The Chicago Cubs have some considerable talent in their minor league system.
Under the direction of Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, the Cubs have built up their farm system while systematically developing the Chicago Cubs.
Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Casto and Darwin Barney all came from the Cubs' minor league system, and all are expected to be building blocks for this team.
The plan from the beginning is to win a championship, finding talent from Jorge Soler to Javier Baez will only add depth to an ever changing Cubs' roster.
That depth will one day, hopefully soon, lead the Chicago Cubs to a playoff berth and onto a possible championship. Not to get to far ahead, but building a solid baseball team starts in the minors.
More minor league players are expected to make it to the majors full time next season on the Cubs' roster.
These are the five minor league players that could be on the Cubs next season.
Shortstop Javier Baez is known as the Chicago Cubs' best prospect, according to Cubs.com.
The young infield prospect reached Single-A Daytona last season, after hitting .333 in 235 plate appearances in Low-A Peoria.
Baez's season in Daytona ended on a low note when he fractured the tip of his of his left thumb. GM Jed Hoyer called the injury "odd" (via Doug Padilla, ESPN):
They don’t know exactly when he did it, but it was some sort of odd non-baseball-playing injury. It certainly wasn’t anything negative. He didn’t punch a wall or anything, but it sounds like he was celebrating and hit it wrong and that’s how it happened.
Regardless, if Baez keeps up his hard work in the minors he may see some action up in the MLB next season. The Cubs' prospect has been playing at both shortstop and third base and the Cubs are in need of a solid third baseman.
Matt Szczur is projected to be a multi-talented MLB outfielder, according to MLB 2012 Prospect Watch.
The right-handed outfielder has been spending his time in Daytona and with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. In 35 games with the Smokies, Szczur has been hitting .210 with six RBIs.
He was sent to the Arizona Fall League, which is a destination usually reserved for the origination's top prospects.
Make no mistake, Szczur can make a big league roster as a leadoff hitter, which the Cubs hope he can develop into.
In his first 13 games with the Mesa Solar Sox of the AFL, Szczur is batting .245 with an on-base percentage of .351. The Cubs are also hoping that he is able to expand his overall game by becoming a greater threat when on base. Developing speed and the ability to steal bases will be critical in his chances to reach the majors next season.
Szczur said that he is developing more patience and focus at the plate (via Mark Gonzales, the Chicago Tribune):
They look at quality at-bats and the pitch count. I went away from swinging at the first pitch a lot. I'm just more or less getting on base and seeing a lot of pitches. That's what I've been working on here. I slumped toward the end of the season at (Double-A) Tennessee.
Once I got out here, I wanted to see pitches and get back in that rhythm of being on base and being that leadoff hitter.
The 26-year-old pitcher was playing in the minors with the Rochester Red Wings, triple-A affiliate of the Twins.
Gutierrez went 2-2 with 5.06 ERA while striking out 20 in 10 relief appearances last season. He limited his opponents to a .217 batting average, .156 average for left-handed batters.
The Cubs are looking to rebuild their bullpen, Gutierrez is a good building block. Though, the Cubs are also taking a risk as Gutierrez comes with injury.
Gutierrez ended last season early due to a right shoulder injury that led to surgery. He picked up the ball and began throwing again in early October.
While he has yet to pitch a game in the Cubs farm system, it shouldn't be a surprise if he rises to pitch in the MLB next season. That is of course if his health continues to improve.
Right-handed pitcher Trey McNutt spent his 2012 season with double-A Tennessee.
The Cubs prospect compiled a 9-8 record with 4.26 ERA in 34 games played, starting in 17 of those games.
The 22-year-old has been working his way up in the Cubs' farm system as a potential starter, but he may have to settle on being a great relief pitcher.
In an injury-riddled 2011 season McNutt averaged only 4.13 innings per start. The 2012 season saw a decrease to only 2.8 innings per outing. These numbers suggest that McNutt lacks the endurance required to be a MLB starter.
McNutt has the ability to play in the major league, but without endurance, his starter career will never pick up in the MLB. Being a bullpen guy is the next best step, and one that could work out well for both him and the Cubs.
Arodys Vizcaino is looking to be a very solid right-handed reliever for the Cubs.
He was acquired in a trade from the Atlanta Braves in a trade that saw both Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm leave the organization.
Vizcaino underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year, which makes him a potential risk for the Cubs, but regardless a good pickup. Prior to the start of last season, Vizcaino was ranked as the second-best prospect in the Braves' system.
Before surgery, he was able to throw the ball at speeds in the mid-90s with it sometimes hitting the 100 mph marker.
Once he gets back on track and starts to regain his rhythm, Vizcaino will be a vital piece in the Cubs' new and improved bullpen.
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