Re-Ranking the Top 10 Prospects for the Cubs After Matt Garza Trade
The Chicago Cubs added to their impressive farm system on Monday. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported the trade of right-hander Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers in exchange for right-hander Justin Grimm, third baseman Mike Olt, right-hander C.J. Edwards and two players to be named later.
The trade is reminiscent of the teams’ deal shortly before the 2012 deadline, when Chicago sent veteran starter Ryan Dempster to Texas for right-hander Kyle Hendricks and third baseman Christian Villanueva. However, there’s no question that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer commanded a better return this year, as both Edwards and Olt now rank among the top 10 prospects in the organization.
Here’s a look at the Chicago Cubs’ top 10 prospects after the Matt Garza trade.
10. Jacob Hannemann, OF
DOB: 4/29/1991 (Age: 22)
Drafted: Third round, 2013 (Brigham Young)
Jacob Hannemann, the 22-year-old who spent the past two years away from the game on a Mormon mission, impressed the Cubs front office so much during a pre-draft workout that they ultimately offered him a $1 million signing bonus as a third-rounder.
Assigned to Short-Season Boise in the Northwest League, he batted .280/.294/.480 with six extra-base hits and seven strikeouts before a recent demotion to the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Outstanding athlete at 6’1”, 195 pounds; also played football (cornerback) at BYU; tons of present strength; chance to add more with proper training; left-handed hitter with easy above-average pop; short swing with direct bat path; natural barrel control is impressive given lack of experience; plate discipline and pitch recognition; is raw as expected; will need to control the strike zone.
Above-average speed translates in center field; reads and routes are raw will improve with experience; has the athleticism and range to remain at the position long term; average arm strength.
9. C.J. Edwards, RHP
DOB: 9/03/1991 (Age: 21)
Drafted: 48th round, 2011 (Mid-Carolina HS, S.C.)
After a breakout 2012 campaign between the Arizona and Northwest Leagues, C.J. Edwards, a 48th-round draft pick in 2011, was dominant for Low-A Hickory this season, leading the South Atlantic League with a 1.83 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 93 innings.
Given his overwhelming success at the Low-A level, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Cubs challenge their new right-hander with a promotion to High-A Daytona for the remainder of the season.
The 6’2”, 155-pound right-hander has a wiry frame; above-average athleticism; should add some strength, but not much; vastly improved ability to repeat delivery over the past year; demonstrates control for quick arm.
Fastball shows easy velocity in the low-to-mid-90s; velo has been up and more sustainable this season; has some natural cutting action and late life; difficult for opposing hitters to lift; keeps the ball in the park; curveball flashes plus potential with tight spin and depth in the mid-70s; changeup is fringy but overall feel for the pitch has improved; will turn it over well to create a nice fading action; potential average-or-better offering.
8. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
DOB: 11/13/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 190
Drafted/Signed: July, 2007 by Yankees (Dominican Republic)
Honestly, it’s a mystery. I haven’t heard anything about him, so it’s safe to assume the Cubs are just taking it extra slow with the right-hander.
Missed entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring; dealt to the Cubs at the 2012 trade deadline; despite undersized frame at 6’0", 190 pounds, possesses premium pure stuff ideal for big league bullpen; injury history likely rules out future as starter.
Fastball has easy plus velocity that explodes out of his hand and will scrape the upper 90s; pitch features late arm-side life and jumps on hitters; curve is a second plus pitch with tight spin and late, downer bite; command is advanced given electric nature of arsenal; changeup is fringy offering but not vital to his success as a late-inning arm.
7. Pierce Johnson, RHP
DOB: 5/10/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 170
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Missouri State)
After logging only 11 innings last summer between the Arizona and Northwest Leagues, the Cubs challenged Pierce Johnson this season with an assignment to Low-A Kane County for his full-season debut.
The 22-year-old responded by making quick work of the Midwest League with a 3.10 ERA and 74/22 K/BB in 69.2 innings before a midseason promotion to High-A Daytona. Through his first four starts at the more advanced level, the right-hander has been equally as sharp with a 2.86 ERA and a 18-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22 innings.
Twenty-two-year-old has highly projectable frame at 6’3”, 170 pounds; injury concerns will linger until he proves otherwise; borderline high-effort delivery may need to be adjusted, albeit slightly; has a feel for entire arsenal, though it will need refinement as he develops.
