Chicago Cubs: Top 10 Prospects for the Month of August

Eli GreenspanSenior Analyst IAugust 9, 2012

Chicago Cubs: Top 10 Prospects for the Month of August

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    Welcome back for the August edition of the Cubs top 10 prospects. The list has changed slightly again, in large part because several of the team's top-rated prospects got their careers underway. 

    The rule for this list is as long as you have played a professional game, you are included. Over the last month we've heard several young Cubs getting started, and they have already been climbing the organizational ladder.

    Here's a look at last month's list: 

    10. Alberto Cabrera, P

    9. Jeimer Candelario, INF

    8. Matt Szczur, OF

    7. Dan Vogelbach, 1B

    6. Austin Kirk, LHP

    5. Brett Jackson, OF

    4. Junior Lake, SS

    3. Javier Baez, SS

    2. Josh Vitters, 3B

    1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

    Without further adieu.... 

Honorable Mention: Paul Blackburn, AZL Cubs

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    Position: Right-Handed Pitcher

    Stats: 2-0 W-L, 1.86 ERA, 5 K, 2 BB, 9.2 IP

    The Cubs took Paul Blackburn with the 56th overall pick in 2012, compensation for losing Aramis Ramirez to the Brewers

    Blackburn has been one of our best pitchers in Arizona, posting a 1.86 ERA in five appearances with five strikeouts to two walks. His pitch count continues to climb, and he is emerging as one of the top pitchers we nabbed from the most recent draft.

    The following list will show you that pitching is certainly a weakness in the Cubs organization.  

10. Dillon Maples, AZL Cubs

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    Position: Right-Handed Pitcher

    Stats: 0-0 W-L, 3.38 ERA, 2 K, 4 BB 2.2 IP

    Maples just got his professional career underway, but it sure caught the attention of everyone in Chicago. Maples has the best stuff of any pitcher in the Cubs system and was expected to go to North Carolina to be a two-sport star. 

    Instead, he signed with the Cubs and is finally getting his first taste of pro ball. It'll be interesting to see where he finishes this year and starts next year, as well as his numbers when his starts reach three to four innings. 

9. Gioskar Amaya, Boise Hawks

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    Position: Shortstop

    Stats: .312 AVG, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 10 SB, .375 OBP in 47 games. 

    Amaya just narrowly missed our July list but emerges after hitting .330 through the month of July. He is a speedy infielder who is a low-level prospect at a crowded position depth and talent wise.

    It will likely all work itself out before Amaya gets close to the majors, but if Josh Vitters sticks around and Javier Baez emerges sooner than expected, Amaya becomes one of those prospects up for a position change or trade bait.  

8. Matthew Szczur, Tennessee Smokies

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    Position: Outfield

    Stats in High-A: .295 AVG, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 50 K, 47 BB, .394 OBP, 38 SB in 95 games.

    Stats in Double-A: .174 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 11 K, 3 BB, .240 OBP, 2 SB in 12 games.

    Filling in for the injured Jae Hoon-Ha, Szczur has not continued his strong play at the next level. In fact, he's hit a wall. After struggling for the first part of the season, he has re-emerged on radar screens with his strong play, good eye at the plate, and excellent base-stealing skills. 

    He may have just been getting comfortable in High-A before the call-up, but at 23 he will likely begin next season at Double-A in hopes of moving up to Triple-A quickly.

    With Brett Jackson already showing his propensity to strikeout, Szczur could seize a major opportunity and move ahead of him on the organizational depth chart.  

7. Albert Almora, AZL Cubs

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    Position: Outfield

    Stats: .264 AVG, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 SB, 6 K, 1 BB, .291 OBP in 13 games

    Almora started off slow but has performed well of late, hitting .300 in his last 10 games. He is a very talented player who will hopefully be in Single-A early next season. 

6. Jorge Soler, Peoria Chiefs

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    Position: Outfield

    Stats: .260, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 8 SB, 11 K. 6 BB, .351 OBP in 13 games. 

    Soler is off to a good start for professional baseball stateside. A .260 average is hardly impressive, but we could all find reasons for why he would be hitting .070 if he were in fact struggling. He's adjusting to life in the United States. Cuban players are always overrated.

