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Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs' Top-10 Prospects for Week 9

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs' Top-10 Prospects for Week 9

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Chicago Cubs ran into the top two teams in the National League on the road this past week, dropping two-of-three in each series, and they remain at No. 30 in this week's MLB power rankings.

    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. 5 prospect RF Jorge Soler (hamstring) spent last week on the disabled list. He will not be included here until he is active. He is hitting .333/.407/.625 with seven doubles and seven RBI in 24 at-bats at Double-A Tennessee.

    *No. 6 prospect SP Pierce Johnson (calf) spent last week on the disabled list. He will not be included here until he is active. He is 1-1 with a 4.39 ERA, 22 strikeouts and 24 walks in 26.2 innings on the season at Double-A Tennessee.

No. 13 Prospect: 3B Christian Villanueva, Triple-A Iowa

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Stats

    50 G, .235/.292/.402, 15 2B, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 19 R

     

    Overview

    Lost behind Kris Bryant and Mike Olt on the depth chart, Christian Villanueva is a decent third base prospect in his own right, reaching the Triple-A level this season as a 22-year-old.

    Acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Ryan Dempster trade, Villanueva hit 41 doubles and 19 home runs for Double-A Tennessee last season, and there's a good chance he sees Chicago at some point in 2014.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    5-for-21, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R

     

    Stock

    Even

No. 12 Prospect: SP Paul Blackburn, Single-A Kane County

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    2014 Stats

    10 GS, 5-1, 2.33 ERA, 10 BB, 43 K, 54.0 IP

     

    Overview

    After an impressive three-start stretch in which he posted a 1.00 ERA and 0.722 WHIP, Paul Blackburn was hit hard his last time outthough he managed to work out of trouble and allow just one earned run while scattering 10 hits.

    The 20-year-old has been terrific overall in 2014, in what is his first year of full-season ball. The team will likely continue to be careful with him as far as innings are concerned, as there is no doubt that the high ceiling that teams look for when they take high-school arms early is there.

    He was the No. 56 pick in the 2012 draft and was ranked as the No. 57 prospect in the class, according to Baseball America.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, ND, 4.2 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

     

    Stock

    Down

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

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    2014 Stats

    10 GS, 6-3, 3.54 ERA, 16 BB, 59 K, 61.0 IP

     

    Overview

    After a breakout 2013, during which he went 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.058 WHIP, Kyle Hendricks has more than held his own in his first full season at the Triple-A level.

    He doesn't have the highest ceiling or much room to improve, and his stuff does not exactly profile him as a future ace, but he has terrific command and has proven that he can consistently get hitters out in the upper levels of the minors.

    Come July, if Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel wind up being traded, Hendricks may very well end up with a rotation spot and a chance to show what he can do over the final couple months of the year.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, W, 5.0 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

     

    Stock

    Even

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

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    2014 Stats

    A+: 9 G, 0-0, 1 SV, 1.00 ERA, 4 BB, 10 K, 9.0 IP
    AA: 9 G, 1-0, 0 SV, 2.89 ERA, 3 BB, 12 K, 9.1 IP

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

     

    Overview

    After finally getting touched up for three hits and three runs in an outing two weeks ago, Arodys Vizcaino rebounded nicely with a pair of scoreless appearances for Double-A Tennessee this past week.

    A short memory regarding bad outings will be important if he is going to wind up as the Cubs' closer at some point, so it was good to see him get right back to dominating after his first legitimately poor appearance of the season.

    It will be interesting to see how aggressively the team promotes him to Triple-A, or even the majors, after being bumped up to Double-A following just nine High-A appearances, but one has to think that by the All-Star break he'll be pitching out of the big league bullpen.

     

    Last Week's Stats

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

     

    Stock

    Up

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

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    2014 Stats

    51 G, .259/.337/.384, 9 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 25 R

     

    Overview

    The average is still not where you would like it to be, but Dan Vogelbach has finally started to produce at the plate, going 11-for-33 with three doubles, a triple and two home runs over his last 10 games.

    His bat, specifically his impressive raw power, is his ticket to the big leagues. And after posting an .824 OPS with 19 home runs and 76 RBI last year, his prospect stock was certainly on the rise heading into 2014.

