Chicago Cubs' Best Prospect at Every Position
According to Fangraphs.com, the Chicago Cubs were ranked No. 22 out of 30 minor league baseball systems in 2012. According to those rankings, the organization was deep with regards to right-handed pitchers, yet very thin in the area of catcher and left-handed pitching.
Not much has changed heading into 2013, as the team still lacks a left-handed pitcher or catcher in its top 20 prospects. In fact, there probably isn't even one ranked in the top 40 at this point.
These two areas may be where the Cubs try to focus on building in the 2013 draft, but it is more than likely that the Cubs' minor-league system will be climbing up the ranks in 2013 based on some of the existing prospects.
The Cubs do have some solid players who could be making an impact in the next couple of years. Because of that, the system is probably ranked somewhere in the 10-15 range when compared to the rest of the organizations (depending on who you speak to).
Speaking of the Cubs solid prospects, here are the top-ranked prospects at every position headed into the 2013 season.
Top Pitching Prospect
Most of the top prospect lists that you see will have Arodys Vizcaino ranked as the top pitching prospect in the organization. Before he got to the Cubs, he was the top pitching prospect for the Atlanta Braves.
He was ready to break into the majors before he was sidelined with Tommy John surgery in 2012. Depending on how he bounces back, he could be with the Cubs as early as when spring training breaks. However, it's more than likely that the Cubs won't rush him now.
Regardless of where he starts the season in 2013, he still ranks as the top pitching prospect for the Cubs. He brings a low-90s fastball and a power curve in his arsenal. MLB.com ranks Vizcaino at No. 68 on its top 100 prospect list.
Top First Base Prospect
Dan Vogelbach has set himself apart from the pack and is clearly the top first baseman in the Chicago Cubs' system.
Labeled as a pure hitter, he also packs some serious power. The biggest knock against this guy seems to be his size, but John Sickels thinks he could put out production like Prince Fielder some day if everything falls into place.
His current ETA is 2014, but with Anthony Rizzo in place, it will be interesting to see what the Cubs do with Vogelbach.
Top Second Base Prospect
Many will argue that Gioskar Amaya is the top second base prospect in the Cubs organization. They may be have a legit argument, but the team's top prospect who is able to play second base right now is Junior Lake.
Lake, a natural shortstop, could easily make the jump over to second base, and many fans are asking for it. Darwin Barney is awesome defensively, but the Cubs fans want offense. Can we blame them?
Lake is still considered a raw talent with tremendous athletic ability. He seems to still be a work in progress, and we shouldn't be surprised to see him with the big-league club some day in the outfield, third base, shortstop or second base.
Top Shortstop Prospect
Javier Baez is not only the top shortstop prospect in the Cubs organization, but he is also the consensus pick as the organization's top prospect overall.
While he is a natural shortstop, with Starlin Castro entrenched at short for the Cubs, barring a trade, many project Baez to break into the bigs at third base. The Cubs have a hole at third base right now, so it seems like it may be his fastest route to the show.
Barring any setbacks, he will probably make his debut during September call-ups in 2013.
Top Third Base Prospect
Josh Vitters was the top third base prospect in the Cubs organization in the past couple of years. However, there's a new sheriff in town. Christian Villanueva, recently acquired from the Texas Rangers, has taken the top spot.
As mentioned in the previous slide, Javier Baez may eventually call third base his home, but for now, Villanueva gets the nod as the organization's top third base prospect.
He's excellent defensively and brings solid gap-to-gap power to the plate. He's a bit of a free swinger, so his strike-zone management will have to show some improvement in the coming years. He will probably start 2013 in Double-A ball.
Top Catching Prospect
As stated on the opening slide, the catcher position is probably the weakest spot in the Cubs' minor league system. There are no catchers ranked in the club's top 40 prospects.
Even more shocking, the Cubs don't even have a catching prospect who ranks in the top 30 catching prospects overall. To put that into perspective, some teams have two ranked on these same lists, where the Cubs lack any.
That being said, the top catching prospect in the Cubs' organization is probably Neftali Rosario. Rosario was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 draft out of Puerto Rico.
He's currently 19 years old, and he has spent the past two years in rookie ball, playing in 39 games. In those 39 games, he has hit three home runs and has a .271 batting average. He has also thrown out 31 percent of base stealers, which is solid.
Rosario is still young and in the lower levels of the system, so it's hard to see what the Cubs may eventually get from him. But age is on his side, and as of right now, he seems to have the brightest future when it comes to Cubs' catching prospects.
Top Outfield Prospect
There's a difference between being the top prospect at a given position and being the most major-league ready prospect. Everyone would agree that Brett Jackson is the most major-league ready outfield prospect. However, the top outfield prospect in the Cubs organization is currently Albert Almora.
MLB.com ranks Almora as the No. 2 prospect in the Cubs organization and No. 45 overall. He is also listed as the No. 10 outfield prospect overall in the same rankings. Those rankings were enough to secure him as the Cubs top outfield prospect.
Here's an interesting fact about Almora: He hit two home runs in 2012, and both were in debut games.
His first home run came in his minor league debut for the Arizona League Cubs (rookie), and his second home run came in his debut with the Northwest League Boise Hawks. Almora should treat every game going forward as a debut game, and he will have a dynamite career.