By Daniel Schmelzer @D_Schmelzer on March 10, 2014
When Theo Epstein took over Baseball Operations for the Cubs in 2011, the organization was in shambles. While there is still plenty of work to do, Epstein and his staff have assembled some very impressive young talent, making up arguably the best minor league system in baseball. They are unlikely to compete this season, but the future looks bright in the North Side of Chicago. Here are the 10 best Cubs players who are 25 and under.
Here are some talented young players who just missed the list:
Justin Grimm, RHP
Pierce Johnson, RHP
Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Mike Olt, 3B
Dan Vogelbach, 1B
Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Arodys Vizcaino is a very talented pitcher with potential elite-level stuff. He has not pitched for two consecutive seasons due to an elbow injury, but he has looked great so far this Spring. Vizcaino is certainly a health risk, but his raw pitching talent could make him a huge part of the Cubs as soon as this season.
Junior Lake had a nice debut with the Cubs last season when he hit .284/.332/.428. Lake is a physically gifted player who has an impressive power and speed combination. Inconsistency has always been an issue for Lake, but if he can get that under control, the sky's the limit. Lake will likely be the starting CF for the Cubs this season.
Arismendy Alcantara is a very talented player who will very likely start the season at triple-A. He has shown good stolen base ability in the minors, is a slick fielder at both middle infield spots and showed some surprising power last season. I would not be surprised to see Alcantara as the Cubs' starting second baseman at some point this season.
The Cubs acquired C.J. Edwards as part of a package before the trade deadline last season. Edwards had an incredible 2013 season, posting a 1.86 ERA, 1.006 WHIP and 12 strikeouts per nine innings in 24 starts. He has incredible stuff, but many doubt his ability to sustain success as a starting pitcher because of his slender build. Only time will tell on that matter, but so far so good for Edwards.
Jorge Soler is an extremely talented player, but he has very raw tools. Soler has great power, athleticism and a very strong throwing arm, but he has struggled to put that all together consistently. The upside is massive for the young outfielder, but there is certainly some risk involved.
Albert Almora is not spectacular at any one thing -- he is just good at everything. He has average speed, but he takes incredible routes in the outfield, and fields his position extremely well. Almora shows solid plate discipline and has great contact skills. He will never be a huge power hitter, but he shows some nice gap-to-gap power potential. Almora does not have the ceiling of some of these other prospects, but he has a high floor.
In his first full season in the big leagues, Anthony Rizzo did have a bit of a down year. While his contact skills will always be a concern, Rizzo has great power, a good eye at the plate and is an incredible defender. He will very likely be a productive middle-of-the-order bat and play Gold Glove caliber defense for a very long time.
Starlin Castro had a hugely disappointing season in 2013. That being said, the 23-year-old SS is already a two-time All-Star player. He must get his plate discipline under control, but I fully expect Castro to bounce back this season and play a key role on the Cubs for a long time.
In his short time as a professional player, Kris Bryant has been incredible. He dominated the lower levels of the minor leagues last season, and won the MVP of the prospect heavy Arizona Fall League. Bryant has incredible power and good contact skills. He is a big and athletic player who has dominated everywhere he has gone. He is probably talented enough to stick at 3B, but a switch to the outfield seems likely.
After an incredible 2013 season where he hit 37 home runs, Javier Baez is one of the highest ranked prospects in all of baseball. Baez has All-World bat speed that allows him to generate a ton of power. He is a very athletic player who seems likely to stick at shortstop if needed. Baez needs to work on his strikeout rate and plate discipline, but he did much better in that department last season. This kid has the upside of a Hall of Famer.
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