Baseball prospects are probably the toughest to gauge when compared to other sports. This is largely due to the fact that in many of the other professional sports, the athletes spend time developing in college before jumping to the pros.
These players come into the league and sometimes are thrown directly into the mix. Sometimes they are given a year or two to develop, but there is no minor league system (aside from hockey). Since they spend three to four years in college, it's much easier to predict which young prospects will pan out.
This could be why some major league clubs have adopted a draft system where they try to target college level players. Not only will the players spend less time developing in the minor leagues (hypothetically speaking), but it is also easier to predict their success. Drafting players out of high school is pretty much a crap shoot.
Teams also tend to put too much stock in guys at the lower rungs of the farm system. These guys are often labeled as "top prospects" after playing one year of professional baseball against guys that may never make it past Double-A ball. The lower levels of development is where you often find to most overrated prospects in the system, because there is no telling how that player will develop in the years to come.
With that being said, here is a short list of the Chicago Cubs' most overrated prospects headed into spring training.
Arodys Vizcaino is currently the top pitching prospect in the Cubs' organization. Before being traded to the Cubs, he was the top pitching prospect in the Braves organization.
If not for his troubles with injuries in the past, he may have been at the big league level by now. He missed the entire 2012 season with Tommy John surgery, so he has yet to throw a pitch while in the Cubs organization. For that reason alone, he is the most over-hyped pitching prospect in the Cubs organization.
The club will see how he bounces back from the surgery this spring, and the fans will be watching to see if he can live up to the hype.
Albert Almora is pretty much the consensus pick to be the second rated prospect in the Cubs organization behind Javier Baez.
You may be asking why Almora is on the over hyped list after reading all the great scouting reports about him.
However, there were a couple of eye brow raising stats that should jump out at everyone after his 2012 campaign. If I told you that in 140 at bats last season, Almora accumulated as many walks as he did home runs. Then if I asked you how many walks and home runs you thought he accumulated in those 140 at bats, what would you respond? Fifteen? Maybe twenty?
That's right. Almora accumulated two walks last season which was the same number of home runs he had. Please note, he had a very solid .321 batting average, but until we see him perform at higher levels in the Cubs' system, he is over hyped. That doesn't necessarily mean he won't live up to the hype of being the No. 2 prospect in the organization.
Robert Whitenack is a very interesting prospect for the Cubs. He was drafted in the eighth round of the 2009 draft out of Division III SUNY-Old Westbury.
Whitenack seemed to turn the corner in 2011, and many thought he was on the fast track to eventually earn a spot in the Cubs' starting rotation. Between High-A ball and Double-A ball in 2011, Whitenack pitched to a 7-0 record and a minuscule 1.93 ERA before being sidelined with Tommy John surgery.
He came back in 2012, and his stats were much more pedestrian. He spent 2012 in High-A ball, pitching to the tune of a 5.96 ERA and a 1-6 record. However, it wasn't enough to discourage the Cubs from adding him to the 40-man roster headed into 2013.
The Cubs see something special in Whitenack, but how he pitches in his second year post-Tommy John surgery will ultimately determine if he can live up to the hype of being one of the Cubs' top pitching prospects.