Ranking the 5 Most Underrated Cubs Prospects Heading into 2014

John AltamuraContributor IIJanuary 24, 2014

Ranking the 5 Most Underrated Cubs Prospects Heading into 2014

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    The 2014 Chicago Cubs have several highly touted prospects in their minor league system. The likes of Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Kyle Hendricks have been mentioned as future building blocks for the North Siders.

    Who else could be added to the list?

    Here are five underrated prospects who could play key future roles for the Cubbies.

5. Zeke DeVoss, 2B

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Age: 23

    Bats: Both

    Throws: Right

    Key Minor League Cumulative Statistics (2011-13): .257 BA, 12 HR, 106 RBI, 90 SB, .761 OPS

    Positions played: 2B, CF, LF (primary in BOLD)

    Zeke DeVoss is a University of Miami product who has seen his stolen base and run-production numbers rise significantly over the past two seasons in the minors.

     

    What DeVoss brings to the table?

    Speed.

    DeVoss has stolen 35 or more bases in the past two seasons in the minors. He also has a good knack of getting on base, with a .761 career OPS.

     

    What is keeping him from the majors?

    Strikeouts.

    DeVoss has struck out 245 times is 1,029 career at-bats. His career batting average is also a non-impressive .257.

     

    Outlook

    DeVoss has speed and versatility but has not been able to show any hitting consistency above the Single-A level. He is still young and has the capability to become a more well-rounded player. If he can become more selective at the plate, there is a chance he could continue to climb within the Cubs system.
     

4. Eric Jokisch, SP

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    Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com

    Age: 24

    Bats: Right

    Throws: Left

    Key Minor League Cumulative Statistics (2010-13): .33-25, 3.48 ERA, 489.1 IP, 453 H, 3.1 BB/9

    Positions played: SP

    Eric Jokisch is an Illinois product who played collegiate baseball at Northwestern University. He has made the slow ascent through the Cubs' minor league system, finishing up the 2013 season at Double-A Tennessee.

     

    What Jokisch brings to the table?

    Jokisch has been an innings eater in the minors for the Cubs. He has pitched over 130 innings in his last three minor league seasons.

     

    What is keeping him from the majors?

    Jokisch has been consistent but does not have overbearing stuff. He has been taking some time to develop.

     

    Outlook

    Jokisch has not received as much press as highly regarded Cubs prospects Kyle Hendricks and Neil Ramirez but could fit into future plans. His consistency and innings-eating ability could help him land a role in the bottom of a future Cubs rotation. 

3. Armando Rivero, RP, CP

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    Jon Cunningham, Sun-Times Media

    Age: 25

    Bats: Right

    Throws: Right

    Key Minor League Cumulative Statistics (2013): .0-1, 4.15 ERA, 20 games, 45 K's, 30.1 IP, 13.4 SO/9, 3.6 BB/9

    Positions played: RP, CP

    The 25-year-old Rivero has been a fast riser through the Cubs' minor league system. The Cuban born hurler made three stops during his first year in the minors, finishing up with Double-A Tennessee.

     

    What Rivero brings to the table?

    Live Arm.

    Rivero has a mid-90s fastball with a good splitter. He struck out 45 batters in just over 30 innings in his three minor league stops in 2013. He has also shown decent control, averaging 3.6 walks per nine innings during his first full season in the minors.

     

    What is keeping him from the majors?

    With a little more seasoning in the minors, you should be seeing Rivero pitch some meaningful innings at Wrigley.

     

    Outlook

    There is a good chance Rivero could see the Cubs bullpen toward the end of the 2014 season.

2. Rubi Silva, OF, 2B

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    Roger C. Hoover. The Tennessee Smokies

    Age: 24

    Bats: Left

    Throws: Right

    Key Minor League Cumulative Statistics (2011-13): .288 BA, 25 HR, 170 RBI, 286 K's, .968 fielding percentage

    Positions played: CF, LF, RF, 2B (primary in BOLD)

    One player who could find a role on a future Cubs squad is Rubi Silva. The 24-year-old Cuban has shown the ability to consistently hit on all levels of the minors. He has averaged over 100 hits in each of his seasons in the minors. In 2013, he showed the ability to hit for power as he hit 15 home runs for Double-A Tennessee.  

     

    What Silva brings to the table?

    Versatility.

    Silva has played all the outfield positions in the minors. That flexibility could be attractive to the Cubs in the near future as they look for an occasional fill-in to spell tired starters. He has also shown the ability to get on base, .738 career minor league OPS.

     

    What is keeping him from the majors?

    Silva's has been known to be a free swinger who strikes out a lot. He has averaged almost 100 strikeouts per season during his minor league career. He will have to develop more plate patience if he is going to become a successful major league hitter.

     

    Outlook

    Silva will probably never be more than a fourth outfielder but could play a key role in any future Cubs success.

1. Matt Szczur, CF

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Age: 24

    Bats: Right

    Throws: Right

    Key Minor League Cumulative Statistics (2010-13): .285 BA, 17 HR, 140 RBI, 90 stolen bases, .750 OPS, .989 fielding percentage

    Positions played: CF, LF, RF (primary in BOLD)

    The potential of Matt Szczur could easily be overlooked with the glut of outfield talent currently in the Cubs organization. The likes of Albert Almora and Jorge Soler have received plenty of media attention and are ahead of Szczur in Cubs organizational rankings.

     

    What Szczur brings to the table.

    Athleticism.

    The 24-year-old New Jersey native has all the athletic tools to succeed in the majors. Szczur played both baseball and football at Villanova. He played wide receiver and special teams for the Wildcats and captured the Division I FCS National Championship in 2009.

    During his minor league career, Szczur has shown the ability to get on base and hit for average. Szczur put up decent numbers .281 BA/22 SB/.717 OPS during his first full season at Double-A Tennessee. He has also recorded over 100 hits in each of the past three seasons in the minors.

    Szczur told Michael McGarry of the Press of Atlantic City he is confident he can continue to develop as a hitter after a strong showing in 2013.

    I think I had a good season, but there's always time and room to improve. I can always get better at the plate and have a more consistent approach. I should be able to (drive) guys in, take my walks and get on base.

     

    What is keeping him from the majors?

    Szczur has played a majority of his minor league career in center and has posted a low .988 fielding percentage. Szczur will have to improve his fielding skills if he is going to make an impact on the major league level.

     

    Outlook

    With the struggles of Brett Jackson to gain significant traction on the major league level, there could be an opening for Szczur with the Cubs somewhere down the line in 2014. He will have to take advantage of any opportunity he receives as Almora and Soler could be ready in the not so distant future. Szczur is slated to start the 2014 season at the Cubs Triple-A Iowa affiliate, as per McGarry's report.