By Kyle Johansen @kylejohansen on April 14, 2014
The minor league season is 10 games old for most teams, and there have been both encouraging and disappointing starts for the Cubs’ top prospects. Some players have gotten off to hot starts while others still have yet to play in a game. While the stats accumulated to date are just a brief snapshot of the season as a whole, trends are already emerging as each player has a different area that needs improvement in order to receive a promotion.
Jen-Ho Tseng is a 19-year-old Taiwanese pitcher who signed with the Cubs last summer and is just now starting to throw stateside. Tseng was seen as a potential middle to top of the rotation starter but was not on many prospect lists as many scouts simply had not seen him pitch. However, after his showing at the International Prospect League in Mesa, Tseng was hard to miss as his fastball touched 94 to go along with a potentially plus curveball.
Arodys Vizcaino is finally healthy and pitching regularly for the first time since the Cubs traded for him two years ago. Vizcaino is currently pitching at High-A Daytona simply due to the warmer weather, and the results have been solid so far with three strikeouts in four innings, allowing one walk and one earned run. Vizcaino's fastball has regularly been clocked from 95-98, and he should eventually make his way up to Chicago this summer.
Dan Vogelbach has struggled to start the season, hitting just .132 but has a .129 BABIP to thank for his low average. Vogelbach has one home run in 41 plate appearances and has shown a continued strong grasp of the strike zone, striking out at a rate of just 14.6 percent. Vogelbach will obviously need to pick up his production, but his early results are not a cause for concern just yet.
Pierce Johnson has not yet appeared in a game at the minor league level, but he did have a dominating performance in Cactus League Extended Spring Training recently by striking out eight with no walks in five innings of work. Johnson is rehabbing his hamstring and should report soon to Double-A.
Arisemendy Alcantara has underperformed a bit so far, not taking enough walks (five percent) while striking out more than one would like (27.5 percent). However, he’s hitting .278/.300/.417 with three stolen bases, so the results have been acceptable for his first taste of Triple-A. Alcantara will have to improve his walk rate to show that last season's breakout was not just a blip on the radar.
C.J. Edwards continues to do his thing, which is get strikeouts and prevent home runs. He has walked a few too many batters so far, with five in his 9.2 innings pitched, although he has only allowed one earned run in the early going at Double-A. If he can continue to put up the numbers he did in the lower minors, Edwards may challenge for a rotation spot as soon as 2015.
In his short time so far in the Cubs’ organization, Soler has tantalized with his potential but has also proven to be injury-prone and is back on the disabled list after just one at-bat. Soler aggravated his hamstring which had bothered him during Spring Training and should hopefully return to action soon. Soler should be on the fast track, but the Cubs simply need him to stay on the field before penciling him into their future plans.
Albert Almora is doing exactly what fans would expect so far, hitting for a healthy batting average at .300 in 42 plate appearances, but without a single walk. However, Almora also has just two strikeouts, giving him a ridiculously low K-rate of 4.8 percent. Almora has one home run and one steal, but he will need to show improved patience at the plate in order to earn a promotion to Double-A.
Kris Bryant already has three home runs in 37 plate appearances with a ridiculously high walk rate of 18.9 percent. He also has two steals and an OPS of 1.053, as Bryant is showing that he has no problem facing Double-A competition. It may only be a matter of time before Kris Bryant joins Javier Baez at Triple-A Iowa.
Baez has been ejected from a game and recently went on the minor league disabled list with an ankle sprain, so a case could be made that Baez’s stock is down. However, nothing has changed in terms of Baez’s potential or the timetable for when he will arrive at Wrigley Field.
So far through eight games this season, Baez was hitting just .154 but with an incredibly unlucky .143 BABIP. He has two home runs so far and a healthy .269 ISO.
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