Cubs fans can be optimistic that prospects such as Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Junior Lake are indeed worth the talk. The future looks bright for the Cubs, but there is still much work to be done.
Last month, I examined the performance of Cubs prospects based on their spring training performance. Now, we take one last look at the young stars before we close the final door on 2013 spring training.
Unlike my original article, this list is not a ranking. Instead, it is merely an analysis of the individual performances of the top Cubs prospects.
To see a full list of the top twenty Cubs prospects, click here.
Note: Multiple top prospects have been excluded from this article because they did not receive enough playing time to truly analyze their performances, despite their presence in 2013 camp. This includes Josh Vitters, Jeimer Candelario, Albert Almora, Gioskar Amaya, and Jae-Hoon Ha.
Junior Lake played in 10 spring training games with the club in 2013, the same number he saw last year. Perhaps most importantly, he more than doubled his batting average from .143 to .304 in one year, showing that he can progress at the plate. He still has more work to do, as he struck out eight times this year with only one walk.
Lake's defense was decent with only two errors at third base. However, these errors came early in the spring, and he settled down and was flawless for the rest of his time with the club.
His speed is perhaps his most impressive asset, despite only stealing one base this year. Most of his time was spent at third base, but he also saw a bit of action in center field, which will ultimately become his primary position in the future. Castro and Baez will patrol the left side of the infield, moving Junior to the outfield. His strong arm and impressive speed will bode well in the pasture.
To say that Christian Villanueva struggled this spring is a bit of an understatement. Despite hitting three home runs, the young third baseman struck out eight times in only 30 at-bats. He drew only one walk, adding up to an unimpressive .188 on-base percentage.
Villanueva is only 21 years old, so in no way does his performance suggest the Cubs should throw in the towel in regards to his future. However, he did put himself under a lot of pressure to prove his value in the upcoming 2013 season.
Villanueva's most impressive defensive play came on April 1st when he made a strong throw to home plate to gun Vincent Belnome, who was trying to score on a weak grounder to third. The play was a great demonstration of Villanueva's arm and instincts, both of which are above average.
I'm not entirely convinced that Villanueva's future lies with the Cubs, but he certainly still has potential to be a well-rounded third baseman. With prospects such as Josh Vitters, Junior Lake and Javier Baez all potentially playing the hot corner, Villanueva must improve his game quickly or lose his job with the organization.
Brett Jackson has shown a tremendous amount of improvement already. His swing looks much more comfortable, and he is already making better contact. He drew six walks, only struck out five times in 17 at-bats and legged out two triples.
Jackson was perfect in the outfield as well.
He still has much more room for improvement on both sides of the ball. Jackson has the potential to be a speedy power hitter. Perhaps most impressive at the plate was his patience. Last season, Jackson swung at anything he made eye contact with despite rarely making physical contact.
Jackson has the defensive tools to be an above average center fielder with a strong arm and great range.
Matt Szczur is another Cubs prospect who struggled this spring. Szczur hit an abysmal .063 in 16 at-bats with eight strikeouts. He tallied only one hit and one walk.
Szczur needs to improve quickly or face unemployment. He only has five hits in 39 at-bats in his three years of spring training experience. Although he has good speed, he really has shown nothing to suggest he belongs in the majors or even the Cubs organization.
Anytime the video highlight for a player is "How the Cubs like their hot dogs," it's a sign the player needs to step up it up a notch...or a few notches.
Jorge Soler was quite impressive in his time with the club, and he has great potential to become a star outfielder. His speed and arm are both stellar, and he is an above-average hitter as well.
Soler struggled a bit at the plate this spring, striking out 13 times in 39 at-bats. However, it is not uncommon for a young player to have a higher amount of strikeouts in the spring. Between a long offseason and the desire to impress, players are much less reluctant to pull the trigger on a borderline pitch.
At 6'4", 215 pounds, Soler has the potential to be a reliable slugger for the team. He showed off his power with a deep home run to left field this spring.
With the fact that Soler had not played professionally until last year because he was awaiting American residency, he has already shown great progress in his short time in American ball.
There is a reason that Javier Baez is listed as the No. 1 prospect in the Cubs organization. Actually, there are quite a few of them, and many of them were on display this spring.
Baez showed off his great range this spring, and his bat was even more impressive. Baez hit for a .298 average with a .313 on-base percentage. He also sent four home runs out of the park. Much of this can be attributed to his "lightning-quick bat speed."
Baez played nearly all of his time at shortstop, excluding six innings at second base, but he will more than likely be moved to third base when he reaches the majors so as to not disrupt Starlin Castro's position. Although he will begin 2013 in Single-A Daytona, Baez is expected to make a quick ascent to the majors.