Re-Ranking the Chicago Cubs' Top 15 Prospects Post-Trade Deadline
The trade deadline was supposed to bring a plethora of prospects into the Chicago Cubs dry farm system, but July 31 came and went with less-than-expected fireworks from the Cubs' front.
Bad luck had plenty to do with the results, whether it was Ryan Dempster's veto or Matt Garza's injury, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer didn't come away empty handed, landing starting pitcher Arodys Vizcaino and third baseman Christian Villanueva.
With those two additions, the farm system is beginning to show some life. There are a few impressive performances in the minors, as well as the recent promotion of Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.
Here are updated rankings of the top 15 prospects post-trade deadline.
15. Dan Vogelbach
If there was a position for Vogelbach available in the Cubs organization, it's likely he would be higher on this list. Hitting .331 in the minors with 11 home runs this season, Vogelbach has plenty of power in his large frame.
Vogelbach signed with the Cubs after Jim Hendry drafted him in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft. The money and opportunity was enough to forgo his scholarship at the University of Florida.
He's a left-handed hitter who has plenty of power to reach the big leagues; it just may not be with the Cubs. They already have a left-handed power hitter at first base named Anthony Rizzo.
Vogelbach also has the risk of developing into Micah Hoffpauir, who was capable of hitting moonshots, but not much else.
14. Ronald Torreyes
Torreyes is the middle infielder the Cubs received along with Travis Wood in return for reliever Sean Marshall.
Depending on the development of other infielders, and Darwin Barney's place in the future lineup, Torreyes could be the next starting second baseman in Wrigley.
He's hitting .271 with 29 extra base hits in Daytona, but with he's a career .364 hitter. Offense at the second base position is something few and far between with Barney, although his excellent glove would be missed.
Torreyes has a solid glove himself, and his ability to play all over the infield and hit makes him a likely guy to find himself in future plans for the Cubs, and it is also more evidence of a win in the Marshall trade.
13. Trey McNutt
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McNutt was a once promising prospect who has struggled this season to live up to lofty expectations.
McNutt was long viewed as the top pitching prospect in the Cubs organization, especially after reaching three minor league levels in 2010. When given the option between McNutt and Chris Archer in the Matt Garza deal, the Cubs sent Archer packing, showing faith in McNutt as an integral piece.
His 4.77 doesn't scream ace by any means this season. His struggles sent him to the bullpen in Double-A, where he's shown the inconsistency that put him there in the first place.
There's still time for McNutt, whether it's as a starter or reliever. He has the chance to make an impact either place.
12. Junior Lake
Junior Lake is a prospect with an uncertain future, but one that has many believing it will be productive.
He won't be the everyday shortstop, which is his natural position. His best chance at making the Cubs is second base.
He's incredibly athletic with 17 steals, eight home runs, and a .343 OBP.
He could end up as a super-utility player, but as in the case with Torreyes, much of Lake's role will be determined by how Barney figures into the future.
11. Zach Cates
Cates was the player that many forget was involved in the Andrew Cashner-for-Anthony Rizzo trade. Cates, a former catcher, converted to a pitcher two years ago.
His arsenal features an overpowering fastball in the upper-90's along with a change-up. The lack of a third pitch makes some question his ability to be a starter, but because they're both above average, he has the option to be a starter or an overpowering relief pitcher.
10. Christian Villanueva
Acquired for Ryan Dempster from the Texas Rangers, Villanueva is a gap hitter, with the potential to grow into a home run hitter.
He brings an above average glove to third base, where he was stuck behind Rangers prospect Mike Olt.
He's off to a fast start with two home runs in his first seven games in Daytona for the Cubs, along with 10 homers and 59 driven in in Texas.
Villanueva may realize he's in a similar situation as the one in Texas. The Cubs' top prospects—including two more to come on this list—are in his way at third base, so it's questionable as to where his future lies in the organization.
9. Dillon Maples
Originally signed to play at the University of North Carolina, a seven figure signing bonus lured the 14th-round pick away from the Tarheels and into the future plans of the Chicago Cubs.
With sporadic pitching available in the system, Maples is a high-profiled option to fill in a top-of-the-rotation spot.
He's pitched just 4.2 innings in the Arizona Rookie League thus far, with a sub-2.00 ERA.
A mid-90's fastball and curve ball will guide him in his run through the minors, although it won't be a sprint.
8. Welington Castillo
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Why Steve Clevenger is still playing more than Castillo is something I won't comprehend any time soon. Castillo is the catcher of now and the future.
He should be playing every day to improve his bat and more a rapport with the starting rotation.