Fastball is only present plus pitch in the low 90s, though he can reach back for a few extra ticks as needed; throws the pitch on solid downward plane with some late life, sinking and to the arm side; curveball is best secondary offering, and he throws it hard in the low 80s without sacrificing shape or bite; will cut his fastball when needed, which, in turn, aids the effectiveness of fastball-curve combo; has a changeup, but it’s a present raw offering; should be able to gain a feel for it with more experience; if he’s able to stay healthy, the right-hander’s pure stuff and pitchability may allow him to move quickly.
6. Mike Olt, 3B-1B-OF
DOB: 8/27/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Connecticut)
Olt began the season with Triple-A Round Rock and had a dismal first month, batting .139/.235/.236 with five extra-base hits and 32 strikeouts in 20 games. The 24-year-old was subsequently placed on the disabled list due to vision problems.
But after resolving the issue, Olt has looked like his old self since returning to Round Rock in early June, with a 2.47/.353/.506 batting line and 10 home runs in 158 at-bats.
At 6’2”, 210 pounds, Olt possesses tons of present strength; plus raw power to all fields; the right-handed hitter is adept at working deep counts; patient approach; sits on pitches; punishes mistakes; hit tool may turn out to be better than expected; ball really jumps off his bat.
Natural third base skill set; surprising athleticism for his size; should lead to extra reps at first base and in right field; above-average defensive profile; average lateral range; takes an instinctual first step; relatively smooth actions; above-average-to-plus arm strength; more than enough to remain at the position.
5. Arismendy Alcantara, SS-2B
DOB: 10/29/1991 (Age: 21)
Signed: November 2008 (Dominican Republic)
While he’s made significant improvements every year, Arismendy Alcantara has been somewhat of a tease due to his inability to stay on the field. Still, he officially jumped on the prospect radar last year by batting .302/.339/.447 with 27 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases—but appeared in only 85 games—in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
Moved up to Double-A Tennessee for the 2013 season, the 21-year-old has emerged as one of the more intriguing prospects in the Southern League and is flashing huge upside with his power-speed potential.
Undersized at 5’10”, 160 pounds, but has a compact build loaded with strength; fluid and effortless athleticism; wrists and forearms have strong, quick-twitch muscles; aggressive hitter who attacks the ball; makes consistent hard contact from both sides of the plate; more leveraged swing from left side; above-average raw power that’s still emerging; less consistent from right side but solid approach; some swing-and-miss to his game; drawing more walks this season against advanced pitching.
Easy plus runner; speed plays on both sides of the ball; smart base stealer with an 80 percent (82-for-102) career success rate; quick, aggressive shortstop with plus range; has the tools and athleticism for either middle infield position; plus arm strength; has a tendency to wait back on balls and show off the arm a la Shawon Dunston; high number of errors is relatively normal for a young shortstop at an advanced level.
4. Kris Bryant, 3B-OF
DOB: 1/4/1992 (Age: 21)
Drafted: First round, 2013 (San Diego)
Kris Bryant, who is advised by Scott Boras, signed shortly before the mid-July deadline and received a $6,708,400 bonus, the highest among 2013 draftees. The 21-year-old was recently assigned to the team’s affiliate in the Arizona League and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout in his professional debut on Sunday.
Understands how to utilize massive 6’5”, 215-pound frame. Wide stance and base; effortless, quiet swing for slugger; toe-tap load with balanced weight transfer through the baseball. Will be forced to improve pitch selection and recognition in the majors. Swing has some length and makes him vulnerable to plus velocity on the hands; present plus-plus raw power to all fields.
Chance to boast elite power at maturity with improvements. Loose hands and wrists; outstanding bat speed; power should always be there, even if average isn’t. Showcases impressive barrel control through the strike zone; excellent hip rotation creates extension through the baseball; favorable point of contact off a firm front side; generates backspin carry to all fields.
Moves well for a player of his size; present athleticism. Not a base-clogger; could gain half a grade with improved conditioning/training as a professional. Should be able to stay at hot corner as a professional, at least initially; able to get low enough to make the plays; actions can be too deliberate and stiff; glove and hands profile favorably as a corner infielder; average range.
Has also seen time in right field this spring, where his actions, athleticism and long strides could make him a solid-to-average defender at the position. Plus-arm strength is strongest defensive asset; clean arm stroke and release; good carry on throws; above-average accuracy, more than enough for third base and/or right field.
