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First-Quarter Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs' Top-10 Prospects

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2014

First-Quarter Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs' Top-10 Prospects

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    USA TODAY Sports

    After climbing a bit to No. 26 in last week's power rankings, the Chicago Cubs slide back down to the No. 29 spot following a 1-6 week that included a 1-3 showing in the Crosstown Classic.

    As we make our way through what will likely be another long year on the North Side, more and more attention will be paid to a farm system that was ranked No. 4 in all of baseball by Baseball America entering the season.

    What follows is a look at the team's current top-10 prospects and how they performed at the minor league level over the past week. This series will be updated weekly, with a stock "up," "even" or "down" indication given to each prospect based upon what direction his performance is trending.

     

    Note: Prospects rankings according to Baseball America Prospect Handbook.

    *No. 3 prospect SP C.J. Edwards (shoulder) spent last week on the disabled list. He will not be included here until he is active. He is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 20.2 innings on the season at Double-A Tennessee.

No. 11 Prospect: SP Kyle Hendricks, Triple-A Iowa

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    2014 Stats

    7 GS, 3-3, 3.64 ERA, 11 BB, 43 K, 42.0 IP

     

    Overview

    After getting roughed up a bit in his previous two outings, Kyle Hendricks turned in a solid start on Thursday, though he was the victim of some poor defense and ended up taking the loss due to four unearned runs.

    His first full season in Triple-A has been a mixed bag so far, with four quality starts in seven outings, but he still looks to be in good position to make his big league debut at some point this year. The 24-year-old was 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.058 WHIP in a breakout campaign last season.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, L, 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

     

    Stock

    Up

No. 10 Prospect: RP Arodys Vizcaino, Double-A Tennessee

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    2014 Stats

    A+: 9 G, 0-0, 1 SV, 1.00 ERA, 4 BB, 10 K, 9.0 IP
    AA: 2 G, 0-0, 0 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0 BB, 2 K, 2.0 IP

    Note: Vizcaino was promoted to Double-A Tennessee on May 6.

     

    Overview

    The Cubs have been careful with hard-throwing Arodys Vizcaino as he makes his return to the mound after missing the past two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

    They saw enough from him in nine appearances at High-A Daytona to bump him up to Double-A this past week, though, as he's one step closer to the Chicago bullpen.

    General manager Jed Hoyer talked about the team's plans for Vizcaino, via Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago:

    We’ll move with some caution. He had two years being away from a mound and I still think we want to give him a lot of mound time before he gets up here with a third deck and the pressure. We have some ability to do some teaching at the lower levels – or mid-levels – without that third deck and the radar guns up there and everything like that. We’ll still have some caution – of course we will – but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for him and I think he’s earned it.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    2 G, 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

     

    Stock

    Up

No. 9 Prospect: 1B Dan Vogelbach, High-A Daytona

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    2014 Stats

    32 G, .239/.315/.325, 4 2B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 14 R

     

    Overview

    The slow start to the season for Dan Vogelbach continued this past week, though he is 10-for-37 (.270 BA) with at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games.

    The slugger slimmed down this offseason, looking to prove that he can be more than just a future DH. And with a solid approach at the plate that makes him more than just a free-swinging slugger, he could make a major impact with the bat once he reaches the majors.

    For the time being, the team has no reason to rush the 21-year-old, as he's blocked by Anthony Rizzo at first base, so he will get all the time he needs to adjust at the High-A level before moving up the next rung of the ladder.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    5-for-22, 1 2B

     

    Stock

    Even

No. 8 Prospect: 3B Jeimer Candelario, High-A Daytona

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    2014 Stats

    31 G, .176/.294/.324, 5 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 11 R

     

    Overview

    Jeimer Candelario has held his own as one of the younger players at each level of his pro career so far, but the 20-year-old has looked over-matched over his first 108 at-bats this season for High-A Daytona.

    His plate discipline remains a major assetdespite his low batting average, he still has a solid 17/25 BB/K ratio. He simply has not been up to the task against High-A pitching, though.

    You never want to demote a young player and hurt his confidence, but if Candelario continues to struggle the way he has here in the early going, a return trip to Single-A Kane County could be in his future.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    1-for-23, 2 R

     

    Stock

    Down

No. 7 Prospect: 2B Arismendy Alcantara, Triple-A Iowa

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Stats

    33 G, .271/.289/.465, 11 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 18 R, 8 SB

     

    Overview

    Arismendy Alcantara emerged as a legitimate top prospect last season, when he posted an .804 OPS with 36 doubles, 15 home runs and 31 steals in a full season at the Double-A level.

    He was moved to second base in an effort to expedite his arrival in Chicago, and if he keeps producing for Triple-A Iowa, there is a good chance he will see time with the big league club in the second half this season.

