Ranking Chicago Cubs' Top 10 Prospects After the 2013 Minor League Season
The minor league season is over, and while things have not gone very well at the major league level for the Chicago Cubs this season, there is plenty of reason for excitement surrounding their minor league talent.
Last week, I named my 2013 Cubs All-Prospect team with a look at the best the Cubs' farm system has to offer at each position.
This time around, we look at the organization as a whole and how the Cubs' top 10 prospect list looks here at the close of 2013. Included are each prospect's 2013 stats, a brief overview and an ETA for when that prospect will reach Chicago.
No. 10: SP Kyle Hendricks (23 Years Old)
The Cubs acquired Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva from the Texas Rangers last season for Ryan Dempster. Hendricks built off of a strong season last year to earn Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors for the team this year.
He dominated Double-A this season over 21 starts and held his own after being called up to Triple-A, so he could get a chance at breaking camp with the team next spring. If nothing else, Hendricks should see Chicago at some point in 2014.
He does not have frontline stuff, but he has shown he can get hitters out in the upper levels of the minors and he sneaks into the top 10 prospects here as a result.
No. 9 Prospect: SP Neil Ramirez (24 Years Old)
A first-round pick in 2007, Neil Ramirez was shipped to the Cubs as the player to be named in the Matt Garza deal, and he has the upside to be the best player received in that deal.
After a strong 2011, in which he went 5-3 with a 3.12 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 98 innings of work, Ramirez struggled mightily in 2012, going just 8-13 with a 6.28 ERA, as his numbers declined across the board.
With a good four-pitch repertoire and plus control, he has the stuff to be an impact starter in Chicago. He should get a chance to make his big league debut next season, as he will try to prove that 2012 was just a hiccup and that he still has big-time potential.
No. 8 Prospect: 1B Dan Vogelbach (20 Years Old)
Where he fits into the long-term plans of the Cubs remains to be seen, as Anthony Rizzo is entrenched at first base, but Dan Vogelbach certainly has the tools to be an impact bat.
He posted a 1.051 OPS with 21 doubles and 17 home runs in just 245 at-bats in 2012, and he continued to flash that raw power this year between Single-A and High-A.
As long as Vogelbach continues to hit, he'll continue to rise through the ranks. And if nothing else, he will serve as a valuable trade chip down the line. At this point, he's among the top first base prospects in the game and should open next season in the high minors.
No. 7 Prospect: SP C.J. Edwards (22 Years Old)
A 48th-round pick by the Rangers in the 2011 draft, C.J. Edwards impressed in his first pro season last year, going 5-3 with a 1.48 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 67 innings of work.
The Cubs picked him up as one of four players in the Matt Garza deal and bumped him up to High-A after he joined the team, and he continued to impress. He was named to the Baseball America All-Prospect team as one of the top five starters in minor league baseball this past season.
Edwards is undersized at 6'2" and just 155 pounds, and his long-term future may be in the back end of the bullpen, but there is no ignoring the success he's had in his brief pro career to this point.
No. 6 Prospect: 2B Arismendy Alcantara (21 Years Old)
Arismendy Alcantara was ranked among the Cubs' top 30 prospects for the first time entering the year, coming in as the team's No. 10 prospect, according to Baseball America.
In a full season at Double-A, he took another big step forward this year, flashing a great mix of power and speed and setting himself up to be the team's second baseman of the future.
He'll get a long look this spring, and there's a good chance he'll be an everyday starter by midseason at the latest.
The team may also take a look at third baseman Christian Villanueva at second, but as of now, Alcantara looks like the front-runner to shore up the position long-term.
No. 5 Prospect: SP Pierce Johnson (22 Years Old)
The Cubs took right-hander Pierce Johnson with the No. 43 pick in the 2012 draft out of Missouri State. He was the first in what has been a number of additions to the organization on the pitching side of things.
Johnson may not have the ceiling to be an ace, but he's the definition of a high-floor arm and seems like a safe bet to make an impact in the middle of the Cubs' rotation as part of their rebuilding process.
He pitched even better after being promoted to High-A and should open next year in Double-A as the top arm in the team's organization. A strong early performance could set him up for a September call-up next year and position him to join the rotation in 2015.
No. 4 Prospect: RF Jorge Soler (21 Years Old)
The Cubs signed Jorge Soler to a nine-year, $30 million deal after he defected from Cuba last June, and he was just as highly touted as fellow countrymen Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes. The team is hoping he'll make a similar impact once he arrives in Chicago.
He still has some growing up to do, evidenced by a bat-wielding incident early in the season, and a shin injury cost him some development time. But he'll look to make up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League, and he should be back on the fast track next year.
His raw power is his biggest asset, and while he may not be as far along in his development as the three guys ahead of him on this list, Soler could wind up in Chicago before all of them if he starts off next season strong.
No. 3 Prospect: 3B Kris Bryant (21 Years Old)
The most prolific slugger in college baseball this past season, Kris Bryant hit .329/.493/.820 with an NCAA-high 31 home runs and 62 RBI in 62 games, winning the Golden Spikes award.
The Cubs opted to take him over Jonathan Gray with the No. 2 pick in the draft, despite the organization's need for high-upside pitching, but the move has looked like a great one so far based on his early returns.
Bryant's glove should be good enough to stick at the hot corner, and his bat will play anywhere, as he has the potential to be a perennial 30-home run, 100-RBI guy in the middle of the Cubs' lineup. If he plays well in the Arizona Fall League, he could open next season in Double-A and set himself up for a late-season call-up next year.
No. 2 Prospect: CF Albert Almora (19 Years Old)
A broken hamate in the spring and a groin injury to end the year limited Albert Almora to just 61 games this season, but when he was on the field, he showed the skill set that made him so highly regarded heading into the 2012 draft.
Still just 19, Almora will likely open next season at High-A and could move quickly to Double-A if he continues to hit, as he is among the more polished high school bats to come along recently.
He won't dominate in any one area as a big leaguer, but he should hit around .300 with 20/20 potential if his power continues to develop, with plus defense in center field. He has also been hailed for his leadership skills in the clubhouse and could be as important as anyone in the team's push toward contention.
No. 1 Prospect: SS Javier Baez (20 Years Old)
The Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year and one of the top prospects in all of baseball right now, Javier Baez has all the makings of a future superstar in the middle of the Cubs' lineup.
With supreme bat speed and impressive raw power, the 20-year-old has put on a show this season. And after opening the year at High-A Daytona, he was promoted to Double-A on July 6.
Baez still needs to polish his approach at the plate, as his 40/147 BB/K ratio shows, and that will likely be reason enough for him to open the season in the minors next year. At some point in 2014, though, the team will have a tough decision to make at shortstop, where incumbent Starlin Castro is signed long-term but has struggled mightily this season.