The Cubs are still in the process of retooling their farm system. The organization has some decent prospects at the higher levels of minor league baseball, but most of their best prospects are plying their trade at the lower levels.
There are a handful of Cubs minor leaguers that you will see in Mesa, but in all likelihood the more notable prospects—Junior Lake, Jorge Soler, Christian Villanueva, Javier Baez, Arodys Vizcaino—will not make the Opening Day roster.
That is, however, not to say that once Spring Training concludes they will return to the teams with which they finished the 2012 season. Nor should it be expected the teams they begin the 2013 season will be the same when the year wraps up.
The following is where you should expect to see the top five of the Cubs’ Top 10 Prospects list finish the 2013 season.
“Big Dan” Vogelbach ended 2012 with the Cubs’ short season affiliate, the Boise Hawks. As he did in rookie ball, he raked the yard in the Northwest League—10 HR, 31 RBI, .322/.423/.608.
So, “Medium Dan” Vogelbach, has earned the privilege to start the year a level up with their Low-A affiliate, Kane County Cougars in the team’s first season as a Cubs affiliate. Dan has worked hard in the offseason to improve as a ballplayer and appears to have shed more weight—possibly as much as 20 lbs.
If he is able to hit as well with Kane County as he did in rookie ball and with Boise, then there isn’t any reason why he shouldn’t finish the season in the Chicago suburbs. Having Dan begin 2013 with Kane County would be beneficial for both club and player.
Starting the season with Kane County will give him almost two additional months of playing competitive baseball than if the organization decided to keep him in Boise. Also, moving him to Kane County would be a great PR move by having one of the best hitting prospects as a part of the Cougars’ inaugural season as part of the Cubs’ farm system.
But his less than spectacular performance as a DH in the Northwest League’s championship series could push the Cubs to move to keep him in Boise for another season. Nevertheless, he displayed over the short season he is more than ready for a league promotion.
And the Cubs would be wise to oblige.
Predicting where the Cubs’ top pitching prospect will finish the season is a tad difficult.
He had Tommy John surgery last spring, which will give him a little bit of a late start to the season; possibly an extended Spring Training. However, since he is the Cubs only top-tier pitching prospect, the organization will not expedite his move up to their MLB roster.
After Spring Training, however long that may last for him, he will begin the season at Iowa. If his elbow has recovered nicely from last year’s TJ surgery without any setbacks, and as long as he pitches well, there should be no reason why he will not be called up to the 40-man roster by September if not sooner.
A teammate of Dan Vogelbach’s with the Boise Hawks, Albert Almora should follow the same path.
Both players were part of the Boise Hawks that made it to the Northwest League championship series. But, unlike Dan Vogelbach, Albert Almora’s future in the organization is already known.
As part of the Cubs’ “outfield of the future”—along with Jorge Soler—his development is very important to the organization. He is projected to be an integral piece as an outfielder in the Cubs’ long-term plans.
With the current state of the Cubs outfield, it would not be too implausible for them to expedite his move up the minor league ranks so he could be a part of the September 2014 call-ups or 2015 Opening Day roster.
The most notable club addition in the Epstein-Hoyer era was the signing of Cuban defector, Jorge Soler.
A 20-year-old, 6’3", 205 pound specimen, Jorge Soler has all the physical tools and raw talent to be an impact player at the big level.
After he signed with the Cubs last June, Jorge was sent to the Arizona League—where he did struggle a bit—for nearly three weeks before being moved to former Class A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs—where he excelled.
Theo Epstein has stated the organization will not rush Soler’s development, despite his advanced skills in certain areas.
“They're also going to be patient with highly touted outfielder Jorge Soler, who played at Class A Peoria. Epstein said their plan is to have players spend at least one year at Triple-A before they are promoted to the big leagues.”
However, as Soler’s play demonstrates he is ready, the organization will continue to promote him. Although Jorge only played in 20 games with Peoria, it would still be somewhat surprising if he did not begin the 2013 season with the High-A Daytona Cubs.
It is not very often an organization has a player coming up through the minors that could be an improved version of a player considered to be the best on their roster. But that is what Javier Baez is: A Starlin Castro 2.0, if you will.
Javier Baez is rated the No. 1 prospect in the Cubs organization by all of the major scouting outlets and with good reason.
In 57 games with the Peoria Chiefs last year, Javier batted .333, with 12 HR, five triples and 33 RBI.
However, when he was promoted to Daytona, there was a considerable performance drop-off.
Nevertheless, he could begin the season back in Daytona or with Tennessee, but depending on how well he plays in the Cactus League he could begin the season as high up as Triple-A.
In 2010 Starlin Castro received an invitation to Spring Training, fresh out of Double-A Tennessee. Twenty-six games into Tennessee’s season, he gets called up Chicago—skipping right over Triple-A.
That, though, will not be the case with Javier Baez, regardless of how well he performs in Spring Training. As quoted in the previous slide, Theo Epstein wants the organization’s prospects to spend a year in Triple-A before being called up.
It wouldn’t be irrational for Epstein to change his stance, even if slightly, by not requiring Javier Baez spend a full season in Triple-A before being promoted to Chicago. But if he is to make the MLB roster in 2014, it would be best for the organization and Baez that he spends a significant amount of time at Iowa this season.