    Emilio Bonifacio and Darwin Barney are both potential trade candidates at the deadline. Either way, though, neither player figures into the team's long-term plans, so look for Alcantara to get a chance to prove that he can be the everyday guy in 2015.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    7-for-27, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 4 R, 1 SB

     

    Stock

    Even

No. 6 Prospect: SP Pierce Johnson, Double-A Tennessee

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    2014 Stats

    4 GS, 1-1, 4.05 ERA, 16 BB, 19 K, 20.0 IP

     

    Overview

    A hamstring injury resulted in a late start to the season for Pierce Johnson, as his season debut did not come until April 22. Through his first two starts, he did not look like the same pitcher, posting 12 walks and six strikeouts in 10 innings of work.

    He turned things around this past week, though, shaking off the rust with a pair of six-inning outings that saw him regain his command with four walks and 13 strikeouts in 12 innings of work.

    The right-hander was 11-6 with a 2.74 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 118.2 innings last season, and while he may not be a future ace, he has a very high floor and should at the very least be a serviceable middle-of-the-rotation arm in the very near future.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    2 GS, W, ND, 12.0 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 13 K

     

    Stock

    Up

No. 5 Prospect: RF Jorge Soler, Double-A Tennessee

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2014 Stats

    5 G, .412/.500/.765, 6 2B, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R

     

    Overview

    Sidelined for more than a month by a hamstring injury that he suffered on Opening Day, Jorge Soler returned to the Double-A lineup on Thursday and went 2-for-2 with a two-run double and a pair of walks.

    Double-A manager Buddy Bailey talked to Mark Emery of MiLB.com about the time Soler has missed due to injury, both in terms of this season and also last year, when a stress fracture in his leg limited him to just 55 games:

    He's not way behind, but he's missed a lot of playing time. He's a guy that we're counting on in the future. He's missed some time. We've got to find a way to get the at-bats and maturity and game situations and everything else that a player has to go through to become a big leaguer.

    The talent is certainly there for him to be a future star. Now, it is just a matter of him maturing as a player and as a person while also staying healthy in the process.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    6-for-16, 5 2B, 7 RBI, 4 R

     

    Stock

    Up

No. 4 Prospect: CF Albert Almora, High-A Daytona

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    2014 Stats

    29 G, .243/.270/.330, 7 2B, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 15 R, 3 SB

     

    Overview

    After a hot start to the season, Albert Almora has hit just .189 (7-for-37) over his last 10 games, as he is really slumping at the plate for the first time in his pro career.

    The 20-year-old was promoted aggressively to High-A Daytona this year after playing just 61 games for Single-A Kane County last year due to injury. Granted, he did hit .329/.376/.466 with 24 extra-base hits in 249 at-bats last season, but it was still a big jump for him, nonetheless.

    Long-praised for his overall polish and natural leadership abilities, Almora will get every chance to figure things out at High-A before the team considers promoting him. The hope is still that he can be the Cubs everyday center fielder at some point in 2016.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    5-for-22, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 R

     

    Stock

    Even

No. 2 Prospect: 3B Kris Bryant, Double-A Tennessee

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Stats

    36 G, .331/.437/.624, 9 2B, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 33 R, 5 SB

     

    Overview

    One can't help but wonder how long the Cubs can keep Kris Bryant in the minors if he keeps hitting like he has, and he is coming off perhaps the best week of his professional career.

    A two-homer, six-RBI game on Wednesdayone of five multi-hit games he recorded last weekwas the big highlight, as expectations continue to grow for the young slugger. He talked to Ashley Marshall of MiLB.com about those expectations following his big game:

    I get asked about (the expectations) a lot. The only expectations that matter are the ones you put on yourself. My expectations for myself are higher than any from my friends or fans or family. I've put the bar pretty high, so I don't worry about what people have to say about me, good or bad.

    It's hard to find anything bad to say about him at this point, and with the way he's going, it would not be out of the question to see him playing third base in Chicago after the All-Star break.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    13-for-28, 1 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 12 R

     

    Stock

    Up

No. 1 Prospect: SS Javier Baez, Triple-A Iowa

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Stats

    25 G, .151/.248/.280, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 11 R, 3 SB

     

    Overview

    While Kris Bryant is raking in Double-A, the struggles continued for the team's top prospect Javier Baez in Triple-A this week.

    All three of his hits last week came in a 3-for-5 effort on Wednesday, and he has now gone hitless in eight of his last 10 games. His 38 strikeouts in 93 at-bats are certainly troubling as well, as his free-swinging approach seems to finally be catching up with him.

    There is no doubt that the 21-year-old is pressing after entering the season with so much hype and the potential for an early-season promotion if he started the year hot. With that looking unlikely now, he needs to get back to focusing on his development as a player, starting with his plate discipline.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    3-for-19, 1 R

     

    Stock

    Down

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