible power and speed combination (15 HRs, 36 doubles and 31 steals in 494 double-A at bats) that he showed last season, it is only a matter of time before he takes over for Darwin Barney as the starting second baseman in Chicago.
4. Kyle Hendricks
He will now blow you away with raw "stuff", but RHP Kyle Hendricks has done a great job of simply getting batters out. Last season in 27 starts between double-A and triple-A, Hendricks went 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA and a WHIP of 1.058, earning him the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.
Hendricks uses great control, command and the ability to mix his speeds to keep hitters off balance. His fastball tops out at about 92, and he has no breaking stuff worth getting too excited about. Hendricks is a smart pitcher that has been great in the minors, but it is fair to wonder how he will do against big league batters. With a strong spring, Hendricks could earn a spot in the Cubs' rotation to start the season, but that seems unlikely. Regardless, I almost guarantee we see Hendricks in Chicago at some point this season, so the team can see what they have in the 24-year-old righty.
3. Arodys Vizcaino
Arodys Vizcaino is one of the most interesting players in Spring Training with the Cubs. Vizcaino was once one of the best starting pitching prospects in all of baseball. The Cubs acquired him mid-season of 2012, while he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. After two full seasons without pitching competitively, the Cubs are finally seeing what Vizcaino can do in Spring Training. Early reports have been incredible.
Vizcaino has always been a powerful pitcher with a great slider. His control is a little shaky, but his raw stuff is so intriguing. Apparently, Vizcaino looks great so far this Spring with his fastball reaching 98 mph and his slider still having a ton of break. Vizcaino will pitch out of the bullpen this season, but if he is successful, I image the Cubs will try him as a starter once again. A healthy 2014 will be a successful 2014 for Vizcaino regardless of results. Assuming health, with his raw pitching talent, it is hard for me to see the Cubs leaving him in the minors all season long.
2. Mike Olt
Mike Olt was once considered one of the best power hitting prospects in all of baseball. After his awful 2013 season, the 25-year-old third baseman looks to get on track this season. Olt suffered a concussion last offseason that really messed with his eyesight. Olt had troubles with his eyes all of last season, and most believe that led to his severe struggles in 2013. While Olt is the only one who knows for sure, both he and the Cubs feel like those problems have been solved by an allergy medication he is now using.
If he shows the ability that he did in 2012 this Spring, I think that Olt will begin the season starting at 3B in Chicago. Luis Valbuena and and Donnie Murphy were great as a platoon at 3B for the Cubs last season, but neither player is near as talented as Olt. Early reports in Spring have been positive surrounding Olt, and if his sight troubles are truly taken care of, the sky's the limit.
1. Javier Baez
Baez is the best prospect in a loaded Cubs' system, and one of the best in all of baseball. He has incredible bat speed that allows him to generate a ton of power. In 2013, Baez hit .282/.341/.578 between high-A and double-A, with a total of 37 home runs. Baez proved himself at double-A, which many consider to be the toughest level in the minors. Baez is still a raw prospect that has some work to do, so he will almost certainly begin the season as the starting shortstop in triple-A. That being said, if he continues to knock the cover off the ball, the Cubs have no choice but to bring him to the big leagues this season.