3. Jorge Soler, OF
DOB: 2/25/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 215
Signed: June 2012 (Cuba)
After reaching Low-A last summer during his professional debut, the Cubs challenged Jorge Soler with a promotion to High-A Daytona for the 2013 season. The 21-year-old responded by batting .281/.343/.467 with eight home runs and 38 strikeouts to 21 walks in 55 games, though there was also that whole bat-wielding incident that led to a five-game suspension.
Unfortunately, Soler’s season was put in jeopardy in mid-June when a foul ball off his leg resulted in a shin fracture. While he’s expected to miss at least two months recovering from the injury, Cubs president Theo Epstein believes the outfielder will return before the end of the minor league season.
At worst, Soler should be fully healthy in time for the Arizona Fall League.
Strong, physical player at 6’4”, 215 pounds; mature frame requires little projection. Ball absolutely jumps off his bat; dynamic bat speed and plus raw power; extension and lift after contact. Comfortable driving the ball with authority to all fields; approach was more developed than expected in pro debut.
Comfortable hitting when behind in the count; decent pitch recognition relative to stateside experience. Swing can be rushed and choppy; timing mechanism and load will be simplified; premium velocity may exploit weaknesses at higher levels.
Above-average runner who moves well despite size; range will be at least average and more than enough for a corner outfield position; plus arm is second-strongest attribute; ideal for right field; routes and reads have improved since beginning professional career.
2. Albert Almora, OF
DOB: 4/16/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180
Drafted: First round, 2012 (Mater Academy, Fla.)
The sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Albert Almora’s highly anticipated full-season debut was delayed until late May after he suffered a broken hamate bone in his hand that required surgery. Since returning, however, the 19-year-old has assaulted Midwest League pitching with a .330/.373/.478 batting line, 67 hits, 20 extra-base hits and 27 strikeouts to 12 walks in 49 games.
Almora won’t stay at the Low-A level long at his current pace and seems destined to finish the season at High-A Daytona. And depending on his performance (at both levels) over the remainder of the season, there’s a realistic chance that the Cubs may challenge Almora with an Opening Day assignment to Double-A in 2014.
Premium athlete who showcases all five tools, mature work ethic and advanced baseball skills. His 6’2”, 180-pound frame leaves room for projection. Above-average bat speed results in consistent, hard contact to all fields. Quiet and efficient swing with little wasted movement; power will develop as he matures; should be above average by the time he reaches the major leagues. All-around offensive skill set highly advanced for his age; 20-20 offensive upside with above-average hit tool.
Slightly above-average runner; demonstrates excellent instincts in center field through his reads, jumps and positioning; average arm strength that’s best suited for center field; above-average defensive outfielder with natural ability and an all-out style. He also has high baseball IQ and mature on-field demeanor.
1. Javier Baez, SS
DOB: 12/1/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 195
Drafted: First round, 2011 (Arlington Country Day School, Fla.)
Returning to High-A Daytona for the 2013 season after struggling at the level last year following a late-season promotion, Javier Baez put up the big numbers everyone expected during his second tour. Through 76 games, the 20-year-old batted .274/.338/.535 with 19 doubles, 17 home runs and 12 stolen bases and parlayed a red-hot June (1.068 OPS, 9 HR) into a promotion to Double-A Tennessee. After 13 games in the Southern League, he’s batting .216/.259/.490 with four home runs and a 18-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Baez traditionally has been a slow starter at new levels following an in-season promotion, so it’ll be interesting to follow what adjustments he makes during the second half. Regardless, things always seem to come together for him at the right time. Therefore, we’ll probably be discussing Baez in the context of a major league promotion at this point next season.
Right-handed hitter with potential for above-average-to-plus hit tool; raw power is an easy plus attribute; elite, plus-plus bat speed yields loud contact to all fields; 20-20 potential; will jump on velocity; extremely strong wrists and top hand. Max-effort swing every time; lacks a feel for the strike zone and will chase too many pitches; needs to show some restraint; will need to improve pitch recognition. Chases too many breaking balls; can be beat by quality sequencing; needs to work more hitter counts. Aggressive base stealer; secondary skills leave something to be desired.
The 6’0", 195-pounder is a shortstop at the moment; addition of too much strength may prompt a move to third base; above-average athlete with smooth, natural defensive actions. Speed may lose a grade as he develops physically. Should always be at least solid defensively; plus arm ideal for left side of the infield; high-intensity player who needs to employ a more cognizant on-field mindset.