Chicago Cubs Prospects: B/R's Top-15 Breakdown, Post-2014 Draft

Jacob KornhauserCorrespondent IIIJune 9, 2014

Chicago Cubs Prospects: B/R's Top-15 Breakdown, Post-2014 Draft

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Cubs went with the best hitter in the 2014 draft in Round 1 after the top three pitchers were taken off the board with the top three picks. After that, they loaded up with plenty of arms.

    Clearly, their farm system needed more quality arms, and the team hopes the players they added will help in that area. 

    Based on who they took in the draft, how current minor leaguers are progressing and team needs at the major league level, these are the top 15 prospects in the Cubs' farm system following the 2014 MLB draft.

15. Eloy Jimenez, OF

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    Jimenez signed last season as the top international prospect in the game. He's only 17 years old, so he obviously is some way away from the big leagues, but one scout called him a "16-year old version of Jorge Soler" after the Cubs signed him. Clearly, such high praise shows the team has high hopes for this youngster. 

    Since he's so young, the Cubs are focusing on developing him in rookie ball before letting him reach the minor leagues. The fact that he's already this high on the list shows what kind of a talent he is, but it will still be a while before he's in a Cubs uniform. He still profiles as a right fielder once he fills out his already impressive 6'4", 205-pound frame. 

14. Jake Stinnett, RHP

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Stinnett of the University of Maryland was the Cubs' second-round pick in this year's draft. After gaining experience in college, he should be able to progress through the minor leagues quicker than a high school pitching prospect would. 

    In his Super Regional start against Virginia University, he struggled with command early on but settled down. Once he settled, he showed off a stellar running fastball that he spotted nicely on the outside corner.

    He will need to refine secondary pitches in the minor leagues, but it's not unreasonable to think he could join the major league starting rotation by 2017.

13. Kyle Hendricks, RHP

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Hendricks was the Cubs' most impressive minor league pitcher last season and has also produced at Triple-A this season.

    So far in 2014, Hendricks is 6-4 with a 3.90 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio above 3-to-1. When he's spotting his pitches, he can be really hard to beat. The only time Hendricks falls into trouble is when he's trying to spot pitches and leaves them out over the plate too much. 

    If pitchers Jason Hammel and/or Jeff Samardzija are traded this July, Hendricks could join the major league rotation this season. He appears to almost be major league-ready, and the club would love to see what they have in him. Should he get the call up and pitch well in 2014, he could secure a starting spot next season.

12. Christian Villanueva, 3B

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    One of many third-base prospects in the Cubs' farm system, Villanueva has a lot of pressure on him. He's third or fourth in line in terms of third basemen, so he has quite the challenge ahead of him. In Triple-A this season, he hasn't fully stepped up yet. 

    In 2014, Villanueva is hitting .222 with five home runs and 21 RBI. In past seasons, like in 2013 when he hit 19 home runs, Villanueva showed power upside, so he needs to get back to that if he wants to get a call-up in the next year or so.

11. Jeimer Candelario, 3B

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    Another third-base prospect for the Cubs, Candelario projects as a better player than Villanueva but is further away from the major leagues. In terms of production this season, Candelario hasn't shown the organization much. 

    The 20-year-old is hitting just .202 this season with five home runs and 26 RBI. One positive is that Candelario has drawn 23 walks while striking out 41 times. If he can work his batting average up, his plate approach could make him an asset on the major league roster in time.

10. Dan Vogelbach, 1B

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    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, Vogelbach 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 .276 with five home runs and 25 RBI.

9. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Vizcaino was a 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 2.38 ERA there. He has struck out 13 batters over 11.1 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. Pierce Johnson, RHP

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    He's 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 the first bust from their loaded farm system.

7. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    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 Indiana University 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. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Alcantara is another overlooked prospect in the Cubs' farm system because he is 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 sometime in July or August depending on who the team deals at the deadline. 

    The switch-hitter has shown consistent improvement  and has moved one level every season as he eases his way toward the majors. In Iowa this year, he's batting .269 with eight home runs, 30 RBI, 14 doubles, eight triples and 10 steals. His combination of speed and emerging power make him a very appealing option for the Cubs going forward.

5. Jorge Soler, OF

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    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. C.J. Edwards, RHP

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    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. Albert Almora, OF

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    Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

    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 .250 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. Javier Baez, SS

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    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 .230 with eight home runs and 29 RBI but has come on strong 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. Kris Bryant, 3B

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    Previously, Baez and Bryant would've been flipped at the No. 1 and 2 spots in the list of the Cubs' top 10 prospects, but Bryant has played too well to be No. 2. 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 .356 with 21 home runs, 54 RBI and eight steals. His patient approach mixed with his powerful bat has also led to Bryant recording a sterling .461 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.

     

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.