    Chances are he'll spend a full season in High-A this year, as the team has no reason to rush him, especially with Anthony Rizzo blocking him at first base. And if the past couple weeks are any indication, he is well on his way to another big year.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    6-for-20, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 5 R

     

    Stock

    Up

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

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    2014 Stats

    49 G, .197/.282/.341, 9 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 21 R

     

    Overview

    Still just 20 years old, Jeimer Candelario has gone through some growing pains in his first season at the High-A level, as he finds himself hitting below .200 heading into the month of June.

    His offensive game is certainly still a work in progress, but there is no denying his upside after he posted a .742 OPS with 35 doubles and 11 home runs in 500 at-bats last year for Single-A Kane County.

    Over the long term, he may wind up having to move to second base, but an advanced approach at the plate and plus plate discipline means that his offensive game will determine what his role in the major leagues will be. He has the ceiling to be a 15-20 home run guy who hits for a solid average and gets on base at an above-average clip.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    3-for-15, 1 2B, 1 R

     

    Stock

    Down

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

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    2014 Stats

    52 G, .273/.309/.526, 14 2B, 7 3B, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 31 R, 10 SB

     

    Overview

    The No. 76 prospect in baseball entering the season after a breakout performance in 2013, Arismendy Alcantara is knocking on the door for Triple-A Iowa, and as a member of the 40-man roster he could see a call-up by midseason.

    The 22-year-old hit .271/.352/.451 with 36 doubles, 15 home runs and 31 steals in a full season at Double-A Tennessee last year while making the move from shortstop to second base.

    The trio of Darwin Barney, Emilio Bonifacio and Luis Valbuena have split time at second base so far in Chicago, but the Cubs would love nothing more than for Alcantara to emerge as the everyday guy in the second half.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    9-for-27, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R

     

    Stock

    Up

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

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    2014 Stats

    49 G, .260/.283/.357, 13 2B, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 22 R, 4 SB

     

    Overview

    After dominating Single-A pitching last season when he was healthy, it's been an up-and-down campaign for Albert Almora so far in his first taste of High-A action.

    The 20-year-old is in a 10-for-49 (.204 BA) slump of sorts at the moment, though he does have three multi-hit games in his last 10 contests, and if nothing else it is clear that he is still a step behind Kris Bryant and Javier Baez as far as his development is concerned.

    That being said, there is still a very real chance he is the team's everyday center fielder by 2016, and with a polished overall game it may not be long before he catches fire at High-A and forces his way to the next level.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    5-for-23, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R

     

    Stock

    Even

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

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    2014 Stats

    55 G, .348/.452/.692, 15 2B, 18 HR, 49 RBI, 48 R, 7 SB

     

    Overview

    It's hit a point where having Kris Bryant playing in Double-A is borderline unfair to the pitchers at that level, as he just continues to rake week in and week out.

    With five more home runs this past week, he has expanded his Southern League lead to 18, and he also leads the league in hits (70), RBI (49), runs (48), OPS (1.143) while ranking second in batting average (.348).

    Despite that success, manager Rick Renteria is not pushing for Bryant or fellow top prospect Javier Baez to be called up to Chicago, according to Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago:

    That’s not my style at all. There’s a lot of people working with those kids down there and the front office is obviously in contact with them. We talk. We all have to be on the same page. We’re just happy that the kids we have down there are performing and they’re building confidence.

    With Mike Olt flashing impressive power if nothing else, and a log jam already in the outfield, it will be interesting to see how everything falls into place once Bryant does get the call.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    11-for-23, 2 2B, 5 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 1 SB

     

    Stock

    Up

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

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    2014 Stats

    45 G, .220/.281/.411, 9 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 23 R, 7 SB

     

    Overview

    After a 3-for-4 game last Monday that included a pair of doubles and three RBI, Javier Baez saw his 12-game hitting streak snapped, and he's gone just 3-for-17 over the past six games.

    He remains a work in progress at this point, as the jump to Triple-A has not gone as smoothly as hoped, following a monster 2013 season in which he posted a .920 OPS with 34 doubles, 37 home runs and 111 RBI.

    The 21-year-old still has as high a ceiling as any offensive prospect in baseball; it's just a matter of improving his plate discipline and pitch recognition, and there is still a good chance he makes his big league debut at some point here in 2014.

     

    Last Week's Stats

    6-for-21, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R, 4 SB

     

    Stock

    Even

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