Re-Ranking Chicago Cubs' Top 10 Prospects Post-MLB Draft Day 1
After a relatively eventful Day 1 of the 2014 MLB draft, the Cubs have had a little shift in their top 10 prospects list. Not a whole lot has changed, but there has been some movement at the top (totally unrelated to the draft) and some movement toward the end of the top 10 (completely related to the draft).
Based on how everyone in their minor league system has performed this year and based on who they just added, here is the Cubs' new top 10 prospects list after Day 1 of the 2014 MLB draft.
10. 1B Dan Vogelbach
Vogelbach is known for having a great plate approach despite only being 21 years old. While he still needs to refine some of his tools, his ability to see pitches and get on base at a high clip projects him as a very solid player at the next level.
While the Cubs currently have Anthony Rizzo to man first base, he is currently viewed as a backup plan and potential trade bait, likely to an American League team. So far in High-A ball, Vogelbach is hitting .263 with four home runs and 20 RBI.
9. RHP Arodys Vizcaino
Vizcaino was the key piece acquired a couple seasons ago from the Braves when the Cubs sent outfielder Reed Johnson and pitcher Paul Maholm to Atlanta. At the time, the Cubs knew he had recently undergone Tommy John surgery and wasn't going to be throwing off a mound for a while. Last season, he suffered another minor setback, but this season he looks like the pitcher who was previously the No. 3 overall prospect in the Braves' farm system.
The young flamethrower has already earned a promotion to Double-A Tennessee this season and has posted a 2.61 ERA there. He has struck out 12 batters over 10.1 innings, showing off his ability to miss bats. Already with major league experience under his belt, Vizcaino could quickly work his way back through the minors and to Chicago by the end of this season or the beginning of next season. Once there, Vizcaino's upper-90s fastball projects him as a setup man or closer.
8. RHP Pierce Johnson
He often gets forgotten in terms of Cubs prospects, but Johnson is one of the best pitchers in the system. His 6'3" frame projects him as a power pitcher with plenty of stamina, but he's struggled a little bit this season in Double-A. So far, he's 1-1 with a 4.39 ERA and has a startling 1.575 WHIP.
Based on how he's started this season, Johnson's time frame may have to be pushed back. It's nothing to panic about yet, but if Johnson can't regain control of his command by the end of this season and give himself momentum going into next season, the Cubs may be looking at their first bust from their loaded farm system.
7. C Kyle Schwarber
Schwarber, the Cubs' first-round draft pick, is the new addition to this list. He may catch or play outfield/corner infield in the pros, but his bat should move him up relatively quickly. The University of Indiana alum isn't as polished as last year's first-round draft pick, Kris Bryant, but he does project to hit for power and average with a little seasoning in the minors.
Over his last two seasons at Indiana, Schwarber has hit a combined 32 home runs, and he batted .358 in 2014. On top of those impressive numbers, Schwarber got on base at a .464 clip this past season. His patience and power potential are clearly what appealed to the Cubs. At 6'0" and 240 pounds, Schwarber generates a lot of power, and ESPN's Keith Law describes his power to right field as "plus-plus."
6. 2B Arismendy Alcantara
Alcantara is another overlooked prospect in the Cubs' farm system because he gets overshadowed by other infield prospects, specifically Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. However, he's been impressive in Triple-A this season and could earn a call up some time in July or August depending on who the team deals at the deadline.
The switch-hitter has shown consistent improvement every season and has moved one level every season as he eases his way toward the majors. In Iowa this year, he's batting .267 with eight home runs, 29 RBI, 14 doubles, seven triples and 10 steals. His combination of speed and emerging power make him a very appealing option for the Cubs going forward.
5. Outfielder Jorge Soler
Soler is extremely talented but hasn't been able to stay on the field enough to show the organization what he can do. In neither of his first two minor league seasons has Soler played in more than 55 games, and he has played in just seven games this year. For a player who was expected to shoot through the minor leagues, Soler's lack of improvement in the last couple seasons has been disappointing.
The only reason Soler is still this high on the list is because of his out-of-this-world potential. At 6'4" and 215 pounds, Soler should be able to grow into his power. Again, at this point, Soler's value is in his potential because he hasn't really produced in the minor leagues thus far.
4. RHP C.J. Edwards
Part of the huge package of prospects the Cubs acquired from the Texas Rangers in return for pitcher Matt Garza last season, Edwards has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the farm system. While he needs to work on his lanky 6'2", 155-pound frame, Edwards has been blowing opposing hitters away, striking out 155 batters last season and walking only 41 over 116.1 innings.
This year, Edwards is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA and a solid 1.065 WHIP. He can continue to produce in the minor leagues, but the Cubs may feel uncomfortable calling him up until he's filled out his frame. Once he does that and proves he can carry a season-long workload, he could be in the major leagues. Based on how he's progressed so far, that could be late 2015 or Opening Day 2016.
3. Outfielder Albert Almora
A natural leader on the field, Almora, who the Cubs drafted sixth overall in the 2012 MLB draft, has quickly proven his worth. As an 18- and 19-year-old, Almora hit .321 and .329, respectively. While he's dealt with injury issues, he's stayed healthy this season. The one problem with him is that with more playing time, Almora has struggled in High-A ball, batting just .251 this year.
Almora is still an extremely strong fielder who is still learning the offensive part of his game, including adding power. With time, his speed could make him a solid base stealer as well; the 20-year-old has stolen 18 bases so far in his minor league career. It's clear that he will still need some more seasoning in the minor leagues, but he could be the team's starting center fielder by Opening Day 2016.
2. SS Javier Baez
Even though he was one of the best hitters in all of baseball this spring training, Baez struggled to start his minor league season. Playing in Triple-A, he's batting just .215 with seven home runs and 25 RBI, but he has come on strong as of late. With that improvement, the team could decide to call him up some time in July if it makes a few trades. Additionally, by mid-July, Baez likely won't be Super-Two eligible.
Based on what he did in spring training, the Cubs know Baez is ready for the challenge of the major leagues. The only things holding him back right now are his early struggles in Triple-A and the fact that the team would go to arbitration with him for an extra year. Soon, those could be non-issues, and Baez could be suiting up for the Cubs.
1. 3B Kris Bryant
Previously, Baez and Bryant would've been flip-flopped at the No. 1 and 2 spots in the Cubs' top 10 prospects list, but Bryant has played too well not to be No. 1 anymore. Not only does Bryant have a flare for the dramatic (he homered in his first spring training at-bat and first Double-A at-bat this season), but he can also flat-out hit.
Bryant is one of those prospects who seems to have it all offensively. This season, Bryant leads Double-A in nearly every offensive category, batting .346 with 19 home runs, 51 RBI and seven steals. His patient approach mixed with his powerful bat has also led to Bryant recording a sterling .453 on-base percentage. He has a long way to go before he's succeeding consistently at the major league level, but Bryant has the tools of a future MVP. He could begin showing that in Chicago as early as this season.