    That sort of thing.

    Instead, Soler appears to be doing quite well and will join the Single-A Chiefs today. He could be doing better, but he still has a few weeks left in his season to finish strong.

5. Brett Jackson, Chicago Cubs

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    Position: Outfield

    Stats in Triple-A: .256 AVG, 15 HR, 47 RBI, 27 SB, 158 K, 47 BB, .338 OBP in 106 games.

    States with Cubs: .182 AVG, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, 8 K, 2 BB, .308 OBP in 3 games.

    Jackson had a so-so year with the Iowa Cubs, but Theo Epstein and Co. must feel he is the center fielder of the future and are giving him a shot to play everyday.

    He's already shown poor plate discipline, but hopefully that is something he will adapt to as the season progresses. Assuming the Cubs see him as their Opening Day center fielder, he would really have to fall on his face to make the Cubs question it.

    Personally, I think Jackson belongs in Tripe-A for at least another few months.

    In his second year at Triple-A he regressed, despite showing more power and speed on the basepaths. I don't mind seeing him now, but he should've been a September call-up and then someone come June or July who the Cubs look to call up, assuming he's playing well.     

4. Dan Vogelbach, Boise Hawks

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    Position: First Base

    Stats in Rookie Ball: .324 AVG, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 14 K, 12 BB, .391 OBP in 24 games. 

    Stats in Low-A Boise: .345 AVG, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 13 K, 6 BB, .410 OBP in 14 games.

    Vogelbach is shooting up the Cubs prospect rankings as he rakes on all levels since getting his season underway. The power hitting lefty is showing off his power and ability to hit, but his strong play is more exciting from a value standpoint than it is reaching Chicago.

    The Cubs may find themselves in a similar situation to the Reds with Joey Votto and now Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso. With Anthony Rizzo playing well and Vogelbach climbing up the ladder, he could be moved for a pitcher similar to Mat Latos in the next year or so.

    Both Vogelbach and Rizzo are first baseman, and neither will, or can, switch positions at this point.   

3. Junior Lake, Tennessee Smokies

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    Position: Shortstop

    Stats: .288 AVG, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 17 SB, 82 K, 25 BB, .343 OBP in 79 games

    Lake is playing well in Double-A and will likely begin next season at Triple-A with his eyes on Chicago. He is often compared to Starlin Castro for his size and age, but certainly has more of a tendency to steal than Castro. 

    At 6'2'', it is possible he will be asked to switch to third base or even the outfield, but he has good range at shortstop and could see time at any point next season. 

2. Josh Vitters, Chicago Cubs

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    Position: Third Base

    Stats in Triple-A: .304 AVG, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 77 K, 30 BB, .356 OBP in 110 games

    Stats with Cubs: .100 AVG, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 K, 0 BB, .100 OBP in 4 games

    The Chicago media and baseball media in general believe the Cubs will look for a third baseman to fill a major hole in the infield, failing to recognize that a former first-round pick has been climbing the ladder and finally reached Chicago.

    Josh Vitters is a very talented and has impressed at every level. While he was drafted in 2007, he was taken out of high school and is finally reaching an age where he can realize his true talents. 

    If the Cubs didn't see something in him a few years ago they would have tried to unload him in a package deal. There is a reason he is still around and his strong play means he deserves a legitimate shot at holding down that position. 

    He could turn out to surprise us all. 

1. Javier Baez, Daytona Cubs

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    Position: Shortstop

    Stats in Peoria: .333 AVG, 12 HR, 33 RBI, 48 K, 9 BB, 20 SB, .383 OBP in 57 games

    Stats in Daytona: .167 AVG, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 5 K, 0 BB, 0 SB, .167 OBP in 3 games

    After playing very well with the Peoria Chiefs, Baez is getting a chance to finish the season with the Daytona Cubs. He has struggled thus far, but Baez is far and away the most talented Cubs prospect in the system.

    He will likely begin his season with Daytona but definitely join the Double-A Smokies in the near future if his strong play continues.