He brings the necessary intangibles to the table in order to be successful. He's on the cusp of graduating from the term "prospect" if he hasn't already.
7. Brett Jackson
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Before this slide is finished, Jackson will have struck out again, and his baseball cap will have been replaced with a permanent golden sombrero.
Okay, so we get it. The kid strikes out. A lot.
It's an obvious cause for concern. It gives me reason to believe that his inability to make contact gives him a realistic bust factor.
But that bust factor is based solely on the raised expectations for Jackson in the organization.
He's currently rated as Jonathan Mayo's top Cubs prospect.
Despite the strikeouts, which reached eight consecutive at-bats at one point this season, Jackson does a lot of things well.
He can field, hit for power and average as well as steal bases. Unfortunately, he doesn't do any of those things tremendously. He doesn't have a niche yet, although there's time to develop one.
Because Jackson doesn't do anything that stands out, besides strike out, he could become a super-utility outfielder, perhaps in the role that Reed Johnson left behind. That's not the player the Cubs are hoping he is.
6. Matt Szczur
After a scorching surge in July, Szczur was promoted to Tennesse Double-A, where he has recently struggled, hitting just .185 in 14 games.
The sample size is much less than the 78 games at Daytona, where he had a .394 OBP.
A former two-sport athlete at Villanova, his strict dedication to baseball has him looking at a spot in the outfield shortly.
5. Josh Vitters
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It was nice of the Cubs brass to call-up Josh Vitters, giving him a front row seat to enjoy Cubs baseball.
It will be even better when they start giving him a chance to play.
Unless there's something that Luis Valbuena is doing in batting practice that I'm unaware of, it's time to see what Vitters can do.
He has one of the most pure, natural swings in the game, which he showed in roping a double to the wall for his first major league hit.
He hasn't played since.
His glove isn't where it should be, but he can hit. But first, he needs an at-bat.
Hopefully Vitters starts getting more of an opportunity to show what he's made of, as the competition for the third base position will heat up in the coming years.
4. Jorge Soler
No, the Cubs did not trade Jorge Soler to the American League so he can play in U.S. Cellular Field, as it appears in the video above.
Although the empty seats would fool you, it is in fact the Arizona Rookie League, not White Sox baseball.
Soler was promoted to the Cubs Single-A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs, after a brief stint in the Arizona Rookie League. Soler struggled with his average, but two home runs and a perfect 8-for-8 stolen bases overshadowed his .241 average to the casual fan.
Soler still has plenty of growing to do, both physically and mentally, when it comes to the game.
He's got perhaps the highest ceiling of all Cubs prospects, but he's got a long path to get there, meaning there's a chance we're looking at a bust.
Overall, it will be interesting to see how quickly, or slowly, Soler progresses.
3. Albert Almora
After a brief game of contract chicken, Almora made his professional debut in the Arizona Rookie League, and his performance thus far shouldn't leave him far behind Soler on the path to Peoria.
Almora, an outfielder, is currently riding a six-game hitting streak, in addition to stand out defense.
He's hitting just .263, but his stay in Arizona is expected to be brief, whether the next step is Boise or Peoria.
He brings all five tools to the table, and at just 18 years old, may be on a fast pace to the big leagues.
He's the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to a loaded outfield farm system.
2. Arodys Vizcaino
Arodys Vizcaino was the biggest return the Cubs received at the trade deadline.
Vizcaino came over for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson.
Coming into the season, Vizcaino was ranked as Keith Law's No. 14 prospect overall. But Tommy John surgery ended Vizcaino's season, although he's expected to be ready for spring training.
He's a starter, but some believe he may become a closer because of the surgery.
In this day and age, Tommy John surgery isn't as threatening as it used to be. In fact, it almost seems like a normal procedure.
Vizcaino can come back healthy and automatically become the Cubs top pitching prospect, and possibly the ace of the staff in the near future.
1. Javier Baez
In case some of you forgot, not everything Jim Hendry did was wrong. One of his better moves was drafting Javier Baez in his final draft with the Cubs organization.
Drafted as a shortstop, it's extremely likely that Baez grows into his frame and moves over to third base.
Hitting .333 with 12 home runs, 33 RBI and 20 stolen bases, Baez is the all-around player that can shoot through the minors.
His presence makes for an interesting situation for Villanueva and Vitters, because Baez is clearly the man who will take over when he's ready. At this rate, I'd like to see him suit up tomorrow.
His fielding percentage is cause for concern, but playing third base is easier defensively than shortstop so a move there will lower his errors.
Looking at this list, the Cubs could have a competitive lineup in the not-too-distant future.